Our Small Attempts at Comfort
Summary: Misery and Kingdom Hospital. Some time after she hacks off his foot, he starts seeing the girl and her anteater. CRACK.
Author's Note: I. Don't. Know. I swear, I was reading 'Misery' for the twentieth time, and it came to me.
…Now fast forward about ten months, and that was when I finished this.
Disclaimer: I don't own Misery or Kingdom Hospital. They both belong to Stephen King.
Some time after she hacked off his foot, he started seeing the girl and her anteater.
It was a hazy existence, one of pain and misery, and his only escape was to dive through the hole in the paper that had grown to massive proportions over the last weeks and fall into Misery Chastain's world, however much he happened to hate the silly bitch and her life, as they were the agents that had gotten him into this mess.
The girl is tiny, no more than nine, no younger than six. Her hair is dark and somewhat unkempt, like a child whose parents said 'Fine, it's your hair, do what you want, I don't care'.
"What's to care about hair?" And Paul laughed a frantic, insane laugh. The little girl, in her old, so old in more ways than one dress with the big brass bell around her tiny neck gave no reaction to his (Frankly unstable) laughter.
He knew he must be hallucinating. Annie sure as hell didn't have children, and even if she had, logic dictated he would have heard or seen her by now. For Christ's sake, while Annie went off to her internal Laughing Place more than often, she wouldn't forget about a child.
On the other hand, this wouldn't be the first time Annie'd locked someone up against their will. Hell, Paul wasn't even the first, if you wanted to count Pomeroy and Ralph Dugan.
"Couldn't take the Dragon Lady's fire-breathing heat." He cackled again. The little girl, pale with dark rings around her big brown eyes, stared at the writer with unflinching curiosity. Most children would have ran away then, or at least put as much distance between them and himself as possible.
She just stared.
"You a friend of the goddess? The Bourka-Bee goddess?" He let out a laugh, far more normal than his previous two, though it was laced with a moan. "She send you in here to take my other foot?" He jerked his leg, which only yelped in pain under the influence of the novril.
The little girl only stared at him.
"What's your name, sweetheart? Where'd you come from?"
She was silent for a moment, and Paul thought she might not answer him. But then, in a small, high, soft bird's twitter of a voice, she said,
The anteater called himself Anubis. Mary called him Antubis.
Paul called him the product of a very pain-filled, very imaginative, very doped mind, not unlike the mind-frame under which the song 'I Am the Walrus' was written.
"Only that Paul had both his feet." Paul laughed madly. Mary was, as had become typical, unfazed.
Paul was sad and scared, she reasoned. That bad lady was keeping Paul locked in the room with only one foot trying to write a story with a typewriter that kept breaking and a drug habit that just kept getting worse and worse with every passing day.
Annie was the crazy one, not Paul. Not poor old Paul.
"Poor Paul," Mary would say as Paul drifted in and out of consciousness in bed and in his wheelchair. "Poor old Paul."
"You a ghost?"
It was the only conclusion he could come up with other than that she was a twisted delusion of his mind. Mary was not dressed as a young girl in 1987 would be dressed, the doll she constantly kept at her side was not a doll one could find in production anymore (And certainly because this type of doll was a handmade one), and- the money-maker reason- Annie couldn't see her.
There had been plenty of times when Annie had walked right into the room, looked directly at Mary, and had simply not seen her.
But then, Annie was a complete and utter fruit-loop, so maybe she did see Mary and merely assumed that she was a hallucination. It honestly wouldn't have surprised Paul if she'd had some form of delusions before in her life.
But in defense of Paul's theory, Annie certainly seemed to be the type that would talk to her hallucinations.
Mary blinked, though her expression otherwise remained completely neutral.
When Annie cut off Paul's thumb after the complaint about the typewriter, Mary stood in the corner and cried. Paul screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed, but even in his worst state in that situation, he could hear her pained sobs from across the room over the whir of the electric knife.
When it was over and he was still bellowing with the fresh pain and Annie was making him the special cake with the special candle, Mary, still sniffling, tear tracks on her face, shuffled over to the bed and held his good hand, gently stroking the back of it until his screaming stopped.
"Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you!"
And when Annie came in, singing on-key but with no tune, Mary looked at her quite dolefully and said, "You're a bad lady."
Good for you, girl. You figured it out. Have a slice of cake. But do yourself a big, rancho grande favor and stay away from that special candle.
Then the cop came.
Kushner was his name, a mere stripling, a newbie in comparison to his companions back in Sidewinder proper.
Paul wanted to scream.
Wanted to scream for help, wanted to cry, wanted the cop to hear him see him sense him notice him and shoot Annie through the back of her goddamn head and free him from this living hell-
Mary, primarily the silent observer of his nightmare, cocked her head.
And he did.
And the cop heard.
But Paul's lack of discretion in garnering attention would cost them both dearly; Kushner more than Paul.
He survived the first shots in the driveway that Annie had blown him with, but he had no way, broken and beaten and crawling on the ground, to defend himself when she came at him on the lawnmower.
Paul screamed as she ran over the officer, the poor guy dying a slow and bloody death.
As he vomited over the side of his chair, Mary lifted the heavy-looking bell from around her neck and rang it, the sound echoing ominously through the house.
"What's your story?"
Paul looked over at her much in the way a teacher of some forty-odd years might regard a question from a student they've been getting every year of their career.
"It's a romance novel. You wouldn't like it."
Mary was perched on the edge of the bed, her feet swinging maybe an inch and a half above the old floorboards.
"I swear, I should never have started this godforsaken series. Misery Chastain is one of- No- The densest character I have ever created, and truly the most cliché, and the women in this country want nothing else. I try to write something new, and no, they all want their Misery!"
Mary was silent. Then,
"All right. But I wanted to know your story."
"Do you ring that bell when someone dies?"
Mary had to admit that Paul was sharp; most people didn't catch on that quickly. Well; the ones that saw her, anyway. Not many could.
Mary's expression held nothing but the purest innocence. "Because I'm the time girl. It's my job."
"I don't know."
But her glance back at Antubis, who was pretending to be asleep on the floor near the door (Not a problem, as Annie couldn't see or feel him either) betrayed her.
The God of Death has a little girl as his secretary, Paul realized, and he laughed his scared, disturbed laugh again.
When those next two police officers, David and Goliath (Aptly named by Paul himself, as he did not know their names and, realistically, probably never would) showed up, Paul kept his mouth shut. Annie had rubbed it in that Kushner's death had been his doing, because he'd yelled, and he had no desire to rob two more officers of their lives.
Mary did not prompt him to shout either. Instead, she stood silently at Paul's side, her head even coming to droop down and rest on his shoulder. He took this as a new level of… Well, trust, friendship, understanding, whatever the hell you wanted to say he and Mary had with one another.
They came. They talked to Annie. And then they left.
Paul knew he shouldn't have expected anything more or less than that. To know he was there, they would have to have a search warrant. And to get a search warrant, you had to have Just Cause, and suspicions about the Psycho Dragon Lady, sir, is not enough evidence for a search warrant. So sorry.
Annie came in again, cold.
"Get busy. You saw how they looked at me."
More people came. Locals who knew but had no evidence. News crews who suspected but did not know. Police too. Never with search warrants, of course, because there was still no evidence, but the heat was on, the pressure was on.
"She's going to kill me."
Maybe he wasn't crazy. Maybe he really did see a little ghost girl and her anteater. Because truly, honestly, he felt fine (as far as fine could get for him), and he could still see her. She never left.
Mary nodded slowly. Paul sighed. "You already know that." Mary nodded again.
Oh God, how could a kid look so solemn?
"Unless you save yourself." Paul smiled wryly.
"Don't know how I'll do that, sweetheart."
Antubis spoke up. He was 'asleep' on the floor, and one eye opened lazily.
"Light a fire under your ass."
And by way of his dexterous tail he produced from behind his back a can of charcoal lighter fluid.
"Are you done, Paul?"
Paul shook his head.
"No. Still a little more to go." His hand was puffy and swollen and covered in blisters from overuse, and Mary stared at it wondrously. She'd clearly never seen a writer so dedicated to his work. Something occurred to him.
"Mary, how old are you?"
Mary blinked owlishly at him. "Eight."
"And how long have you been eight?"
Mary glanced away like a child who was being pinned down for doing something naughty.
Paul stared at her, and she briefly met his eyes before looking away again, focusing on the edge of the windowsill. They stood/sat in silence for a time, Paul feeling the throbbing of his hand quite acutely.
"And what's your story, Mary?"
She gave him such a haunted, wide-eyed and desolate look that he never asked again.
It went off without a hitch; sort of.
Paul had accounted for serious if not fatal injury in this little stunt. He'd actually considered it to be little more than a suicide mission, with only a marginal likelihood of success/survival.
Mary and Antubis had watched the entire scene unfold without so much as flinching: The burning of the fake book, whacking Annie over the head and shoving the burning pages down her throat. Paul wasn't certain, but he may have laughed during that, and if so, he felt bad only because he knew Mary probably had a higher opinion of him than that.
However, she was an unusually perceptive child, so it was entirely possible that she understood why he was doing it.
He crawled out of the room and found the dope and drifted into sweet oblivion. What else could he do? He couldn't walk, could barely crawl as it was, so it wasn't as though he could escape. Mary certainly couldn't pick up a phone and call for help.
She did kneel by him as he started to black out, and she stroked his hair.
"Poor Paul. Poor old Paul."
Antubis twitched. "Mary."
When McKnight and Wicks carried him from the house on the makeshift litter god-knows how much longer after that, he saw Mary for the last time.
She looked back towards the barn and he followed her gaze, where he saw a large figure slumped in the dirt.
Mary turned back to him and nodded.
Then she rang her bell.