Uncollected Stories 2003 by Stephen King


“Never mind,” Dex said. “Go on and open it.”

“Okay.” He took off a second board, then a third. Six or seven had been nailed across the top of the box. He began on the fourth, reaching across the space he had already uncovered to place his chisel under the board, when the crate began to whistle.

It was a sound very much like the sound a teakettle makes when it has reached a rolling boil, Dex told Henry Northrup; no cheerful whistle this, but something like an ugly, hysterical shriek by a tantrumy child.

And this suddenly dropped and thickened into a low, hoarse growling sound. It was not loud, but it had a primitive, savage sound that stood Dex Stanley’s hair up on the slant. The janitor stared around at him, his eyes widening… and then his arm was seized.

Dex did not see what grabbed it; his eyes had gone instinctively to the man’s face.

The janitor screamed, and the sound drove a stiletto of panic into Dex’s chest. The thought that came unbidden was: This is the first time in my life that I’ve heard a grown man scream – what a sheltered life I’ve led!

The janitor, a fairly big guy who weighed maybe two hundred pounds, was suddenly yanked powerfully to one side. Toward the crate. ” Help me! ” He screamed. ” Oh help doc it’s got me it’s biting m e it’s biting meeeee – ”

Dex told himself to run forward and grab the janitor’s free arm, but his feet might as well have been bonded to the floor. The janitor had been pulled into the crate up to his shoulder. That crazed snarling went on and on. The crate slid backwards along the table for a foot or so and then came firmly to rest against a bolted instrument mount. It began to rock back and forth. The janitor screamed and gave a tremendous lunge away from the crate. The end of the box came up off the table and then smacked back down. Part of his arm came out of the crate, and Dex saw to his horror that the gray sleeve of his shirt was chewed and tattered and soaked with blood. Smiling crescent bites were punched into what he could see of the man’s skin through the shredded flaps of cloth.

Then something that must have been incredibly strong yanked him back down. The thing in the crate began to snarl and gobble. Every now and then there would be a breathless whistling sound in between.

At last Dex broke free of his paraiysis and lunged creakily forward.

He grabbed the janitor’s free arm. He yanked…with no result at all. It was like trying to pull a man who has been handcuffed to the bumper of a trailer truck.

The janitor screamed again – a long, ululating sound that rolled back and forth between the lab’s sparkling, white-tiled walls. Dex could see the gold glimmer of the fillings at the back of the man’s mouth. He 79

could see the yellow ghost of nicotine on his tongue.

The janitor’s head slammed down against the edge of the board he had been about to remove when the thing had grabbed him. And this time Dex did see something, although it happened with such mortal, savage speed that later he was unable to describe it adequately to Henry.

Something as dry and brown and scaly as a desert reptile came out of the crate – something with huge claws. It tore at the janitor’s straining, knotted throat and severed his jugular vein. Blood began to pump across the table, pooling on the formica and jetting onto the white-tiled floor.

For a moment, a mist of blood seemed to hang in the air. Dex dropped the janitor’s arm and blundered backward, hands clapped flat to his cheeks, eyes bulging.

The janitor’s eyes rolled wildly at the ceiling. His mouth dropped open and then snapped closed. The click of his teeth was audible even below that hungry growling. His feet, clad in heavy black work shoes, did a short and jittery tap dance on the floor.

Then he seemed to lose interest. His eyes grew almost benign as they looked raptly at the overhead light globe, which was also blood-spattered. His feet splayed out in a loose V. His shirt pulled out of his pants, displaying his white and bulging belly.

“He’s dead,” Dex whispered. “Oh, Jesus.”

The pump of the janitor’s heart faltered and lost its rhythm. Now the blood that flowed from the deep, irregular gash in his neck lost its urgency and merely flowed down at the command of indifferent gravity.

The crate was stained and splashed with blood. The snarling seemed to go on endlessly. The crate rocked back and forth a bit, but it was too well-braced against the instrument mount to go very far. The body of the janitor lolled grotesquely, still grasped firmly by whatever was in there. The small of his back was pressed against the lip of the lab table.

His free hand dangled, sparse hair curling on the fingers between the first and second knuckles. His big key ring glimmered chrome in the light.

And now his body began to rock slowly this way and that. His shoes dragged back and forth, not tap dancing now but waltzing obscenely.

And then they did not drag. They dangled an inch off the floor…then two inches…then half a foot above the floor. Dex realized that the janitor was being dragged into the crate. The nape of his neck came to rest against the board fronting the far side of the hole in the top of the crate. He looked like a man resting in some weird Zen position of contemplation. His dead eyes sparkled. And Dex heard, below the savage growling noises, a smacking, rending sound. And the crunch of a bone.

Dex ran.


He blundered his way across the lab and out the door and up the stairs.

Halfway up, he fell down, clawed at the risers, got to his feet, and ran again. He gained the first floor hallway and sprinted down it, past the closed doors with their frosted-glass panels, past the bulletin boards. He was chased by his own footfalls. In his ears he could hear that damned whistling.

He ran right into Charlie Gereson’s arms and almost knocked him over, and he spilled the milk shake Charlie had been drinking all over both of them.

“Holy hell, what’s wrong?” Charlie asked, comic in his extreme surprise. He was short and compact, wearing cotton chinos and a white tee shirt. Thick spectacles sat grimly on his nose, meaning business, proclaiming that they were there for a long haul.

“Charlie,” Dex said, panting harshly. “My boy…the janitor…the crate…

it whistles… it whistles when it’s hungry and it whistles again when it’s full…my boy…we have to…campus security…we….we…”

“Slow down, Professor Stanley,” Charlie said. He looked concerned and a little frightened. You don’t expect to be seized by the senior professor in your department when you had nothing more aggressive in mind yourself than charting the continued outmigration of sandflies.

“Slow down, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Stanley, hardly aware of what he was saying, poured out a garbled version of what had happened to the janitor. Charlie Gereson looked more and more confused and doubtful. As upset as he was, Dex began to realize that Charlie didn’t believe a word of it. He thought, with a new kind of horror, that soon Charlie would ask him if he had been working too hard, and that when he did, Stanley would burst into mad cackles of laughter.

But what Charlie said was, “That’s pretty far out, Professor Stanley.”

“It’s true. We’ve got to get campus security over here. We – ”

“No, that’s no good. One of them would stick his hand in there, first thing.” He saw Dex’s stricken look and went on. “If I’m having trouble swallowing this, what are they going to think?”

“I don’t know,” Dex said. “I…I never thought…”

“They’d think you just came off a helluva toot and were seeing Tasmanian devils instead of pink elephants,” Charlie Gereson said cheerfully, and pushed his glasses up on his pug nose. “Besides, from what you say, the responsibility has belonged with zoology all along…

like for a hundred and forty years.”

“But…” He swallowed, and there was a click in his throat as he prepared to voice his worst fear. “But it may be out.”

“I doubt that,” Charlie said, but didn’t elaborate. And in that, Dex saw two things: that Charlie didn’t believe a word he had said, and that 81

nothing he could say would dissuade Charlie from going back down there.

Henry Northrup glanced at his watch. They had been sitting in the study for a little over an hour; Wilma wouldn’t be back for another two.

Plenty of time. Unlike Charlie Gereson, he had passed no judgment at all on the factual basis of Dex’s story. But he had known Dex for a longer time than young Gereson had, and he didn’t believe his friend exhibited the signs of a man who has suddenly developed a psychosis.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48

Categories: Stephen King