She put the dress on for the first time on the morning of May 27, in her room. She had bought a special brassiere to go with it, which gave her breasts the proper uplift (not that they actually needed it) but left their top halves uncovered. Wearing it gave her a weird, dreamy feeling that was half shame and half defiant excitement.
The dress itself was nearly floor length. The skirt was loose, but the waist was snug, the material rich and unfamiliar against her skin, which was used to only cotton and wool.
The hang of it seemed to be right-or would be, with the new shoes. She slipped them on, adjusted the neckline, and went to the window. She could see only a maddening ghost image of herself, but everything seemed to be right. Maybe later she could-The door swung open behind her with only a soft snick of
the latch, and Carrie turned to look at her mother.
She was dressed for work, wearing her white sweater and holding her black pocketbook in one hand. In the other she was holding Daddy Ralph’s Bible.
They looked at each other.
Hardly conscious of it, Carrie felt her back straighten until she stood straight in the patch of early spring sunshine that fell through the window.
“Red,” Momma murmured. “I might have known it would be red.”
Carrie said nothing.
“I can see your dirty pillows. Everyone will. They’ll be looking at your body. The Book say~
“Those are my breasts, Momma. Every woman has them.”
“Take off that dress,” Momma said.
“Take it off, Carrie. We’ll go down and burn it in the incinerator together, and then pray for forgiveness. We’ll do penance.” Her eyes began to sparkle with the strange, disconnected zeal that came over her at events which she considered to be tests of faith. “Ill stay home from work and you’ll stay home from school. We’ll pray. We’ll ask for a Sign. We’ll get us down on our knees and ask for the Pentecostal Fire.”
Her mother reached up and pinched her own face. It left a red mark. She looked to Carrie for reaction, saw none, hooked her right hand into claws and ripped it across her own cheek, bringing thin blood. She whined and rocked back on her heels. Her eyes glowed with exaltation.
“Stop hurting yourself, Momma. That’s not going to make me stop either.”
Momma screamed. She made her right hand a fist and struck herself in the mouth, bringing blood. She dabbled her fingers in it, looked at it dreamily, and daubed a spot on the cover of the Bible.
“Washed in the Blood of the Lamb,” she whispered. “Many times. Many times he and I-”
“Go away, Momma.”
She looked up at Carrie, her eyes glowing. There was a terrifying expression of righteous anger graven on her face.
“The Lord is not mocked,” she whispered.:’Be sure your sin will find you out. Burn it, Carrie! Cast that devil’s red from you and burn it! Burn it! Burn it! Burn it!”
The door slammed open by itself.
“Go away, Momma.”
Momma smiled. Her bloody mouth made the smile grotesque, twisted. “As Jezebel fell from the tower, let it be with you,” she said. “And the dogs came and licked up the blood. It’s in the Bible! It’s-”
“Her feet began to slip along the floor and she looked down at them, bewildered. The wood might have turned to ice.
“Stop that!” she screamed.
She was in the hall now. She caught the doorjamb and held on for a moment; then her fingers were torn loose, seemingly by nothing.
“1 love you, Momma,” Carrie said steadily. “I’m sorry.”
She envisioned the door swinging shut, and the door did just that, as if moved by a light breeze. Carefully, so as not to hurt her, she disengaged the mental hands she had pushed her mother with.
A moment later, Margaret was pounding on the door. Carrie held it shut, her lips trembling.
“There’s going to be a judgment!” Margaret White raved. “I wash my hands of it! I tried!”
“Pilate said that,” Carrie said.
Her mother went away. A minute later Carrie saw her go down the walk and cross the street on her way to work.
“Momma,” she said softly, and put her forehead on the glass.
From The Shadow Exploded (p. 129):
Before turning to a more detailed analysis of Prom Night itself, it might be well to sum up what we know of Carrie White the person.
We know that Carrie was the victim of her mother’s religious mania. We know that she possessed a latent telekinetic talent, commonly referred to as TK. We know that this so-called “wild talent” is really a hereditary trait, produced by a gene that is usually recessive, if present at all. We suspect that the TK ability may be glandular in nature. We know that Carrie produced at least one demonstration of her ability as a small girl when she was put into an extreme situation of guilt and Stress. We know that a second extreme situation of guilt and stress arose from a shower-room hazing incident. It has been theorized (especially by William G. Throneberry and Julia Givens, Berkeley) that resurgence of the TK ability at this point was caused by both psychological factors (i. e., the reaction of the other girls and Carrie herself to their first menstrual period) and physiological factors (i. e., the advent of puberty).
And finally, we know that on Prom Night, a third stress situation arose, causing the terrible events which we now must begin to discuss. We will begin with…
(i am not nervous not a bit nervous)
Tommy had called earlier with her corsage, and now she was pinning it to the shoulder of her gown herself. There was no momma, of course, to do it for her and make sure it was in the right place. Momma had locked herself in the chapel and had been in there for the last two hours, praying hysterically. Her voice rose and fell in frightening, incoherent cycles.
(i’m sorry momma but I can’t be sorry)
When she had it fixed to her satisfaction, she dropped her hands and stood quietly for a moment with her eyes closed. There was no full-length mirror in the house,
(vanity vanity all is vanity)
but she thought she was all right. She had to be. She-She opened her eyes again. The Black Forest cuckoo clock,
bought with Green Stamps, said seven-ten.
(he’ll be here in twenty minutes)
Maybe it was all just an elaborate joke, the final crusher, the ultimate punch line. To leave her sitting here half the night in her crushed-velvet prom gown with its princess waistline, juliet sleeves and simple straight skirt-and her tea roses pinned to her left shoulder.
From the other room, on the rise now:… in hallowed earth! We know thou bring’st the Eye That Watcheth, the hideous three-lobed Eye, and the sound of black trumpets. We most heartily repent-”
Carrie did not think anyone could understand the brute courage it had taken to reconcile herself to this, to leave herself open to whatever fearsome possibilities the night might realize. Being stood up could hardly be the worst of them. In fact, in a kind of sneaking, wishful way she thought it might be for the best if-
(no stop that)
Of course it would be easier to stay here with Momma. Safer. She knew what They thought of Momma. Well, maybe Momma was a fanatic, a freak, but at least she was predictable. The house was predictable. She never came home to laughing, shrieking girls who threw things.
And if he didn’t come, if she drew back and gave up? High school would be over in a month. Then what? A creeping, subterranean existence in this house, supported by Momma, watching game shows and soap operas all day on television at Mrs. Garrison’s house when she had Carrie In To Visit (Mrs. Garrison was eighty-six), walking down to the Center to get a malted after supper at the Kelly Fruit when it was deserted, getting fatter, losing hope, losing even the power to think?
No. Oh dear God, please no.
(please let it be a happy ending)
“-protect us from he with the split foot who waits in the alleys and in the parking lots of roadhouses, 0 Saviour-”
Restlessly, without thinking, she began to lift objects with her mind and put them back down, the way a nervous woman awaiting someone in a restaurant will fold and unfold her napkin. She could dangle half a dozen objects in air at one time, and not a sign of tiredness or headache. She kept waiting for the power to abate, but it remained at high water with no sign of waning. The other night on her way home from school, she had rolled a parked car
(oh please god let it not be a joke)
twenty feet down the main street curb with no strain at all. The courthouse idlers had stared at it as if their eyes would pop out, and of course she stared too, but she was smiling inside.
The cuckoo popped out of the clock and spoke once. Seven-thirty.
She had grown a little wary of the terrific strain using the power seemed to put on her heart and lungs and internal thermostat. She suspected it would be all too possible for her heart to literally burst with the strain. It was like being in another’s body and forcing her to run and run and run. You would not pay the cost yourself; the other body would. She was beginning to realize that her power was perhaps not so different from the powers of Indian fakirs, who stroll across hot coals, run needles into their eyes, or blithely bury themselves for periods up to six weeks. Mind over matter in any form is a terrific drain on the body’s resources.
(he’s not coming)
(don’t think about it a watched pot doesn’t boil he’ll come)
(no he won’t he’s out laughing at you with his friends and after a little bit they’ll drive by in one of their fast noisy cars laughing and hooting and yelling)
Miserably, she began lifting the sewing machine up and down, swinging it in widening arcs through the air.
“-and protect us also from rebellious daughters imbued with the willfulness of the Wicked One-”
“Shut up!” Carrie screamed suddenly.
There was startled silence for a moment, and then the babbling chant began again.
(then i’ll wreck the house)
The thought came to her naturally and cleanly. First the sewing machine, driven through the living-room wall. The couch through a window. Tables, chairs, books and tracts all flying. The plumbing ripped loose and still spurting, like arteries ripped free of flesh. The roof itself, if that were within her power, shingles exploding upward into the night like startled pigeons-Lights splashed gaudily across the window.
Others cars had gone by, making her heart leap a little, but this one was going much more slowly.
She ran to the window, unable to restrain herself, and it was him, Tommy, just climbing out of his car, and even under the street light he was handsome and alive and almost… crackling. The odd word made her want to giggle.
Momma had stopped praying.
She grabbed her light silken wrap from where it had lain across the back of her chair and put it around her bare shoulders. She bit her lip, touched her hair, and would have sold her soul for a mirror. The buzzer in the hall made its harsh cry.
She made herself wait, controlling the twitch in her hands, for the second buzz. Then she went slowly, with silken swish.
She opened the door and he was there, nearly blinding in white dinner jacket and dark dress pants.
They looked at each other, and neither said a word.
She felt that her heart would break if he uttered so much as the wrong sound, and if he laughed she would die. She felt-actually, physically-her whole miserable life narrow to a point that might be an end or the beginning of a widening beam.
Finally, helpless, she said: “Do you like me?”
Re said: “You’re beautiful.”
From The Shadow Exploded (p. 131):
While those going to the Ewen Spring Ball were gathering at the high school or just leaving pre-Prom buffets, Christine Hargensen and William Nolan had met in a room above a local town-limits tavern called The Cavalier. We know that they had been meeting there for some time; that is in the records of the White Commission. What we don’t know is whether their plans were complete and irrevocable or if they went ahead almost on whim…
“Is it time yet?” she asked in the darkness. Re looked at his watch. “No.”
Faintly, through the board floor, came the thump of the juke playing “She’s Got To Be a Saint,” by Ray Price. The Cavalier, Chris reflected, hadn’t changed their records since the first time she’d been here with a forged ID two years ago. Of course then she’d been down in the taprooms, not in one of Sam Deveaux’s “specials.”
Billy’s cigarette winked fitfully in the dark, like the eye of an uneasy demon. She watched it introspectively. She hadn’t let him sleep with her until last Monday, when he had promised that he and his greaser friends would help her pull the string on Carrie White if she actually dared to go to the prom with Tommy Ross. But they had been here before, and had had some pretty hot necking session-what she thought of as Scotch love and what he would call, in his unfailing ability to pinpoint the vulgar, the dry humps.
She had meant to make him wait until he had actually done something
(but of course he did he got the blood)
but it had all begun to slip out of her hands, and it made her uneasy. If she had not given in willingly on Monday, he would have taken her by force.
Billy had not been her first lover, but he was the first she could not dance and dandle at her whim. Before him her boys had been clever marionettes with clear, pimple-free faces and parents with connections and country-club memberships. They drove their own VWs or Javelins or Dodge Chargers. They went to UMass or Boston College. They wore fraternity windbreakers in the fall and muscle-shirts with bright stripes in the summer. They smoked marijuana a great deal and talked about the funny things that happened to them when they were wrecked. They began by treating her with patronizing good fellowship (all high school girls, no matter how good-looking, were Bush League) and always ended up trotting after her with panting, doglike lust. If they trotted long enough and spent enough in the process, she usually let them go to bed with her. Quite often she lay passively beneath them, not helping or hindering, until it was over. Later, she achieved her own solitary climax while viewing the incident as a single closed loop of memory.
She had met Billy Nolan following a drug bust at a Portland apartment. Four students, including Chris’s date for the evening, had been busted for possession. Chris and the other girls were charged with being present there. Her father took care of it with quiet efficiency, and asked her if she knew what would happen to his image and his practice if his daughter was taken up on a drug charge. She told him that she doubted if anything could hurt either one, and he took her car away.
Billy offered her a ride home from school one afternoon a week later and she accepted.
He was what the other kids called a white-soxer or a machine-shop Chuck. Yet something about him excited her and now, lying drowsily in this illicit bed (but with an awakening sense of excitement and pleasurable fear), she thought it might have been his car-at least at the start.
It was a million miles from the machine-stamped, anonymous vehicles of her fraternity dates with their ventless windows, fold-up steering wheels, and vaguely unpleasant smell of plastic seat covers and windshield solvent.
Billy’s car was old, dark, somehow sinister. The windshield was milky around the edges, as if a cataract was beginning to form. The seats were loose and unanchored. Beer bottles clicked and rolled in the back (her fraternity dates drank Budweiser; Billy and his friends drank Rheingold), and she had to place her feet around a huge, grease-clotted Craftsman toolkit without a lid. The tools inside were of many different makes, and she suspected that many of them were stolen. The car smelled of oil and gas. The sound of straight pipes came loudly and exhilaratingly through the thin floorboards. A row of dials slung under the dash registered amps, oil pressure, and tach (whatever that was). The back wheels were jacked and the hood seemed to point at the road.
And of course he drove fast.
On the third ride home one of the bald front tires blew at sixty miles an hour. The car went into a screaming slide and she shrieked aloud, suddenly positive of her own death. An image of her broken, bloody corpse, thrown against the base of a telephone pole like a pile of rags, flashed through her mind like a tabloid photograph. Billy cursed and whipped the fuzz-covered steering wheel from side to side.
They came to a stop on the left-hand shoulder, and when she got out of the car on knees that threatened to buckle at every step, she saw that they had left a looping trail of scorched rubber for seventy feet.
Billy was already opening the trunk, pulling out a jack and muttering to himself. Not a hair was out of place.
He passed her, a cigarette already dangling from the corner of his mouth. “Bring that toolkit, babe.”
????????She was flabbergasted. Her mouth opened and closed twice, like a beached fish, before she could get the words out. “I-I will not! You almost k-you-almost-you crazy bastard! Be-sides, it’s dirty!”
He turned around and looked at her, his eyes flat. “You bring it or I ain’t taking you to the fuckin fights tomorrow night.
“I hate the fights!” She had never been, but her anger and outrage required absolutes. Her fraternity dates took her to rock concerts, which she hated. They always ended up next to someone who hadn’t bathed in weeks.
He shrugged, went back to the front end, and began jacking.
She brought the toolkit, getting grease all over a brand-new sweater. He grunted without turning around. His tee shirt had pulled out of his jeans, and the flesh of his back was smooth, tanned, alive with muscles. It fascinated her, and she felt her tongue creep into the corner of her mouth. She helped him pull the tire off the wheel, getting her hands black. The car rocked alarmingly on the jack, and the spare was down to the canvas in two places.
When the job was finished and she got back in, there were heavy smears of grease across both the sweater and the expensive red skirt she was wearing.
“If you think-” she began as he got behind the wheel.
He slid across the seat and kissed her, his hands moving heavily on her, from waist to breasts. His breath was redolent of tobacco; there was the smell of Brylcreem and sweat. She broke it at last and stared down at herself, gasping for breath. The sweater was blotted with road grease and dirt now. Twenty-seven-fifty in Jordan Marsh and it was beyond anything but the garbage can. She was intensely, almost painfully excited.
How are you going to explain that?” he asked, and kissed her again. His mouth felt as if he might be grinning.
“Feel me,” she said in his ear. “Feel me all over. Get me dirty.”
He did. One nylon split like a gaping mouth. Her skirt, short to begin with, was pushed rudely up to her waist. He groped greedily with no finesse at all. And something-perhaps that, perhaps the sudden brush with death-brought her to sudden, jolting orgasm. She had gone to the fights with him.
“Quarter of eight,” he said, and sat up in bed. He put on the lamp and began to dress. His body still fascinated her. She thought of last Monday night, and how it had been. He had-
Time enough to think of that later, maybe, when it would do something for her besides cause useless arousal. She swung her own legs over the edge of the bed and slid into gossamer panties.
“Maybe it’s a bad idea,” she said, not sure if she was testing him or herself. “Maybe we ought to just get back into bed and-”
“It’s a good idea,” he said, and a shadow of humor crossed his face. “Pig blood for a pig.”
“Nothing. Come on. Get dressed.”
She did, and when they left by the back stairs she could feel a large excitement blooming, like a rapacious and night-flowering vine, in her belly.
From My Name Is Susan Snell (p. 45):
You know, I’m not as sorry about all of it as people seem to think I should be. Not that they say it right out; they’re the ones who always say how dreadfully sorry they are. That’s usually just before they ask for my autograph. But they expect you to be sorry. They expect you to get weepy, to wear a lot of black, to drink a little too much or take drugs. They say things like:
“Oh, it’s such a shame. But you know what happened to her-” and blah, blah, blah.
But sorry is the Kool-Aid of human emotions. It’s what you say when you spill a cup of coffee or throw a gutter ball when you’re bowling with the girls in the league. True sorrow is as rare as true love. I’m not sorry that Tommy is dead any more. He seems too much like a daydream I once had. You probably think that’s cruel, but there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since Prom Night. And I’m not sorry for my appearance before the White Commission. I told the truth-as much of it as I knew.
But I am sorry for Carrie.
They’ve forgotten her, you know. They’ve made her into some kind of a symbol and forgotten that she was a human being, as real as you reading this, with hopes and dreams and blah, blah, blab. Useless to tell you that, I suppose. Nothing can change her back now from something made out of newsprint into a person. But she was, and she hurt. More than any of us probably know, she hurt.
And so I’m sorry and I hope it was good for her, that prom. Until the terror began, I hope it was good and fine and wonderful and magic…
Tommy pulled into the parking lot beside the high school’s new wing, let the motor idle for just a second, and then switched it off. Carrie sat on her side of the seat, holding her wrap around her bare shoulders. It suddenly seemed to her that she was having in a dream of hidden intentions and had just become aware of the fact. What could she be doing? She had left Momma alone.
“Nervous?” he asked, and she jumped.
He laughed and got out. She was about to open her door when he opened it for her. “Don’t be nervous,” he said. “You’re like Galatea.”
“Galatea. We read about her in Mr. Evers’ class. She turned from a drudge into a beautiful woman and nobody even knew her.”
She considered it. “I want them to know me,” she said finally.
“I don’t blame you. Come on.
George Dawson and Frieda Jason were standing by the Coke machine. Frieda was in an orange tulle concoction, and looked a little like a tuba. Donna Thibodeau was taking tickets at the door along with David Bracken. They were both National Honor Society members, part of Miss Geer’s personal Gestapo, and they wore white slacks and red blazers-the school colors. Tina Blake and Norma Watson were handing out programs and seating people inside according to their chart. Both of them were dressed in black, and Carrie supposed they thought they were very chic, but to her they looked like cigarette girls in an old gangster movie.
All of them turned to look at Tommy and Carrie when they came in, and for a moment there was a stiff, awkward silence. Carrie felt a strong urge to wet her lips and controlled it. Then George Daw son said:
“Gawd, you look queer, Ross.”
Tommy smiled. “When did you come out of the treetops, Bomba?”
Dawson lurched forward with his fists up, and for a moment Carrie felt stark terror. In her keyed-up state, she came within an ace of picking George up and throwing him across the lobby. Then she realized it was an old game, often played, well-loved.
The two of them sparred in a growling circle. Then George, who had been tagged twice in the ribs, began to gobble and yell: “Kill them Congs! Get them Gooks! Pongee sticks! Tiger cages!” and Tommy collapsed his guard, laughing.
“Don’t let it bother you,” Frieda said, tilting her letter-opener nose and strolling over. “If they kill each other, I’ll dance with you.”
“They look too stupid to kill,” Carrie ventured. “Like dinosaurs.” And when Frieda grinned, she felt something very old and rusty loosen inside her. A warmth came with it… Relief. Ease.
“Where’d you buy your dress?” Frieda asked. “I love it.”
“I made it.”
“Made it?” Frieda’s eyes opened in unaffected surprise. “No shit!”
Carrie felt herself blushing furiously. “Yes I did. I… I like to sew. I got the material at John’s in Westover. The pattern is really quite easy.
“Come on,” George said to all of them in general. “Band’s gonna start.” He rolled his eyes and went through a limber, satiric buck-and-wing. “Vibes, vibes, vibes. Us Gooks love them big Fender viyyybrations.”
When they went in, George was doing impressions of Flash Bobby Pickett and mugging, Carrie was telling Frieda about her dress, and Tommy was grinning, hands stuffed in his pockets. Spoiled the lines of his dinner jacket Sue would be telling him, but fuck it, it seem to be working. So far it was working fine.
He and George and Frieda had less than two hours to live.
From The Shadow Exploded (p. 132):
The White Commission’s stand on the trigger of the whole affair-two buckets of pig blood on a beam over the stage
seems to be overly weak and vacillating, even in light of the scant concrete proof. If one chooses to believe the hearsay evidence of Nolan’s immediate circle of friends (and to be brutally frank, they do not seem intelligent enough to lie convincingly), then Nolan took this part of the conspiracy entirely out of Christine Hargensen’s hands and acted on his own initiative…
He didn’t talk when he drove; he liked to drive. The operation gave him a feeling of power that nothing could rival, not even fucking.
The road unrolled before them in photographic blacks and whites, and the speedometer trembled just past seventy. He came from a broken home; his father had taken off after the failure of a badly managed gas-station venture when Billy was twelve, and his mother had four boy friends at last count. Brucie was in greatest favor right now. He was a Seagram’s 7 man. She was turning into one ugly bag, too.
But the car: the car fed him power and glory from its own mystic lines of force. It made him someone to be reckoned with, someone with mana. It was not by accident that he had done most of his balling in the back seat. The car was his slave and his god. It gave, and it could take away. Billy had used it to take away many times. On long, sleepless nights when his mother and Brucie were fighting, Billy made popcorn and went out cruising for stray dogs. Some mornings he let the car roll, engine dead, into the garage he had constructed behind the house with its front bumper dripping.
She knew his habits well enough by now and did not bother making conversation that would simply be ignored anyway. She sat beside him with one leg curled under her, gnawing a knuckle. The lights of the cars streaking past them on 302 gleamed softly in her hair, streaking it silver.
He wondered how long she would last. Maybe not long after tonight. Somehow it had all led to this, even the early part, and when it was done the glue that had held them together would be thin and might dissolve, leaving them to wonder how it could have been in the first place. He thought she would start to look less like a goddess and more like the typical society bitch again, and that would make him want to belt her around a little. Or maybe a lot. Rub her nose in it.
They breasted the Brickyard Hill and there was the high school below them, the parking lot filled with plump, glistening daddies’ cars. He felt the familiar gorge of disgust and hate rise in his throat. We’ll give them something
(a night to remember) all right. We can do that.
The classroom wings were dark and silent and deserted; the lobby was lit with a standard yellow glow, and the bank of glass that was the gymnasium’s east side glowed with a soft, orangey light that was ethereal, almost ghostly. Again the bitter taste, and the urge to throw rocks.
“I see the lights, I see the party lights,” he murmured.
“Huh?” She turned to him, startled out of her own thoughts.
“Nothing.” He touched the nape of her neck. “I think I’m gonna let you pull the string.”
Billy did it by himself, because he knew perfectly well that he could trust nobody else. That had been a hard lesson, much harder than the ones they taught you in school, but he had
learned it well. The boys who had gone with him to Henty’s place the night before had not even known what he wanted the blood for. They probably suspected Chris was involved, but they could not even be sure of that.
He drove to the school minutes after Thursday night had become Friday morning and cruised by twice to make sure it was deserted and neither of Chamberlain’s two police cars was in the area.
He drove into the parking lot with his lights off and swung around in back of the building. Further back, the football field glimmered beneath a thin membrane of ground fog.
He opened the trunk and unlocked the ice chest. The blood had frozen solid, but that was all right. It would have the next twenty-two hours to thaw.
He put the buckets on the ground, then got a number of tools from his kit. He stuck them in his back pocket and grabbed a brown bag from the seat. Screws clinked inside.
He worked without hurry, with the easeful concentration of one who is unable to conceive of interruption. The gym where the dance was to be held was also the school auditorium, and the small row of windows looking toward where he had parked opened on the backstage storage area.
He selected a flat tool with a spatulate end and slid it through the small jointure between the upper and lower panes of one window. It was a good tool. He had made it himself in the Chamberlain metal shop. He wiggled it until the window’s slip lock came free. He pushed the window up and slid in.
It was very dark. The predominant odor was of old paint from the Dramatics Club canvas flats. The gaunt shadows of Band Society music stands and instrument cases stood around like sentinels. Mr. Downer’s piano stood in one corner.
Billy took a small flashlight out of the bag and made his way to the stage and stepped through the red velvet curtains. The gym floor, with its painted basketball lines and highly varnished surface, glimmered at him like an amber lagoon. He shone his light on the apron in front of the curtain. There, in ghostly chalk lines, someone had drawn the floor silhouette of the King and Queen thrones which would be placed the following day. Then the entire apron would be strewn with paper flowers… why, Christ only knew.
He craned his neck and shone the beam of his light up into the shadows. Overhead, girders crisscrossed in shadowy lines. The girders over the dance floor had been sheathed in crepe paper, but the area directly over the apron hadn’t been decorated. A short draw curtain obscured the girders up there, and they were invisible from the gym floor. The draw curtain also hid a bank of lights that would highlight the gondola mural.
Billy turned off the flashlight, walked to the left-hand edge of the apron, and mounted a steel-runged ladder bolted to the wall. The contents of his brown bag, which he had tucked into his shirt for safety, jingled with a strange, hollow jolliness in the deserted gymnasium.
At the top of the ladder was a small platform. Now, as he faced outward toward the apron, the stage flies were to his right, the gym itself on his left. In the flies the Dramatics Club props were stored, some of them dating back to the 1920s. A bust of Pallas, used in some ancient dramatic version of Poe’s “The Raven,” stared at Billy with blind, floating eyes from atop a rusting bedspring. Straight ahead, a steel girder ran out over the apron. Lights to be used against the mural were bolted to the bottom of it.
He stepped out onto it and walked effortlessly, without fear, out over the drop. He was humming a popular tune under his breath. The beam was inch-thick with dust, and he left long, shuffling tracks. Halfway out he stopped, dropped to his knees, and peered down.
Yes. With the help of his light he could make out the chalk lines on the apron directly below. He made a soundless whistling.
Re X’d the precise spot in the dust, then beam-walked back to the platform. No one would be up here between now and the Ball; the lights that shone on the mural and on the apron where the King and Queen would be crowned
(they’ll get crowned all right)
were controlled from a box backstage. Anyone looking up from directly below would be blinded by those same lights. His arrangements would be noticed only if someone went up into the flies for something. He didn’t believe anyone would. It was an acceptable risk.
He opened the brown bag and took out a pair of Playtex rubber gloves, put them on, and then took out one of two small pullies he had purchased yesterday. He had gotten them at a hardware store in Lewiston, just to be safe. He popped a number of nails into his mouth like cigarettes and got the hammer. Still humming around his mouthful of nails, he fixed the pulley neatly in the corner a foot above the platform. Beside it he fixed a small eyehole screw.
He went back down the ladder, crossed backstage, and climbed another ladder not far from where he had come in. He was in the loft-sort of a catchall school attic. Here there were stacks of old yearbooks, moth-eaten athletic uniforms, and ancient textbooks that had been nibbled by mice.
Looking left, he could shine his light over the stage flies and spotlight the pulley he had just put up. Turning right, cool night air played on his face from a vent in the wall. Still humming, he took out the second pulley and nailed it up.
He went back down, crawled out the window he had forced, and got the two buckets of pig blood. He had been about his business for a half hour, but it showed no signs of thawing. He picked the buckets up and walked back to the window, silhouetted in the darkness like a farmer coming back from the first milking. He lifted them inside and went in after.
Beam-walking was easier with a bucket in each hand for balance. When he reached his dust-marked X, he put the buckets down, peered at the chalk marks on the apron once more, nodded, and walked back to the platform. He thought about wiping the buckets on his last trip out to them-Kenny’s prints would be on them, Don’s and Steve’s as well-but it was better not to. Maybe they would have a little surprise on Saturday morning. The thought made his lips quirk.
The last item in the bag was a coil of jute twine. He walked back out to the buckets and tied the handles of both with running slipknots. He threaded the screw, then the pulley. He threw the uncoiling twine across to the loft, and then threaded that one. He probably would not have been amused to know that, in the gloom of the auditorium, covered and streaked with decades-old dust, gray kitties flying dreamily about his crow’s-nest hair, he looked like a hunched, half-mad Rube Goldberg intent upon creating the better mousetrap.
He piled the slack twine on top of a stack of crates within reach of the vent. He climbed down for the last time and dusted off his hands. The thing was done.
He looked out the window, then wriggled through and thumped to the ground. He closed the window, reinserted his jimmy, and closed the lock as far as he could. Then he went back to his car.
Chris said chances were good that Tommy Ross and the White bitch would be the ones under the buckets; she had been doing a little quiet promoting among her friends. That would be good, if it happened. But, for Billy, any of the others would be all right too.
He was beginning to think that it would be all right if it was Chris herself.
He drove away.
From My Name Is Susan Snell (p. 48):
Carrie went to see Tommy the day before the prom. She was waiting outside one of his classes and he said she looked really wretched, as if she thought he’d yell at her to stop hanging around and stop bugging him.
She said she had to be in by eleven-thirty at the latest, or her momma would be worried. She said she wasn’t going to spoil his time or anything, but it wouldn’t be fair to worry her momma.
Tommy suggested they stop at the Kelly Fruit after and grab a root beer and a burger. All the other kids would be going to Westover or Lewiston, and they would have the place to themselves. Carrie’s face lit up, he said. She told him that would be fine. Just fine.
This is the girl they keep calling a monster. I want you to keep that firmly in mind. The girl who could be satisfied with a hamburger and a dime root beer after her only school dance so her momma wouldn’t be worried…
The first thing that struck Carrie when they walked in was Glamor. Not glamor but Glamor. Beautiful shadows rustled about in chiffon, lace, silk, satin. The air was redolent with the odor of flowers; the nose was constantly amazed by it. Girls in dresses with low backs, with scooped bodices showing actual cleavage, with Empire waists. Long skirts, pumps. Blinding white dinner jackets, cummerbunds, black shoes that had been Spit-shined.
A few people were on the dance floor, not many yet, and in the soft revolving gloom they were wraiths without substance. She did not really want to see them as her classmates. She wanted them to be beautiful strangers.
Tommy’s hand was firm on her elbow. “The mural’s nice,” he said.
“Yes,” she agreed faintly.
It had taken on a soft nether light under the orange spots, the boatman leaning with eternal indolence against his tiller while the sunset blazed around him and the buildings conspired together over urban waters. She knew with suddenness and ease that this moment would be with her always, within hand’s reach of memory.
She doubted if they all sensed it-they had seen the world-but even George was silent for a minute as they looked, and the scene, the smell, even the sound of the band playing a faintly recognizable movie theme, was locked forever in her, and she was at peace. Her soul knew a moment’s calm, as if it had been uncrumpled and smoothed under an iron.
“Viiiiiybes,” George yelled suddenly, and led Frieda out onto the floor. He began to do a sarcastic jitterbug to the old-timey big-band music, and someone catcalled over to him. George blabbered, leered, and went into a brief arms-crossed Cossack routine that nearly landed him on his butt.
Carrie smiled. “George is funny,” she said.
“Sure he is. He’s a good guy. There are lots of good people around. Want to sit down?”
“Yes, she said gratefully.
He went back to the door and returned with Norma Watson, whose hair had been pulled into a huge, teased explosion for the affair.
“It’s on the other SIDE,” she said, and her bright gerbel’s eyes picked Carrie up and down, looking for an exposed strap, an eruption of pimples, any news to carry back to the door when her errand was done. “That’s a LOVELY dress, Carrie. Where did you EVER get it?”
Carrie told her while Norma led them around the dance floor to their table. She exuded odors of Avon soap, Woolworth’s perfume, and Juicy Fruit gum.
There were two folding chairs at the table (looped and beribboned with the inevitable crepe paper), and the table itself was decked with crepe paper in the school colors. On top was a candle in a wine bottle, a dance program, a tiny gilded pencil, and two party favor-gondolas filled with Planters Mixed Nuts.
“I can’t get OVER it,” Norma was saying. “You look so DIFFERENT.” She cast an odd, furtive look at Carrie’s face and it made her feel nervous. “You’re positively GLOWING. What’s your SECRET?”
“I’m Don MacLean’s secret lover,” Carrie said. Tommy sniggered and quickly smothered it. Norma’s smile slipped a notch, and Carrie was amazed by her own wit-and audacity. That’s what you looked like when the joke was on you. As though a bee had stung your rear end. Carrie found she liked Norma to look that way. It was distinctly unchristian.
“Well, I have to get back,” she said. “Isn’t it EXCITING, Tommy?” Her smile was sympathetic: wouldn’t it be exciting if-?
“Cold sweat is running down my thighs in rivers,” Tommy said gravely.
Norma left with an odd, puzzled smile. It had not gone the way things were supposed to go. Everyone knew how things were supposed to go with Carrie. Tommy sniggered again. “Would you like to dance?” he asked.
She didn’t know how, but wasn’t ready to admit to that yet. “Let’s just sit down for a minute.”
While he held out her chair, she saw the candle and asked Tommy if he would light it. He did. Their eyes met over its flame. He reached out and took her hand. And the band played on.
From The Shadow Exploded (pp. 133-34):
Perhaps a complete study of Carrie’s mother will be undertaken someday, when the subject of Carrie herself becomes more academic. I myself might attempt it, if only to gain access to the Brigham family tree. It might be extremely interesting to know what odd occurrences one might come across two or three generations back…
And there is, of course, the knowledge that Carrie went home on Prom Night. Why? It is hard to tell just how sane Carrie’s motives were by that time. She may have gone for absolution and forgiveness, or she may have gone for the express purpose of committing matricide. In any event, the physical evidence seems to indicate that Margaret White was waiting for her…
The house was completely silent.
She was gone.
Margaret White walked slowly from her bedroom into the living room. First had come the flow of blood and the filthy fantasies the Devil sent with it. Then this hellish Power the Devil had given to her. It came at the time of the blood and the time of hair on the body, of course. Oh, she knew the Devil’s Power. Her own grandmother had it. She had been able to light the fireplace without even stirring from her rocker by the window. It made her eyes glow with
(thou shalt not suffer a witch to live)
a kind of witch’s light. And sometimes, at the supper table the sugar bowl would whirl madly like a dervish. Whenever it happened, Gram would cackle crazily and drool and make the sign of the Evil Eye all around her. Sometimes she panted like a dog on a hot day, and when she died of a heart attack at sixty-six, senile to the point of idiocy even at that early age, Carrie had not even been a year old. Margaret had gone into her bedroom not four weeks after Gram’s funeral and there her girl-child had lain in her crib, laughing and gurgling, watching a bottle that was dangling in thin air over her head.
Margaret had almost killed her then. Ralph had stopped her.
She should not have let him stop her.
Now Margaret White stood in the middle of the living room. Christ on Calvary looked down at her with his wounded, suffering, reproachful eyes. The Black Forest cuckoo clock ticked. It was ten minutes after eight.
She had been able to feel, actually feel, the Devil’s Power working in Carrie. It crawled all over you, lifting and pulling like evil, tickling little fingers. She had set out to do her duty again when Carrie was three, when she had caught her looking in sin at the Devil’s slut in the next yard over. Then the stones had come, and she had weakened. And the power had risen again, after thirteen years. God was not mocked.
First the blood, then the power,
(you sign your name you sign it in blood)
now a boy and dancing and he would take her to a roadhouse after, take her into the parking lot, take her into the back seat, take her-
Blood, fresh blood. Blood was always at the root of it, and
only blood could expiate it.
She was a big woman with massive upper arms that had dwarfed her elbows to dimples, but her head was surprisingly small on the end of her strong, corded neck. It had once been a beautiful face. It was still beautiful in a weird, zealous way. But the eyes had taken on a strange, wandering cast, and the lines had deepened cruelly around the denying but oddly weak mouth. Her hair, which had been almost all black a year ago, was now almost white.
The only way to kill sin, true black sin, was to drown it in the blood of
(she must be sacrificed)
a repentant heart. Surely God understood that, and had laid His finger upon her. Had not God Himself commanded Abraham to take his son Isaac up upon the mountain?
She shuffled out into the kitchen in her old and splayed slippers, and opened the kitchen utensil drawer. The knife they used for carving was long and sharp and arched in the middle from constant honing. She sat down on the high stool by the counter, found the sliver of whetstone in its small aluminum dish, and began to scrub it along the gleaming edge of the blade with the apathetic, fixated attention of the damned.
The Black Forest cuckoo clock ticked and ticked and finally the bird jumped out to call once and announce eight-thirty.
In her mouth she tasted olives.
THE SENIOR CLASS PRESENTS SPRING BALL ’79
May 27, 1979
Music by The Billy Bosnan Band
Music by Josie and the Moonglows
“Cabaret”-Baton Twirling by Sandra Stenchfield
“Mr. Tambourine Man”
Folk Music by John Swithen and Maureen Cowan
“The Street Where You Live”
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”
“Bridge Over Troubled Waters Ewen High School Chorus
Mr. Stephens, Miss Geer, Mr. and Mrs. Lublin, Miss Desjardin Coronation at 10:00 P. M.
Remember, it’s YOUR prom; make it one to remember always!
When he asked her the third time, Carrie had to admit that she didn’t know how to dance. She didn’t add that, now that the rock band had taken over for a half-hour set, she would feel out of place gyrating on the floor,
(and sinful) yes, and sinful.
Tommy nodded, then smiled. He leaned forward and told her that he hated to dance. Would she like to go around and visit some of the other tables? Trepidation rose thickly in her throat, but she nodded. Yes, that would be nice. He was seeing to her. She must see to him (even if he really did not expect it); that was part of the deal. And she felt dusted over with the enchantment of the evening. She was suddenly hopeful that no one would stick out a foot or slyly paste a kick-me-hard sign on her back or suddenly squirt water in her face from a novelty carnation and retreat cackling while everyone laughed and pointed and catcalled.
And if there was enchantment, it was not divine but pagan
(momma untie your apron strings i’m getting big) and she wanted it that way.
“Look,” he said as they got up.
Two or three stagehands were sliding the King and Queen thrones from the wings while Mr. Lavoic, the head custodian, directed them with hand motions toward preset marks on the apron. She thought they looked quite Arthurian, those thrones, dressed all in blinding white, strewn with real flowers as well as huge crepe banners.
“They’re beautiful,” she said.
“You’re beautiful,” Tommy said, and she became quite sure that nothing bad could happen this night-perhaps they themselves might even be voted King and Queen of the Prom. She smiled at her own folly.
It was nine o’clock.
“Carrie?” a voice said hesitantly.
She had been so wrapped up in watching the band and the dance floor and the other tables that she hadn’t seen anyone coming at all. Tommy had gone to get them punch.
She turned around and saw Miss Desjardin.
For a moment the two of them merely looked at each other, and the memory traveled between them, communicated
(she saw me she saw me naked and screaming and bloody) without words or thought. It was in the eyes.
Then Carrie said shyly: “You look very pretty, Miss Desjardin.”
She did. She was dressed in a glimmering silver sheath, a perfect complement to her blonde hair, which was up. A simple pendant hung around her neck. She looked very young, young enough to be attending rather than chaperoning.
“Thank you.” She hesitated, then put a gloved hand on Carrie’s arm. “You are beautiful,” she said, and each word carried a peculiar emphasis.
Carrie felt herself blushing again and dropped her eyes to the table. “It’s awfully nice of you to say so. I know I’m not
not really… but thank you anyway.”
“It’s true,” Desjardin said. “Carrie, anything that happened before… well, it’s all forgotten. I wanted you to know that.”
“I can’t forget it,” Carrie said. She looked up. The words that rose to her lips were: I don’t blame anyone any more. She bit them off. It was a lie. She blamed them all and always would, and she wanted more than anything else to be honest. “But it’s over with. Now it’s over with.”
Miss Desjardin smiled, and her eyes seemed to catch and hold the soft mix of lights in an almost liquid sparkling. She looked across toward the dance floor, and Carrie followed her gaze.
“I remember my own prom,” Desjardin said softly. “I was two inches taller than the boy I went with when I was in my heels. He gave me a corsage that clashed with my gown. The tailpipe was broken on his car and the engine made… oh, an awful racket. But it was magic. I don’t know why. But I’ve never had a date like it, ever again.” She looked at Carrie. “Is it like that for you?”
“It’s very nice,” Carrie said.
“And is that all?”
“No. There’s more. I couldn’t tell it all. Not to anybody.”
Desjardin smiled and squeezed her arm. “You’ll never forget it,” she said. “Never.”
“I think you’re right.”
“Have a lovely time, Carrie.”
Tommy came up with two Dixie cups of punch as Desjardin left, walking around the dance floor toward the chaperones’ table.
“What did she want?” he asked, putting the Dixie cups down carefully.
Carrie, looking after her, said: “I think she wanted to say she was sorry.”
Sue Snell sat quietly in the living room of her house, hemming a dress and listening to the Jefferson Airplane Long John Silver album. It was old and badly scratched, but soothing.
Her mother and father had gone out for the evening. They knew what was going on, she was sure of that, but they had spared her the bumbling talks about how proud they were of Their Girl, or how glad they were that she was finally Growing Up. She was glad they had decided to leave her alone, because she was still uncomfortable about her own motives and afraid to examine them too deeply, lest she discover a jewel of selfishness glowing and winking at her from the black velvet of her subconscious.
She had done it; that was enough; she was satisfied.
(maybe he’ll fall in love with her)
She looked up as if someone had spoken from the hallway, a startled smile curving her lips. That would be a fairy-tale ending, all right. The Prince bends over the Sleeping Beauty, touches his lips to hers.
Sue, I don’t know how to tell you this but-The smile faded.
Her period was late. Almost a week late. And she had always been as regular as an almanac.
The record changer clicked; another record dropped down. In the sudden, brief silence, she heard something within her turn over. Perhaps only her soul.
It was nine-fifteen.
Billy drove to the far end of the parking lot and pulled into a stall that faced the asphalt ramp leading to the highway. Chris started to get out and he jerked her back. His eyes glowed ferally in the dark.
“What?” she said with angry nervousness.
“They use a P. A. system to announce the King and Queen,” he said. “Then one of the bands will play the school song. That means they’re sitting there in those thrones, on target.”
“I know all that. Let go of me. You’re hurting.”
He squeezed her wrist tighter still and felt small bones grind. It gave him a grim pleasure. Still, she didn’t cry out. She was pretty good.
“You listen to me. I want you to know what you’re getting into. Pull the rope when the song is playing. Pull it hard. There will be a little slack between the pulleys, but not much. When you pull it and feel those buckets go, run. You don’t stick around to hear the screams or anything else. This is out of the cute-little-joke league. This is criminal assault, you know? They don’t fine you. They put you in jail and throw the key over their shoulder.”
It was an enormous speech for him.
Her eyes only glared at him, full of defiant anger.
“All right. When the buckets go, I’m going to run. When I get to the car, I’m going to drive away. If you’re there, you can come. If you’re not, I’ll leave you. If I leave you and you spill your guts, I’ll kill you. Do you believe me?”
“Yes. Take your fucking hand off me.
He did. An unwilling shadow-grin touched his face. “Okay. It’s going to be good.”
They got out of the car. It was almost nine-thirty.
Vic Mooney, President of the Senior Class, was calling jovially into the mike: “All right, ladies and gentlemen. Take your seats, please. It’s time for the voting. We’re going to vote for the King and Queen.”
“This contest insults women!” Myra Crewes called with uneasy good nature.
“It insults men, too!” George Dawson called back, and there was general laughter. Myra was silent. She had made her token protest.
“Take your seats, please!” Vic was smiling into the mike, smiling and blushing furiously, fingering a pimple on his chin. The huge Venetian boatman behind him looked dreamily over Vic’s shoulder. “Time to vote.”
Carrie and Tommy sat down. Tina Blake and Norma Watson were circulating mimeographed ballots, and when Norma dropped one at their table and breathed “Good LUCK!” Carrie picked up the ballot and studied it. Her mouth popped open.
“Tommy, we’re on here!”
“Yeah, I saw that,” he said. “The school votes for single candidates and their dates get sort of shanghaied into it. Welcome aboard. Shall we decline?”
She bit her lip and looked at him. “Do you want to decline?”
“Hell, no,” he said cheerfully. “If you win, all you do is sit up there for the school song and one dance and wave a scepter and look like a goddam idiot. They take your picture for the yearbook so everyone can see you looked like a goddam idiot.”
“Who do we vote for?” She looked doubtfully from the ballot to the tiny pencil by her boatful of nuts. “They’re more your crowd than mine.” A little chuckle escaped her. “In fact, I don’t really have a crowd.”
He shrugged. “Let’s vote for ourselves. To the devil with false modesty.”
She laughed out loud, then clapped a hand over her mouth. The sound was almost entirely foreign to her. Before she could think, she circled their names, third from the top. The tiny pencil broke in her hand, and she gasped. A splinter had scratched the pad of one finger, and a small bead of blood welled.
“You hurt yourself?”
“No.” She smiled, but suddenly it was difficult to smile. The sight of the blood was distasteful to her. She blotted it away with her napkin. “But I broke the pencil and it was a souvenir. Stupid me.”
“There’s your boat,” he said, and pushed it toward her. “Toot, toot.” Her throat closed, and she felt sure she would weep and then be ashamed. She did not, but her eyes glimmered like prisms and she lowered her head so he would not see.
The band was playing catchy fill-in music while the Honor Society ushers collected the folded-over ballots. They were taken to the chaperones’ table by the door, where Vic and Mr. Stephens and the Lublins counted them. Miss Geer surveyed it all with grim gimlet eyes.
Carrie felt an unwilling tension worm into her, tightening muscles in her stomach and back. She held Tommy’s hand tightly. It was absurd, of course. No one was going to vote for them. The stallion, perhaps, but not when harnessed in tandem with a she-ox. It would be Frank and Jessica or maybe Don Farnham and Helen Shyres. Or-hell!
Two piles were growing larger than the others. Mr. Stephens finished dividing the slips and all four of them took turns at counting the large piles, which looked about the same. They put their heads together, conferred, and counted once more. Mr. Stephens nodded, thumbed [he ballots once more like a man about to deal a hand of poker, and gave them back to Vic. He climbed back on stage and approached the mike. The Billv Bosnan Band played a flourish. Vic smiled nervously, harrumphed into the mike, and blinked at the sudden feedback whine. He nearly dropped the ballots to the floor, which was covered with heavy electrical cables, and somebody snickered.
“We’ve sort of hit a snag,” Vic said artlessly. “Mr. Lublin says this is the first time in the history of the Spring Ball-”
“How far does he go back?” someone behind Tommy grumbled. “Eighteen hundred?”
“We’ve got a tie.”
This got a murmur from the crowd. “Polka dots or striped?” George Dawson called, and there was some laughter. Vic gave a twitchy little smile and almost dropped the ballots again.
“Sixty-three votes for Frank Grier and Jessica MacLean, and sixty-three votes for Thomas Ross and Carrie White.”
This was followed by a moment of silence, and then sudden, swelling applause. Tommy looked across at his date. Her head was lowered, as if in shame, but he had a sudden feeling
(carrie carrie carrie)
not unlike the one he had had when he asked her to the prom. His mind felt as if something alien was moving in there, calling Carrie’s name over and over again. As if-“Attention!” Vic was calling. “If I could have your attention,
please.” The applause quieted. “We’re going to have a run-off ballot. When the people passing out the slips of paper get to you, please write the couple you favor on it.”
He left the mike, looking relieved.
The ballots were circulated; they had been hastily torn from leftover prom programs. The band played unnoticed and people talked excitedly.
“They weren’t applauding for us,” Carrie said, looking up. The thing he had felt (or thought he had felt) was gone. “It couldn’t have been for us.
“Maybe it was for you.
She looked at him, mute.
“What’s taking it so long?” she hissed at him. “I heard them clap. Maybe that was it. If you fucked up-” The length of jute cord hung between them limply, untouched since Billy had poked a screwdriver through the vent and lifted it out.
“Don’t worry,” he said calmly. “They’ll play the school song. They always do.”
“Shut up. You talk too fucking much.” The tip of his cigarette winked peacefully in the dark.
She shut. But
(oh when this is over you’re going to get it buddy maybe you’ll go to bed with lover’s nuts tonight)
her mind ran furiously over his words, storing them. People did not speak to her in such a manner. Her father was a lawyer.
It was seven minutes of ten.
He was holding the broken pencil in his hand, ready to write, when she touched his wrist lightly, tentatively.
“Don’t vote for us,” she said finally.
He raised his eyebrows quizzically. “Why not? In for a penny, in for a pound. That’s what my mother always says.”
A picture rose in her mind instantly, her mother droning endless prayers to a towering, faceless, columnar God who prowled roadhouse parking lots with a sword of fire in one hand. Terror rose in her blackly, and she had to fight with all her spirit to hold it back. She could not explain her dread, her sense of premonition. She could only smile helplessly and repeat: “Don’t. Please.”
The Honor Society ushers were coming back, collecting folded slips. He hesitated a moment longer, then suddenly scrawled Tommy and Carrie on the ragged slip of paper. “For you,” he said. “Tonight you go first-class.”
She could not reply, for the premonition was on her: her mother’s face.
The knife slipped from the whetstone, and in an instant it had sliced the cup of her palm below the thumb.
She looked at the cut. It bled slowly, thickly, from the open lips of the wound, running out of her hand and spotting the worn linoleum of the kitchen floor. Good, then. It was good. The blade had tasted flesh and let blood. She did not bandage it but tipped the flow over the cutting edge, letting the blood dull the blade’s sharp glimmer. Then she began to sharpen again, heedless of the droplets which splattered her dress.
If thine right eye offend thee, pluck it out.
If it was a hard scripture, it was also sweet and good. A fitting scripture for those who lurked in the doorway shadows of one-night hotels and in the weeds behind bowling alleys.
Pluck it out.
(oh and the nasty music they play)
Pluck z. t
(the girls show their underwear how it sweats how it sweats blood)
The Black Forest cuckoo clock began to strike ten and (cut her guts out on the floor)
if thine right eye offend thee, pluck it out.
The dress was done and she could not watch the television or take out her books or call Nancy on the phone. There was nothing to do but sit on the sofa facing the blackness of the kitchen window and feel some nameless sort of fear growing in her like an infant coming to dreadful term.
With a sigh she began to massage her arms absently. They were cold and prickly. It was twelve after ten and there was no reason, really no reason, to feel that the world was coming to an end.
The stacks were higher this time, but they still looked exactly the same. Again, three counts were taken to make sure. Then Vic Mooney went to the mike again. He paused a moment, relishing the blue feel of tension in the air, and then announced simply:
“Tommy and Carrie win. By one vote.”
Dead silence for a moment. Then applause filled the hall
again, some of it not without satiric overtones. Carrie drew in a
startled, smothered gasp, and Tommy again felt (but for only a
second) that weird vertigo in his mind (carrie carrie carrie carrie)
that seemed to blank out all thought but the name and image of this strange girl he was with. For a fleeting second he was literally scared shitless.
Something fell on the floor with a clink, and at the same instant the candle between them whiffed out.
Then Josie and the Moonglows were playing a rock version of “Pomp and Circumstance,” the ushers appeared at their table (almost magically; all this had been rehearsed meticulously by Miss Geer who, according to rumor, ate slow and clumsy ushers for lunch), a scepter wrapped in aluminum foil was thrust into Tommy’s hand, a robe with a lush dog-fur collar was thrown over Carrie’s shoulders, and they were being led down the center aisle by a boy and a girl in white blazers. The band blared. The audience applauded. Miss Geer looked vindicated. Tommy Ross was grinning bemusedly.
They were ushered up the steps to the apron, led across to the thrones, and seated. Still the applause swelled. The sarcasm in it was lost now; it was honest and deep, a little frightening. Carrie was glad to sit down. It was all happening too fast. Her legs were trembling under her and suddenly, even with the comparatively high neck of her gown, her breasts
felt dreadfully exposed. The sound of the applause in her ears made her feel woozy, almost punch-drunk. Part of her was actually convinced that all this was a dream from which she would wake with mixed feelings of loss and relief.
Vic boomed into the mike: “The King and Queen of the 1979 Spring Ball-Tommy ROSS and Carrie WHITE!”
Still applause, swelling and booming and crackling. Tommy Ross, in the fading moments of his life now, took Carrie’s hand and grinned at her, thinking that Suzie’s intuition had been very right. Somehow she grinned back. Tommy
(she was right and i love her well i love this one too this carrie she is she is beautiful and it’s right and i love all of them the light the light in her eyes)
(can’t see them the lights are too bright i can hear them but can’t see them the shower remember the shower o momma it’s too high i think i want to get down 0 are they laughing and ready to throw things to point and scream with laughter i can’t see them i can’t see them it’s all too bright)
and the beam above them.
Both bands, in a sudden and serendipitous coalition of rock and brass, swung into the school song. The audience rose to its feet and began to sing, still applauding.
It was ten-o-seven.
Billy had just flexed his knees to make the joints pop. Chris Hargensen stood next to him with increasing signs of nervousness. Her hands played aimlessly along the seams of the jeans she had worn and she was biting the softness of her lower lip, chewing at it, making it a little ragged.
“You think they’ll vote for them?” Billy said softly.
“They will,” she said. “I set it up. It won’t even be close. Why do they keep applauding? What’s going on in there?”
“Don’t ask me, babe. I-”
The school song suddenly roared out, full and strong on the soft May air, and Chris jumped as if stung., A soft gasp of surprise escaped her.
All rise high for Thomas Ewen Hiii?yyygh
“Go on,” he said. “They’re there.” His eyes glowed softly in the dark. The odd half-grin had touched his features.
She licked her lips. They both stared at the length of jute cord.
We’ll raise your banners to the skyyyyyy.
“Shut up,” she whispered. She was trembling, and he thought that her body had never looked so lush or exciting. When this was over he was going to have her until every other time she’d been had was like two pumps with a fag’s little finger. He was going on her like a raw cob through butter.
“No guts, babe?”
He leaned forward. “I won’t pull it for you, babe. It can sit there till hell freezes.”
With pride we wear the red and whiiyyyyte.
A sudden smothered sound that might have been a half-scream came from her mouth, and she leaned forward and pulled violently on the cord with both hands. It came loose with slack for a moment, making her think that Billy had been having her on all this time, that the rope was attached to nothing but thin air. Then it snubbed tight, held for a second, and then came through her palms harshly, leaving a thin burn.
“I-” she began.
The music inside came to a jangling, discordant halt. For a moment ragged voices continued oblivious, and then they stopped. There was a beat of silence, and then someone screamed. Silence again.
They stared at each other in the dark, frozen by the actual act as thought never could have done. Her very breath turned to glass in her throat.
Then, inside, the laughter began.
It was ten twenty-five, and the feeling had been getting worse and worse. Sue stood in front of the gas range on one foot, waiting for the milk to begin steaming so she could dump in the Nestle’s. Twice she had begun to go upstairs and put on a nightgown and twice she had stopped, drawn for no reason at all to the kitchen window that looked down Brickyard Hill and the spiral of Route 6 that led into town.
Now, as the whistle mounted atop the town hall on Main Street suddenly began to shriek into the night, rising and falling in cycles of panic, she did not even turn immediately to the window, but only turned the heat off under the milk so it would not burn.
The town hall whistle went off every day at twelve noon and that was all, except to call the volunteer fire department during grass-fire season in August and September. It was strictly for major disasters, and its sound was dreamy and terrifying in the empty house.
She went to the window, but slowly. The shrieking of the whistle rose and fell, rose and fell. Somewhere, horns were beginning to blat, as if for a wedding. She could see her reflection in the darkened glass, lips parted, eyes wide, and then the condensation of her breath obscured it.
A memory, half-forgotten, came to her. As children in grammar school, they had practiced air-raid drills. When the teacher clapped her hands and said, “The town whistle is blowing,” you were supposed to crawl under your desk and put your hands over your head and wait, either for the all-clear or for enemy missiles to blow you to powder. Now, in her mind, as clearly as a leaf pressed in plastic,
(the town whistle is blowing)
she heard the words clang in her mind.
Far below, to the left, where the high school parking lot was-the ring of sodium arc lamps made it a sure landmark, although the school building itself was invisible in the dark-a spark glowed as if God had struck a flint-and-steel.
(that’s where the oil tanks are)
The spark hesitated, then bloomed orange. Now you could see the school, and it was on fire.
She was already on her way to the closet to get her coat when the first dull, booming explosion shook the floor under her feet and made her mother’s china rattle in the cupboards.
From We Survived the Black Prom, by Norma Watson (Publisher in the August, 1980, issue of The Reader’s Digest as a “Drama in Real Life” article):
…and it happened so quickly that no one really knew what was happening. We were all standing and applauding and singing the school song. Then-I was at the ushers’ table just inside the main doors, looking at the stage-there was a sparkle as the big lights over the stage apron reflected on something metallic. I was standing with Tina Blake and Stella Horan, and I think they saw it, too.
All at once there was a huge red splash in the air. Some of it hit the mural and ran in long drips. I knew right away, even before it hit them, that it was blood. Stella Horan thought it was paint, but I had a premonition, just like the time my brother got hit by a hay truck.
They were drenched. Carrie got it the worst. She looked exactly like she had been dipped in a bucket of red paint. She just sat there. She never moved. The band that was closest to the stage, Josie and the Moonglows, got splattered. The lead guitarist had a white instrument, and it splattered all over it.
I said: “My God, that’s blood!”
When I said that, Tina screamed. It was very loud, and it rang out clearly in the auditorium.
People had stopped singing and everything was completely quiet. I couldn’t move. I was rooted to the spot. I looked up and there were two buckets dangling high over the thrones, swinging and banging together. They were still dripping. All of a sudden they fell, with a lot of loose string paying out behind them. One of them hit Tommy Ross on the head. It made a very loud noise, like a gong.
That made someone laugh. I don’t know who it was, but it wasn’t the way a person laughs when they see something funny and gay. It was raw and hysterical and awful.
At that same instant, Carrie opened her eyes wide.
That was when they all started laughing. I did too, God help me. It was so… so weird.
When I was a little girl I had a Walt Disney storybook called Song of the South, and it had that Uncle Remus story about the tar baby in it. There was a picture of the tar baby sitting in the middle of the road, looking like one of those old-time Negro minstrels with the blackface and great big white eyes. When Carrie opened her eyes it was like that. They were the only part of her that wasn’t completely red. And the light had gotten in them and made them glassy. God help me, but she looked for all the world like Eddie Cantor doing that pop-eyed act of his.
That was what made people laugh. We couldn’t help it. It was one of those things where you laugh or go crazy. Carrie had been the butt of every joke for so long, and we all felt that we were part of something special that night. It was as if we were watching a person rejoin the human race, and I for one thanked the Lord for it. And that happened. That horror.
And so there was nothing else to do. It was either laugh or cry, and who could bring himself to cry over Carrie after all those years?
She just sat there, staring out at them, and the laughter kept swelling, getting louder and louder. People were holding their bellies and doubling up and pointing at her. Tommy was the only one who wasn’t looking at her. He was sort of slumped over in his seat as if he’d gone to sleep. You couldn’t tell he was hurt, though; he was splashed too bad.
And then her face… broke. I don’t know how else to describe it. She put her hands up to her face and half-staggered to her feet. She almost got tangled in her own feet and fell over, and that made people laugh even more. Then she sort of… hopped off the stage. It was like watching a big red frog hopping off a lily pad. She almost fell again, but kept on her feet.
Miss Desjardin came running over to her, and she wasn’t laughing any more. She was holding out her arms to her. But then she veered off and hit the wall beside the stage. It was the strangest thing. She didn’t stumble or anything. It was as if someone had pushed her, but there was no one there.
Carrie ran through the crowd with her hands clutching her face, and somebody put his foot out. I don’t know who it was, but she went sprawling on her face, leaving a long red streak on the floor. And she said, “Oof!” I remember that. It made me laugh even harder, hearing Carrie say Oof like that. She started to crawl along the floor and then she got up and ran out. She ran right past me. You could smell the blood. It smelled like something sick and rotted.
She went down the stairs two at a time and then out the doors. And was gone.
The laughter just sort of faded off, a little at a time. Some people were still hitching and snorting. Lennie Brock had taken out a big white handkerchief and was wiping his eyes. Sally McManus looked all white, like she was going to throw up, but she was still giggling and she couldn’t seem to stop. Billy Bosnan was just standing there with his little conductor’s stick in his hand and shaking his head. Mr. Lublin was sitting by Miss Desjardin and calling for a Kleenex. She had a bloody nose.
You have to understand that all this happened in no more than two minutes. Nobody could put it all together. We were stunned. Some of them were wandering around, talking a little, but not much. Helen Shyres burst into tears, and that made some of the others start up.
Then someone yelled: “Call a doctor! Hey, call a doctor quick!”
It was Josie Vreck. He was up on the stage, kneeling by Tommy Ross, and his face was white as paper. He tried to pick him up, and the throne fell over and Tommy rolled onto the floor.
Nobody moved. They were all just staring. I felt like I was frozen in ice. My God, was all I could think. My God, my God, my God. And then this other thought crept in, and it was as if it wasn’t my own at all. I was thinking about Carrie. And about God. It was all twisted up together, and it was awful.
Stella looked over at me and said: “Carrie’s back.”
And I said: “Yes, that’s right.”
The lobby doors all slammed shut. The sound was like hands clapping. Somebody in the back screamed, and that started the stampede. They ran for the doors in a rush. I just stood there, not believing it. And when I looked, just before the first of them got there and started to push, I saw Carrie looking in, her face all smeared, like an Indian with war paint on.
She was smiling.
They were pushing at the doors, hammering on them, but they wouldn’t budge. As more of them crowded up against them, I could see the first ones to get there being battered against them, grunting and wheezing. They wouldn’t open. And those doors are never locked. It’s a state law.
Mr. Stephens and Mr. Lublin waded in, and began to pull them away, grabbing jackets, skirts, anything. They were all screaming and burrowing like cattle. Mr. Stephens slapped a couple of girls and punched Vic Mooney in the eye. They were yelling for them to go out the back fire doors. Some did. Those were the ones who lived.
That’s when it started to rain… at least, that’s what I thought it was at first. There was water falling all over the place. I looked up and all the sprinklers were on, all over the gym. Water was hitting the basketball court and splashing. Josie Vreck was yelling for the guys in his band to turn off the electric amps and mikes quick, but they were all gone. He jumped down from the stage.
The panic at the doors stopped. People backed away, looking up at the ceiling. I heard somebody-Don Farnham, I think-say: “This is gonna wreck the basketball court.”
A few other people started to go over and look at Tommy Ross. All at once I knew I wanted to get out of there. I took Tina Blake’s hand and said, “Let’s run. Quick.”
To get to the fire doors, you had to go down a short corridor to the left of the stage. There were sprinklers there too, but they weren’t on. And the doors were open-I could see a few people running out. But most of them were just standing around in little groups, blinking at each other. Some of them were looking at the smear of blood where Carrie fell down. The water was washing it away.
I took Tina’s arm and started to pull her toward the exit sign. At that same instant there was a huge flash of light, a scream, and a horrible feedback whine. I looked around and saw Josie Vreck holding onto one of the mike stands. He couldn’t let go. His eyes were bugging out and his hair was on end and it looked like he was dancing. His feet were sliding around in the water and smoke started to come out of his shirt.
He fell over on one of the amps-they were big ones, five or six feet high-and it fell into the water. The feedback went up to a scream that was head-splitting, and then there was another sizzling flash and it stopped. josie’s shirt was on fire.
“Run!” Tina yelled at me. “Come on, Norma. Please!”
We ran out into the hallway, and something exploded backstage-the main power switches, I guess. For just a second I looked back. You could see right out onto the stage, where Tommy’s body was, because the curtain was up. All the heavy light cables were in the air, flowing and jerking and writhing like snakes out of an Indian fakir’s basket. Then one of them pulled in two. There was a violet flash when it hit the water, and then everybody was screaming at once.
Then we were out the door and running across the parking lot. I think I was screaming. I don’t remember very well. I don’t remember anything very well after they started screaming. After those high-voltage cables hit that water-covered floor
For Tommy Ross, age eighteen, the end came swiftly and mercifully and almost without pain.
He was never even aware that something of importance was happening. There was a clanging, clashing noise that he associated momentarily with
(there go the milk buckets)
a childhood memory of his Uncle Galen’s farm and then with (somebody dropped something)
the band below him. He caught a glimpse of josie Vreck looking over his head
(what have i got a halo or something)
and then the quarter-full bucket of blood struck him. The raised lip along the bottom of the rim struck him on top of the head and
(hey that hur)
he went swiftly down into unconsciousness. He was still sprawled on the stage when the fire originating in the electrical equipment of Josie and the Moonglows spread to the mural of the Venetian boatman, and then to the rat warren of old uniforms, books, and papers backstage and overhead.
He was dead when the oil tank exploded a half hour later.
From the New England AP ticker, 10:46 P. M.:
CHAMBERLAIN, MAINE (AP)
A FIRE IS RAGING OUT OF CONTROL AT EWEN (U-WIN) CONSOLIDATED HIGH SCHOOL AT THIS TIME. A SCHOOL DANCE WAS IN PROGRESS AT THE TIME OF THE OUTBREAK WHICH IS BELIEVED TO HAVE BEEN ELECTRICAL IN ORIGIN. WITNESSES SAY THAT THE SCHOOL’S SPRINKLER SYSTEM WENT ON WITHOUT WARNING, CAUSING A SHORT-CIRCUIT IN THE EQUIPMENT OF A ROCK BAND. SOME WITNESSES ALSO REPORT BREAKS IN
MAIN POWER CABLES. IT IS BELIEVED THAT AS MANY AS ONE HUNDRED AND TEN PERSONS MAY BE TRAPPED IN THE BLAZING SCHOOL GYMNASIUM. FIRE FIGHTING EQUIPMENT FROM THE NEIGHBORING TOWNS OF WESTOVER, MOTTON, AND LEWISTON HAVE REPORTEDLY RECEIVED REQUESTS FOR ASSISTANCE AND ARE NOW OR SHORTLY WILL BE EN ROUTE. AS YET, NO CASUALTIES HAVE BEEN REPORTED. ENDS. 10:46 PM MAY 27 6904D AP
From the New England AP ticker, 11:22 P. M.
CHAMBERLAIN, MAINE (AP)
A TREMENDOUS EXPLOSION HAS ROCKED THOMAS EWIN (U-WIN) CONSOLIDATED HIGH SCHOOL IN THE SMALL MAINE TOWN OF CHAMBERLAIN. THREE CHAMBERLAIN FIRE TRUCKS, DISPATCHED EARLIER TO FIGHT A BLAZE AT THE GYMNASIUM WHERE A SCHOOL PROM WAS TAKING PLACE, HAVE ARRIVED TO NO AVAIL. ALL FIRE HYDRANTS IN THE AREA HAVE BEEN VANDALIZED, AND WATER PRESSURE FROM CITY MAINS IN THE AREA FROM SPRING STREET TO GRASS PLAZA IS REPORTED TO BE NIL. ONE FIRE OFFICIAL SAID: “THE DAMN THINGS WERE STRIPPED OF THEIR NOZZLES. THEY MUST HAVE SPOUTED LIKE GUSHERS WHILE THOSE KIDS WERE BURNING.” THREE BODIES HAVE BEEN RECOVERED SO FAR. ONE HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED AS THOMAS B. MEARS, A CHAMBERLAIN FIREMAN. THE TWO OTHERS WERE APPARENT PROM-GOERS. THREE MORE CHAMBERLAIN FIREMEN HAVE BEEN TAKEN TO MOTTON RECEIVING HOSPITAL SUFFERING FROM MINOR BURNS AND SMOKE INHALATION. IT IS BELIEVED THAT THE EXPLOSION OCCURRED WHEN THE FIRE REACHED THE SCHOOL’S FUELOIL TANKS, WHICH ARE SITUATED NEAR THE GYMNASIUM. THE FIRE ITSELF IS BELIEVED TO HAVE STARTED IN POORLY INSULATED ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT FOLLOWING A SPRINKLER SYSTEM MALFUNCTION. ENDS. 11:22PM MAY27 70119E AP
Sue had only a driver’s permit, but she took the keys to her mother’s car from the pegboard beside the refrigerator and ran to the garage. The kitchen clock read exactly 11:00.
She flooded the car on her first try, and forced herself to wait before trying again. This time the motor coughed and caught, and she roared out of the garage heedlessly, dinging one fender. She turned around, and the rear wheels splurted gravel. Her mother’s ’77 Plymouth swerved onto the road, almost fishtailing onto the shoulder and making her feel sick to her stomach. It was only at this point that she realized she was moaning deep in her throat, like an animal in a trap.
She did not pause at the stop sign that marked the intersection of Route 6 and the Back Chamberlain Road. Fire sirens filled the night in the east, where Chamberlain bordered Westover, and from the south behind her-Motton.
She was almost at the base of the hill when the school exploded.
She jammed on the power brakes with both feet and was thrown into the Steering wheel like a rag doll. The tires wailed on the pavement. Somehow she fumbled the door open and was out, shading her eyes against the glare.
A gout of flame had ripped skyward, trailing a nimbus of fluttering steel roof panels, wood, and paper. The smell was thick and oily. Main Street was lit as if by a flashgun. In that terrible hallway between seconds, she saw that the entire gymnasium wing of Ewen High was a gutted, flaming ruin.
Concussion struck a moment later, knocking her backward. Road litter blew past her in a sudden and tremendous rush, along with a blast of warm air that reminded her fleetingly of
(the smell of subways)
a trip she had taken to Boston the year before. The windows of Bill’s Home Drugstore and the Kelly Fruit Company jingled and fell inward.
She had fallen on her side, and the fire lit the street with hellish noonday. What happened next happened in slow motion as her mind ran steadily onward
(dead are they all dead carrie why think carrie)
at its own clip. Cars were rushing toward the scene, and some people were running in robes, nightshirts, pajamas. She saw a man come out of the front door of Chamberlain’s combined police station and courthouse. He was moving slowly. The cars were moving slowly. Even the people running were moving slowly.
She saw the man on the police-station steps cup his hand around his mouth and scream something; unclear over the shrieking town whistle, the fire sirens, the monster-mouth of the fire. Sounded like:
“Heyret! Don’t hey that ass!”
The street was all wet down there. The light danced on the water. Down by Teddy’s Amoco station.
And then the world exploded.
From the sworn testimony of Thomas K. Quillan, taken before The State Investigatory Board of Maine in connection with the events of May 27-28 in Chamberlain, Maine (abridged version which follows is from Black Prom: The White Commission Report, Signet Books: New York, 1980):
- Mr. Quillan. are you a resident of Chamberlain?
- What is your address?
- I got a room over the pool hall. That’s where I work. I mop the floors, vacuum the tables, work on the machines-pinball machines, you know.
- Where were you on the night of May twenty-seventh at 10:30 P. M., Mr. Quillan?
- Well… actually, I was in a detention cell at the police station. I get paid on Thursdays, see. And I always go out and get bombed. I go out to The Cavalier, drink some Schlitz, play a little poker out back. But I get mean when I drink. Feels like the Roller Derby’s going on in my head. Bummer, huh? Once I conked a guy over the head with a chair and-
- Was it your habit to go to the police station when you felt these fits of temper coming on?
- Yeah. Big Otis, he’s a friend of mine.
- Are you referring to Sheriff Otis Doyle of this county?
- Yeah. He told me to pop in any time I started feeling mean. The night before the prom, a bunch of us guys were in the back room down at The Cavalier playing stud poker and I got to thinking Fast Marcel Dubay was cheating. I would have known better sober-a Frenchman’s idea of pullin’ a fast one is to look at his own cards-but that got me going. I’d had a couple of beers, you know, so I folded my hand and went on down to the station. Plessy was catching, and he locked me right up in Holding Cell Number 1. Plessy’s a good boy. I knew his mom, but that was many years ago.
- Mr. Quillan, do you suppose we could discuss the night of the twenty-seventh? 10:30 P. M.?
- Ain’t we?
- I devoutly hope so. Continue.
- Well, Plessy locked me up around quarter of two on Friday morning, and I popped right off to sleep. Passed out, you might say. Woke up around four o’clock the next afternoon, took three Alka-Seltzers, and went back to sleep. I got a knack that way. I can sleep until my hangover’s all gone. Big Otis says I should find out how I do it and take out a patent. He says I could save the world a lot of pain.
- I’m sure you could, Mr. Quillan. Now when did you wake up again?
- Around ten o’clock on Friday night. I was pretty hungry, so I decided to go get some chow down at the diner.
- They left you all alone in an open cell?
- Sure. I’m a fantastic guy when I’m sober. In fact, one time-
- Just tell the Committee what happened when you left the cell.
- The fire whistle went off, that’s what happened. Scared the bejesus out of me. I ain’t heard that whistle at night since the Viet Nam war ended. So I ran upstairs and sonofabitch, there’s no one in the office. I say to myself, hot damn, Plessy’s gonna get it for this. There’s always supposed to be somebody catching, in case there’s a call-in. So I went over to the window and looked out.
- Could the school be seen from that window?
- Sure. It’s on the other side of the street, a block and a half down. People were running around and yelling. And that’s when I saw Carrie White.
- Had you ever seen Carrie White before?
- Then how did you know it was she?
- That’s hard to explain.
- Could you see her clearly?
- She was standing under a street light, by the fire hydrant on the corner of Main and Spring.
- Did something happen?
- I guess to Christ. The whole top of the hydrant exploded off three different ways. Left, right, and straight up to heaven.
- What time did this… malfunction occur?
- Around twenty to eleven. Couldn’t have been no later.
- What happened then?
- She started downtown. Mister, she looked awful. She was wearing some kind of party dress, what was left of it, and she was all wet from that hydrant and covered with blood. She looked like she just crawled out of a car accident. But she was grinning. I never saw such a grin. It was like a death’s head. And she kept looking at her hands and rubbing them on her dress, trying to get the blood off and thinking she’d never get it off and how she was going to pour blood on the whole town and make them pay. It was awful stuff.
- How would you have any idea what she was thinking?
- I don’t know. I can’t explain.
- For the remainder of your testimony, I wish you would stick to what you saw, Mr. Quillan.
- Okay. There was a hydrant on the corner of Grass Plaza, and that one went, too. I could see that one better. The big lug nuts on the sides were unscrewing themselves. I saw that happening. It blew, just like the other one. And she was happy. She was saying to herself, that’ll give ’em a shower, that’ll… whoops, sorry. The fire trucks started to go by then, and I lost track of her. The new pumper pulled up to the school and they started on those hydrants and saw they wasn’t going to get no water. Chief Burton was hollering at them, and that’s when the school exploded. Je-sus.
- Did you leave the police station?
- Yeah. I wanted to find Plessy and tell him about that crazy broad and the fire hydrants. I glanced over at Teddy’s Amoco, and I seen something that made my blood run cold. All six gas pumps was off their hooks. Teddy Duchamp’s been dead since 1968, God love him, but his boy locked those pumps up every night just like Teddy himself used to do. Every one of them Yale padlocks was hanging busted by their hasps. The nozzles were laying on the tarmac, and the automatic feeds was set on every one. Gas was pouring out onto the sidewalk and into the street. Holy mother of God, when I seen that, my balls drew right up. Then I saw this guy running along with a lighted cigarette.
- What did you do?
- Hollered at him. Something like Hey! Watch that cigarette! Hey don’t, that’s gas! He never heard me. Fire sirens and the town whistle and cars rip-assing up and down the street, I don’t wonder. I saw he was going to pitch it, so I started to duck back inside.
- What happened next?
- Next? Why, next thing, the Devil came to Chamberlain…
When the buckets fell, she was at first only aware of a loud, metallic clang cutting through the music, and then she was deluged in warmth and wetness. She closed her eyes instinctively. There was a grunt from beside her, and in the part of her mind that had come so recently awake, she sensed brief pain.
The music came to a crashing, discordant halt, a few voices hanging on after it like broken strings, and in the sudden deadness of anticipation, filling the gap between event and realization, like doom, she heard someone say quite clearly:
“My God, that’s blood.”
A moment later, as if to ram the truth of it home, to make it utterly and exactly clear, someone screamed.
Carrie sat with her eyes closed and felt the black bulge of terror rising in her mind. Momma had been right, after all. They had taken her again, gulled her again, made her the butt again. The horror of it should have been monotonous, but it was not; they had gotten her up here, up here in front of the whole school, and had repeated the shower-room scene… only the voice had said
(my god that’s blood)
something too awful to be contemplated. If she opened her eyes and it was true, oh, what then? What then?
Someone began to laugh, a solitary, affrighted hyena sound, and she did open her eyes, opened them to see who it was and it was true, the final nightmare, she was red and dripping with it, they had drenched her in the very secretness of blood, in front of all of them and her thought
(oh……COVERED… with it)
was colored a ghastly purple with her revulsion and her shame. She could smell herself and it was the stink of blood, the awful wet, coppery smell. In a flickering kaleidoscope of images she saw the blood running thickly down her naked thighs, heard the constant beating of the shower on the tiles, felt the soft patter of tampons and napkins against her skin as voices exhorted her to plug it UP, tasted the plump, fulsome bitterness of horror. They had finally given her the shower they wanted.
A second voice joined the first, and was followed by a third-girl’s soprano giggle-a fourth, a fifth, six, a dozen, all of them, all laughing. Vic Mooney was laughing. She could see him. His face was utterly frozen, shocked, but that laughter issued forth just the same.
She sat quite still, letting the noise wash over her like surf. They were still all beautiful and there was still enchantment and wonder, but she had crossed a line and now the fairy tale was green with corruption and evil. In this one she would bite a poison apple, be attacked by trolls, be eaten by tigers.
They were laughing at her again.
And suddenly it broke. The horrible realization of how badly she had been cheated came over her, and a horrible, soundless cry
(they’re LOOKING at me)
tried to come out of her. She put her hands over her face to hide it and staggered out of the chair. Her only thought was to run, to get out of the light, to let the darkness have her and hide her.
But it was like trying to run through molasses. Her traitor mind had slowed time to a crawl; it was as if God had switched the whole scene from 78 rpm to 33. Even the laughter seemed to have deepened and slowed to a sinister bass rumble.
Her feet tangled in each other, and she almost fell off the edge of the stage. She recovered herself, bent down, and hopped down to the floor. The grinding laughter swelled louder. It was like rocks rubbing together.
She wanted not to see, but she did see; the lights were too bright and she could see all their faces. Their mouths, their teeth, their eyes. She could see her own gore-streaked hands in front of her face.
Miss Desjardin was running toward her, and Miss Desjardin’s face was filled with lying compassion. Carrie could see beneath the surface to where the real Miss Desjardin was giggling and chuckling with rancid old-maid ribaldry. Miss Desjardin’s mouth opened and her voice issued forth, horrible and slow and deep:
“Let me help you, dear. Oh I am so sor-” She struck out at her
and Miss Desjardin went flying to rattle off the wall at the side of the stage and fall into a heap.
Carrie ran. She ran through the middle of them. Her hands were to her face but she could see through the prison of her fingers, could see them, how they were, beautiful, wrapped in light, swathed in the bright, angelic robes of Acceptance. The shined shoes, the clear faces, the careful beauty-parlor hairdos, the glittery gowns. They stepped back from her as if she was plague, but they kept laughing. Then a foot was stuck slyly out
(o yes that comes next 0 yes)
and she fell over on her hands and knees and began to crawl, to crawl along the floor with her blood-clotted hair hanging in her face, crawling like St. Paul on the Damascus Road, whose eyes had been blinded by the light. Next someone would kick her ass.
But no one did and then she was scrabbling to her feet again. Things began to speed up. She was out through the door, out into the lobby, then flying down the stairs that she and Tommy had swept up so grandly two hours ago.
(tommy’s dead full price paid full price for bringing a plague into the place of light)
She went down them in great, awkward leaps, with the sound of the laughter flapping around her like black birds.
She fled across the school’s wide front lawn, losing both of her prom slippers and fleeing barefoot. The closely cut school lawn was like velvet, lightly dusted with dewfall, and the laughter was behind her. She began to calm slightly.
Then her feet did tangle and she fell at full length out by the flagpole. She lay quiescent, breathing raggedly, her hot face buried in the cool grass. The tears of shame began to flow, as hot and as heavy as that first flow of menstrual blood had been. They had beaten her, bested her, once and for all time. It was over.
She would pick herself up very soon now, and sneak home by the back streets, keeping to the shadows in case someone came looking for her, find Momma, admit she had been wrong-
The steel in her-and there was a great deal of it-suddenly rose up and cried the word out strongly. The closet? The endless, wandering prayers? The tracts and the cross and only the mechanical bird in the Black Forest cuckoo clock to mark off the rest of the hours and days and years and decades of her life?
Suddenly, as if a videotape machine had been turned on in her mind, she saw Miss Desjardin running toward her, and saw her thrown out of her way like a rag doll as she used her mind on her, without even consciously thinking of it.
She rolled over on her back, eyes staring wildly at the stars from her painted face. She was forgetting
(!! THE POWER!!)
It was time to teach them a lesson. Time to show them a thing or two. She giggled hysterically. It was one of Momma’s pet phrases.
(momma coming home putting her purse down eyeglasses flashing well i guess i showed that elt a thing or two at the shop today)
There was the sprinkler system. She could turn it on, turn it on easily. She giggled again and got up, began to walk barefoot back toward the lobby doors. Turn on the sprinkler system and close all the doors. Look in and let them see her looking in, watching and laughing while the shower ruined their dresses and their hairdos and took the shine off their shoes. Her only regret was that it couldn’t be blood.
The lobby was empty. She paused halfway up the stairs and FLEX, the doors all slammed shut under the concentrated force she directed at them, the pneumatic door-closers snapping off. She heard some of them scream and it was music, sweet soul music.
For a moment nothing changed and then she could feel them pushing against the doors, wanting them to open. The pressure was negligible. They were trapped
and the word echoed intoxicatingly in her mind. They were under her thumb, in her power. Power! What a word that was!
She went the rest of the way up and looked in and George Dawson was smashed up against the glass, struggling, pushing, his face distorted with effort. There were others behind him, and they all looked like fish in an aquarium.
She glanced up and yes, there were the sprinkler pipes, with their tiny nozzles like metal daisies. The pipes went through small holes in the green cinderblock wall. There were a great many inside, she remembered. Fire laws, or something.
Fire laws. In a flash her mind recalled (black thick cords like snakes)
the power cords strung all over the stage. They were out of the audience’s sight, hidden by the footlights, but she had had to step carefully over them to get to the throne. Tommy had been holding her arm.
(fire and water)
She reached up with her mind, felt the pipes, traced them. Cold, full of water. She tasted iron in her mouth, cold wet metal, the taste of water drunk from the nozzle of a garden hose.
For a moment nothing happened. Then they began to back away from the doors, looking around. She walked to the small oblong of glass in the middle door and looked inside.
It was raining in the gym.
Carrie began to smile.
She hadn’t gotten all of them, only some. But she found that by looking up at the sprinkler system with her eyes, she could trace its course more easily with her mind. She began to turn on more of the nozzles, and more. Yet it wasn’t enough. They weren’t crying yet, so it wasn’t enough.
(hurt them then hurt them)
There was a boy up on stage by Tommy, gesturing wildly and shouting something. As she watched, he climbed down and ran toward the rock band’s equipment. He caught hold of one of the microphone stands and was transfixed. Carrie watched, amazed, as his body went through a nearly motionless dance of electricity. His feet shuffled in the water, his hair stood up in spikes, and his mouth jerked open, like the mouth of a fish. He looked funny. She began to laugh.
(by christ then let them all look funny)
And in a sudden, blind thrust, she yanked at all the power she could feel.
Some of the lights puffed out. There was a dazzling flash somewhere as a live power cord hit a puddle of water. There were dull thumps in her mind as circuit breakers went into hopeless operation. The boy who had been holding the mike stand fell over on one of his amps and there was an explosion of purple sparks and then the crepe bunting that faced the stage was burning.
Just below the thrones, a live 220-volt electricity cable was crackling on the floor and beside it Rhonda Simard was doing a crazed puppet dance in her green tulle formal. Its full skirt suddenly blazed into flame and she fell forward, still jerking.
It might have been at that moment that Carrie went over the edge. She leaned against the doors, her heart pumping wildly, yet her body as cold as ice cubes. Her face was livid, but dull red fever spots stood on each cheek. Her head throbbed thickly, and conscious thought was lost.
She reeled away from the doors, still holding them shut, doing it without thought or plan. Inside the fire was brightening and she realized dimly that the mural must have caught on fire.
She collapsed on the top step and put her head down on her knees, trying to slow her breathing. They were trying to get out the doors again, but she held them shut easily-that alone was no strain. Some obscure sense told her that a few were getting out the fire doors, but let them. She would get them later. She would get all of them. Every last one.
She went down the stairs slowly and out the front doors, still holding the gymnasium doors closed. It was easy. All you had to do was see them in your mind.
The town whistle went off suddenly, making her scream and put her hands in front of her face
(the whistle it’s just the fire whistle)
for a moment. Her mind’s eye lost sight of the gymnasium doors and some of them almost got out. No, no. Naughty. She slammed them shut again, catching somebody’s fingers-it felt like Dale Norbert-in the jamb and severing one of them.
She began to reel across the lawn again, a scarecrow figure with bulging eyes, toward Main Street. On her right was downtown-the department store, the Kelly Fruit, the beauty parlor and barbershop, gas stations, police station, fire station-(they’ll put out my fire)
But they wouldn’t. She began to giggle and it was an insane sound: triumphant, lost, victorious, terrified. She came to the first hydrant and tried to twist the huge painted lug nut on the side.
It was heavy. It was very heavy. Metal twisted tight to balk her. Didn’t matter.
She twisted harder and felt it give. Then the other side. Then the top. Then she twisted all three at once, standing back, and they unscrewed in a flash. Water exploded outward and upward, one of the lug nuts flying five feet in front of her at suicidal speed. It hit the street, caromed high into the air, and was gone. Water gushed with white pressure in a cruciform pattern.
Smiling, staggering, her heart beating at over two hundred per minute, she began to walk down toward Grass Plaza. She was unaware that she was scrubbing her bloodied hands against her dress like Lady Macbeth, or that she was weeping even as she laughed, or that one hidden part of her mind was keening o~er her final and utter ruin,
Because she was going to take them with her, and there was going to be a great burning, until the land was full of its stink.
She opened the hydrant at Grass Plaza, and then began to walk down to Teddy’s Amoco. It happened to the first gas station she came to, but it was not the last.
From the sworn testimony of Sheriff Otis Doyle, taken before The State Investigatory Board of Maine (from The White Commission Report), p. 29-31:
- Sheriff, where were you on the night of May twenty-seventh?
- I was on Route 179, known as Old Bentown Road, investigating an automobile accident. This was actually over the Chamberlain town line and into Durham, but I was assisting Mel Crager, who is the Durham constable.
- When were you first informed that trouble had broken out at Ewen High School?
- I received a radio transmission from Officer Jacob Plessy at 10:21.
- What was the nature of the radio call?
- Officer Plessy said there was trouble at the school, but he didn’t know if it was serious or not. There was a lot of shouting going on, he said, and someone had pulled a couple of fire alarms. He said he was going over to try and determine the nature of the trouble.
- Did he say the school was on fire?
- No, sir.
- Did you ask him to report back to you?
- I did.
- Did Officer Plessy report back?
- No. He was killed in the subsequent explosion of Teddy’s Amoco gas station on the corner of Main and Summer.
- When did you next have a radio communication concerning Chamberlain?
- At 10:42. 1 was at that time returning to Chamberlain with a suspect in the back of my car-a drunk driver. As I have said, the case was actually in Mel Crager’s town, but Durham has no jail. When I got him to Chamberlain, we didn’t have much of one, either.
- What communication did you receive at 10:42?
- I got a call from the State Police that had been relayed from the Motton Fire Department. The State Police dispatcher said there was a fire and an apparent riot at Ewen High School, and a probable explosion. No one was sure of anything at that time. Remember, it all happened in a space of forty minutes.
- We understand that, Sheriff. What happened then?
- I drove back to Chamberlain with siren and flasher. I was trying to raise Jake Plessy and not having any luck. That’s when Tom Quillan came on and started to babble about the whole town going up in flames and no water.
- Do you know what time that was?
- Yes, sir. I was keeping a record by then. It was 10:58.
- Quillan claims the Amoco station exploded at 11:00.
- I’d take the average, sir. Call it 10:59.
- At what time did you arrive in Chamberlain?
- At 11:10 PM.
- What was your immediate impression upon arriving, Sheriff Doyle?
- I was stunned. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
- What exactly were you seeing?
- The entire upper half of the town’s business section was burning. The Amoco station was gone. Woolworth’s was nothing but a blazing frame. The fire had spread to three wooden store fronts next to that-Duffy’s Bar and Grille, the Kelly Fruit Company, and the billiard parlor. The heat was ferocious. Sparks were flying onto the roofs of the Maitland Real Estate Agency and Doug Brann’s Western Auto Store. Fire trucks were coming in, but they could do very little. Every fire hydrant on that side of the street was stripped. The only trucks doing any business at all were two old volunteer fire department pumpers from Westover, and about all they could do was wet
the roofs of the surrounding buildings. And of course the high school. It was just… gone. Of course it’s fairly isolated-nothing close enough to it to burn-but my God, all those kids inside
all those kids
- Did you meet Susan Snell upon entering town?
- Yes, sir. She flagged me down.
- What time was this?
- Just as I entered town… 11:12, no later.
Q… What did she say?
- She was distraught. She’d been in a minor car accident-skidding-and she was barely making sense. She asked me if Tommy was dead. I asked her who Tommy was, but she didn’t answer. She asked me if we had caught Carrie yet.
- The Commission is extremely interested in this part of your testimony, Sheriff Doyle.
- Yes, sir, I know that.
- How did you respond to her question?
- Well, there’s only one Carrie in town as far as I know, and that’s Margaret White’s daughter. I asked her if Carrie had something to do with the fires. Miss Snell told me Carrie had done it. Those were her words. “Carrie did it. Carrie did it.” She said it twice.
- Did she say anything else?
- Yes, s~. She said: “They’ve hurt Carrie for the last time.”
- Sheriff, are you sure she didn’t say: “We’ve hurt Carrie for the last time”?
- I am quite sure.
- Are you positive? One hundred per cent?
- Sir, the town was burning around our heads. I-
- Had she been drinking?
- I beg pardon?
- Had she been drinking? You said she had been involved in a car smash.
- I believe I said a minor skidding accident:
- And you can’t be sure she didn’t say we instead of they?
- I guess she might have, but-
- What did Miss Snell do then?
- She burst into tears. I slapped her.
- Why did you do that?
- She seemed hysterical.
- Did she quiet eventually?
- Yes, sir. She quieted down and got control of herself pretty well, in light of the fact that her boy friend was probably dead.
- Did you interrogate her?
- Well, not the way you’d interrogate a criminal, if that’s what you mean. I asked her if she knew anything about what had happened. She repeated what she had already said, but in a calmer way. I asked her where she had been when the trouble began, and she told me that she had been at home.
- Did you interrogate her further?
- No, sir.
- Did she say anything else to you?
- Yes, sir. She asked me-begged me-to find Carrie White.
- What was your reaction to that?
- I told her to go home.
- Thank you, Sheriff Doyle.
Vic Mooney lurched out of the shadows near the Bankers Trust drive-in office with a grin on his face. It was a huge and awful grin, a Cheshire cat grin, floating dreamily in the fire shot darkness like a trace memory of lunacy. His hair, carefully slicked down for his emcee duties, was now sticking up in a crow’s nest. Tiny drops of blood were branded across his forehead from some unremembered fall in his mad flight from the Spring Ball. One eye was swelled purple and screwed shut. He walked into Sheriff Doyle’s squad car, bounced back like a pool ball, and grinned in at the drunk driver dozing in the back. Then he turned to Doyle, who had just finished with Sue Snell. The fire cast wavering shadows of light across everything, turning the world into the maroon tones of dried blood.
As Doyle turned, Vic Mooney clutched him. He clutched Doyle as an amorous swain might clutch his lady in a hug dance. He clutched Doyle with both arms and squeezed him, all the while goggling upward into Doyle’s face with his great crazed grin.
“Vic-” Doyle began.
“She pulled all the plugs,” Vic said lightly, grinning. “Pulled all the plugs and turned on the water and buzz, buzz, buzz.”
“We can’t let ’em. Oh no. NoNoNo. We can’t. Carrie pulled all the plugs. Rhonda Simard burnt up. OhJeee’eeeeeeesuuuuuuuu~”
Doyle slapped him twice, callused palm cracking flatly on the boy’s face. The scream died with shocking suddenness, but the grin remained, like an echo of evil. It was loose and terrible.
“What happened?” Doyle said roughly. “What happened at the school?”
“Carrie,” Vic muttered. “Carrie happened at the school. She… ” He trailed off and grinned at the ground.
Doyle gave him three brisk shakes. Vic’s teeth clicked together like castanets.
“What about Carrie?”
“Queen of the Prom,” Vic muttered. “They dumped blood on her and Tommy.”
It was 11:15. Tony’s Citgo on Summer Street suddenly exploded with a great, coughing roar. The street went daylight that made them both stagger back against the police car and shield their eyes. A huge, oily cloud of fire climbed over the elms in Courthouse Park, lighting the duck pond and the Little League diamond in scarlet. Amid the hungry crackling roar that followed, Doyle could hear glass and wood and hunks of gas-station cinderblock rattling back to earth. A secondary explosion followed, making them wince again. He still couldn’t get it straight
(my town this is happening in my town)
that this was happening in Chamberlain, in Chamberlain, for God’s sake, where he drank iced tea on his mother’s sun porch and refereed PAL basketball and made one last cruise out Route 6 past The Cavalier before turning in at 2:30 every morning. His town was burning up.
Tom Quillan came out of the police station and ran down the sidewalk to Doyle’s cruiser. His hair was standing up every which way, he was dressed in dirty green work fatigues and an undershirt and he had his loafers on the wrong feet, but Doyle thought he had never been so glad to see anyone in his life. Tom Quillan was as much Chamberlain as anything, and he was here-intact.
“Holy God,” he panted. “Did you see that?”
“What’s been happening?” Doyle asked curtly.
“1 been monitorin’ the radio,” Quillan said. “Motton and Westover wanted to know if they should send ambulances and I said hell yes, send everything. Hearses too. Did I do right?”
“Yes.” Doyle ran his hands through his hair. “Have you seen Harry Block?” Block was the town’s Commissioner of Public Utilities, and that included water.
“Nope. But Chief Deighan says they got water in the old Rennett Block across town. They’re laying hose now. I collared some kids, and they’re settin’ up a hospital in the police station. They’re good boys, but they’re gonna get blood on your floor, Otis.”
Otis Doyle felt unreality surge over him. Surely this conversation couldn’t be happening in Chamberlain. Couldn’t.
“That’s all right, Tommy. You did right. You go back there and start calling every doctor in the phone book. I’m going over to Summer Street.”
“Okay, Otis. If you see that crazy broad, be careful.”
“Who?” Doyle was not a barking man, but now he did. Tom Quillan flinched back. “Carrie. Carrie White.”
“Who? How do you know?”
Quillan blinked slowly. “I dunno. It just sort of… came to me.”
From the national AP ticker, 11:46 P. M.:
CHAMBERLAIN, MAINE (AP)
A DISASTER OF MAJOR PROPORTIONS HAS STRUCK THE TOWN OF CHAMBERLAIN, MAINE, TONIGHT. A FIRE, BELIEVED TO HAVE BEGUN AT EWEN (U-WIN) HIGH SCHOOL DURING A SCHOOL DANCE, HAS SPREAD TO THE DOWNTOWN AREA, RESULTING IN MULTIPLE EXPLOSIONS THAT HAVE LEVELED MUCH OF THE DOWNTOWN AREA. A RESIDENTIAL AREA TO THE WEST OF THE DOWNTOWN AREA IS ALSO REPORTED TO BE BURNING. HOWEVER, MOST CONCERN AT THIS TIME IS OVER THE HIGH SCHOOL WHERE A JUNIOR-SENIOR PROM WAS BEING HELD. IT IS BELIEVED THAT MANY OF THE PROM-GOERS WERE TRAPPED INSIDE. A WESTOVER FIRE OFFICIAL SUMMONED TO THE SCENE SAID THE KNOWN TOTAL OF DEAD
STOOD AT SIXTY-SEVEN, MOST OF THEM HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS. ASKED HOW HIGH THE TOTAL MIGHT GO HE SAID: WE DON’T KNOW. WE’RE AFRAID TO GUESS. THIS IS GOING
TO BE WORSE THAN THE COCONUT GROVE.” AT LAST REPORT THREE FIRES WERE RAGING OUT OF CONTROL IN THE TOWN. REPORTS OF POSSIBLE ARSON ARE UNCONFIRMED. ENDS.
l1:46 PM MAY 27 894~F AP
There were no more AP reports from Chamberlain. At 12:06 AM., a Jackson Avenue gas main was opened. At 12:17, an ambulance attendant from Motton tossed out a cigarette butt as the rescue vehicle sped toward Summer Street.
The explosion destroyed nearly half a block at a stroke, including the offices of the Chamberlain Clarion, By 12:18 A. M., Chamberlain was cut off from the country that slept in reason beyond.
At 12:10, still seven minutes before the gas-main explosion, the telephone exchange experienced a softer explosion: a complete jam of every town phone line still in operation. The three harried girls on duty stayed at their posts but were utterly unable to cope. They worked with expressions of wooden horror on their faces, trying to place implacable calls.
And so Chamberlain drifted into the streets.
They came like an invasion from the graveyard that lay in the elbow crook formed by the intersection of the Bellsqueeze Road and Route 6; they came in white nightgowns and in robes, as if in winding shrouds. They came in pajamas and curlers (Mrs. Dawson, she of the now-deceased son who had been a very funny fellow, came in a mudpack as ~f dressed for a minstrel show); they came to see what happened to their town, to see if it was indeed lying burned and bleeding. Many of them also came to die.
Carlin Street was thronged with them, a riptide of them, moving downtown through the hectic light in the sky, when Carrie came out of the Carlin Street Congregational Church, where she had been praying.
She had gone in only five minutes before, after opening the gas main (it had been easy; as soon as she pictured it lying there under the street it had been easy), but it seemed like hours. She had prayed long and deeply, sometimes aloud, sometimes silently. Her heart thudded and labored. The veins on her face and neck bulged. Her mind was filled with the huge knowledge of POWERS, and of an ABYSS. She prayed in front of the altar, kneeling in her wet and torn and bloody gown, her feet bare and dirty and bleeding from a broken bottle she had stepped on. Her breath sobbed in and out of her throat, and the church was filled with groanings and swayings and sunderings as psychic energy sprang from her. Pews fell, hymnals flew, and a silver Communion set cruised silently across the vaulted darkness of the nave to crash into the far wall. She prayed and there was no answer. No one was there-or if there was, He/It was cowering from her. God had turned His face away, and why not? This horror was as much His doing as hers. And so she left the church, left it to go home and find her momma and make destruction complete.
She paused on the lower step, looking at the flocks of people streaming toward the center of town. Animals. Let them burn, then. Let the streets be filled with the smell of their sacrifice. Let this place be called racca, ichabod, wormwood.
And power transformers atop lightpoles bloomed into nacreous purple light, spitting catherine-wheel sparks. High-tension wires fell into the streets in pick-up-sticks tangles and some of them ran, and that was bad for them because now the whole street was littered with wires and the stink began, the burning began. People began to scream and back away and some touched the cables and went into jerky electrical dances. Some had already slumped into the street, their robes and pajamas smoldering.
Carrie turned back and looked fixedly at the church she had just left. The heavy door suddenly swung shut, as if in a hurricane wind.
Carrie turned toward home.
From the sworn testimony of Mrs. Cora Simard, taken be-fore The State Investigatory Board (from The White Commission Report), pp. 217-18:
- Mrs. Simard, the Board understands that you lost your daughter on Prom Night, and we sympathize with you deeply. We will make this as brief as possible.
- Thank you. I want to help if I can, of course.
- Were you on Carlin Street at approximately 12:12, when Carietta White came out of the First Congregational Church on that street?
- Why were you there?
- My husband had to be in Boston over the weekend on business and Rhonda was at the Spring Ball. I was home alone watching TV and waiting up for her. I was watching the Friday Night Movie when the town hall whistle went off, but I didn’t connect that with the dance. But then the explosion… I didn’t know what to do. I tried to call the police but got a busy signal after the first three numbers. I… I… Then.
- Take your time, Mrs. Simard. All the time you need.
- I was getting frantic. There was a second explosion-Teddy’s Amoco station, I know now-and I decided to go downtown and see what was happening. There was a glow in the sky, an awful glow. That was when Mrs. Shyres pounded on the door.
- Mrs. Georgette Shyres?
- Yes, they live around the corner. 217 Willow. That’sjust off Carlin Street. She was pounding and calling: “Cora, are you in there? Are you in there?” I went to the door. She was in her bathrobe and slippers. Her feet looked cold. She said they had called Westover to see if they knew anything and they told her the school was on fire. I said: “Oh dear God, Rhonda’s at the dance.”
- Is this when you decided to go downtown with Mrs. Shyres?
- We didn’t decide anything. We just went. I put on a pair of slippers-Rhonda’s, I think. They had little white puffballs on them. I should have worn my shoes, but I wasn’t thinking. I
guess I’m not thinking now. What do you want to hear about my shoes for?
- You tell it in your own way, Mrs. Simard.
- T-Thank you. I gave Mrs. Shyres some old jacket that was around, and we went.
- Were there many people walking down Carlin Street?
- I don’t know. I was too upset. Maybe thirty. Maybe more.
- What happened?
- Georgette and I were walking toward Main Street, holding hands just like two little girls walking across a meadow after dark. Georgette’s teeth were clicking. I remember that. I wanted to ask her to stop clicking her teeth, but I thought it would be impolite. A block and a half from the Congo Church, I saw the door open and I thought: Someone has gone in to ask God’s help. But a second later I knew that wasn’t true.
- How did you know? It would be logical to assume just what you first assumed, wouldn’t it?
- I just knew.
- Did you know the person who came out of the church?
- Yes. It was Carrie White.
- Had you ever seen Carrie White before?
- No. She was not one of my daughter’s friends.
- Had you ever seen a picture of Carrie White?
- And in any case, it was dark and you were a block and a half from the church.
- Yes, sir.
- Mrs. Simard, how did you know it was Carrie White?
- I just knew.
- This knowing, Mrs. Simard: was it like a light going on in your head?
- No, sir.
- What was it like?
- I can’t tell you. It faded away the way a dream does. An hour after you get up you can only remember you had a dream. But I knew.
- Was there an emotional feeling that went with this knowledge?
- Yes. Horror.
- What did you do then?
- I turned to Georgette and said: “There she is.” Georgette said: Yes, that’s her.” She started to say something else, and then the whole street was lit up by a bright glow and there were crackling noises and then the power lines started to fall into the street, some of them spitting live sparks. One of them hit a man in front of us and he b-burst into flames. Another man started to run and he stepped on one of them and his body just
arched backward, as if his back had turned into elastic. And then he fell down. Other people were screaming and running, just running blindly, and more and more cables fell. They were strung all over the place like snakes. And she was glad about it. Glad! I could feel her being glad. I knew I had to keep my head. The people who were running were getting electrocuted. Georgette said: “Quick, Cora. Oh God, I don’t want to get burned alive.” I said: “Stop that. We have to use our heads, Georgette, or we’ll never use them again.” Something foolish like that. But she wouldn’t listen. She let go of my hand and started to run for the sidewalk. I screamed at her to stop-there was one of those heavy main cables broken off right in front of us-but she didn’t listen. And she… she… oh, I could smell her when she started to burn. Smoke just seemed to burst out of her clothes and I thought: that’s what it must be like when someone gets electrocuted. The smell was sweet, like pork. Have any of you ever smelled that? Sometimes I smell it in my dreams. I stood dead still, watching Georgette Shyres turn black. There was a big explosion over in the West End-the gas main, I suppose-but I never even noticed it. I looked around and I was all alone. Everyone else had either run away or was burning. I saw maybe six bodies. They were like piles of old rags. One of the cables had fallen onto the porch of a house to the left, and it was catching on fire. I could hear the old-fashioned shake shingles popping like corn. It seemed like I stood there a long time, telling myself to keep my head. It seemed like hours. I began to be afraid that I would faint and fall on one of the cables, or that I would panic and Start to run. Like… like Georgette. So I started to walk. One step at a time. The street got even brighter, because of the burning house. I stepped over two live wires and went around a body that wasn’t much more than a puddle. I-I-I had to look to see where I was going. There was a wedding ring on the body’s hand, but it was all black. All black. Jesus, I was thinking. Oh dear Lord. I stepped over another cable and then there were three, all at once. I just stood there looking at them. I thought if I got over those I’d be all right but… I didn’t dare. Do you know what I kept thinking of? That game you play when you’re kids. Giant Step. A voice in my mind was saying, Cora, take one giant step over the live wires in the street. And I was thinking May I? May I? One of them was still spitting a few sparks, but the other two looked dead. But you can’t tell. The third rail looks dead too. So I stood there, waiting for someone to come and nobody did. The house was still burning and the flames had spread to the lawn and the trees and the hedge beside it. But no fire trucks came. Of course they didn’t. The whole west side was burning up by that time. And I felt so faint. And at last I knew it was take the giant step or faint and so I took it, as big a giant step as I could, and the heel of my slipper came down not an inch from the last wire. Then I got over and went around the end of one more wire and then I started to run. And that’s all I remember. When morning came I was lying on a blanket in the police station with a lot of other people. Some of them-a few-were kids in their prom get-ups and I started to ask them if they had seen Rhonda. And they said… they s-s-said…
(A short recess)
- You are personally sure that Carrie White did this?
- Thank you, Mrs. Simard.
- I’d like to ask a question, if you please.
- Of course.
- What happens if there are others like her? What happens to the world?
From The Shadow Exploded (p. 151):
By 12:45 on the morning of May 28, the situation in Chamberlain was critical. The school had burned itself out on a fairly isolated piece of ground, but the entire downtown area was ablaze. Almost all the city water in that area had been tapped, but enough was available (at low pressure) from Deighan Street water mains to save the business buildings below the intersection of Main and Oak streets.
The explosion of Tony’s Citgo on upper Summer Street had resulted in a ferocious fire that was not to be controlled until nearly ten o’clock that morning. There was water on Summer Street; there simply were no firemen or fire-fighting equipment to utilize it. Equipment was then on its way from Lewis-ton, Auburn, Lisbon, and Brunswick, but nothing arrived until one o’clock.
On Carlin Street, an electrical fire, caused by downed power lines, had begun. It was to eventually gut the entire north side of the street, including the bungalow where Margaret White gave birth to her daughter.
On the West End of town, just below what is commonly called Brickyard Hill, the worst disaster had taken place: the explosion of a gas main and a resulting fire that raged out of control through most of the next day.
And if we look at these flash points on a municipal map (see page facing), we can pick out Carrie’s route-a wandering, looping path of destruction through the town, but one with an almost certain destination: home.
Something toppled over in the living room, and Margaret White straightened up, cocking her head to one side. The butcher knife glittered dully in the light of the flames. The electric power had gone off sometime before, and the only light in the house came from the fire up the street.
One of the pictures fell from the wall with a thump. A moment later the Black Forest cuckoo clock fell. The mechanical bird gave a small, strangled squawk and was still.
From the town the sirens whooped endlessly, but she could still hear the footsteps when they turned up the walk.
The door blew open. Steps in the hall.
She heard the plaster plaques in the living room (CHRIST, THE UNSEEN GUEST; WHAT WOULD JESUS DO; THE HOUR DRAWETH NIGH: IF TONIGHT BECAME JUDGMENT, WOULD YOU BE READY) explode one after the other, like plaster birds in a shooting gallery.
(o i’ve been there and seen the harlots shimmy on wooden stages)
She sat up on her stool like a very bright scholar who has gone to the head of the class. But her eyes were deranged.
The living-room windows blew outward.
The kitchen door slammed and Carrie walked in.
Her body seemed to have become twisted, shrunken, crone-like. The prom dress was in tatters and flaps, and the pig blood had began to clot and streak. There was a smudge of grease on her forehead, and both knees were scraped and raw-looking.
“Momma,” she whispered. Her eyes were preternaturally bright, hawklike, but her mouth was trembling. If someone had been there to watch, he would have been struck by the resemblance between them.
Margaret White sat on her kitchen stool, the carving knife hidden among the folds of her dress in her lap.
“I should have killed myself when he put it in me,” she said clearly. “After the first time, before we were married, he promised. Never again. He said we just… slipped. I believed him. I fell down and I lost the baby and that was God’s judgment. I felt that the sin had been expiated. By blood. But sin never dies. Sin… never… dies.” Her eyes glittered.
“At first it was all right. We lived sinlessly. We slept in the same bed, belly to belly sometimes, and 0, I could feel the presence of the Serpent, but we. never. did. until.” She began to grin, and it was a hard, terrible grin. “And that night I could see him looking at me That Way. We got down on our knees to pray for strength and he… touched me. In that place. That woman place. And I sent him out of the house. He was gone for hours, and I prayed for him. I could see him in my mind’s eye, walking the midnight streets, wrestling with the devil as Jacob wrestled with the Angel of the Lord. And when he came back, my heart was filled with thanksgiving.”
She paused, grinning her dry, spitless grin into the shifting shadows of the room.
“Momma, I don’t want to hear it!”
Plates began to explode in the cupboards like clay pigeons.
“It wasn’t until he came in that I smelled the whiskey on his breath. And he took me. Took me! With the stink of filthy roadhouse whiskey still on him he took me… and I liked it!” She screamed out the last words at the ceiling. ‘I liked it 0 all that dirty fucking and his hands on me ALL OVER ME. “‘
She broke off as if slapped and blinked at her daughter. “I almost killed myself,” she said in a more normal tone of voice. ‘And Ralph wept and talked about atonement and I didn’t and then he was dead and then I thought God had visited me with cancer; that He was turning my female parts into something as black and rotten as my sinning soul. But that would have been too easy. The Lord works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. I see that now. When the pains began I went and got a knife-this knife-” she held it up “-and waited for you to come so I could make my sacrifice. But I was weak and backsliding. I took this knife in hand again when you were three, and I backslid again. So now the devil has come home.”
She held the knife up, and her eyes fastened hypnotically on the glittering hook of its blade.
Carrie took a slow, blundering step forward.
“I came to kill you, Momma. And you were waiting here to kill me. Momma, I… it’s not right, Momma. It’s not…
“Let’s pray,” Momma said softly. Her eyes fixed on Carrie 5 and there was a crazed, awful compassion in them. The firelight was brighter now, dancing on the walls like dervishes. “For the last time, let us pray.
“Oh Momma help me!” Carrie cried out.
She fell forward on her knees, head down, hands raised in supplication.
Momma leaned forward, and the knife came down in a shining arc.
Carrie, perhaps seeing out of the tail of her eye, jerked back, and instead of penetrating her back, the knife went into her shoulder to the hilt. Momma’s feet tangled in the legs of her chair, and she collapsed in a sitting sprawl.
They stared at each other in silent tableau.
Blood began to ooze from around the handle of the knife and to splash onto the floor.
Then Carrie said softly: “I’m going to give you a present, Momma.”
Margaret tried to get up, staggered, and fell back on her hands and knees. “What are you doing?” she croaked hoarsely.
“I’m picturing your heart, Momma,” Carrie said. “It’s easier when you see things in your mind. Your heart is a big red muscle. Mine goes faster when I use my power. But yours is going a little slower now. A little slower.”
Margaret tried to get up again, failed, and forked the sign of the evil eye at her daughter.
“A little slower, Momma. Do you know what the present is, Momma? What you always wanted. Darkness. And whatever God lives there.”
Margaret White whispered: “Our Father, Who art in heaven-”
“Slower, Momma. Slower.”
“-hallowed be Thy name-”
“I can see the blood draining back into you. Slower.”
“-Thy kingdom come-”
“Your feet and hands like marble, like alabaster. White.”
“-Thy will be done-”
“My will, Momma. Slower.”
– as… as… as it…
She collapsed forward, hands twitching.
– as it is in heaven.
Carrie whispered: “Full stop.”
She looked down at herself, and put her hands weakly around the haft of the knife.
(no 0 no that hurts that’s too much hurt)
She tried to get up, failed, then pulled herself up by Momma’s stool. Dizziness and nausea washed over her. She could taste blood, bright and slick, in the back of her throat. Smoke, acrid and choking, was drifting in through the windows now. The flames had reached next door; even now sparks would be lighting softly on the roof that rocks had punched brutally through a thousand years before.
Carrie went out the back door, staggered across the lawn, and rested
(where’s my momma)
against a tree. There was something she was supposed to do. Something about
(roadhouses parking lots)
the Angel with the Sword. The Fiery Sword. Never mind. It would come to her.
She crossed by back yards to Willow Street and then crawled up the embankment to Route 6.
It was 1:15 AM.
It was 11:20 P. M. when Christine Hargensen and Billy Nolan got back to The Cavalier. They went up the back stairs, down the hall, and before she could do more than turn on the lights, he was yanking at her blouse.
“For God’s sake let me unbutton it-”
“To hell with that.”
He ripped it suddenly down the back. The cloth tore with a sudden hard sound. One button popped free and winked on the bare wood floor. Honky-tonkin’ music came faintly up to them, and the building vibrated subtly with the clumsy-enthusiastic dancing of farmers and truckers and millworkers and waitresses and hairdressers, of the greasers and their townie girl friends from Westover and Lewiston.
He slapped her, rocking her head back. Her eyes took on a flat and deadly shine.
“This is the end, Billy.” She backed away from him, breasts swelling into her bra, flat stomach pumping, legs long and tapering in her jeans; but she backed toward the bed. “It’s over.
“Sure,” he said. He lunged for her and she punched him, a surprisingly hard punch that landed on his cheek.
He straightened and twitched his head a little. “You gave me a shiner, you bitch.”
“I’ll give you more.
“You’re goddam right you will.”
They stared at each other, panting, glaring. Then he began to unbutton his shirt, a little grin beginning on his face.
“We got it on, Charlie. We really got it on.” He called her Charlie whenever he was pleased with her. It seemed to be, she thought with a cold blink of humor, a generic term for good cunt.
She felt a little smile come to her own face, relaxed a little, and that was when he whipped his shirt across her face and came in low, butting her in the stomach like a goat, tipping her onto the bed. The springs screamed. She pounded her fists helplessly on his back.
“Get off me! Get off me! Get off me! You fucking grease-ball, get off me!”
He was grinning at her, and with one quick, hard yank her zipper was broken, her hips free.
“Call your daddy?” he was grunting. “That what you gonna do? Huh? Huh? That it, ole Chuckie? Call big ole legal beagle daddy? Huh? I woulda done it to you, you know that? I woulda dumped it all over your fuckin squash. You know it? Huh? Know it? Pig blood for pigs, right? Right on your motherfuckin squash. You-”
She had suddenly ceased to resist. He paused, staring down at her, and she had an odd smile on her face. “You wanted it this way all along, didn’t you? You miserable little scumbag. That’s right, isn’t it? You creepy little one-nut low-cock dinkless wonder.”
His grin was slow, crazed. “It doesn’t matter.”
“No,” she said. “It doesn’t.” Her smile suddenly vanished, the cords on her neck stood out as she hawked back-and spit in his face.
They descended into a red, thrashing unconsciousness.
Downstairs the music thumped and wheezed (“I’m pot}pin little white pills an my eyes are open wide/Six days on the road, and I’m gonna make it home tonight”), c/w, full throttle, very loud, very bad, five-man band wearing sequined cowboy shirts and new pegged jeans with bright rivets, occasionally wiping mixed sweat and Vitalis from their brows, lead guitar, rhythm, steel, dobro guitar, drums: no one heard the town whistle, or the first explosion, or the second; and when the gas main blew and the music stopped and someone drove into the parking lot and began to yell the news, Chris and Billy were asleep.
Chris woke suddenly and the clock on the night table said five minutes of one. Someone was pounding on the door.
“Billy!” the voice was yelling. “Get up! Hey! Hey!”
Billy stirred, rolled over, and knocked the cheap alarm clock onto the floor. “What the Christ?” he said thickly, and sat up. His back stung. The bitch had covered it with long scratches. He’d barely noticed it at the time, but now he decided he was going to have to send her home bowlegged. Just to show her who was
Silence struck him. Silence. The Cavalier did not close until two; as a matter of fact, he could still see the neon twinkling and flicking through the dusty garret window. Except for the steady pounding
(something happened) the place was a graveyard.
“Billy, you in there? Hey!”
“Who is it?” Chris whispered. Her eyes were glittering and watchful in the intermittent neon.
“Jackie Talbot,” he said absently, then raised his voice. “What?”
“Lemme in, Billy. I got to talk to you!”
Billy got up and padded to the door, naked. He unlocked the old-fashioned hook-and-eye and opened it.
Jackie Talbot burst in. His eyes were wild and his face was smeared with soot. He had been drinking it up with Steve and Henry when the news came at ten minutes of twelve. They had gone back to town in Henry’s elderly Dodge convertible, and had seen the Jackson Avenue gas main explode from the vantage point of Brickyard Hill. When Jackie had borrowed the Dodge and started to drive back at 12:30, the town was a panicky shambles.
“Chamberlain’s burning up,” he said to Billy. “Whole fuckin town. The school’s gone. The Center’s gone. West End blew up-gas. And Carlin Street’s on fire. And they’re saying Carrie White did it!”
“Oh God,” Chris said. She started to get out of bed and grope for her clothes. “What did-”
“Shut up,” Billy said mildly, “or I’ll kick your ass.” He looked at Jackie again and nodded for him to go on.
“They seen her. Lots of people seen her. Billy, they say she’s all covered with blood. She was at that fuckin prom tonight… Steve and Henry didn’t get it but… Billy, did you… that pig blood… was it-”
“Yeah,” Billy said.
“Oh, no.” Jackie stumbled back against the doorframe. His face was a sickly yellow in the light of the one hall light bulb. “Oh Jesus, Billy, the whole town-”
“Carrie trashed the whole town? Carrie White? You’re full of shit.” He said it calmly, almost serenely. Behind him, Chris was dressing rapidly.
“Go look out the window,” Jackie said.
Billy went over and looked out. The entire eastern horizon had gone crimson, and the sky was alight with it. Even as he looked, three fire trucks screamed by. He could make out the names on them in the glow of the street light that marked The Cavalier’s parking lot.
“Son of a whore,” he said. “Those trucks are from Brunswick.”
“Brunswick?” Chris said. “That’s forty miles away. That can’t be…”
Billy turned back to Jackie Talbot. “All right. What happened?”
Jackie shook his head. “Nobody knows, not yet. It started at the high school. Carrie and Tommy Ross got the King and Queen, and then somebody dumped a couple of buckets of blood on them and she ran out. Then the school caught on fire, and they say nobody got out. Then Teddy’s Amoco blew up, then that Mobil station on Summer Street-”
“Citgo,” Billy corrected. “It’s a Citgo.”
“Who the fuck cares?” Jackie screamed. “It was her, every place something happened it was her! And those buckets.
none of us wore gloves
“I’ll take care of it,” Billy said.
“You don’t get it, Billy. Carrie i~”
“Get out or I’ll break your arm and feed it to you.
Jackie backed out of the door warily.
“Go home. Don’t talk to nobody. I’m going to take care of everything.”
“All right,” Jackie said. “Okay. Billy, I just thought-”
Billy slammed the door.
Chris was on him in a second. “Billy what are we going to do that bitch Carrie oh my Lord what are we going to-”
Billy slapped her, getting his whole arm into it, and knocked her onto the floor. Chris sat sprawled in stunned silence for a moment, and then held her face and began to sob.
Billy put on his pants, his tee shirt, his boots. Then he went to the chipped porcelain washstand in the corner, clicked on the light, wet his head, and began to comb his hair, bending down to see his reflection in the spotted, ancient mirror. Behind him, wavy and distorted, Chris Hargensen sat on the floor, wiping blood from her split lip.
“I’ll tell you what we’re going to do,” he said. “We’re going into town and watch the fires. Then we’re coming home. You’re going to tell your dear old daddy that we were out to The Cavalier drinking beers when it happened. I’m gonna tell my dear ole mummy the same thing. Dig?”
“Billy, your fingerprints,” she said. Her voice was muffled, but respectful.
“Their fingerprints,” he said. “I wore gloves.”
“Would they tell?” she asked. “If the police took them in and questioned them-”
“Sure,” he said. “They’d tell.” The loops and swirls were almost right. They glistened in the light of the dull, fly-specked globe like eddies in deep water. His face was calm, reposeful. The comb he used was a battered old Ace, clotted with grease. His father had given it to him on his eleventh birthday, and not one tooth was broken in it. Not one.
“Maybe they’ll never find the buckets,” he’ said. “If they do, maybe the fingerprints will all be burnt off. I don’t know. But if Doyle takes any of ’em in, I’m heading for California. You do what you want.”
“Would you take me with you?” she asked. She looked at him from the floor, her lip puffed to negroid size, her eyes pleading.
He smiled. “Maybe.” But he wouldn’t. Not any more. “Come on. We’re going to town.”
They went downstairs and through the empty dance hall, where chairs were still pushed back and beers were standing flat on the tables.
As they went out through the fire door Billy said: “This place sucks, anyway.
They got into his car, and he started it up. When he popped on the headlights, Chris began to scream, hands in fists up to her cheeks.
Billy felt it at the same time: Something in his mind,
(carrie carrie carrie carrie) a presence.
Carrie was standing in front of them, perhaps seventy feet away.
The high beams picked her out in ghastly horror-movie blacks and whites, dripping and clotted with blood. Now much of it was her own. The hilt of the butcher knife still protruded from her shoulder, and her gown was covered with dirt and grass stain. She had crawled much of the distance from Carlin Street, half fainting, to destroy this roadhouse-perhaps the very one where the doom of her creation had begun.
She stood swaying, her arms thrown out like the arms of a stage hypnotist, and she began to totter toward them.
It happened in the blink of a second. Chris had not had time to expend her first scream. Billy’s reflexes were very good and his reaction was instantaneous. He shifted into low, popped the clutch, and floored it.
The Chevrolet’s tires screamed against the asphalt, and the car sprang forward like some old and terrible man-eater. The figure swelled in the windshield and as it did the presence became louder
(CARRIE CARRIE CARRIE)
(CARRIE CARRIE CARRIE)
like a radio being turned up to full volume. Time seemed to close around them in a frame and for a moment they were frozen even in motion: Billy
(CARRIE just like the dogs CARRIE just like the goddam dogs CARRIE brucie i wish it could CARRIE be CARRIE you) and Chris
(CARRIE jesus Rot to kill her CARRIE didn’t mean to kill her CARRIE billy I don’t CARRIE want to CARRJE see it CA) and Carrie herself.
(see the wheel car wheel gas pedal wheel i see the WHEEL o god my heart my heart my heart)
And Billy suddenly felt his car turn traitor, come alive, slither in his hands. The Chevvy dug around in a smoking half-circle, straight pipes racketing, and suddenly the clapboard side of The Cavalier was swelling, swelling, swelling and
they slammed into it at forty, still accelerating, and wood sprayed up in a neon-tinted detonation. Billy was thrown forward and the steering column speared him. Chris was thrown into the dashboard.
The gas tank split open, and fuel began to puddle around the rear of the car. Part of one straight pipe fell into it, and the gas bloomed into flame.
Carrie lay on her side, eyes closed, panting thickly. Her chest was on fire.
She began to drag herself across the parking lot, going nowhere.
(momma i’m sorry it all went wrong 0 momma 0 please 0 please i hurt so bad momma what do i do)
And suddenly it didn’t seem to matter any more, nothing would matter if she could turn over, turn over and see the stars, turn over and look once and die.
And that was how Sue found her at two o’clock.
When Sheriff Doyle left her, Sue walked down the street and sat on the steps of the Chamberlain U-Wash-It. She stared at the burning sky without seeing it. Tommy was dead. She knew it was true and accepted it with an ease that was dreadful.
And Carrie had done it.
She had no idea how she knew it, but the conviction was as pure and right as arithmetic.
Time passed. It didn’t matter. Macbeth hath murdered sleep and Carrie hath murdered time. Pretty good. A bon mot. Sue smiled dolefully. Can this be the end of our heroine, Miss Sweet
Little Sixteen? No worries about the country club and Kleen Korners now. Not ever. Gone. Burned out. Someone ran past, blabbering that Carlin Street was on fire. Good for Carlin Street. Tommy was gone. And Carrie had gone home to murder her mother.
She sat bolt upright, staring into the darkness.
She didn’t know how she knew. It bore no relationship to anything she had ever read about telepathy. There were no pictures in her head, no great white flashes of revelation, only prosaic knowledge; the way you know summer follows spring, that cancer can kill you, that Carrie’s mother was dead already, that-
Her heart rose thickly in her chest. Dead? She examined her
knowledge of the incident, trying to disregard the insistent weirdness of knowing from nothing.
Yes, Margaret White was dead. Something to do with her heart. But she had stabbed Carrie. Carrie was badly hurt. She was-There was nothing more. She got up and ran back to her mother’s car. Ten minutes
later she parked on the corner of Branch and Carlin Street, which was on fire. No trucks were available to fight the blaze yet, but sawhorses had been put across both ends of the street, and greasily smoking road pots lit a sign which said:
DANGER! LIVE WIRES!
Sue cut through two back yards and forced her way through a budding hedge that scraped at her with short, stiff bristles. She came out one yard from the Whites’ house and crossed over.
The house was in flames, the roof blazing. It was impossible to even think about getting close enough to look in. But in the strong firelight she saw something better: the splashed trail of Carrie’s blood. She followed it with her head down, past the larger spots where Carrie had rested, through another hedge, across a Willow Street back yard, and then through an undeveloped tangle of scrub pine and oak. Beyond that, a short, unpaved spur-little more than a footpath-wound up the rise of land to the right, angling away from Route 6.
She stopped suddenly as doubt struck her with vicious and corrosive force. Suppose she could find her? What then? Heart failure? Set on fire? Controlled and forced to walk in front of an oncoming car or fire engine? Her peculiar knowledge told her Carrie would be capable of all these things.
(find a policeman)
She giggled a little at that one and sat down in the grass, which was silked with dew. She had already found a policeman. And even supposing Otis Doyle had believed her, what then? A mental picture came to her of a hundred desperate manhunters surrounding Carrie, demanding her to hand over her weapons and give up. Carrie obediently raises her hands and plucks her head from her shoulders. Hands it to Sheriff Doyle, who solemnly puts it in a wicker basket marked People’s Exhibit A.
(and tommy’s dead)
Well, well. She began to cry. She put her hands over her face and sobbed into them. A soft breeze snuffled through the juniper bushes on top of the hill. More fire engines screamed by on Route 6 like huge red hounds in the night.
(the town’s burning down 0 well)
She had no idea how long she sat there, crying in a grainy half-doze. She was not even aware that she was following Carrie’s progress toward The Cavalier, no more than she was aware of the process of respiration unless she thought about it. Carrie was hurt very badly, was going on brute determination alone at this point. It was three miles out to The Cavalier, even cross country, as Carrie was going. Sue
(watched? thought? doesn’t matter)
as Carrie fell in a brook and dragged herself out, icy and shivering. It was really amazing that she kept going. But of course it was for Momma. Momma wanted her to be the Angel’s Fiery Sword, to destroy
(she’s going to destroy that too)
She got up and began to run clumsily, not bothering to follow the trail of blood. She didn’t need to follow it any more.
From The Shadow Exploded (pp. l6~65):
Whatever any of us may think of the Carrie White affair, it is over. It’s time to turn to the future. As Dean McGuffin points out, in his excellent Science Yearbook article, if we refuse to do this, we will almost certainly have to pay the piper-and the price is apt to be a high one.
A thorny moral question is raised here. Progress is already being made toward complete isolation of the TK gene. It is more or less assumed in the scientific community (see, for instance, Bourke and Hannegan’s “A View Toward Isolation of the TK Gene with Specific Recommendations for Control Parameters” in Microbiology Annual, Berkeley: 1982) that when a testing procedure is established, all school-age children will undergo the test as routinely as they now undergo the TB s~n-patch. Yet TK is not a germ; it is as much a part of the afflicted person as the color of his eyes.
If overt TK ability occurs as a part of puberty, and if this hypothetical TK test is performed on children entering the first grade, we shall certainly be forewarned. But in this case, is forewarned forearmed? If the TB test shows positive, a child can be treated or isolated. If the TK test shows positive, we have no treatment except a bullet in the head. And how is it possible to isolate a person who will eventually have the power to knock down all walls?
And even if isolation could be made successful, would the American people allow a small pretty girl-child to be ripped away from her parents at the first sign of puberty to be locked in a bank vault for the rest of her life? I doubt it. Especially when the White Commission has worked so hard to convince the public that the nightmare in Chamberlain was a complete fluke.
Indeed, we seem to have returned to Square One.
From the sworn testimony of Susan Snell, taken before The State Investigatory Board of Maine (from The White Commission Report), pp. 30~472:
- Now, Miss Snell, the Board would like to go through your testimony concerning your alleged meeting
with Carrie White in The Cavalier parking lot-
- Why do you keep asking the same questions over and over? I’ve told you twice already.
- We want to make sure the record is correct in every-
- You want to catch me in a lie, isn’t that what you really mean? You don’t think I’m telling the truth, do you?
- You say you came upon Carrie at-
- Will you answer me?
- -at approximately 2:00 on the morning of May 28th. Is that correct?
- I’m not going to answer any more questions until you answer the one I just asked.
- Miss Snell, this body is empowered to cite you for contempt if you refuse to answer on any other grounds than Constitutional ones.
- I don’t care what you’re empowered to do. I’ve lost someone I love. Go and throw me in jail. I don’t care. I-I-Oh, go to hell. All of you, go to hell. You’re trying to… to… I don’t know, crucify me or something. Just lay off me!
(A short recess)
- Miss Snell, are you willing to continue your testimony at this time?
- Yes. But I won’t be badgered, Mr. Chairman.
- OF course not, young lady. No one wants to badger you. Now you claim to have come upon Carrie in the parking lot of this tavern at ~bout 2:00. Is that correct?
- You knew the time.
- I was wearing the watch you see on my wrist right now.
- To be sure. Isn’t The Cavalier better than six miles from where you left your mother’s car?
- It is by the road. It’s closer to three as the crow flies.
- You walked this distance?
- Now you testified earlier that you “knew” you were getting close to Carrie. Can you explain this?
- Could you smell her?
- Did you follow your nose?
(Laughter in the galleries)
- Are you playing games with me?
- Answer the question, please.
- No. I didn’t follow my nose.
- Could you see her?
- Hear her?
- Then how could you possibly know she was there?
- How did Tom Quillan know? Or Cora Simard? Or poor Vic Mooney? How did any of them know?
- Answer the question, miss. This is hardly the place or the time for impertinence.
- But they did say they “just knew,” didn’t they? I read Mrs. Simard’s testimony in the paper! And what about the fire hydrants that opened themselves? And the gas pumps that broke their own locks and turned themselves on? The power lines that climbed down off their poles! And-
- Miss Snell, please-
- Those things are in the record of this Commission’s proceedings!
- That is not an issue here.
- Then what is? Are you looking for the truth or just a scapegoat?
- You deny you had prior knowledge of Carrie White’s whereabouts?
- Of course I do. It’s an absurd idea.
- Oh? And why is it absurd?
- Well, if you’re suggesting some kind of conspiracy, it’s absurd because Carrie was dying when I found her. It could not have been an easy way to die.
- If you had no prior knowledge of her whereabouts, how could you go directly to her location?
- Oh, you stupid man! Have you listened to anything that’s been said here? Everybody knew it was Carrie! Anyone could have found her if they had put their minds to
Q But not just anyone found her. You did. Can you tell us why people did not show up from all over, like iron filings drawn to a magnet?
- She was weakening rapidly. I think that perhaps the… the zone of her influence was shrinking.
- I think you will agree that that is a relatively uninformed supposition.
- Of course it is. On the subject of Carrie White, we’re all relatively uninformed.
- Have it your way, Miss Snell. Now if we could turn to
At first, when she climbed up the embankment between Henry Drain’s meadow and the parking lot of The Cavalier, she thought Carrie was dead. Her figure was halfway across the parking lot, and she looked oddly shrunken and crumpled. Sue was reminded of dead animals she had seen on 95-woodchucks, groundhogs, skunks-that had been crushed by speeding trucks and station wagons.
But the presence was still in her mind, vibrating stubbornly, repeating the call letters of Carrie White’s personality over and over. An essence of Carrie, a gestalt. Muted now, not strident, not announcing itself with a clarion, but waxing and waning in steady oscillations.
Sue climbed over the guard rail that bordered the parking lot, feeling the heat of the fire against her face. The Cavalier was a wooden frame building, and it was burning briskly. The charred remains of a car were limned in flame to the right of the back door. Carrie had done that, then. She did not go to look and see if anyone had been in it. It didn’t matter, not now.
She walked over to where Carrie lay on her side, unable to hear her own footsteps under the hungry crackle of the fire. She looked down at the curled-up figure with a bemused and bitter pity. The knife hilt protruded cruelly from her shoulder, and she was lying in a small pool of blood-some of it was trickling from her mouth. She looked as if she had been trying to turn herself over when unconsciousness had taken her. Able to start fires, pull down electric cables, able to kill almost by thought alone; lying here unable to turn herself over.
Sue knelt, took her by one arm and the unhurt shoulder, and gently turned her onto her back.
Carrie moaned thickly, and her eyes fluttered. The perception of her in Sue’s mind sharpened, as if a mental picture was coming into focus.
And Sue, without thought, spoke in the same fashion:
(me sue snell)
Only there was no need to think of her name. The thought of herself as herself was neither words nor pictures. The realization suddenly brought everything up close, made it real, and compassion for Carrie broke through the dullness of her shock.
And Carrie, with faraway, dumb reproach:
(you tricked me you all tricked me)
(carrie i don’t even know what happened is tommy)
(you tricked me that happened trick trick trick 0 dirty trick)
The mixture of image and emotion was staggering, indescribable. Blood. Sadness. Fear. The latest dirty trick in a long series of dirty tricks: they flashed by in a dizzying shuffle that made Sue’s mind reel helplessly, hopelessly. They shared the awful totality of perfect knowledge.
(carrie don’t don’t don’t hurts me)
Now girls throwing sanitary napkins, chanting, laughing, Sue’s face mirrored in her own mind: ugly, caricatured, all mouth, cruelly beautiful.
(see the dirty tricks see my whole life one long dirty trick)
(look carrie look inside me)
And Carrie looked.
The sensation was terrifying. Her mind and nervous system had become a library. Someone in desperate need ran through her, fingers trailing lightly over shelves of books, lifting some out, scanning them, putting them back, letting some fall, leaving the pages to flutter wildly
(glimpses that’s me as a kid hate him daddy 0 mommy wide lips 0 teeth bobby pushed me 0 my knee car want to ride in the car we’re going to see aunt cecily mommy come quick i made pee)
in the wind of memory; and still on and on, finally reaching a shelf marked TOMMY, subheaded PROM. Books thrown open, flashes of experience, marginal notations in all the hieroglyphs of emotion, more complex than the Rosetta Stone.
Looking. Finding more than Sue herself had suspected-love for Tommy, jealousy, selfishness, a need to subjugate him to her will on the matter of taking Carrie, disgust for Carrie herself,
(she could take better care of herself she does look just like a
hate for Miss Desjardin, hate for herself.
But no ill will for Carrie personally, no plan to get her in front of everyone and undo her.
The feverish feeling of being raped in her most secret corridors began to fade. She felt Carrie pulling back, weak and exhausted.
(why didn’t you just leave me alone)
(momma would be alive i killed my momma i want her o it hurts my chest hurts my shoulder o 0 0 i want my momma)
And there was no way to finish that thought, nothing there to complete it with. Sue was suddenly overwhelmed with terror, the worse because she could put no name to it. The bleeding freak on this oil-stained asphalt suddenly seemed meaningless and awful in its pain and dying.
(o momma i’m scared momma MOMMA)
Sue tried to pull away, to disengage her mind, to allow Carrie at least the privacy of her dying, and was unable to. She felt that she was dying herself and did not want to see this preview of her own eventual cnd.
(carrie let me GO)
(Momma Momma Momma 00000000000000 0000000000)
The mental scream reached a flaring, unbelievable crescendo and then suddenly faded. For a moment Sue felt as if she were watching a candle flame disappear down a long, black tunnel at a tremendous speed.
(she’s dying 0 my god i’m feeling her die)
And then the light was gone, and the last conscious thought had been
(momma i’m sorry where)
and it broke up and Sue was tuned in only on the blank, idiot frequency of the physical nerve endings that would take hours to die.
She stumbled away from it, holding her arms out in front of her like a blind woman, toward the edge of the parking lot. She tripped over the knee-high guard rail and tumbled down the embankment. She got to her feet and stumbled into the field, which was filling with mystic white pockets of ground mist. Crickets chirruped mindlessly and a whippoorwill
(whippoorwill somebody’s dying)
called in the great stillness of morning.
She began to run, breathing deep in her chest, running from Tommy, from the fires and explosions, from Carrie, but mostly from the final horror-that last lighted thought carried swiftly down into the black tunnel of eternity, followed by the blank, idiot hum of prosaic electricity.
The after-image began to fade reluctantly, leaving a blessed, cool darkness in her mind that knew nothing. She slowed, halted, and became aware that something had begun to happen. She stood in the middle of the great and misty field, waiting for realization.
Her rapid breathing slowed, slowed, caught suddenly as if on a thorn-And suddenly vented itself in one howling, cheated scream. As she felt the slow course of dark menstrual blood down her thighs.