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Carrieby Stephen King
Synopses & Reviews
News item from the Westover (Me.) weekly Enterprise, August 19, 1966:
RAIN OF STONES REPORTED
It was reliably reported by several persons that a rain of stones fell from a clear blue sky on Carlin Street in the town of Chamberlain on August 17th. The stones fell principally on the home of Mrs. Margaret White, damaging the roof extensively and ruining two gutters and a downspout valued at approximately $25. Mrs. White, a widow, lives with her three-year-old daughter, Carietta.
Mrs. White could not be reached for comment.
Nobody was really surprised when it happened, not really, not at the subconscious level where savage things grow. On the surface, all the girls in the shower room were shocked, thrilled, ashamed, or simply glad that the White bitch had taken it in the mouth again. Some of them might also have claimed surprise, but of course their claim was untrue. Carrie had been going to school with some of them since the first grade, and this had been building since that time, building slowly and immutably, in accordance with all the laws that govern human nature, building with all the steadiness of a chain reaction approaching critical mass.
What none of them knew, of course, was that Carrie White was telekinetic.
Graffiti scratched on a desk of the Barker Street Grammar School in Chamberlain:
Carrie White eats shit.
The locker room was filled with shouts, echoes, and the subterranean sound of showers splashing on tile. The girls had been playing volleyball in Period One, and their morning sweat was light and eager.
Girls stretched and writhed under the hot water, squalling, flicking water, squirting white bars of soap from hand to hand. Carrie stood among them stolidly, a frog among swans. She was a chunky girl with pimples on her neck and back and buttocks, her wet hair completely without color. It rested against her face with dispirited sogginess and she simply stood, head slightly bent, letting the water splat against her fl esh and roll off. She looked the part of the sacrificial goat, the constant butt, believer in left-handed monkey wrenches, perpetual foul-up, and she was. She wished forlornly and constantly that Ewen High had individual—and thus private— showers, like the high schools at Westover or Lewiston. They stared. They always stared.
Showers turning off one by one, girls stepping out, removing pastel bathing caps, toweling, spraying deodorant, checking the clock over the door. Bras were hooked, underpants stepped into. Steam hung in the air; the place might have been an Egyptian bathhouse except for the constant rumble of the Jacuzzi whirlpool in the corner. Calls and catcalls rebounded with all the snap and flicker of billiard balls after a hard break.
“—so Tommy said he hated it on me and I—”
“—I’m going with my sister and her husband. He picks his nose but so does she, so they’re very—”
“—shower after school and—”
“—too cheap to spend a goddam penny so Cindi and I—”
Miss Desjardin, their slim, nonbreasted gym teacher, stepped in, craned her neck around briefly, and slapped her hands together once, smartly. “What are you waiting for, Carrie? Doom? Bell in five minutes.” Her shorts were blinding white, her legs not too curved but striking in their unobtrusive muscularity. A silver whistle, won in college archery competition, hung around her neck.
The girls giggled and Carrie looked up, her eyes slow and dazed from the heat and the steady, pounding roar of the water. “Ohuh?”
It was a strangely froggy sound, grotesquely apt, and the girls giggled again. Sue Snell had whipped a towel from her hair with the speed of a magician embarking on a wondrous feat and began to comb rapidly. Miss Desjardin made an irritated cranking gesture at Carrie and stepped out.
Carrie turned off the shower. It died in a drip and a gurgle.
It wasn’t until she stepped out that they all saw the blood running down her leg.
From The Shadow Exploded: Documented Facts and Specific Conclusions Derived from the Case of Carietta White, by David R. Congress (Tulane University Press: 1981), p. 34:
It can hardly be disputed that failure to note specific instances of telekinesis during the White girl’s earlier years must be attributed to the conclusion offered by White and Stearns in their paper Telekinesis: A Wild Talent Revisited—that the ability to move objects by effort of the will alone comes to the fore only in moments of extreme personal stress. The talent is well hidden indeed; how else could it have remained submerged for centuries with only the tip of the iceberg showing above a sea of quackery?
We have only skimpy hearsay evidence upon which to lay our foundation in this case, but even this is enough to indicate that a “TK” potential of immense magnitude existed within Carrie White. The great tragedy is that we are now all Monday-morning quarterbacks . . .
The catcall came first from Chris Hargensen. It struck the tiled walls, rebounded, and struck again. Sue Snell gasped laughter from her nose and felt an odd, vexing mixture of hate, revulsion, exasperation, and pity. She just looked so dumb, standing there, not knowing what was going on. God, you’d think she never—
It was becoming a chant, an incantation. Someone in the background (perhaps Hargensen again, Sue couldn’t tell in the jungle of echoes) was yelling, “Plug it up!” with hoarse, uninhibited abandon.
“PER-iod, PER-iod, PER-iod!”
Carrie stood dumbly in the center of a forming circle, water rolling from her skin in beads. She stood like a patient ox, aware that the joke was on her (as always), dumbly embarrassed but unsurprised.
Sue felt welling disgust as the first dark drops of menstrual blood struck the tile in dime-sized drops. “For God’s sake, Carrie, you got your period!” she cried. “Clean yourself up!”
She looked around bovinely. Her hair stuck to her cheeks in a curving helmet shape. There was a cluster of acne on one shoulder. At sixteen, the elusive stamp of hurt was already marked clearly in her eyes.
“She thinks they’re for lipstick!” Ruth Gogan suddenly shouted with cryptic glee, and then burst into a shriek of laughter. Sue remembered the comment later and fitted it into a general picture, but now it was only another senseless sound in the confusion. Sixteen? She was thinking. She must know what’s happening, she—
More droplets of blood. Carrie still blinked around at her classmates in slow bewilderment.
Helen Shyres turned around and made mock throwing-up gestures.
“You’re bleeding!” Sue yelled suddenly, furiously. “You’re bleeding, you big dumb pudding!”
Carrie looked down at herself.
The sound was very loud in the humid locker room.
A tampon suddenly struck her in the chest and fell with a plop at her feet. A red flower stained the absorbent cotton and spread.
Then the laughter, disgusted, contemptuous, horrified, seemed to rise and bloom into something jagged and ugly, and the girls were bombarding her with tampons and sanitary napkins, some from purses, some from the broken dispenser on the wall. They flew like snow and the chant became: “Plug it up, plug it up, plug it up, plug it—”
Sue was throwing them too, throwing and chanting with the rest, not really sure what she was doing—a charm had occurred to her mind and it glowed there like neon: There’s no harm in it really no harm in it really no harm— It was still flashing and glowing, reassuringly, when Carrie suddenly began to howl and back away, flailing her arms and grunting and gobbling.
The girls stopped, realizing that fission and explosion had finally been reached. It was at this point, when looking back, that some of them would claim surprise. Yet there had been all these years, all these years of let’s short-sheet Carrie’s bed at Christian Youth Camp and I found this love letter from Carrie to Flash Bobby Pickett let’s copy it and pass it around and hide her underpants somewhere and put this snake in her shoe and duck her King again, duck her again; Carrie tagging along stubbornly on biking trips, known one year as pudd’n and the next year as truck-face, always smelling sweaty, not able to catch up; catching poison ivy from urinating in the bushes and everyone finding out (hey, scratch-ass, your bum itch?); Billy Preston putting peanut butter in her hair that time she fell asleep in study hall; the pinches, the legs outstretched in school aisles to trip her up, the books knocked from her desk, the obscene postcard tucked into her purse; Carrie at the church picnic and kneeling down clumsily to pray and the seam of her old madras skirt splitting along the zipper like the sound of a huge wind-breakage; Carrie always missing the ball, even in kickball, falling on her face in Modern Dance during their sophomore year and chipping a tooth, running into the net during volleyball; wearing stockings that were always run, running, or about to run, always showing sweat stains under the arms of her blouses; even the time Chris Hargensen called up after school from the Kelly Fruit Company downtown and asked her if she knew that pig poop was spelled C- A- R- R- I- E: Suddenly all this and the critical mass was reached. The ultimate shit-on, gross-out, put-down, long searched for, was found. Fission.
She backed away, howling in the new silence, fat forearms crossing her face, a tampon stuck in the middle of her pubic hair.
The girls watched her, their eyes shining solemnly.
Carrie backed into the side of one of the four large shower compartments and slowly collapsed into a sitting position. Slow, helpless groans jerked out of her. Her eyes rolled with wet whiteness, like the eyes of a hog in the slaughtering pen.
Sue said slowly, hesitantly: “I think this must be the first time she ever— ”
That was when the door pumped open with a flat and hurried bang and Miss Desjardin burst in to see what the matter was.
From The Shadow Exploded (p. 41):
Both medical and psychological writers on the subject are in agreement that Carrie White’s exceptionally late and traumatic commencement of the menstrual cycle might well have provided the trigger for her latent talent.
It seems incredible that, as late as 1979, Carrie knew nothing of the mature woman’s monthly cycle. It is nearly as incredible to believe that the girl’s mother would permit her daughter to reach the age of nearly seventeen without consulting a gynecologist concerning the daughter’s failure to menstruate.
Yet the facts are incontrovertible. When Carrie White realized she was bleeding from the vaginal opening, she had no idea of what was taking place. She was innocent of the entire concept of menstruation.
One of her surviving classmates, Ruth Gogan, tells of entering the girls’ locker room at Ewen High School the year before the events we are concerned with and seeing Carrie using a tampon to blot her lipstick with. At that time Miss Gogan said: “What the hell are you up to?” Miss White replied: “Isn’t this right?” Miss Gogan then replied: “Sure. Sure it is.” Ruth Gogan let a number of her girl friends in on this (she later told this interviewer she thought it was “sorta cute”), and if anyone tried in the future to inform Carrie of the true purpose of what she was using to make up with, she apparently dismissed the explanation as an attempt to pull her leg. This was a facet of her life that she had become exceedingly wary of. . . .
When the girls were gone to their Period Two classes and the bell had been silenced (several of them had slipped quietly out the back door before Miss Desjardin could begin to take names), Miss Desjardin employed the standard tactic for hysterics: She slapped Carrie smartly across the face. She hardly would have admitted the pleasure the act gave her, and she certainly would have denied that she regarded Carrie as a fat, whiny bag of lard. A first-year teacher, she still believed that she thought all children were good.
Carrie looked up at her dumbly, face still contorted and working. “ M- M- Miss D- D- Des- D—”
“Get up,” Miss Desjardin said dispassionately.
“Get up and tend to yourself.”
“I’m bleeding to death!” Carrie screamed, and one blind, searching hand came up and clutched Miss Desjardin’s white shorts. It left a bloody
“I . . . you . . .” The gym teacher’s face contorted into a pucker of disgust, and she suddenly hurled Carrie, stumbling, to her feet. “Get over there!”
Carrie stood swaying between the showers and the wall with its dime sanitary-napkin dispenser, slumped over, breasts pointing at the floor, her arms dangling limply. She looked like an ape. Her eyes were shiny and blank.
“Now,” Miss Desjardin said with hissing, deadly emphasis, “you take one of those napkins out . . . no, never mind the coin slot, it’s broken anyway . . . take one and . . . damn it, will you do it! You act as if you never had a period before.”
“Period?” Carrie said.
Her expression of complete unbelief was too genuine, too full of dumb and hopeless horror, to be ignored or denied. A terrible and black foreknowledge grew in Rita Desjardin’s mind. It was incredible, could not be. She herself had begun menstruation shortly after her eleventh birthday and had gone to the head of the stairs to yell down excitedly: “Hey, Mum, I’m on the rag!”
“Carrie?” she said now. She advanced toward the girl. “Carrie?”
Carrie flinched away. At the same instant, a rack of softball bats in the corner fell over with a large, echoing bang. They rolled every which way, making Desjardin jump.
“Carrie, is this your first period?”
But now that the thought had been admitted, she hardly had to ask. The blood was dark and flowing with terrible heaviness. Both of Carrie’s legs were smeared and splattered with it, as though she had waded through a river of blood.
“It hurts,” Carrie groaned. “My stomach . . .”
“That passes,” Miss Desjardin said. Pity and self-shame met in her and mixed uneasily. “You have to . . . uh, stop the flow of blood. You—”
There was a bright flash overhead, followed by a flashgun-like pop as a lightbulb sizzled and went out. Miss Desjardin cried out with surprise, and it occurred to her
(the whole damn place is falling in)
that this kind of thing always seemed to happen around Carrie when she was upset, as if bad luck dogged her every step. The thought was gone almost as quickly as it had come. She took one of the sanitary napkins from the broken dispenser and unwrapped it.
“Look,” she said. “Like this—”
Stephen King's legendary debut, about a teenage outcast and the revenge she enacts on her classmates.
Carrie White may have been unfashionable and unpopular, but she had a gift. Carrie could make things move by concentrating on them. A candle would fall. A door would lock. This was her power and her sin. Then, an act of kindness, as spontaneous as the vicious taunts of her classmates, offered Carrie a chance to be a normal and go to her senior prom. But another act--of ferocious cruelty--turned her gift into a weapon of horror and destruction that her classmates would never forget.
About the Author
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. Among his most recent are Full Dark, No Stars; Under the Dome; Just After Sunset; Duma Key; Lisey's Story; Cell; and the last three novels in the Dark Tower saga: Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susannah, and The Dark Tower. His acclaimed nonfiction book On Writing is also a bestseller. In 2003, he was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and in 2007 he received the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. He lives in Maine with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.
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