1

Mark woke up a little at a time, letting the Citro?n's steady hum bring him back without thought or memory. At last he looked out the window, and fright took him in rough hands. It was dark. The trees at the sides of the road were vague blurs, and the cars that passed them had their parking lights and headlights on. A gagging, inarticulate groan escaped him, and he clawed at his neck for the cross that still hung there.

'Relax,' Ben said. 'We're out of town. It's twenty miles behind us.'

The boy reached over him, almost making him swerve, and locked the driver's side door. Whirling, he locked his own door. Then he crouched slowly down in a ball on his side of the seat. He wished the nothingness would come back. The nothingness was nice. Nice nothingness with no nasty pictures in it.

The steady sound of the Citro?n's engine was soothing. Mmmmmmmmmmm. Nice. He closed his eyes.

'Mark?'

Safer not to answer.

'Mark, are you all right?'  

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

' - mark - '

Far away. That was all right. Nice nothingness came back, and shades of gray swallowed him.

2

Ben checked them into a motel just across the New Hampshire state line, signing the register Ben Cody and Son, scrawling it. Mark walked into the room holding his cross out. His eyes darted from side to side in their sockets like small, trapped beasts. He held the cross until Ben had closed the door, locked it, and hung his own cross from the doorknob. There was a color TV and Ben watched it for a while. Two African nations had gone to war. The President had a cold but it wasn't considered serious. And a man in Los Angeles had gone berserk and shot fourteen people. The weather forecast was for rain - snow flurries in northern Maine.

3

'Salem's Lot slept darkly, and the vampires walked its streets and country roads like a trace memory of evil. Some of them had emerged enough from the shadows of death to have regained some rudimentary cunning. Lawrence Crockett called up Royal Snow and invited him over to the office to play some cribbage. When Royal pulled up front and walked in, Lawrence and his wife fell on him. Glynis Mayberry called Mabel Werts, said she was fright?ened, and asked if she could come over and spend the evening with her until her husband got back from Water?ville. Mabel agreed with almost pitiful relief, and when she opened the door ten minutes later, Glynis was standing there stark naked, her purse over her arm, grinning with huge, ravenous incisors. Mabel had time to scream, but only once. When Delbert Markey stepped out of his de?serted tavern just after eight o'clock, Carl Foreman and a grinning Homer McCaslin stepped out of the shadows and said they had come for a drink. Milt Crossen was visited at his store just after closing time by a number of his most faithful customers and oldest cronies. And George Middler visited several of the high school boys who bought things at his store and always had looked at him with a mixture of scorn and knowledge; and his darkest fantasies were satisfied.

Tourists and through-travelers still passed by on Route 12, seeing nothing of the Lot but an Elks billboard and a thirty-five-mile-an-hour speed sign. Outside of town they went back up to sixty and perhaps dismissed it with a single thought: Christ, what a dead little place.

The town kept its secrets, and the Marsten House brooded over it like a ruined king.

4

Ben drove back the next day at dawn, leaving Mark in the motel room. He stopped at a busy hardware store in Westbrook and bought a spade and a pick.

'Salem's Lot lay silent under a dark sky from which rain had not yet begun to fall. Few cars moved on the streets. Spencer's was open but now the Excellent Caf was shut up, all the green blinds drawn, the menus removed from the windows, the small daily special chalk board erased clean.

The empty streets made him feel cold in his bones, and an image came to mind, an old rock 'n' roll album with a picture of a transvestite on the front, profile shot against a black background, the strangely masculine face bleeding with rouge and paint; title: 'They Only Come Out at Night.'

He went to Eva's first, climbed the stairs to the second floor, and pushed the door to his room open. Just the same as he had left it, the bed unmade, an open roll of Life Savers on his desk. There was an empty tin wastebasket under the desk and he pulled it out into the middle of the floor.

He took his manuscript, threw it in, and made a paper spill of the title page. He lit it with his Cricket, and when it flared up he tossed it in on top of the drift of typewritten pages. The flame tasted them, found them good, and began to crawl eagerly over the paper. Corners charred, turned upward, blackened. Whitish smoke began to billow out of the wastebasket, and without thinking about it, he leaned over his desk and opened the window.

His hand found the paperweight - the glass globe that had been with him since his boyhood in his nighted town  - grabbed unknowing in a dreamlike visit to a monster's house. Shake it up and watch the snow float down.

He did it now, holding it up before his eyes as he had as a boy, and it did its old, old trick. Through the floating snow you could see a little gingerbread house with a path leading up to it. The gingerbread shutters were closed, but as an imaginative boy (as Mark Petrie was now), you could fancy that one of the shutters was being folded back (as indeed, one of them seemed to be folding back now) by a long white hand, and then a pallid face would be looking out at you, grinning with long teeth, inviting you into this house beyond the world in its slow and endless fantasy-land of false snow, where time was a myth. The face was looking out at him now, pallid and hungry, a face that would never look on daylight or blue skies again.

It was his own face.

He threw the paperweight into the corner and it shat?tered.

He left without waiting to see what might leak out of it.

5

He went down into the cellar to get Jimmy's body, and that was the hardest trip of all. The coffin lay where it had the night before, empty even of dust. Yet . . . not entirely empty. The stake was in there, and something else. He felt his gorge rise. Teeth. Barlow's teeth - all that was left of him. Ben reached down, picked them up - and they twisted in his hand like tiny white animals, trying to come together and bite.

With a disgusted cry he threw them outward, scattering them.

'God,' he whispered, rubbing his hand against his shirt 'Oh, my dear God. Please let that be the end. Let it be the end of him.'

6

Somehow he managed to get Jimmy, still bundled up in Eva's drapes, out of the cellar. He tucked the bundle into the trunk of Jimmy's Buick and then drove out to the Petrie house, the pick and shovel resting next to Jimmy's black bag in the back seat. In a wooded clearing behind the Petrie house and close to the babble of Taggart Stream, he spent the rest of the morning and half the afternoon digging a wide grave four feet deep. Into it he put Jimmy's body and the Petries, still wrapped in the sofa dust cover.

He began filling in the grave of these clean ones at two-thirty. He began to shovel faster and faster as the light began its long drain from the cloudy sky. Sweat that was not wholly from exertion condensed on his skin.

The hole was filled in by four. He tamped in the sods as well as he could, and drove back to town with the earth-clotted pick and shovel in the trunk of Jimmy's car. He parked it in front of the Excellent Caf, leaving the keys in the ignition.

He paused for a moment, looking around. The deserted business buildings with their false fronts seemed to lean crepitatingly over the street. The rain, which had started around noon, fell softly and slowly, as if in mourning. The little park where he had met Susan Norton was empty and forlorn. The shades of the Municipal Building were drawn. A 'Be back soon' sign hung in the window of Larry Crock?ett's Insurance and Real Estate office with hollow jaunti?ness. And the only sound was soft rain.

He walked up toward Railroad Street, his heels clicking emptily on the sidewalk. When he got to Eva's, he paused by his car for a moment, looking around for the last time.  

Nothing moved.

The town was dead. All at once he knew it for sure and true, just as he had known for sure that Miranda was dead when he had seen her shoe lying in the road.

He began to cry.

He was still crying when he drove past the Elks sign, which read: 'You are now leaving Jerusalem's Lot, a nice little town. Come again!'

He got on the turnpike. The Marsten House was blotted out by the trees as he went down the feeder ramp. He began to drive south toward Mark, toward his life.