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Under the Dome(13)
Author: Stephen King

'Hang on, then,' Nora said, and floored it. The Mercedes had a big engine, and it leaped forward. Nora swerved smartly around the Debec Chevrolet and crashed into the invisible barrier while still accelerating. For the first time in twenty years Nora had neglected to fasten her seat belt, and she went out through the windshield, where she broke her neck on the invisible barrier just as Bob Roux had. The young woman shot between the Mercedes's front bucket seats, out through the shattered windshield, and landed facedown on the hood with her bloodspattered legs splayed. Her feet were bare. Her loafers (bought at the last Oxford Hills flea market she had attended) had come off in the first crash.

Elsa Andrews hit the back of the driver's seat, then rebounded, dazed but essentially unhurt. Her door stuck at first, but popped open when she put her shoulder against it and rammed. She got out and looked around at the littered wreckage. The puddles of blood. The smashed-up Chevy shitbox, still gently steaming.

'What happened?' she asked. This had also been Wanda's question, although Elsa didn't remember that. She stood in a strew of chrome and bloody glass, then put the back of her left hand to her forehead, as if checking for a fever. 'What happened? What just happened? Nora? Nora-pie? Where are you, dear?'

Then she saw her friend and uttered a scream of grief and horror. A crow watching from high in a pine tree on The Mill side of the barrier cawed once, a cry that sounded like a contemptuous snort of laughter.

Elsa's legs turned rubbery. She backed until her bottom struck the crumpled nose of the Mercedes. 'Nora-pie,' she said. 'Oh, honey.' Something tickled the back of her neck. She wasn't sure, but thought it was probably a lock of the wounded girl's hair. Only now, of course, she was the dead girl.

And poor sweet Nora, with whom she'd sometimes shared illicit nips of gin or vodka in the laundry room at Cathy Russell, the two of them giggling like girls away at camp. Nora's eyes were open, staring up at the bright midday sun, and her head was cocked at a nasty angle, as if she had died trying to look back over her shoulder and make sure Elsa was all right.

Elsa, who was all right - just shaken up,' as they'd said of certain lucky survivors back in their ER days - began to cry. She slid down the side of the car (ripping her own coat on a jag of metal) and sat on the asphalt of 117. She was still sitting there and still crying when Barbie and his new friend in the Sea Dogs cap came upon her.


Sea Dogs turned out to be Paul Gendron, a car salesman from upstate who had retired to his late parents' farm in Motton two years before. Barbie learned this and a great deal more about Gendron between their departure from the crash scene on 119 and their discovery of another one - not quite so spectacular but still pretty horrific - at the place where Route 117 crossed into The Mill. Barbie would have been more than willing to shake Gendron's hand, but such niceties would have to remain on hold until they found the place wiere the invisible barrier ended.

Ernie Calvert had gotten through to the Air National Guard in Bangor, but had been put on hold before he had a chance to say why he was calling. Meanwhile, approaching sirens heralded the imminent arrival of the local law.

'Just don't expect the Fire Department,' said the farmer who'd come running across the field with his sons. His name was Alden Dinsmore, and he was still getting his breath back. 'They're over to Castle Rock, burnin down a house for practice. Could have gotten plenty of practice right h - ' Then he saw his younger son approaching the place where Barbie's bloody handprint appeared to be drying on nothing more than sunny air. 'Rory, get away from there!'

Pvory, agog with curiosity, ignored him. He reached out and knocked on the air just to the right of Barbie's handprint. But before he did, Barbie saw goosebumps rash out on the kid's arms below the ragged sleeves of his cut-ofFWildcats sweatshirt. There was something there, something that kicked in when you got close. The only place Barbie had ever gotten a similar sensation was close to the big powrer generator in Avon, Florida, where he'd once taken a girl necking.

The sound of the kid's fist was like knuckles on the side of a Pyrex casserole dish. It silenced the little babbling crowd of spectators, who had been staring at the burning remains of the pulp-truck (and in some cases taking pictures of it with their cell phones).

'I'll be dipped in shit,' someone said.

Alden Dinsmore dragged his son away by the ragged collar of his sweatshirt, then whapped him backside of the head as he had the older brother not long before. 'Don't you ever!' Dinsmore cried, shaking the boy. 'Don't you ever, when you don't know what it is!'

'Pa, it's like a glass wall! It's - '

Dinsmore shook him some more. He was still panting, and Barbie feared for his heart. 'Don't you everV he repeated, and pushed the kid at his older brother. 'Hang onto this fool, Ollie.'

'Yessir,' Ollie said, and smirked at his brother.

Barbie looked toward The Mill. He could now see the approaching flashers of a police car, but far ahead of it - as if escorting the cops by virtue of some higher authority - was a large black vehicle that looked like a rolling coffin: Big Jim Rennie's Hummer. Barbie's fading bumps and bruises from the fight in Dipper's parking lot seemed to give a sympathetic throb at the sight.

P^ennie Senior hadn't been there, of course, but his son had been the prime instigator, and Big Jim had taken care of Junior. If that - KXfirA making life in The Mill tough for a certain itinerant short-order cook - tough enough so the short-order cook in question would decide to just haul stakes and leave town - even better.

Barbie didn't want to be here when Big Jim arrived. Especially xnot with the cops. Chief Perkins had treated him okay, but the other one - Randolph - had looked at him as if Dale Barbara were a piece of dogshit on a dress shoe.

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