'I came to kill you, Momma. And you were waiting here to kill me. Momma, I ... it's not right, Momma. It's not ... '
'Let's pray,' Momma said softly. Her eyes fixed on Carrie's and there was a crazed, awful compassion in them. The fire light was brighter now, dancing on the walls Up dervishes. 'For the last time, let us pray.'
'Oh Momma help me!' Carrie cried out.
She fell forward on her knees, head down, hands raised in supplication.
Momma leaned forward, and the knife came down in a shining arc.
Carrie, perhaps seeing out of the tail of her eye, jerked back, and instead of penetrating her back, the knife went into her shoulder to the hilt. Momma's feet tangled in the legs of her chair, and she collapsed in a sitting sprawl.
They stared at each other in silent tableau.
Blood began to ooze from around the handle of the knife and to splash on to the floor.
Then Carrie said softly: 'I'm going to give you a present, Momma.'
Margaret tried to get up, staggered, and fell back on her hands and knees. 'What are you doing?' she croaked hoarsely.
'I'm picturing your heart, Momma,' Carrie said. 'It's easier when you see things in your mind. Your heart is a big red muscle. Mine goes faster when I use my power. But your is going a little slower now. A little slower.'
Margaret tried to get up again, failed, and forked the sign of the evil eye at her daughter.
'A little slower, Momma. Do you know what the present is, Momma? What you always wanted. Darkness. And whatever God lives there.'
Margaret White whispered: 'Our father, Who art in heaven-'
'Slower, Momma. Slower.'
'-hallowed be Thy name-'
'I can see the blood draining back into you. Slower.'
'-Thy Kingdom come-'
'Your feet and hands like marble, like alabaster. White.'
'-Thy will be done-'
'My will, Momma. Slower!'
'-as ... as ... as it...'
She collapsed forward, hands twitching.
'-as it is in heaven.'
Carrie whispered: 'Full stop.'
She looked down at herself, and put her hands weakly around the haft of the knife.
(no o no that hurts that's too much hurt)
She tried to get up, failed, then pulled herself up by Momma's stool. Dizziness and nausea washed over her. She could taste blood, bright and slick, on the back of her throat. Smoke, acrid and choking, was drifting in through the windows now. The flames had reached next door; even now sparks would be lighting softly on the roof that rocks had punched brutally through a thousand years before.
Carrie went out the back door, staggered across the lawn, and rested
(where's my momma)
against a tree. There was something she was supposed to do. Something about
(roadhouses parking lots)
the Angel with the Sword. The Fiery Sword.
Never mind. It would come to her.
She crossed by back yards to Willow Street and then crawled up the embankment to Route 6.
It was 1: 15 A.M.
It was 11:20 P.M. when Christine Hargensen and Billy Nolan got back to The Cavalier. They went up the back stairs, down the hall, and before she could do more than turn on the lights, he was yanking at her blouse.
'For God's sake let me unbutton it-'
'To hell with that.'
He ripped it suddenly down the back. The cloth tore with a sudden hard sound. One button popped free and winked on the bare wood floor. Honky-tonkin' music came faintly up to them, and the building vibrated subtly with the clumsy-enthusiastic dancing of farmers and truckers and millworkers and waitresses and hairdressers, of the greasers and their townie girl friends from Westover and Motton.
He slapped her, rocking her head back. Her eyes took on a flat and deadly shine.
'This is the end, Billy.' She backed away from him, breasts swelling into her bra, flat stomach pumping, legs long and tapering in her jeans; but she backed toward the bed. 'It's over.'
'Sure,' he said. He lunged for her and she punched him, a surprising hard punch that landed on his cheek.
He straightened and twitched his head a little. 'You gave me a shiner, you bitch.'
'I'll give you more.'
'You're goddam right you will.' They stared at each other, panting, glaring. Then he began to unbutton his shirt, a little grin beginning on his face.
'We got it on, Charlie. We really got it on.' He called her Charlie whenever he was pleased with her. It seemed to be, she thought with a cold blink of humour, a generic term for good cunt.
She felt a little smile come to her own face, relaxed a little, and that was when he whipped his shirt across her face and came in low, butting her in the stomach like a goat, tipping her on to the bed. The springs screamed. She pounded her fists helplessly on his back.
'Get off me! Get off me! Get off me! You fucking greaseball, get off me!'
He was grinning at her, and with one quick, hard yank her zipper was broken, her hips free.
'Call your daddy?' he was grunting. 'That what you gonna do? Huh? Huh? That it, ole Chuckie? Call big ole legal beagle daddy? Huh? I woulda done it to you, you know that? I woulda dumped it all over your fuckin squash. You know it? Huh? Know it? Pig blood for pigs, right? Right on your motherfucking squash. You-'
She had suddenly ceased to resist. He paused, staring down at her, and she had an odd smile on her face. 'You wanted it this way all along, didn't you? You miserable little scumbag. That's right, isn't it? You creepy little onenut low-cock dinkless wonder.'
His grin was slow, crazed. 'It doesn't matter.'
'No,' she said. 'It doesn't.' Her smile suddenly vanished, the cords on her neck stood out as she hawked back - and spat in his face.
They descended into a red, thrashing unconsciousness. Downstairs the music thumped and wheezed ('I'm poppin little white pills an my eyes are open wide/Six days on the road and I'm gonna make it home tonight!'), c/w, full throttle, very loud, very bad, five-man band wearing sequined cowboy shirts and new pegged jeans with bright rivets, occasionally wiping mixed sweat and Vitalis from their brows, lead guitar, rhythm, steel, dobro guitar, drums; no one heard the town whistle, or the first explosion, or the second; and when the gas main blew and the music stopped and someone drove into the parking lot and began to yell the news, Chris and Billy were asleep.
Chris woke suddenly and the clock on the night table said five minutes of one. Someone was pounding on the door.
'Billy!' the voice was yelling. 'Get up! Hey! Hey!'
Billy stirred, rolled over, and knocked the cheap alarm clock on to the floor. 'What the Christ?' he said thickly, and sat up. His back stung. The bitch had covered it with long scratches. He'd barely noticed it at the time, but now decided he was going to have to send her home bowlegged. Just to show her who was boss..
Silence struck him. Silence. The Cavalier did not close until two; as a matter of fact, he could still see the neon twinkling and flicking through the dusty garret window. Except for the steady pounding
the place was a graveyard.
'Billy, you in there? Hey!'
'Who is it?' Chris whispered. Her eyes were glittering and watchful in the intermittent neon.
'Jackie Talbot,' he said absently, then raised his voice. 'What?'
'Lemme in, Billy. I got to talk to you!'
Billy got up and padded to the door, naked. He unlocked the old-fashioned hook-and-eye and opened it.
Jackie Talbot burst in. His eyes were wild and his face was smeared with soot. He had been drinking it up with Steve and Henry when the news came at ten minutes of twelve. They had gone back to town in Henry's elderly Dodge convertible, and had seen the Jackson Avenue gas main explode from the vantage point of Brickyard Hill. When Jackie had borrowed the Dodge and started to drive back at 12:30, the town was a panicky shambles.
'Chamberlain's burning up,' he said to Billy. 'Whole fuckin town. The school's gone. The Centre's gone. West End blew up - gas. And Carlin Street's on fire. And they're saying Carrie White did it!'
'Oh God,' Chris said. She started to get out of bed and grope for her clothes. 'What did-'
'Shut up,' Billy said mildly, 'or I'll kick your ass.' He looked at Jackie again and nodded for him to go on.
'They seen her. Lots of people seen her. Billy, they say she's all covered with blood. She was at that fuckin prom tonight... Steve and Henry didn't get it but ... Billy, did you ... that pig blood ... was it-'
'Yeah,' Billy said.
'Oh, no.' Jackie stumbled back against the doorframe. His face was a sickly yellow in the light of the one hall lightbulb. 'Oh Jesus, Billy, the whole town-.'
'Carrie trashed the whole town? Carrie White? You're full of shit.' He said it calmly, almost serenely. Behind him, Chris was dressing rapidly.
'Go and look out the window,' Jackie said.
Billy went over and looked out. The entire eastern horizon had gone crimson, and the sky was alight with it. Even as he looked, three fire trucks screamed by. He could make out the names on them in the glow of the street light that marked The Cavalier's parking lot.
'Son of a whore,' he said. 'Those trucks are from Brunswick.'
'Brunswick?' Chris said. 'That's forty miles away. That can't be . . .'
Billy turned back to Jackie Talbot. 'All right. What happened?'
Jackie shook his head. 'Nobody knows, not yet. It started at the high school. Carrie and Tommy Ross got the King and Queen, and then somebody dumped a couple of buckets of blood on them and she ran out. Then the school caught on fire, and they say nobody got out. Then Teddy's Amoco blew up, then that Mobil station on Summer Street-!'
'Citgo.' Billy corrected. 'It's a Citgo.'
'Who the fuck cares?' Jackie screamed. 'It was her, every place something happened it was her! And those buckets ... none of us wore gloves...'
'I'll take care of it,' Billy said.
'You don't get it, Billy. Carrie
'Get out or I'll break your arm and feed it to you.'
Jackie backed out of the door warily.
'Go home. Don't talk to nobody. I'm going to take care of everything.'
'All right,' Jackie said. 'Okay. Billy, I just thought-'
Billy slammed the door.
Chris was on him in a second. 'Billy what are we going to do that bitch Carrie oh my Lord what are we going to-'
Billy slapped her, getting his whole arm into it, and knocked her on to the floor. Chris sat sprawled in stunned silence for a moment, and then held her face and began to sob.
Billy put on his pants, his tee shirt, his boots. Then he went to the chipped porcelain washstand in the corner, clicked on the light, wet his head, and began to comb his hair, bending down to see his reflection in the spotted, ancient mirror. Behind him, wavy and distorted, Chris Hargensen sat on the floor, wiping blood from her split lip.
'I'll tell you what we're going to do,' he said. 'We're going into town and watch the fires. Then we're coming home. You're going to tell your dear old daddy that we were out to The Cavalier drinking beers when it happened. I'm gonna tell my dear ole mummy the same thing. Dig.'
'Billy, your fingerprints,' she said. Her voice was muffled, but respectful.
'Their fingerprints,' he said. 'I wore gloves.'
'Would they tell?' she asked. 'If the police took them in and questioned them-'
'Sure,' he said. 'They'd tell.' The loops and swirls were almost right. They glistened in the light of the dun, flyspecked globe like eddies on deep water. His face was calm, reposeful. The comb he used was a battered old Ace, clotted with grease. His father had given it to him on -his eleventh birthday, and not one tooth was broken in it. Not one.
'Maybe they'll never find the buckets,' he said. 'If they do, maybe the fingerprints will all be burnt of. I don't know. But if Doyle takes any of 'em in, I'm heading for California. You do what you want.'
'Would you take me with you?' she asked. She looked at him from the floor, her lip puffed to negroid size, her eyes pleading.