Author note: This is fanfiction for Doctor Sleep – yes, I fully admit to writing fanfic from time to time when it strikes me! A grasp of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep (film adapation or book) is probably important for understanding this story in context.
“My, my, what a temper you have!” Rose panted, swatting away Dan’s protesting arms with supernatural strength. She pushed him back down to the floor, wrapping a hand around his throat and pinning him in place with a knee. She sneered down at him. “Such fire. Such a waste! Or maybe not…”
An evil thought bloomed in her head, and she reached down with her free hand and dug her thumb into the open wound on Dan’s thigh. He howled in agony, trying and failing to escape, and she pressed her thumb in further, blood spurting from the wound with a sickening sound.
A trail of faintly-golden coloured Steam rose from Dan’s wailing mouth. Rose never fed from adults. Their Shine was corrupt and old, and their essence provided less sustenance. But something in her was drawn to the golden wisps coming from Dan, and their promise of power. She bent her head and breathed deep, feeling a rush of warmth trickle its way down her throat and into her stomach. The sensation was orgasmic, and she shuddered, hands clenching around Dan’s arms.
“Oh, damn!” Rose sighed, eyes clenching shut. “Even at your age…! It’s so good.”
And it was good, better than anything she had ever experienced in fact. So giddy was she on Dan’s power that she never even realised the trap he had set for her in his mind.
Rose had experienced this dream, this memory, many times since her escape from the Overlook Hotel. She’d seen and experienced many things across the long, endless decades, but she had been totally unprepared for what had happened that cold snowy night. Perhaps it was her enduring shock at having been so thoroughly bested that had her dreaming about it again, and again and again, as impotent in her rage and indignation as a genie in a bottle.
In the dream, as in reality, Rose had not realised her mistake until too late. His mind had been interesting to her, psychically visualised as a winding maze of hedges and shadows. It hadn’t occurred to her that the group of rattling metal boxes (coffins, more like) inside the darkest area of his mind were something dangerous. It was only when the first of the contained ghosts, a hideously-decayed woman with rotting skin and a lurid, blackened smile, grabbed Rose’s arm that Rose understood how thoroughly she had underestimated Dan Torrance. In Rose’s nightmares, the spirits which had flowed from Dan’s mental prison and out into the hotel succeeded in draining Rose’s shine to nothing, ripping her apart in a promulgation of agony and steam.
She awoke, as she always did, with a start. For a moment, she thought she was back at that damned hotel, about to be swallowed up by its starving residents. It took her a moment to get her bearings.
The bus was quiet, gliding its way along the empty roads of New Hampshire. There weren’t many other cars on the road this late at night, and only two other passengers sitting up the front. The rubes hadn’t seemed to notice the way she had jerked awake, which suited her just fine.
After the Overlook incident, Rose had come to learn that the campgrounds the True Knot owned and their various financial accounts had been seized and frozen. Dozens of missing children cases had been finally traced back to the perpetrators: Rose and her now-dead family. The last few months had been a hellish experience, eking out a meagre existence and barely using her powers for fear that the bitch-child and Dan Torrance would realise her continued survival.
Dan Torrance had taken her by surprise, in more ways than one. The evil spirits he kept locked up inside his head were a force unparalleled, and it was only sheer dumb luck that had seen her slipping out from their grasp just when she was about to Cycle Out for good.
The pain had been extraordinary, as she’d been reduced to bloodless nerves and incorporeal bones, precious steam pulled from her by the undead denizens of the Overlook. Just when she’d thought it was all over for her, the attention of the spirits had been captured by Dan making his escape down the long staircase. They had immediately released her then, evidently unwilling to allow such powerful quarry to escape.
Rose had been left to painfully crawl out of the hotel and into the freezing cold, hanging onto her form through a sort of sinister determination. What else occurred in the hotel she did not know, but it had resulted in the entire building burning to the ground and the arrival of paramedics, police officers and other law persons she avoided as a rule. For Rose, it had been a long, painful and humiliating journey back to town. The little bitch, Abra, had survived, and, incredibly, so had her watchful mentor, Dan Torrance. Like Rose, he was strong and had clung on despite the injury Rose had given him: a gaping axe-wound into his femoral artery. Rose had fully expected that he would bleed to death.
It would have been a fitting end for her enemy. Dan had crossed her first by daring to oppose her, and then, even worse, had actually had the gall to refuse her when she’d offered him a fair partnership. They could have kept the girl as a Steam milk-cow, sharing in the spoils for years, but he’d rebuffed her without a second thought.
Rose had been forced to creep down the
icy mountain trail, buoyed up by a combination of hatred and hunger,
her temper flaring as the emergency vehicles whizzed by down the
solitary road nearby. Her own vehicle had been captured by the
authorities as soon as they arrived She could sense the man and the
girl both in one of the ambulances, the departure marked by sirens
and flashing lights, but could do nothing to prevent their escape.
Instead, Rose had continued to limp through the dark copse of trees,
eyes glued to the trail of vehicles even as they disappeared into the
‘I’ll catch up with you,’ Rose had promised them, her astral voice nothing more than a whisper. ‘You wait. I will catch you, and your death will take years.’
She stared sightlessly out the window, one hand absently twirling a lock of her thick dark hair. That was another thing Dan owed her for. The pork pie hat she’d worn everyday, the one reminder of the days before the knot, had been destroyed in the fire. How could she call herself ‘Rose the Hat’, now, when her signature possession was gone? It was just another thing to be angry about, and she was already plenty mad.
The bus finally came to a stop outside a little bus shelter beside a row of old-fashioned, quiet storefronts. Their window displays showed an assortment of items, from antiques to clothes to books. Quickly, Rose got to her feet and followed the remaining two passengers out onto the street. She remained in place for a few moments, watching as the rubes drifted away to whatever destination they were headed towards.
Rose closed her eyes for a moment, senses stretching out and mapping intersections, buildings and parks as she searched for her target. He was very good at hiding his Shine, and had she never encountered him, she would not have noticed him. But she’d tasted his Shine now and could feel the familiar edges of his mind somewhere on the other edge of town. It wasn’t all familiar; the man was a puzzle, everything about him buried underneath the snow and darkness of his mental landscape. Rose didn’t mind. They had years and years ahead of them where she could delve into him and discover all of his secrets.
“Eat well,” She said to herself idly as she finally chose a direction and began to to walk. “Live long.” They were words that had first been spoken to Rose long ago when she had been lifted out of drudgery into a new calling. Later, she had spoken those words herself when she, too, had inducted the worthy and the fortunate into the True Knot. Soon, she would speak them again to Dan Torrance.
The man had practically single-handedly eradicated her entire tribe, the only family she’d ever had. Rose both hated and admired him for it, and had oscillated in the months leading up to tonight as to what to do about him. Simply leaving him be was out of the question, but punishing him for his many transgressions also didn’t sit well with her. His power was too great, and Rose couldn’t stand the idea of letting such talent go to waste.
She crossed an empty intersection, passing by a quiet, sprawling park. The willowy trees and many benches sitting amongst the manicured grassland were beneath her notice, but her attention was captured by the sight of a mini-train waiting patiently . Cheerful lettering on the side of one of the carriages labelled the train as the ‘Teeny-Train’.
Beside the railroad was the even more bizarre sight of an entire township built in miniature, complete with steeple-roofed church and laundromat. It took Rose a moment, but she realised that it was the town of Frazier, scaled down and built as what appeared to be a sort of arts-and-crafts project. Everything had been lovingly replicated and built, right down to the distinctive streetlamps and cars on the road.
A second later, Rose blinked in understanding as her senses picked up additional information. Teenytown…Yes, just the sort of saccharine community-building exercise that ‘Danny-boy’ would have liked to get involved with. Rose had only been in Dan’s head once, in the Overlook, an experience that had lasted only a few minutes. But the memories of him were strong, especially after months speculating on him, and there was no denying that he had been here. It made the hair on the back of her neck rise just as it made her heart beat just a little bit faster.
The psychic imprint of him was everywhere, and Rose instantly knew that he worked here from time to time, helping run the small railroad for children. She closed her eyes and could practically see him as he gently lifted a toddler out of one of the carriages and into its mother’s waiting arms.
‘You’re meant for greater things than that,’ Rose thought to herself, turning her attention back to the trail and continuing to walk along the deserted street. She jammed her hands in the pockets of her oversized tan-coloured coat, and her fingertips brushed against the smooth, plastic surface of small medical kit. Inside the kit were three hypodermic needles, the only favour she had left from the True Knot’s contact in the NSA. Overpowering Dan was going to be a hard fight, she knew that; she’d taken Steam in the last few days and was ready to throw down the gauntlet.
If she could wear out his Shine and then get close enough to jab him with one of the syringes then the rest would be laughably easy. Rose had called ahead with a rental car company in Frazier, who had orders to drop off the car outside of Dan’s modest apartment at 5am. More than enough time to knock him out and get him in the back without anyone being the wiser.
Her heart was pounding in her chest by the time she reached Dan’s modest apartment, a building she’d located after countless astral trips to Frazier. It was not out of fatigue that her heart was throbbing. As juiced-up on fresh Steam as Rose was, she felt strong enough to practically punch through the walls to get to her target. No, her heart was pounding with the thrill of the hunt and the excitement of finally attaining what she had wanted for so long.
How did that saying go?
Anticipation makes possession all the sweeter.
The door to the apartment building was unlocked, revealing a darkened stairwell and a dusty set of mailboxes. Rose slowly, silently, ascended the stairwell, one hand brushing against the wall as she did so. On one of the landings, she paused for a moment and removed a hypodermic needle, uncapping it and holding it discreetly in her palm. Then, with a deep breath, she continued her climb upwards. She could sense the sleeping rubes behind each door she passed, but they were of no concern to her.
Every step brought her closer and closer to the powerful, intoxicating presence upstairs. She wondered if he could sense her approach, if he was preparing to flee or fight. Then again, he had no reason to believe she had survived their last encounter at the Overlook. It was hard to anticipate something when you weren’t even aware of it in the first place.
When Dan opened the door after Rose’s casual knock, his shocked expression was more than enough to confirm that he had indeed thought he’d won.
Seconds counted, and Rose knew now was not the time for boasting or threats. Still, she couldn’t help but indulge herself a moment by drinking in the sight of him. Emotions ran wild within her: triumph, anger, desire. He was still staring at her, as tall and handsome as she remembered, perpetually mournful blue eyes wide with disbelief.
Rose smiled at him, coral-coloured lips turning upwards in a sinister, carnal grin.
“Well,” She drawled, taking one step into the apartment. He was still so startled that he stumbled backwards, giving her the room to close the door softly behind her.
Rose smiled wider. “Hi there.”