Stephen King is the author of more than sixty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes The Institute, Elevation, The Outsider, Sleeping Beauties (cowritten with his son Owen King), and the Bill Hodges trilogy: End of Watch, Finders Keepers, and Mr. Mercedes (an Edgar Award winner for Best Novel and an AT&T Audience Network original television series). His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller. His epic works The Dark Tower and It are the basis for major motion pictures, with It now the highest grossing horror film of all time. He is the recipient of the 2018 PEN America Literary Service Award, the 2014 National Medal of Arts, and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.
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Doctor Sleep CHAPTER ONE
WELCOME TO TEENYTOWN
After Wilmington, the daily drinking stopped.
He’d go a week, sometimes two, without anything stronger than diet soda. He’d wake up without a hangover, which was good. He’d wake up thirsty and miserable—wanting—which wasn’t. Then there would come a night. Or a weekend. Sometimes it was a Budweiser ad on TV that set him off—fresh-faced young people with nary a beergut among them, having cold ones after a vigorous volleyball game. Sometimes it was seeing a couple of nice-looking women having after-work drinks outside some pleasant little café, the kind of place with a French name and lots of hanging plants. The drinks were almost always the kind that came with little umbrellas. Sometimes it was a song on the radio. Once it was Styx, singing “Mr. Roboto.” When he was dry, he was completely dry. When he drank, he got drunk. If he woke up next to a woman, he thought of Deenie and the kid in the Braves t-shirt. He thought of the seventy dollars. He even thought of the stolen blanket, which he had left in the stormdrain. Maybe it was still there. If so, it would be moldy now.
Sometimes he got drunk and missed work. They’d keep him on for awhile—he was good at what he did—but then would come a day. When it did, he would say thank you very much and board a bus. Wilmington became Albany and Albany became Utica. Utica became New Paltz. New Paltz gave way to Sturbridge, where he got drunk at an outdoor folk concert and woke up the next day in jail with a broken wrist. Next up was Weston, after that came a nursing home on Martha’s Vineyard, and boy, that gig didn’t last long. On his third day the head nurse smelled booze on his breath and it was seeya, wouldn’t want to beya. Once he crossed the path of the True Knot without realizing it. Not in the top part of his mind, anyway, although lower down—in the part that shone—there was something. A smell, fading and unpleasant, like the smell of burned rubber on a stretch of turnpike where there has been a bad accident not long before.
From Martha’s Vineyard he took MassLines to Newburyport. There he found work in a don’t-give-much-of-a-shit veterans’ home, the kind of place where old soldiers were sometimes left in wheelchairs outside empty consulting rooms until their peebags overflowed onto the floor. A lousy place for patients, a better one for frequent fuckups like himself, although Dan and a few others did as well by the old soldiers as they could. He even helped a couple get over when their time came. That job lasted awhile, long enough for the Saxophone President to turn the White House keys over to the Cowboy President.
Dan had a few wet nights in Newburyport, but always with the next day off, so it was okay. After one of these mini-sprees, he woke up thinking at least I left the food stamps. That brought on the old psychotic gameshow duo.
Sorry, Deenie, you lose, but nobody leaves empty-handed. What have we got for her, Johnny?
Well, Bob, Deenie didn’t win any money, but she’s leaving with our new home game, several grams of cocaine, and a great big wad of FOOD STAMPS!
What Dan got was a whole month without booze. He did it, he guessed, as a weird kind of penance. It occurred to him more than once that if he’d had Deenie’s address, he would have sent her that crappy seventy bucks long ago. He would have sent her twice that much if it could have ended the memories of the kid in the Braves t-shirt and the reaching starfish hand. But he didn’t have the address, so he stayed sober instead. Scourging himself with whips. Dry ones.
Then one night he passed a drinking establishment called the Fisherman’s Rest and through the window spied a good-looking blonde sitting alone at the bar. She was wearing a tartan skirt that ended at mid-thigh and she looked lonely and he went in and it turned out she was newly divorced and wow, that was a shame, maybe she’d like some company, and three days later he woke up with that same old black hole in his memory. He went to the veterans’ center where he had been mopping floors and changing lightbulbs, hoping for a break, but no dice. Don’t-give-much-of-a-shit wasn’t quite the same as don’t-give-any-shit; close but no cigar. Leaving with the few items that had been in his locker, he recalled an old Bobcat Goldthwait line: “My job was still there, but somebody else was doing it.” So he boarded another bus, this one headed for New Hampshire, and before he got on, he bought a glass container of intoxicating liquid.
He sat all the way in back in the Drunk Seat, the one by the toilet. Experience had taught him that if you intended to spend a bus trip getting smashed, that was the seat to take. He reached into the brown paper sack, loosened the cap on the glass container of intoxicating liquid, and smelled the brown smell. That smell could talk, although it only had one thing to say: Hello, old friend.
He thought Canny.
He thought Mama.
He thought of Tommy going to school by now. Always assuming good old Uncle Randy hadn’t killed him.
He thought, The only one who can put on the brakes is you.
This thought had come to him many times before, but now it was followed by a new one. You don’t have to live this way if you don’t want to. You can, of course . . . but you don’t have to.
That voice was so strange, so unlike any of his usual mental dialogues, that he thought at first he must be picking it up from someone else—he could do that, but he rarely got uninvited transmissions anymore. He had learned to shut them off. Nevertheless he looked up the aisle, almost positive he would see someone looking back at him. No one was. Everyone was sleeping, talking with their seatmates, or staring out at the gray New England day.
You don’t have to live this way if you don’t want to.
If only that were true. Nevertheless, he tightened the cap on the bottle and put it on the seat beside him. Twice he picked it up. The first time he put it down. The second time he reached into the bag and unscrewed the cap again, but as he did, the bus pulled into the New Hampshire welcome area just across the state line. Dan filed into the Burger King with the rest of the passengers, pausing only long enough to toss the paper bag into one of the trash containers. Stenciled on the side of the tall green can were the words IF YOU NO LONGER NEED IT, LEAVE IT HERE.
Wouldn’t that be nice, Dan thought, hearing the clink as it landed. Oh God, wouldn’t that be nice.
An hour and a half later, the bus passed a sign reading WELCOME TO FRAZIER, WHERE THERE’S A REASON FOR EVERY SEASON! And, below that, HOME OF TEENYTOWN!
The bus stopped at the Frazier Community Center to take on passengers, and from the empty seat next to Dan, where the bottle had rested for the first part of the trip, Tony spoke up. Here was a voice Dan recognized, although Tony hadn’t spoken so clearly in years.
(this is the place)
As good as any, Dan thought.
He grabbed his duffel from the overhead rack and got off. He stood on the sidewalk and watched the bus pull away. To the west, the White Mountains sawed at the horizon. In all his wanderings he had avoided mountains, especially the jagged monsters that broke the country in two. Now he thought, I’ve come back to the high country after all. I guess I always knew I would. But these mountains were gentler than the ones that still sometimes haunted his dreams, and he thought he could live with them, at least for a little while. If he could stop thinking about the kid in the Braves t-shirt, that is. If he could stop using the booze. There came a time when you realized that moving on was pointless. That you took yourself with you wherever you went.
A snow flurry, fine as wedding lace, danced across the air. He could see that the shops lining the wide main street catered mostly to the skiers who’d come in December and the summer people who’d come in June. There would probably be leaf-peepers in September and October, too, but this was what passed for spring in northern New England, an edgy eight weeks chrome-plated with cold and damp. Frazier apparently hadn’t figured out a reason for this season yet, because the main drag—Cranmore Avenue—was all but deserted.
Dan slung the duffel over his shoulder and strolled slowly north. He stopped outside a wrought-iron fence to look at a rambling Victorian home flanked on both sides by newer brick buildings. These were connected to the Victorian by covered walkways. There was a turret at the top of the mansion on the left side, but none on the right, giving the place a queerly unbalanced look that Dan sort of liked. It was as if the big old girl were saying Yeah, part of me fell off. What the fuck. Someday it’ll happen to you. He started to smile. Then the smile died.
Tony was in the window of the turret room, looking down at him. He saw Dan looking up and waved. The same solemn wave Dan remembered from his childhood, when Tony had come often. Dan closed his eyes, then opened them. Tony was gone. Had never been there in the first place, how could he have been? The window was boarded up.
The sign on the lawn, gold letters on a green background the same shade as the house itself, read HELEN RIVINGTON HOUSE.
They have a cat in there, he thought. A gray cat named Audrey.
This turned out to be partly right and partly wrong. There was a cat, and it was gray, but it was a neutered tom and its name wasn’t Audrey.
Dan looked at the sign for a long time—long enough for the clouds to part and send down a biblical beam—and then he walked on. Although the sun was now bright enough to twinkle the chrome of the few slant-parked cars in front of Olympia Sports and the Fresh Day Spa, the snow still swirled, making Dan think of something his mother had said during similar spring weather, long ago, when they had lived in Vermont: The devil’s beating his wife.
A block or two up from the hospice, Dan stopped again. Across the street from the town municipal building was the Frazier town common. There was an acre or two of lawn, just beginning to show green, a bandstand, a softball field, a paved basketball half-court, picnic tables, even a putting green. All very nice, but what interested him was a sign reading
FRAZIER’S “SMALL WONDER”
AND RIDE THE TEENYTOWN RAILWAY!
It didn’t take a genius to see that Teenytown was a teeny replica of Cranmore Avenue. There was the Methodist church he had passed, its steeple rising all of seven feet into the air; there was the Music Box Theater; Spondulicks Ice Cream; Mountain Books; Shirts & Stuff; the Frazier Gallery, Fine Prints Our Specialty. There was also a perfect waist-high miniature of the single-turreted Helen Rivington House, although the two flanking brick buildings had been omitted. Perhaps, Dan thought, because they were butt-ugly, especially compared to the centerpiece.
Beyond Teenytown was a miniature train with TEENYTOWN RAILWAY painted on passenger cars that were surely too small to hold anyone larger than toddler size. Smoke was puffing from the stack of a bright red locomotive about the size of a Honda Gold Wing motorcycle. He could hear the rumble of a diesel engine. Printed on the side of the loco, in old-fashioned gold flake letters, was THE HELEN RIVINGTON. Town patroness, Dan supposed. Somewhere in Frazier there was probably a street named after her, too.
He stood where he was for a bit, although the sun had gone back in and the day had grown cold enough for him to see his breath. As a kid he’d always wanted an electric train set and had never had one. Yonder in Teenytown was a jumbo version kids of all ages could love.
He shifted his duffel bag to his other shoulder and crossed the street. Hearing Tony again—and seeing him—was unsettling, but right now he was glad he’d stopped here. Maybe this really was the place he’d been looking for, the one where he’d finally find a way to right his dangerously tipped life.
You take yourself with you, wherever you go.
He pushed the thought into a mental closet. It was a thing he was good at. There was all sorts of stuff in that closet.
A cowling surrounded the locomotive on both sides, but he spied a footstool standing beneath one low eave of the Teenytown Station, carried it over, and stood on it. The driver’s cockpit contained two sheepskin-covered bucket seats. It looked to Dan as if they had been scavenged from an old Detroit muscle car. The cockpit and controls also looked like modified Detroit stock, with the exception of an old-fashioned Z-shaped shifter jutting up from the floor. There was no shift pattern; the original knob had been replaced with a grinning skull wearing a bandanna faded from red to pallid pink by years of gripping hands. The top half of the steering wheel had been cut off, so that what remained looked like the steering yoke of a light plane. Painted in black on the dashboard, fading but legible, was TOP SPEED 40 DO NOT EXCEED.
“Like it?” The voice came from directly behind him.
Dan wheeled around, almost falling off the stool. A big weathered hand gripped his forearm, steadying him. It was a guy who looked to be in his late fifties or early sixties, wearing a padded denim jacket and a red-checked hunting cap with the earflaps down. In his free hand was a toolkit with PROPERTY OF FRAZIER MUNICIPAL DEPT Dymo-taped across the top.
“Hey, sorry,” Dan said, stepping off the stool. “I didn’t mean to—”
“S’all right. People stop to look all the time. Usually model-train buffs. It’s like a dream come true for em. We keep em away in the summer when the place is jumpin and the Riv runs every hour or so, but this time of year there’s no we, just me. And I don’t mind.” He stuck out his hand. “Billy Freeman. Town maintenance crew. The Riv’s my baby.”
Dan took the offered hand. “Dan Torrance.”
Billy Freeman eyed the duffel. “Just got off the bus, I ’magine. Or are you ridin your thumb?”
“Bus,” Dan said. “What does this thing have for an engine?”
“Well now, that’s interesting. Probably never heard of the Chevrolet Veraneio, didja?”
He hadn’t, but knew anyway. Because Freeman knew. Dan didn’t think he’d had such a clear shine in years. It brought a ghost of delight that went back to earliest childhood, before he had discovered how dangerous the shining could be.
“Brazilian Suburban, wasn’t it? Turbodiesel.”
Freeman’s bushy eyebrows shot up and he grinned. “Goddam right! Casey Kingsley, he’s the boss, bought it at an auction last year. It’s a corker. Pulls like a sonofabitch. The instrument panel’s from a Suburban, too. The seats I put in myself.”
The shine was fading now, but Dan got one last thing. “From a GTO Judge.”
Freeman beamed. “That’s right. Found em in a junkyard over Sunapee way. The shifter’s a high-hat from a 1961 Mack. Nine-speed. Nice, huh? You lookin for work or just lookin?”
Dan blinked at the sudden change of direction. Was he looking for work? He supposed he was. The hospice he’d passed on his amble up Cranmore Avenue would be the logical place to start, and he had an idea—didn’t know if it was the shining or just ordinary intuition—that they’d be hiring, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to go there just yet. Seeing Tony in the turret window had been unsettling.
Also, Danny, you want to be a little bit farther down the road from your last drink before you show up there askin for a job application form. Even if the only thing they got is runnin a buffer on the n...
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