Home > Under the Dome(9)

Under the Dome(9)
Author: Stephen King

'What's that?' he said. 'What the hell is that, mister?'

A big black smear - candleflame-shaped, if you really used your imagination - discolored the blue sky.

'Is it... a cloud?' Sea Dogs asked. His doubtful tone suggested he already knew it wasn't.

Barbie said, 'I think...' He really didn't want to hear himself say this. 'I think it's where the plane hit.'

'Say what?' Sea Dogs asked, but before Barbie could reply, a good-sized grackle swooped fifty feet overhead. It struck nothing - nothing they could see, at any rate - and dropped not far from the gull.

Sea Dogs said, 'Did you see that?'

Barbie nodded, then pointed to the patch of burning hay to his left. It and the two or three patches on the right side of the road were sending up thick columns of black smoke to join the smoke rising from the pieces of the dismembered Seneca, but the fire wasn't going far; there had been heavy rain the day before, and the hay was still damp. Lucky thing, or there would have been grassf res racing away in both directions.

'Do you see that?' Barbie asked Sea Dogs.

'I'll be dipped in shit,' Sea Dogs said after taking a good long look. The fire had burned a patch of ground about sixty f;et square, moving forward until it was almost opposite the place where Barbie and Sea Dogs were facing one another. And there it spread - west to the edge of the highway, east into some small dairy farmer's four acres of grazeland - not raggedly, not the way grassfires normally advance, with the fire a bit ahead in one place and falling a little behind somewhere else - but as if on a straightedge.

Another gull came flying toward them, this one bound for Motton rather than The Mill.

'Look out,' Sea Dogs said. 'Ware that bird.'

'Maybe it'll be okay,' Barbie said, looking up and shading his eyes. 'Maybe whatever it is only stops them if they're coming from the south.'

'Judging by yonder busted plane, I doubt that,' Sea Dogs said. He spoke in the musing tones of a man who is deeply perplexed.

The outbound gull struck the barrier and fell directly into the largest chunk of the burning plane.

'Stops em both ways,' Sea Dogs said. He spoke in the tone of a man who has gotten confirmation of a strongly held but previously unproved conviction. 'It's some kind of force-field, like in a Star Trick movie.'

'Trek,' Barbie said.


'Oh shit,' Barbie said. He was looking over Sea Dogs's shoulder.

'Huh?' Sea Dogs looked over his own shoulder. 'Blue - f**k?'

A pulp-truck was coming. A big one, loaded well past the legal weight limit with huge logs. It was also rolling well above the legal limit. Barbie tried to calculate what the stopping-speed on such a behemoth might be and couldn't even guess.

Sea Dogs sprinted for his Toyota, which he'd left parked askew on the highway's broken white line. The guy behind the wheel of the pulper - maybe high on pills, maybe smoked up on meth, maybe just young, in a big hurry, and feeling immortal - saw him and laid on his horn. He wasn't slowing.

'Fuck me sideways!' Sea Dogs cried as he threw himself behind the wheel. He keyed the engine and backed the Toyota out of the road with the driver's door flapping. The little SUV thumped into the ditch with its square nose canted up to the sky. Sea Dogs was out the next moment. He stumbled, landed on one knee, and then took off running into the field.

Barbie, thinking of the plane and the birds - thinking of that weird black smutch that might have been the plane's point of impact - also ran into the grazeland, at first sprinting through low, unenthusiastic flames and sending up puffs of black ash. He saw a man's sneaker - it was too big to be a woman's - with the man's foot still in it.

Pilpt, he thought. And then: J have to stop running around like this.

'YOU IDIOT, SLOW DOWN!' Sea Dogs cried at the pulp-truck in a thin, panicky voice, but it was too late for such instructions. Barbie, looking back over his shoulder (helpless not to), thought the pulp-wrangler might: have tried to brake at the last minute. He probably saw the wreckage of the plane. In any case, it wasn't enough. He struck the Motton side of the Dome at sixty or a little more, carrying a log-load of almost forty thousand pounds. The cab disintegrated as it stopped cold. The overloaded carrier, a prisoner of physics, continued forward. The fuel tanks were driven under the logs, shredding and sparking. When they exploded, the load was already airborne, flipping over where the cab - now a green metal accordion - had been. The logs sprayed forward and upward, struck the invisible barrier, and rebounded in all directions. Fire and black smoke boiled upward in a thick plume. There was a terrific thud that rolled across the day like a boulder. Then the logs were raining back down on the Motton side, landing on the road and the surrounding fields like enormous jackstraws. One struck the roof of Sea Dogs's SUV and smashed it flat, spilling the windshield onto the hood in a spray of diamond crumbles. Another landed right in front of Sea Dogs himself.

Barbie stopped running and only stared.

Sea Dogs got to his feet, fell down, grasped the log that had almost smashed out his life, and got up again. He stood swaying and wild-eyed. Barbie started toward him and after twelve steps ran into something that felt like a brick wall. He staggered backward and felt warmth cascade from his nose and over his lips. He wiped away a palmload of blood, looked at it unbelievingly, and then smeared it on his shirt.

Now cars were coming from both directions - Mocton and Chester's Mill. Three running figures, as yet still small, were cutting across the grazeland from a farmhouse at the other end. Several of the cars were honking their horns, as if that would somehow solve all problems. The first car to arrive on the Motton side pulled over to the shoulder, well back from the burning truck. Two women got out and gawked at the column of smoke and fire, shading their eyes.

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