Uncollected Stories 2003 by Stephen King

least a mile away, and then collapsed in the stickery high grass, my hands and knees filling with sharp pain.

Behind me, five or six bullets roared into the air consecutively, and I wondered vaguely how Mike Conners could stand such a loud sound every time he squeezed the trigger. My ears filled up with a steady EEEEEEEEEEE, and I lay back in the grass, my hair full of stickers, my pride full of shame. Then Kirby was in front of me, telling me I was all right. I sat up in the grass, and down the rim about ten or fifteen feet from me, Brant, Dewey, and John sat puffing loudly, laughing, out of breath. The air filled with smoke and I collapsed again into the high sea of shrub and stickers, feeling fine. Brant admitted time after time that we were all brave for going along with him that day, but he never brought up the fact that we all had run away, he and Dewey in the lead.

Somewhere in my mind, the fact appeared to me that somewhere in Brant, his ego ended and his brains began. That’s why I listened along with the others, and why we all wound up going with him that night when he began scheming up another mastermind stunt.

“First we make it over the fence. When we do, we head for the SkyCoaster. Here’s the trick: we’ll all meet in the station and start up the tracks – not the wooden beams – the tracks, and, in single file, climb to the King drop, then back down.”

“You’re fuckin nuts, Brant.”

“Maybe. But at least I’m not fuckin’ pussy.”

“Who’s pussy?” I asked, pulling my Converse All-Star tennis shoes on.

“You in?” asked Kirby, his lower jaw shaking. It was almost like that shaking jaw and those glassy, scared deer eves of his were trying to pull me back, to help me forget about the dare and get back to reading another chapter in Amazing Detective Stories – as if that once shaking jaw were a sonar, bouncing off waves of detection and coming up with the same reading: Dangerous Barrier Ahead.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Kirb. ‘Course I’m goin’” I shot a glance at John and Dewey, who both gave me nods of bravery and confidence, mixed highly with regrets of Brant’s ever being with us that night. We left the flashlights on in the tent in case John’s dad peeked out the back windows of his house to check on us. It turned out he never did. Skybar can be pretty damn dark at night with no lights on. Few people know that like I do since most have only seen it in the daytime with sunlight bouncing off of the metal roofs of Pop Dupree’s and the Adults Only freak tent or at night with the magical lights blazing lazily around on the Ferris wheel and bulbs flashing crazily in single file, creating a racing form of neon display up and down the hills of the 100 foot high SkyCoaster.


There were no lights that night, however. No lights, no moon, no light clouds, zilchamundo. Brant had stopped on the way to pick up a couple of his friends from the White Dragons. The Dragons were a street gang that held a high position in the field of respect with all wise kids back then, and luckily they brought spare flashlights, matches for their cigarettes, and 5-inch steel Randell switchblades (in case some maniacal drunk or thug was claiming the park space as a home base for his operations).

Both of the White Dragon members appeared to be gods in the eyes of all of us that evening – their hair slicked back to their scalps James Dean style, black leather jackets with pale, fire breathing dragons on them, a general air of confidence and security beaming off them as if they were more protective beacons for us than general good company joining us in the daredevil fun. Five more members of the Dragons were to meet us after a field party they were having up on Grange’s Point.

Brant hadn’t let us in on that fact at first, but when I found out they were supposed to meet us at the front gate at 12:30. more confidence rose in me, and it began to feel more like we were heading toward a late game of craps or penny ante poker instead of a 100 foot climb on slick poles.

What we didn’t know was that they were practically carrying the party with them, each with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s Black label, or Southern Comfort, or Everclear, and each was singing in rackety unison the agonizing 75th stanza to “99 Bottles of Beer.”

Excitement heaved up my chest to my throat as we approached the outer gate, and I can still remember how mystic and strange the park looked in the dark night air. The chain fence stretched onward in both directions to what seemed infinity, sealing us out from its unknown hidden powers, and I recall that it almost seemed that it was shielding Skybar inside, preventing it from wielding its wrath on the innocent people living outside its domain. Once you crossed the barrier, however, there was no turning back. Here was where the two worlds divided, and the choice was made – pussy or man. Everybody was anxious to get inside the park’s gates to prove where he stood. With the gang you felt cold and nervous while awaiting the wrath of whatever might be lurking inside – but outside, the chances of surviving any lurking danger alone made you even more nervous – jittery enough to crawl up into a ball and piss your pants at every crack of a twig.

So, you see, it’s not that we all wanted to go inside. But even if we were scared to death of climbing the cold rails of the SkyCoaster, staying alone while the rest of the bunch climbed over and ventured inside was even worse than the original dare itself. Surprisingly enough, Kirby was the first one up the fence to lay his jacket across the barbed wire and hop to the soft asphalt of Skybar on the other side. The rest of 151

us followed, thud, sputt, thud sounding through the night air as we each dropped to the ground on the other side. We were in now. Eddie Frachers, the shorter of the two White Dragons, lit up a smoke, flicked on the flashlight, and led the way with Brant. The station was empty when we got to the steel rails of the coaster, and climbing the steps to the gate station was an unusual experience in itself since there was no waiting in line for an hour while an old man standing in front of you blew cigarette fumes in your face in the riding hot sun as your stomach turned putrid, your facial skin pale. Now it was home free between the coaster and us, free space all the way.

Hurry hurry step right up!

The metal floor thundered hundreds of beats under our feet as we made our way across the vacant station to the terminal gates, and I looked several times over my shoulder as we walked the deserted leading board, my senses ready for anything that might decide to go more than “bump” in the night. I was the first one to hear it, in fact, and my body grew limp, my bowels limp with it when I heard the direction it was coming from – the coaster cars. They all sat in front of us, grey and orange from rust and age, their silent features corrupting the night with an evil air, and I recall standing there as the others began to hear it too, my hands shaking, legs drooping, mouth hanging open stupidly as I attempted to say something – I don’t know what – and nothing would come out.

I don’t know how long we all stood there, waiting for something, anything to happen. The cars seemed mystic in their own way as they stood their ground and refused to let us any nearer by chanting some evil spell among themselves to keep us back. A spell is one thing, but if you’ve ever thought you heard a car (or possibly some dangerous lunatic hiding behind a car) singing something, you’d understand how we all felt that night. Even Brant and the two White Dragons appeared motionless in the soft glow from the flashlight, but somehow Eddie brought the flashlight up to meet whatever was occupying the first car.

“Hey! Turn it off damnit!”

A surge of relief at its at least being human swelled up in me, but I still stood there, motionless and quivering, even as Eddie and the rest of the bunch, even Kirby, started toward the coaster. I must have still been in a daze, because I found myself wanting to stop them, to pull them back to me, to end it all, turn around and get the hell back over the fence. But I still stood there as fog rolled around my eyes and my sight blurred, leaving only my ears to tell me the horrible fate of our party.

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