11

This is the place that is no place:

It’s cold on the bandstand, and she’s so scared. Worse, she’s… humiliated? No, it’s much worse than humiliation. If she knew the word abased, she would say Yes, yes, that’s it, I’m abased. They took her slacks.

(And somewhere soldiers are kicking naked people in a gym. This is someone else’s shame all mixed up with hers.)

She’s crying.

(He feels like crying, but doesn’t. Right now they have to cover this up.)

The girls have left her now, but her nose is still bleeding—Lila slapped her and promised to cut her nose off if she told and they all spit on her and now she is lying here and she must have cried really hard because she thinks her eye is bleeding as well as her nose and she can’t seem to catch her breath. But she doesn’t care how much she bleeds or from where. She’d rather bleed to death on the bandstand floor than walk home in her stupid baby underpants. She’d gladly bleed to death from a hundred places if it meant she didn’t have to see the soldier

(After this Barbie tries not to think of that soldier but when he does he thinks “Hackermeyer the hackermonster.”) pull the naked man up by the thing

(hajib)

he’s wearing on his head, because she knows what comes next. It’s what always comes next when you’re under the Dome.

She sees that one of the girls has come back. Kayla Bevins has come back. She’s standing there and looking down at stupid Julia Shumway who thought she was smart. Stupid little Julia Shumway in her baby pannies. Has Kayla come back to take the rest of her clothes and throw them up onto the bandstand roof, so she has to walk home naked with her hands over her woofie? Why are people so mean?

She closes her eyes against tears and when she opens them again, Kayla has changed. Now she has no face, just a kind of shifting leather helmet that shows no compassion, no love, not even hate.

Only… interest. Yes, that. What does it do when I do… this?

Julia Shumway is worthy of no more. Julia Shumway doesn’t matter; find the least of the least, then look below that, and there she is, a scurrying Shumway-bug. She is a naked prisoner-bug, too; a prisoner-bug in a gymnasium with nothing left but the unraveling hat on his head and beneath the hat a final memory of fragrant, freshly baked khubz held out in his wife’s hands. She is a cat with a burning tail, an ant under a microscope, a fly about to lose its wings to the curious plucking fingers of a third-grader on a rainy day, a game for bored children with no bodies and the whole universe at their feet. She is Barbie, she is Sam dying in Linda Everett’s van, she is Ollie dying in the cinders, she is Alva Drake mourning her dead son.

But mostly she is a little girl cowering on the splintery boards of the Town Common bandstand, a little girl who was punished for her innocent arrogance, a little girl who made the mistake of thinking she was big when she was small, that she mattered when she didn’t, that the world cared when in reality the world is a huge dead locomotive with an engine but no headlight. And with all her heart and mind and soul she cries out:

PLEASE LET US LIVE! I BEG YOU, PLEASE!

And for just one moment she is the leatherhead in the white room; she is the girl who has (for reasons she cannot even explain to herself) come back to the bandstand. For one terrible moment Julia is the one who did it instead of the one who was done by. She is even the soldier with the gun, the hackermonster Dale Barbara still dreams about, the one he didn’t stop.

Then she is only herself again.

Looking up at Kayla Bevins.

Kayla’s family is poor. Her father cuts pulp on the TR and drinks down at Freshie’s Pub (which will, in the fullness of time, become Dipper’s). Her mother has a big old pink mark on her cheek, so the kids call her Cherry Face or Strawberry Head. Kayla doesn’t have any nice clothes. Today she is wearing an old brown sweater and an old plaid skirt and scuffed loafers and white socks with saggy tops. One knee is scraped where she fell or was pushed down on the playground. It’s Kayla Bevins, all right, but now her face is made of leather. And although it shifts through many shapes, none of them is even close to human.

Julia thinks: I’m seeing how the child looks to the ant, if the ant looks up from its side of the magnifying glass. If it looks up just before it starts to burn.

—PLEASE, KAYLA! PLEASE! WE ARE ALIVE!

Kayla looks down at her without doing anything. Then she crosses her arms in front of her—they are human arms in this vision—and pulls her sweater over her head. There is no love in her voice when she speaks; no regret or remorse.

But there might be pity.

She says

Contents

Обращение к пользователям