'Cell': The First Two Chapters

Image credit: Cell Illustration By Tomer Hanuka

Jesus Christ,'' said the mild voice from Clay's right elbow a second time. He turned that way and saw a short man with thinning dark hair, a tiny dark mustache, and gold-rimmed spectacles. ''What's going on?''

''I don't know,'' Clay said. Talking was hard. Very. He found himself almost having to push words out. He supposed it was shock. Across the street, people were running away, some from the Four Seasons, some from the crashed Duck Boat. As he watched, a Duck Boat run-awayer collided with a Four Seasons escapee and they both went crashing to the sidewalk. There was time to wonder if he'd gone insane and was hallucinating all this in a madhouse somewhere. Juniper Hill in Augusta, maybe, between Thorazine shots. ''The guy in the ice cream truck said maybe terrorists.''

''I don't see any men with guns,'' said the short man with the mustache. ''No guys with bombs strapped to their backs, either.''

Neither did Clay, but he did see his little small treasures shopping bag and his portfolio sitting on the sidewalk, and he saw that the blood from Power Suit Woman's opened throat — ye gods, he thought, all that blood — had almost reached the portfolio. All but a dozen or so of his drawings for Dark Wanderer were in there, and it was the drawings his mind seized on. He started back that way at a speed-walk, and the short man kept pace. When a second burglar alarm (some kind of alarm, anyway) went off in the hotel, joining its hoarse bray to the clang of the Citylights alarm, the little guy jumped.

''It's the hotel,'' Clay said.

''I know, it's just that...oh my God.'' He'd seen Power Suit Woman, now lying in a lake of the magic stuff that had been running all her bells and whistles — what? Four minutes ago? Only two?

''She's dead,'' Clay told him. ''At least I'm pretty sure she is. That girl...'' He pointed at Pixie Light. ''She did it. With her teeth.''

''You're joking.''

''I wish I was.''

From somewhere up Boylston Street there was another explosion. Both men cringed. Clay realized he could now smell smoke. He picked up his small treasures bag and his portfolio and moved them both away from the spreading blood. ''These are mine,'' he said, wondering why he felt the need to explain.

The little guy, who was wearing a tweed suit — quite dapper, Clay thought — was still staring, horrified, at the crumpled body of the woman who had stopped for a sundae and lost first her dog and then her life. Behind them, three young men pelted past on the sidewalk, laughing and hurrahing. Two had Red Sox caps turned around backward. One was carrying a carton clutched against his chest. It had the word panasonic printed in blue on the side. This one stepped in Power Suit Woman's spreading blood with his right sneaker and left a fading one-foot trail behind him as he and his mates ran on toward the east end of the Common and Chinatown beyond.

(From CELL by Stephen King. Copyright (c) 2006 by Stephen King. Reprinted by permission of Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.)

Originally posted Jan 19, 2006 Published in issue #860 Jan 27, 2006 Order article reprints
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