Uncollected Stories 2003 by Stephen King

Weinbaum stared at me with fixed eyes and once again I felt a blast of icy coldness sweep over me.

“I’ll put it to you bluntly,” he said, “my experiments are too complicated to explain in any detail, but they concern human flesh.

Dead human flesh.”

I was becoming intensely aware that his eyes burnt with flickering fires. He looked like a spider ready to engulf a fly, and this whole house was his web. The sun was striking fire to the west and deep pools of shadows were spreading across the room, hiding his face, but leaving the glittering eyes as they shifted in the creeping darkness. He was still speaking.

“Often, people bequeath their bodies to scientific institutes for study.

Unfortunately, I’m only one man, so I have to resort to other methods.”

Horror leapt grinning from the shadows and across my mind there flitted the black picture of two men digging by the light of an uncertain moon. A shovel struck wood the noise chilled my soul.

I rose quickly.

“I think I can find my own way out, Mr. Weinbaum.”

He laughed softly. “Did Rankin tell you how much this job pays?”

“I’m not interested.”

“Too bad. I was hoping you could see it my way. It wouldn’t take a year before you would make enough money to return to college.”

I started, and got the uncanny feeling that this man was searching my soul.

“How much do you know about me? How did you find out?”


“I have my ways.” He chuckled again. “Will you reconsider?”

I hesitated.

“Shall we put it on a trial basis?” he asked softly. “I’m quite sure that we can both reach a mutual satisfaction.”

I got the eerie feeling that I was talking to the devil himself, that somehow I had been tricked into selling my soul.

“Be here at 8.00 sharp, the night after next,” he said.

That was how it started.

As Rankin and I laid the sheeted body of Daniel Whetherby on the lab table, lights flashed on behind sheeted oblongs that looked like glass tanks.

“Weinbaum,” I had dropped the title, Mister, without thinking, “I think – ”

“Did you say something?” he asked, his eyes boring into mine. The laboratory seemed far away. There were only the two of us, sliding through a half-world peopled with horrors beyond the imagination.

Rankin entered in a white smock coat and broke the spell by saying,

“All ready, professor.”

At the door, Rankin stopped me. “Friday, at eight.”

A shudder, cold and terrible raced up my spine as I looked back.

Weinbaum had produced a scalpel and the body was unsheeted. They looked at me strangely and I hurried out.

I took the car and quickly drove down the narrow dirt road. I didn’t look back. The air was fresh and warm with a promise of budding summer. The sky was blue with fluffy white clouds fleeting along in the warm summer breeze. The night before seemed like a nightmare, a vague dream, that, as all nightmares, is unreal and transparent when the bright light of day shines upon it. But as I drove past the wrought iron gates of the Crestwood Cemetery I realized that this was no dream. Four hours ago my shovel had removed the dirt that covered the grave of Daniel Wheatherby. For the first time a new thought occurred to me.

What was the body of Daniel Wheatherby being used for at that moment? I shoved the thought into a deep corner of my mind and let out onto the go-pedal. The car screamed ahead. I put my thoughts into driving, glad to put the terrible thing I had done out of my mind, for a short time, anyway.

Chapter Four

The California countryside blurred by as I tried for the maximum speed.

The tires sang on the curve and, as I came out of it, several things happened in rapid succession. I saw a panel truck crazily parked right on 17

the broken white line, a girl of about eighteen running right toward my car, an older man running after her. I slammed on the brakes and they exploded like bombs. I jockeyed the wheel and the California sky was suddenly under me. Then everything was right-side up and I realized that I had flipped right over and up. For a moment I was dazed, then a scream, shrill and high, piercing, slit my head. I opened the door and sprinted toward the road. The man had the girl and was yanking her toward the panel truck. He was stronger than her and winning, but she was taking an inch of skin for every foot he made.

He saw me.

“You stay out of this, buddy. I’m her legal guardian.”

I halted and shook the cobwebs out of my brain. It was exactly what he had been waiting for. He let go with a haymaker that got me on the corner of the chin and knocked me sprawling. He grabbed the girl and practically threw her into the cab. By the time that I was on my feet he was around to the driver’s side and peeling out. I took a flying leap and made the roof just as he took off. I was almost thrown off, but I clawed through about five layers of paint to stay on. Then I reached through the open window and got him by the neck. He cursed and grabbed my hand.

He yanked, the truck spun crazily off the ledge of a steep embankment.

The last thing I remember is the nose of the truck pointing straight down. Then my enemy saved my life by viciously yanking my arm. I tumbled off just as the truck plunged over the cliff. I landed hard, but the rock I landed on was harder. Everything slid away.

Something cool touched my brow as I came to. The first thing I saw was the flashing red light on top of the official looking car parked by the embankment. I sat bolt upright and soft hands pushed me down. Nice hands, the hands of the girl who had landed me into this mess. Then there was a Highway Patrolman over me and an official voice said, “The ambulance is coming. How do you feel?”

“Bruised,” I said and sat up again. “But tell the ambulance to go away.

I’m all right.”

I tried to sound flippant. The last thing I needed after last night’s ‘job’

was the police.

“How about telling me about it?” the policeman said, producing a notebook. Before I answered, I walked over to the embankment.

My stomach flipped over backwards. The panel truck was nose- deep in California dirt and my sparring partner was turning that good California soil into a reddish mud with his own blood. He lay grotesquely sprawled half in, half out of the cab. The photographers were getting their pictures. He was dead. I turned back. The patrolman looked at me as if he expected me to throw up, but, after my new job, my stomach was admirably strong.


“I was driving out of the Belwood district, “I said, “I came around that curve…”

I told the rest of the story with the girl’s help. Just as I finished the ambulance came to a halt. Despite my protestations and those of my still-unnamed girl friend, we were hustled into the back. Two hours later we had a clean bill of health from the patrolman and the doctors and we were requested to be witnesses at the inquest set for the next week.

I saw my car at the curb. It was a little worse for wear, but the flats had been replaced. There was a witnessed bill on the dash for a wrecker, tires, and clean-up squad! It came to about $250.00 half of the last night’s pay-check.

“You look preoccupied,” the girl said.

I turned to her. “Um, yeah. Well, we almost got killed together this morning, how about telling me your name and having lunch together?”

“Okay,” she said. “The name’s Vicki Pickford. Yours?”

“Danny,” I said unemotionally as we pulled away from the curb. I switched the subject rapidly. “What was going on this morning? Did I hear that guy say that he was your legal guardian?”

“Yes” she replied.

I laughed. “The name is Danny Gerad. You’ll get that out of the afternoon papers.”

She smiled gravely. “All right. He was my guardian. He was also a drunkard and an all-around crumb.” Her cheeks flamed red. The smile was gone. “I hated him and I’m glad he’s dead.”

She gave me a sharp glance and for a moment I saw fear shine wetly in her eyes; then she recovered her self-control. We parked and ate lunch. Forty minutes later I paid the check out of my newly acquired cash and walked back out to the car.

“Where to?” I asked.

“Bonaventure Motel,” she said. “That’s where I’m staying.”

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Categories: Stephen King