Uncollected Stories 2003 by Stephen King

He went to the door in one step and pulled it open. She was sitting next to the small space-heater in the shed, her dress pulled up over oak-stump knees to allow her to sit cross-legged, and his manuscript was held, dwarfed, in her bloated hands.

Her laughter roared and racketed around him. Gerald Nately saw bursting colors

in front of his eyes. She was a slug, a maggot, a gigantic crawling thing evolved in the cellar of the shadowy house by the sea. A dark bug that had swaddled itself in grotesque human form.

In the flat light from the one cobwebbed window her face became a hanging graveyard moon, pocked by the sterile craters of her eyes and the ragged earthquake rift of her mouth.

“Don’t you laugh,” Gerald said stiffly.

“Oh Gerald,” she said, laughing all the same. “This is such a bad story.

I don’t blame you for using a penname. It’s – ” she wiped tears of laughter from her eyes, “it’s abominable!”

He began to walk toward her stiffly.

“You haven’t made me big enough, Gerald. That’s the trouble. I’m too big for you. Perhaps Poe, or Dosteyevsky, or Melville…but not you, Gerald. Not even under your royal pen-name. Not you. Not you.”

She began to laugh again, huge racking explosions of sound.

“Don’t you laugh,” Gerald said stiffly.

The tool-shed, after the manner of Zola:

Wooden walls, which showed occasional chinks of light, surrounding rabbit-traps hung and slung in corners; a pair of dusty, unstrung snow-shoes: a rusty spaceheater showing flickers of yellow flame like cat’s eyes; a shovel; hedge clippers; an ancient green hose coiled like a garter-snake; four bald tires stacked like doughnuts; a rusty Winchester 53

rifle with no bolt; a two handed saw; a dusty work-bench covered with nails, screws, bolts, washers, two hammers, a plane, a broken level, a dismantled carburetor which once sat inside a 1949 Packard convertible; a 4 hp. air-compressor painted electric blue, plugged into an extension cord running back into the house.

“Don’t you laugh,” Gerald said again, but she continued to rock back and forth, holding her stomach and flapping the manuscript with her wheezing breath like a white bird.

His hand found the rusty Winchester rifle and he pole-axed her with it.

Most horror stories are sexual in nature.

I’m sorry to break in with this information, but feel I must in order to make the way clear for the grisly conclusion of this piece, which is (at least psychologically) a clear metaphor for fears of sexual impotence on his part. Mrs. Leighton’s large mouth is symbolic of the vagina; the hose of the compressor is a penis. Her female bulk, huge and overpowering, is a mythic representation of the sexual fear that lives in every male, to a greater or lesser degree: that the woman, with her opening, is a devourer.

In the works of Edgar A. Poe, Stephen King, Gerald Nately, and others who practice this particular literary form, we are apt to find locked rooms, dungeons, empty mansions (all symbols of the womb); scenes of living burial (sexual impotence); the dead returned from the grave (necrophilia); grotesque monsters or human beings (externalized fear of the sexual act itself); torture and/or murder (a viable alternative to the sexual act).

These possibilities are not always valid, but the post-Freud reader and writer must take them into consideration when attempting the genre.

Abnormal psychology has become a part of the human experience.

She made thick, unconscious noises in her throat as he whirled around madly, looking for an instrument; her head lolled brokenly on the thick stalk of her neck.

He seized the hose of the air-compressor.

“All right,” he said thickly. “All right, now. All Tight.”

bitch fat old bitch youve had yours not big enough is that right well youll be bigger youll be bigger still

* * *


He ripped her head back by the hair and rammed the hose into her mouth, into her gullet. She screamed around it, a sound like a cat.

Part of the inspiration for this story came from an old E. C. horror comic book, which I bought in a Lisbon Falls drugstore. In one particular story, a husband and wife murdered each other simultaneously in mutually ironic (and brilliant) fashion. He was very fat; she was very thin. He shoved the hose of an air compressor down her throat and blew her up to dirigible size. On his way downstairs a booby-trap she had rigged fell on him and squashed him to a shadow.

Any author who tells you he has never plagiarized is a liar. A good author begins with bad ideas and improbabilities and fashions them into comments on the human condition. In a horror story, it is imperative that the grotesque be elevated to the status of the abnormal.

The compressor turned on with a whoosh and a chug. The hose flew out of Mrs.Leighton’s mouth. Giggling and gibbering, Gerald stuffed it back in. Her feet drummed and thumped on the floor. The flesh of her checks and diaphragm began to swell rhythmically. Her eyes bulged, and became glass marbles. Her torso began to expand.

here it is here it is you lousy louse are you big enough yet are you big enough

The compressor wheezed and racketed. Mrs. Leighton swelled like a beachball. Her lungs became straining blowfish.

Fiends! Devils! Dissemble no more! Here! Here! It is the beating of his hideous heart!

She seemed to explode all at once.

Sitting in a boiling hotel room in Bombay, Gerald re-wrote the story he had begun at the cottage on the other side of the world. The original title had been “The Hog.” After some deliberation he retitled it “The Blue Air Compressor.”

He had resolved it to his own satisfaction. There was a certain lack of motivation concerning the final scene where the fat old woman was murdered, but he did not see that as a fault. In “The Tell-Tale Heart,”

Edgar A. Poe’s finest story, there is no real motivation for the murder of the old man, and that was as it should be. The motive is not the point.


* * *

She got very big just before the end: even her legs swelled up to twice their normal size. At the very end, her tongue popped out of her mouth like a party-favor.

After leaving Bombay, Gerald Nately went on to Hong Kong, then to Kowloon. The ivory guillotine caught his fancy immediately.

As the author, I can see only one correct omega to this story, and that is to tell you how Gerald Nately got rid of the body. He tore up the floor boards of the shed, dismembered Mrs. Leighton, and buried the sections in the sand beneath. When he notified the police that she had been missing for a week, the local constable and a State Policeman came at once. Gerald entertained them quite naturally, even offering them coffee. He heard no beating heart, but then – the interview was conducted in the big house.

On the following day he flew away, toward Bombay, Hong Kong, and Kowloon.



First appeared in Cavalier Magazine, 1971. The story was initially supposed to be 500 words and intended to be finished by the readers of Cavalier, but King wrote the complete story once he got into the writing mood.

Halston thought the old man in the wheelchair looked sick, terrified, and ready to die. He had experience in seeing such things. Death was Halston’s business; he had brought it to eighteen men and six women in his career as an independent hitter. He knew the death look. The house –

mansion, actually – was cold and quiet. The only sounds were the low snap of the fire on the big stone hearth and the low whine of the November wind outside.

“I want you to make a kill,” the old man said. His voice was quavery and high, peevish. “I understand that is what you do.”

“Who did you talk to?” Halston asked.

“With a man named Saul Loggia. He says you know him.”

Halston nodded. If Loggia was the go-between, it was all right. And if there was a bug in the room, anything the old man – Drogan – said was entrapment.

“Who do you want hit?”

Drogan pressed a button on the console built into the arm of his wheelchair and it buzzed forward. Closeup, Halston could smell the yellow odors of fear, age, and urine all mixed. They disgusted him, but he made no sign. His face was still and smooth.

“Your victim is right behind you,” Drogan said softly.

Halston moved quickly. His reflexes were his life and they were always set on a filed pin. He was off the couch, falling to one knee, turning, hand inside his specially tailored sport coat, gripping the handle of the short-barreled .45 hybrid that hung below his armpit in a spring-loaded holster that laid it in his palm at a touch. A moment later it was out and pointed at…a cat. For a moment Halston and the cat stared at each other. It was a strange moment for Halston, who was an unimaginative man with no superstitions. For that one moment as he knelt on the floor with the gun pointed, he felt that he knew this cat, although if he had ever seen one with such unusual markings he surely would have remembered.

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Categories: Stephen King