Some of the fights puffed out. There was a dazzling flash somewhere as a live power cord hit a puddle of water. There were dull thumps in her mind as circuit breakers went into hopeless operation. The boy who had been holding the mike stand fell over on one of his amps and there was an explosion of purple sparks and then the crepe bunting that faced the stage was burning.
Just below the thrones, a live 220-volt electricity cable was crackling on the floor and beside it Rhonda Simard was doing a crazed puppet dance in her green tulle formal. Its full skirt suddenly blazed into flame and she fell forward, still jerking.
It might have been at that moment that Carrie went over the edge. She leaned against the doors, her heart pumping wildly, yet her body as cold as ice cubes. Her face was livid, but dull red fever spots stood on each cheek. Her head throbbed thickly, and conscious thought was lost.
She reeled away from the doors, still holding them shut, doing it without thought or plan. Inside the fire was brightening and she realized dimly that the mural must have caught on fire.
She collapsed on the top step and put her head down on her knees, trying to slow her breathing. They were trying to get out the doors again, but she held them shut easilythat alone was no strain. Some obscure sense told her that a few were getting out the fire doors, but let them. She would get them later. She would get all of them. Every last one.
She went down the stairs slowly and out the front doors, still holding the gymnasium doors closed. It was easy. All you had to do was see them in your mind.
The town whistle went off suddenly, making her scream and put her hands in front of her face
(the whistle it's just the fire whistle)
for a moment. Her mind's eye lost sight of the gymnasium doors and some of them almost got out. No, no. Naughty. She slammed them shut again, catching somebody's fingers-it felt like Dale Norbert - in the jamb and severing one of them.
She began to reel across the lawn again, a scarecrow fig= with bulging eyes, toward Main Street. On her right was dowtown - the department store, the Kelly Fruit, the beauty parlour and barbershop, gas stations, police station, fire station
(they'll put out my fire)
But they wouldn't. She began to giggle and it was an insane sound: triumphant, lost, victorious, terrified. She came to the first hydrant and tried to twist the huge painted lug nut on the side.
It was heavy. It was very heavy. Metal twisted fight to balk here. Didn't matter.
She twisted harder and felt it give. Then the other side. Then the top. Then she twisted all three at once, standing back, and they unscrewed in a flash. Water exploded outward and upward, one of the lug nuts flying five feet in front of her at suicidal speed, It hit the street, caromed high into the air, and was gone. Water gushed with white pressure in a cruciform pattern.
Smiling, staggering, her heart beating at over two hundred per minute, she began to to walk down toward Grass Plaza. She was unaware that she was scrubbing her bloodied hands against her dress like Lady Macbeth, or that she was weeping even as she laughed, or that one hidden part of her mind was keening over her final and utter ruin.
Bemuse she was going to take them with her, and there was going to be a great burning, until the land was full of its stink.
She opened the hydrant at Grass Plaza, and then began to walk down to Teddy's Amoco. It happened to be the first gas station she came to, but it was not the last
From the sworn testimony of Sheriff Otis Doyle, taken before The State Investigatory Board of Maine (from The White Commission Report), pp. 29-31:
Q. Sheriff, where were you on the night of May twentyseventh?
A. I was on Route 179, known as Old Bentown Road, investigating an automobile accident. This was actually over the Chamberlain town line and into Durham, but I was assisting Mel Crager, who is the Durham constable.
Q. When were you first informed that trouble had broken out at Ewen High School?
A. I received a radio transmission from Officer Jacob Plessy at 10:21.
Q. What was the nature of the radio call?
A. Officer Plessy said there was trouble at the school, but he didn't know if it was serious or not. There was a lot of shouting going on, he said, and someone had pulled a couple of fire alarms. he said He was going over to try and determine the nature of the trouble.
Q. Did he say the school was on fire?
A. No, sir.
Q. Did you ask him to report back to you?
A. I did.
Q. Did Officer Plessy report back?
A. No. He was killed in the subsequent explosion of Teddy's Amoco gas station on the corner of Main and Summer.
Q. When did you next have a radio communication concerning Chamberlain?
A. At 10:42. I was at that time returning to Chamberlain with a suspect in the back of my car - a drunk driver. As I have said, the case was actually in Mel Crager's town, but Durham has no jail. When I got him to Chamberlain, we didn't have much of one, either.
Q. What communication did you receive at 10.42?
A. I got a call from the State police that had been relayed from the Motton Fire Department The State Police dispatcher said there was a fire and an apparent riot at Ewen High School, and a probable explosion. No one was sure of anything at that time. Remember, it all happened in a space of forty minutes.
Q. We understand that Sheriff. What happened then?
A. I drove back to Chamberlain with siren and flasher. I was trying to raise Jake Plessy and not having any luck. That's when Tom Quillan came on and started to babble about the whole town going up in flames and no water.
Q. Do you know what time that was?
A. Yes, sir. I was keeping a record by then. It was 10.58.
Q. Quillan, claims the Amoco station exploded at 11:00.
A. I'd take the average, sir. Call it 10:59.
Q. At what time did you arrive in Chamberlain?
A. At 11: 10 P.M.
Q. What was your immediate impression upon arriving, Sheriff Doyle?
A. I was stunned. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.
Q. What exactly were you seeing?
A. The entire upper half of the town's business section was burning. The Amoco station was gone. Woolworth's was nothing but a blazing frame. The fire had spread to three wooden store fronts next to that - Duffy's Bar and Grille, The Kelly Fruit Company, and the billiard parlour. The heat was ferocious. Sparks were flying on to the roofs of The Maitland Real Estate Agency and Doug Brann's Western Auto Store. Fire trucks were coming in, but they could do very little. Every fire hydrant on that side of the street was stripped. The only tracks doing any business at all were two old volunteer fire department pumpers from Westover. and about all they could do was wet the roofs of the surrounding buildings. And of course the high school. It was just ... gone. Of course it's fairly isolated-nothing close enough to it to burn - but my God, all those kids inside ... all those kids ...
Q. Did you meet Susan Snell upon entering town?
A. Yes, sir. She flagged me down.
Q. What time was this?
A. Just as I entered ... 11:12, no later.
Q. What did she say?
A. She was distraught. She'd been in a minor car accident - skidding - and she was barely making sense. She asked me if Tommy was dead. I asked her who Tommy was, but she didn't answer. She asked me if we had caught Carrie yet.
Q. The Commission is extremely interested in this part of your testimony, Sheriff Doyle.
A. Yes, sir, I know that.
Q. How did you respond to her question?
A. Well, there's only one Carrie in town as far as I know, and that's Margaret White's daughter. I asked her if Carrie had something to do with the fires. Miss Snell told me Carrie had done it. Those were her words. 'Carrie did it. Carrie did it.' She said it twice.
Q. Did she say anything else?
A. Yes, sir. She said: 'They've hurt Carrie for the last time.'
Q. Sheriff, are you sure she didn't say: 'We've hurt Carrie for the last time?'
A. I am quite sure.
Q. Are you positive? One hundred per cent?
A. Sir, the town was burning around our heads. I
Q. Had she been drinking?
A. I beg pardon?
Q. Had she been drinking? You said she had been involved in a car smash.
A. I believe I said a minor skidding accident.
Q. And you can't be sure she didn't say we instead Of they?
A. I guess she might have, but
Q. What did Miss Snell do then?
A. She burst into tears. I slapped her.
Q. Why did you do that?
A. She seemed hysterical.
Q. Did she quiet eventually?
A. Yes, sir. She quieted down and got control of herself pretty well, in light of the fact that her boy friend was probably dead.
Q. Did you interrogate her?
A. Well, not the way you'd interrogate a criminal, if that's what you mean. I asked her if she knew anything about what had happened. She repeated what she had already said, but in a calmer way. I asked her where she had been when the trouble began, and she told me that she had been at home.
Q. Did you interrogate her further?
A. No, sir.
Q. Did she say anything else to you?
A. Yes, sir. She asked me - begged me - to find Carrie White.
Q. What was your reaction to that?
A. I told her to go home.
Q. Thank you, Sheriff Doyle.
Vic Mooney lurched out of the shadows near the Bankers Trust drive-in office with a grin on his face. It was a huge and awful grin, a Cheshire cat grin, floating dreamily in the fireshot darkness like a trace memory of lunacy. His hair, carefully slicked down for this emcee duties, was now sticking up in a crow's nest. Tiny drops of blood were branded across his forehead from some unremembered fall in his mad flight from the Spring Ball. One eye was swelled purple and screwed shut. He walked into Sheriff Doyle's squad car, bounced back like a pool ball, and grinned in at the drunk driver dozing in the back, then he turned to Doyle, who had just finished with Sue Snell. The fire cast wavering shadows of light across everything, turning the world into the maroon tones of dried blood.
As Doyle turned, Vic Mooney clutched him. He clutched Doyle as an amorous swam might clutch his lady in a hug dance. He clutched Doyle with both arms and squeezed him, all the while goggling upward into Doyle's face with his great crazed grin.
'Vic-' Doyle began.
'She pulled all the plugs,' Vic said lightly,
'Pulled all the plugs and turned on the water and buzz, buzz, buzz.'
'We can't let 'em. Oh no. NoNoNo. We can't. Carrie pulled all the plugs. Rhonda Simard burnt up. Oh Jeeeeeeeeeesuuuuuuuuusss-'
Doyle slapped him twice, calloused palm cracking flatly on the boy's face. The scream died with shocking suddenness, but the grin remained, like an echo of evil. It was loose and terrible.
'What happened?' Doyle said roughly. 'What happened at the school?'
'Carrie,' Vic Muttered. 'Carrie happened at the school. She. . .'He trailed of and grinned at the ground.
Doyle gave him three brisk shakes. Vic's teeth clicked together like castanets.
'What about Carrie?'
'Queen of the Prom,' Vic muttered. 'They dumped blood on her and Tommy.'
It was 11: 15. Tony's Citgo on Summer Street suddenly exploded with a great, coughing roar. The street went daylight that made them both stagger back against the police car and shield their eyes. A huge, oily cloud of fire climbed over the elms in Courthouse Park, lighting the duck pond and the Little League diamond in scarlet. Amid the hungry crackling roar that followed Doyle could hear glass and wood and hunks of gas-station cinderblock rattling back to earth. A secondary explosion followed, making them wince again. He still couldn't get it straight
(my town this is happening in my town)