Uncollected Stories 2003 by Stephen King

Brant Callahan said it was all just a fake, whatever it was, but sometimes I saw the doubt even in Brant’s tough gray eyes.

Then, of course, the murders started, and eventually Skybar was shut down. The double Ferris stood frozen against the sky, and the only sound the mechanical clown’s mouth produced was the lunatic hooting of the sea breeze. We went in, the twelve of us, and…but I’m getting ahead of myself. It began just after school let out that June; it began when Randy Stayner, a seventh-grader from the junior high school, was thrown from the highest point of the SkyCoaster. I was there that day –

Kirby was with me, in fact – and we both heard his scream as he came down.


It was one of the strangest ways for a person to die – the shadowed Ferris wheel turned in the sunlight, the bumper cars honked and sparked the roof and walls of Spunky’s Dodge ‘Em, the carousel spun wildly to the rise and fall of horses and lions, and the steady beat of its repeating tune echoed throughout the park. A man balancing his screaming son in one hand, ice cream cones in the other, little kids with cotton candy racing to see who’s first to get on Sandee’s Spinning Sombrero, and in the midst of all the peaceful confusion, Randy Stayner performing a one-time solo swan dive 100 feet into the solid steel tracks of the SkyCoaster.

For a while, I wasn’t all too sure the people around me weren’t thinking it was just an act – a Saturday afternoon performance by a skilled diver. When blood and bone hit, however, it was clear the act was over. And then, as if to clear the whole thing up with a final attempt to achieve his original goal, he rolled lazily over the bottom rails of the SkyCoaster into the brown murky water of Skybar Pond, swirls of red and grey following him. The SkyCoaster was shut down the day of Randy’s dive, and despite weeks of dragging the pond’s bottom, his body was never found. Authorities concluded that his remains had drifted under a sandbar or some unmarked passageway, and all search ceased after four weeks.

Skybar lost a lot of customers after that. Most people were afraid to go there, and other businesses in the town began to boom because of it. In fact, Starboard Cinema, which showed horror movies to an audience of four or five during the parks better days now showed repeats of “I was a Teen Age Werewolf” to sell-out crowds. More and more, people drifted away from Skybar until it was shut down for good.

It was during those last few weeks that the worst accidents started happening. A morning worker, reaching under a car on the Whip for a paper cup, caught his arm on the supporting bar between two clamps just as a faulty circuit started the machine. He was crushed between two cars. Another worker was fixing a bottom rail on the Ferris wheel when a 500 pound car dropped off the top and smeared him onto the asphalt below. These and several other rides were shut down, and when the only thing left open was Pop Dupree’s .22 gallery and the Adults Only freak tent, the spark ran out of Skybar’s amusement, and it was forced to shut down after its third year in operation.

It had only been closed for two months when Brant Callahan came up with his plan that night. We were in a group of five camping in back of John Wilkenson’s dad’s workshop, in a single five-man Sportsman pup tent illuminated by four flashlights shining on back issues of Famous Detective Stories, when he stood up (or rather scuffled on his knees, due 147

to the height of the tent) and proposed we all do something to separate the pussies from the men. I tossed aside my Mystery of the Haunted Hearse, leaned in the glow of Dewey Howardson’s light, and squinted halfway at the hulking shadow crouching by the double-flap zipper door. No one else appeared to pay any attention to him.

“Come on, lard-asses!” he shouted. “Are ya all just going to sit around playing Dick-fucking-Tracy all night?”

Kirby slapped at the bugs attacking his glowing arm and looked from Brant, to me, to the rest of the guys still gazing with mild interest at their Alfred Hitchcock tales of suspense, unaware of any other activities going on in their presence. I gazed at my watch. It was 11:30.

“What the hell are you raving about, Brant?” His face came to life now that he was being noticed, and he looked at me with great excitement, like some dumb little kid who was about to tell some terrible secret and was getting the great flood of details together to form a top-confidential plan.

“The SkyCoaster.”

Dewey looked over the top of his magazine and shot Brant a look of mild interest.

“Skybar’s SkyCoaster?”

“‘Course, ya damn idiot. What other roller coaster ya gonna find in Starboard? Now the way I figger it, we could make it over the barbed wire and inside to the SkyCoaster easy enough.”

“What the fuck for?” I asked. Brant was always pulling stunts like this, and it was no telling what the crazy bastard was up to this time. I remember one year when we were out smashing coins on the BY&W

tracks by Harrow’s Point; Brant got tired of watching trains run over his pennies and dimes and dared us to take on a real challenge. Whenever Brant came up with a real challenge, you could almost always count on calling up the You Asked For It or Ripleys Believe It or Not crews for live coverage. Not that the challenge was anything like that man from Brazil who swallowed strips of razor blades, or that fat lady from Ohio who balanced fire sticks on her forehead – Brant’s dares were far more challenging than those. And, as young volunteers from his reluctant audience, we were obligated to take part in them or kiss our reputation for bravery goodbye. Brant reached into his pants pocket that day and pulled out a small cardboard box wrapped tightly with a red rubber band. Unwrapping it, he revealed four or five shiny copper bullets, the kind I used to see on reruns of Mannix when Mike Conners would stop blasting away at crime rings long enough to load up his revolver again.

They were different from T.V., though. On the tube they appeared to be no more than tiny pieces of dull plastic jammed into a Whamco Cap Pistol.


In front of me then, they sat mystically in Brant’s hand, the shells glittering bright rays of light in the late afternoon sun, the tip of greyish lead heavily refusing to reflect any light at all. Then Brant clapped them all together in a fist and headed up the bank toward the tracks. I started after him, half expecting him to wheel out a gun for them at any minute, hoping he was just going to relieve himself rather than starting to open fire on something, or trying some other dangerous stunt. It was dangerous, as it turned out, but I didn’t say anything. I just stood there by the rails, taking a plug off the chewing tobacco Dewey brought along, my mind watching from some faraway place as he set them up single file on the left rail.

“The train wheels should set ’em off the second they hit,” he smiled smugly, eagerly forming his plan. “All we have to do is stand here by the rails until they do. How’s that for a challenge, huh? Oh, and the first one to jump is pussy of the year.

I didn’t say anything. but I thought a lot about it. About how stupid it was, how dangerous it was, and how weird a person’s brain had to be to think things like that up. I thought about how I should bug out right then, just yell “Screw you, Brant!” and take off for home. But that would have made me green. And if it was one thing we all had to show each other back then, it was that we were no cowards.

So there we were, Brant, John, Dewey, me, and Kirby, although Kirby wouldn’t set foot near the tracks, bullets or no bullets, with a train coming (he began to conveniently get sick on the tobacco and had to lie down). We lined up next to the rails, determination in our eyes as the bullets gleamed in front of us. John was the first one to hear the train, and as we stepped closer to Brant’s orders, I could hear him softly muttering a short prayer over and over to himself. Dewey stood on the far right side of me, the last person in our Fearless Freddy Fan Club.

Then the first heavy rumbling of the cars came, John reeled as it got louder, and I thought surely he was going to collapse over the tracks, but he didn’t, and we all stood still as the train came on. The churning squeak of the wheels hit our ears, and I stared blankly at the bullets in front of us, thinking how small they seemed under the wheels of the 4:40. But the more I looked, the larger they began to appear, until it seemed they were almost the size of cannonballs. I shut my eyes and prayed with John. In the distance. the whistle rang out a terrifyingly loud Hooooo-HOO Hoooo, and I was sure it was on top of us, sure that I would feel the cracks of lead pounding in my ears any second, feel the hot metal in my legs. Then the steady thud-thud-thud of its wheels grinding closer bit into my ears, and I screamed, turned, and fell down the slope to where the black gravel ended and the high meadowy grass began. I ran and didn’t stop or look back until I was what felt like at 149

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Categories: Stephen King