Authors: Jack Ketchum
Tags: #Horror, #General, #Fiction - General, #Horror - General, #Haunted houses, #Fiction, #Maine, #Vacations
Cemetery Dance Publications
Signed Hardcover Edition ISBN 1-58767-004-6
HIDE AND SEEK Copyright 1984 by Dallas Mayr Dustjacket Design Copyright 2000 by Gail Cross Artwork Copyright 2000 by Neal McPheeters
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Cemetery Dance Publications
P.O. Box 943
Abingdon, Maryland 21009
My thanks to Al Weller, Lance and Ellen Crocker, Alan Morrison, Marjorie Shepatin, Philip Caggiano, David and Julie Winn, Ellen Antoville, and especially Paula White.
My gratitude also to Russell Mullen, my first, fine, enthusiastic web master and friend, who helped promote this book back into print.
To Robert Block, for bothering with kids.
There's a wheel in my hand, but I can't steer.
I don't believe in omens, but I think you can know when you're in trouble.
Follow me on this, even if it sounds like bullshit.
I was working the stacks of two-by-four furring. What we needed was an eight-foot length off the top. We were nearly into the next bundle down but you could still see a couple of lengths left up there that didn't look too weathered, so I climbed up after one. I had my hands on one when the steel cable snapped on the bundle I was walking on. A sound like a whip cracking. Damn near took my head off too. And naturally I lost my footing. I fell ten feet to the tarmac in ash ower of heavy lumber.
Not a scratch on me.
I was lucky.
But the boss gave me hell. You weren't supposed to go up there -though everybody did--you were supposed to use the forklift There was an insurance problem. So I was breaking the rules.
That was the first thing. Getting damn near killed breaking the rules.
That same week I had the Chevy pickup on the coast road, doing maybe sixty, when a big black tanker passed me on the downgrade. I let him have the highway. But then on the upgrade he slowed to a
crawl. I swallowed diesel fumes behind him for a while and then pulled out to pass.
But I guess the guy wanted to play.
He wouldn't let me by. He'd move over across the broken yellow line just far enough so that there was a good chance of piling me into the hillside if I tried. Then he'd pull back again. Out and back. I could see him watching me through the rearview mirror.
It was very nasty.
I cursed him and waited for an opening.
It came on the downgrade again. By the time I saw it we were both of us doing seventy. Already that was hard on the pickup. My wheel would always wobble at sixty-five. Sol held my breath and told myself to hell with it, you were only young once, and pressed it to eighty.
The pickup shook like it was trying to fall apart. I remembered the old bald tires. The downgrade was long and steep and we ran it neck and neck, he and I. I passed him just as the road turned up again. I was sweating and my hands were trembling. I can see that bastard smiling at me as I passed him even to this day-not so much the man, but the wicked cut of the smile. A tanker is a very big thing on a narrow highway when it's running a foot and a half away from you at eighty for over a mile.
So that was the second thing. Being stupid and angry and taking bad risks. I could just as easily have waited him out. It had been a nice, sunny day.
Then I stepped in dog shit.
Coming home from work, half a block from Harmon's.
Now, I know that's nothing. Meaningless. Silly. Even though it was a particularly big pile of dog shit, and fresh. But I'll tell you why I remember it and why I put it with the other things. It's very simple, wasn't looking where I was going.
Now, that's nothing either, unless you take into account the fact that it's completely contrary to my habits. I stare at the ground when I walk. I always do. I've been criticized for it now and then. My
mother used to say I'd get nearsighted and stoop-shouldered. She lied, of course. I got tall and see at twenty-twenty. But damn it,
I'm aware that these are all random events. And maybe it's just hindsight.
But sometimes it seems to me that once in a while you can look at all the random events you live through every day and see that suddenly there's a mechanism that's just clicked on, you can see it right then and there-and the events are not so random anymore. The mechanism is eating them, absorbing them, growing larger and larger, feeding on the events of your life. To what end? You don't know.
The mechanism is you.
But it's also fate, luck, chance. All the things that are not you but that will change you anyway, irreparably, forever.
Maybe you'd better forget all this.
I'm still a fool, and I meander.
But right away she scared me.
They all did, actually. All three of them. They were rich kids, fc one thing, and I wasn't used to that.
You should know right off that there was, and is, no more depressed county in the nation than Washington County. The pc capita income is right up there with, say, Appalachia. Everyone I knew was barely scraping by. And here were these three rich kids popping around in Casey's fabulous old white '54 Chevy convertible Steven's blue Chrysler Le Baron as though tired, sad old Dead Rive were Scarsdale or Beverly Hills. What in the hell their folks were doing in this part of Maine at all I never could figure. Mount Deser sure. But Dead River? I knew that the three families were fri enc back in Boston, and I guess it was somebody's idea of getting awa^ from it all that brought them there. But I don't think the kids knew either.
They resented it, though. That was for sure. And I think resenting it made them crazy.
That was what really scared me.
All you had to do was look at them to see it. Casey most of all. You could see it in her eyes. Something caught in the act of throwing itself away, right there in front of you.
Recklessness. It scares me. It scares me today.
Because just writing this, that's a kind of recklessness too. It's going to bring it all back to me and I've kept it down nicely for a long
time now. Not just what happened. But how I felt about Casey, how
I feel about her still. I don't know which is worse, really, but I guess
I'm going to find out.
I'll tell you how I knew she was crazy. It was the business with the car.
It was June, a Saturday or Sunday it must have been, because Rafferty and I were both off for the day. I remember it was unusually hot for that time of year, so we'd stopped at Harmon's for a six-pack and headed for the beach.
There's really only one good stretch of white sand around Dead River.
The rest is either stone or gravel or else asheer drop off slate cliffs nearlythirtyfeettothesea. Soon hot days just about everybody you know is there, and this was maybe the second or third good day that year, so naturally she was there too, way behind us by the cliffs, near the goat trail. The three of them were there.
We were hardly aware of them at first. Rafferty was a lot more interested in Lydia Davis, lying on a towel a few feet away. And I had my eye on a couple of tourist girls. Occasionally the wind would slide down the cliffs and pull the music from their radio in our direction, but that was all. The beach was pretty crowded, and there was plenty to look at.
Then I saw this girl walk by me to test the water. Just a glimpse of her face as she passed. The water was much too cold, of course. Not even the little kids were giving it a try. You wouldn't find much swimming here till late July or August. I watched her shiver and step backward when the first wave rolled over her feet. The black bikini was pretty spectacular. Somehow she'd already managed a good deep tan.
From where I sat, I could see the goose bumps.
I watched her step forward. The water was up to her calves by
Rafferty was watching too. "More guts than brains," he said. I mentioned that she was also beautiful.
The dive was clean and powerfi spouting, long dark hair plastered smoothly back from the high, widow's peaked forehead.
I knew immediately she was not a native.
I remember her face looked so very naked just then, so clean and strong and healthy. She could not have been bred around here. Not around Dead River.
We're all of a type, you see. Or one of two.
We're all as poor and stunted and miserable as the scrub pines that struggle up through the thin hard cliff side soil. Or else-like Rafferty and me you grew up long and lean as the runners that crept along the ground each spring and tried to strangle them. Either
But this girl showed you nothing. She was all smooth lines and breeding and casual vigor. With skin most girls just dream of.
Surfacing sleek as a seal, laughing. In water the temperature of which only a seal could love.
She opened her eyes. And that was another revelation.
They were such as hade of pale, pale blue that at first it was hare to see any color in them at all. Dead eyes, my brown-eyed father calls them. Depthless. Like the color of the sea when the sand is coral and the water's calm and shallow. Reflecting light, not absorbing it
The cold must have been amazing. I watched her roll once through the water and turn to face us again. Just her head and neck showing. I could see her tremble, lips parted, blue eyes blinking, blind-seeming.
The sun was warm on me, but I could almost feel the ache in her bones.
They say that very cold water can make a kind of ecstasy. Bi first there's pain.
I saw the face muscles contract and knew she had the pain.
I watched the drops of water roll down her body as she wa dec back to shore, sliding from muscle to muscle across the tight browr surface of skin. The bikini told you everything about her but the color of her pubic hair. Mostly it told you she was strong.
She walked right past me.
I kept watching. I saw her eyes flicker and move, and then she was gone up the beach to her friends. I thought she'd noticed me. And then I thought that that was wishful thinking.
I knew it wasn't Rafferty. Girls don't notice Rafferty. At twenty his face was still ravaged by pimples. His hands were stained with axle grease. His face was red with whiskey. It's not that I'm any great beauty, but my eyes are clear. I'm in pretty good shape to this day, and whatever small problem I'd had with zits, I'd lost two years before, at eighteen. So maybe it was me.
I thought it was me.
And thinking that made something glad and constricting happen inmythroat. A happy snake coiled there. I drank a beer, and it didn't go away.
But it was rough just sitting there after that. I wanted to walk up the beach and talk to her in the worst way. But I was never any good at approaches.
Besides, I was way outclassed and I knew it.
I worked in a lumberyard.
I sold quarter-inch plywood and pine and two-by-twos to contractors and do-it-yourselfers.
College was on the back burner for a while and for all I cared it could fry there. Oh, I'd read a lot and my grades were okay, but I'd had it with school even worse than I'd had it with Dead River. Eventually that would change. But at the time I was content with three-fifty an hour and a little barmaid I knew called Lyssa Jean. Nice girl.