Skeleton CrewStephen King
Table of Contents
Here There Be Tygers
Cain Rose Up
Mrs. Todd's Shortcut
The Wedding Gig
Paranoid: A Chant
Word Processor of the Gods
The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands
The Reaper's Image
Uncle Otto's Truck
Morning Deliveries (Milkman #1)
Big Wheels: A Tale of The Laundry Game (Milkman #2)
The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet
Who Could Imagine . . . ?
In this brilliant collection of twenty-two stories, Stephen King takes readers down paths that only he could imagine....
A supermarket becomes the place where humanity makes its last stand against unholy destruction . . . a trip to the attic turns into a journey to hell . . . a woman driver finds a very scary shortcut to paradise . . . an idyllic lake that could be the home of bottomless evil . . . and a desert island is the scene of the most terrifying struggle for survival ever waged.
"Wonderfully gruesome.... Don't turn your back on this book."
--New York Times Book Review
THE BACHMAN BOOKS
--Newport News Daily Press
THE DARK HALF
THE DARK TOWER: THE GUNSLINGER
THE DARK TOWER II: THE DRAWING OF THE THREE
THE DARK TOWER III: THE WASTE LANDS
THE DEAD ZONE
--New York Times Book Review
--San Francisco Chronicle
THE EYES OF THE DRAGON
FOUR PAST MIDNIGHT
--Washington Post Book World
--New York Times Book Review
WORKS BY STEPHEN KING
The Dead Zone
THE DARK TOWER I:
Cycle of the Werewolf
(with Peter Straub)
The Eyes of the Dragon
THE DARK TOWER II:
of the Three
THE DARK TOWER III:
The Waste Lands
The Dark Half
The Green Mile
THE DARK TOWER IV;
Wizard and Glass
Bag of Bones
The Girl Who Loved Tom
(with Peter Straub)
From a Buick 8
THE DARK TOWER V:
Wolves of the Calla
THE DARK TOWER VI:
Song of Susannah
THE DARK TOWER VII:
The Dark Tower
AS RICHARD BACHMAN
The Long Walk
The Running Man
Four Past Midnight
Hearts in Atlantis
Storm of the Century
Published by New American Library, a division of
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0745, Auckland, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First Signet Printing, June 1986
Copyright (c) Stephen King, 1985
eISBN : 978-1-10113810-6
All rights reserved
The author gratefully acknowledges permission from the following companies to reprint material in their control: Famous Music Publishing Companies for lyrics from "That's Amore" by Jack Brooks and Harry Warren, copyright Paramount Music Corporation, 1953; copyright (c) renewed Paramount Music Corporation, 1981. Sh
erlyn Publishing Co., Inc., for lyrics from "I'm Your Boogie Man" by Harry Wayne Casey and Richard Finch, copyright (c) Sherlyn Publ. Co., Inc. and Harrick Music Co., 1976. All rights reserved. Tree Publishing Co., Inc., for lyrics from "Okie From Muskogee" by Merle Haggard, copyright (c) Tree Publishing Co., Inc., 1969. International copyright secured. All rights reserved.
"The Mist" first appeared in Dark Forces, edited by Kirby McCauley, copyright (c) Stephen King, 1980
"Here There Be Tygers" copyright (c) Stephen King, 1968, 1985
"The Monkey" copyright (c) Montcalm Publishing Company, 1980
"Cain Rose Up" copyright (c) Stephen King, 1968, 1985
"Mrs. Todd's Shortcut" first appeared in Redbook magazine, copyright (c) Stephen King, 1981
"The Jaunt" first appeared in Twilight Zone magazine, copyright (c) Stephen King, 1981
"The Wedding Gig" first appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, copyright (c) Stephen King, 1980
"Paranoid: A Chant" copyright (c) Stephen King, 1985
"The Raft" first appeared in Gallery magazine, copyright (c) Stephen King, 1982
"Word Processor of the Gods" (as "The Word Processor") first appeared in Playboy magazine, copyright (c) Stephen King, 1983
"The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands" first appeared in Shadows 4, edited by Charles L. Grant, published by Doubleday & Co., Inc., copyright (c) Stephen King, 1982
"Beachworld" first appeared in Weird Tales, copyright (c) Stephen King, 1985
"The Reaper's Image" first appeared in Startling Mystery Stories,copyright (c) Stephen King, 1969
"Nona" first appeared in Shadows, edited by Charles L. Grant, published by Doubleday & Co., Inc., copyright (c) Stephen King, 1978
"For Owen" copyright (c) Stephen King, 1985
"Survivor Type" first appeared in Terrors, edited by Charles L. Grant, published by Doubleday & Co., Inc., copyright (c) Stephen King, 1982
"Uncle Otto's Truck" first appeared in Yankee magazine, copyright (c) Stephen King, 1983
"Morning Deliveries (Milkman #1)" copyright (c) Stephen King, 1985
"Big Wheels: A Tale of the Laundry Game (Milkman #2)" first appeared in New Terrors 2, edited by Ramsey Campbell, copyright (c) Stephen King, 1982
"Gramma" first appeared in Weird Book magazine, copyright (c) Stephen King, 1984
"The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet" first appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, copyright (c) Stephen King, 1984
"The Reach" (as "Do the Dead Sing?") first appeared in Yankee magazine, copyright (c) Stephen King, 1981
REGISTERED TRADEMARK--MARCA REGISTRADA
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
These are works of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.
This book is for Arthur and Joyce Greene
I'm your boogie man
that's what I am
and I'm here to do
whatever I can ...
--K.C. and the Sunshine Band
Do you love?
Wait--just a few minutes. I want to talk to you ... and then I am going to kiss you. Wait ...
Here's some more short stories, if you want them. They span a long period of my life. The oldest, "The Reaper's Image," was written when I was eighteen, in the summer before I started college. I thought of the idea, as a matter of fact, when I was out in the back yard of our house in West Durham, Maine, shooting baskets with my brother, and reading it over again made me feel a little sad for those old times. The most recent, "The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet," was finished in November of 1983. That is a span of seventeen years, and does not count as much, I suppose, if put in comparison with such long and rich careers as those enjoyed by writers as diverse as Graham Greene, Somerset Maugham, Mark Twain, and Eudora Welty, but it is a longer time than Stephen Crane had, and about the same length as the span of H. P. Lovecraft's career.
A friend of mine asked me a year or two ago why I still bother. My novels, he pointed out, were making very good money, while the short stories were actually losers.
"How do you figure that?" I asked.
He tapped the then-current issue of Playboy, which had occasioned this discussion. I had a story in it ("Word Processor of the Gods," which you'll find in here someplace), and had pointed it out to him with what I thought was justifiable pride.
"Well, I'll show you," he said, "if you don't mind telling me how much you got for the piece."
"I don't mind," I said. "I got two thousand dollars. Not exactly chicken-dirt, Wyatt."
(His name isn't really Wyatt, but I don't want to embarrass him, if you can dig that.) "No, you didn't get two thousand," Wyatt said.
"I didn't? Have you been looking at my bankbook?"
"Nope. But I know you got eighteen hundred dollars for it, because your agent gets ten percent."
"Damn right," I said. "He deserves it. He got me in Playboy. I've always wanted to have a story in Playboy. So it was eighteen hundred bucks instead of two thousand, big deal."
"No, you got $1,710."
"Well, didn't you tell me your business manager gets five percent of the net?"
"Well, okay--eighteen hundred less ninety bucks. I still think $1,710 is not bad for--"
"Except it wasn't," this sadist pushed on. "It was really a measly $855."
"You want to tell me you're not in a fifty-percent tax bracket, Steve-O?"
I was silent. He knew I was.
"And," he said gently, "it was really just about $769.50, wasn't it?"
I nodded reluctantly. Maine has an income tax which requires residents in my bracket to pay ten percent of their federal taxes to the state. Ten percent of $855 is $85.50.
"How long did it take you to write this story?" Wyatt persisted.
"About a week," I said ungraciously. It was really more like two, with a couple of rewrites added in, but I wasn't going to tell Wyatt that.
"So you made $769.50 that week," he said. "You know how much a plumber makes per week in New York, Steve-O?"
"No," I said. I hate people who call me Steve-O. "And neither do you."
"Sure I do," he said. "About $769.50, after taxes. And so, far as I can see, what you got there is a dead loss." He laughed like hell and then asked if I had any more beer in the fridge. I said no.
I'm going to send goodbuddy Wyatt a copy of this book with a little note. The note will say: I am not going to tell you how much I was paid for this book, but I'll tell you this, Wyatt: my total take on "Word Processor of the Gods"--net--is now just over twenty-three hundred dollars, not even counting the $769.50 you hee-hawed so over at my house at the lake. I will sign the note Steve-O and add a PS: There really was more beer in the fridge, and I drank it myself after you were gone that day.
That ought to fix him.
Except it's not the money. I'll admit I was bowled over to be paid $2,000 for "Word Processor of the
Gods," but I was equally as bowled over to be paid $40 for "The Reaper's Image" when it was published in Startling Mystery Stories or to be sent twelve contributor's copies when "Here There Be Tygers" was published in Ubris, the University of Maine college literary magazine (I am of a kindly nature and have always assumed that Ubris was a cockney way of spelling Hubris).
I mean, you're glad of the money; let us not descend into total fantasy here (or at least not yet). When I began to publish short fiction in men's magazines such as Cavalier, Dude, and Adam with some regularity, I was twenty-five and my wife was twenty-three. We had one child and another was on the way. I was working fifty or sixty hours a week in a laundry and making $1.75 an hour. Budget is not exactly the word for whatever it was we were on; it was more like a modified version of the Bataan Death March. The checks for those stories (on publication, never on acceptance) always seemed to come just in time to buy antibiotics for the baby's ear infection or to keep the telephone in the apartment for another record-breaking month. Money is, let us face it, very handy and very heady. As Lily Cavenaugh says in The Talisman (and it was Peter Straub's line, not mine), "You can never be too thin or too rich." And if you don't believe it, you were never really fat or really poor.
All the same, you don't do it for money, or you're a monkey. You don't think of the bottom line, or you're a monkey. You don't think of it in terms of hourly wage, yearly wage, even lifetime wage, or you're a monkey. In the end you don't even do it for love, although it would be nice to think so. You do it because to not do it is suicide. And while that is tough, there are compensations I could never tell Wyatt about, because he is not that kind of guy.
Take "Word Processor of the Gods" as a for-instance. Not the best story I ever wrote; not one that's ever going to win any prizes. But it's not too bad, either. Sort of fun. I had just gotten my own word processor a month before (it's a big Wang, and keep your smart comments to yourself, what do you say?) and I was still exploring what it could and couldn't do. In particular I was fascinated with the INSERT and DELETE buttons, which make cross-outs and carets almost obsolete.
I caught myself a nasty little bug one day. What the hell, happens to the best of us. Everything inside me that wasn't nailed down came out from one end or the other, most of it at roughly the speed of sound. By nightfall I felt very bad indeed--chills, fever, joints full of spun glass. Most of the muscles in my stomach were sprung, and my back ached.
I spent that night in the guest bedroom (which is only four running steps from the bathroom) and slept from nine until about two in the morning. I woke up knowing that was it for the night. I only stayed in bed because I was too sick to get up. So there I lay, and I got thinking about my word processor, and INSERT and DELETE. And I thought, "Wouldn't it be funny if this guy wrote a sentence, and then, when he pushed DELETE, the subject of the sentence was deleted from the world?" That's the way just about all of my stories start; "Wouldn't it be funny if--?" And while many of them are scary, I never told one to people (as opposed to writing it down) that didn't cause at least some laughter, no matter what I saw as the final intent of that story.