Chapter 17

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He walked rapidly…

…rundown bootheels clocking against the paved surface of the road, and if car lights showed on the horizon, he faded back and back, down over the soft shoulder to the high grass where the night bugs make their homes…
and the car would pass him, the driver perhaps feeling a slight chill as if he had driven through an air pocket, his sleeping wife and children stirring uneasily, as if all had been touched by a bad dream at the same instant.

He walked south, south on US 51, the worn heels of his sharp-toed cowboy boots clocking on the pavement; a tall man with no age in faded, pegged jeans and a denim jacket.

He moved on, not pausing, not slowing, but alive to the night. His eyes seemed almost frantic with the night’s possibilities. There was a Boy Scouts of America knapsack on his back, old and battered. There was a dark hilarity on his face, and perhaps in his heart, too, you would think–and you would be right. It was the face of a hatefully happy man, a face that radiated a horrible handsome warmth, a face to make waterglasses shatter in the hands of tired truckstop waitresses, to make small children crash their trikes into board fences and then run wailing to their mommies with stake shaped splinters sticking out of their knees.

It was a face guaranteed to make barroom arguments over batting averages turn bloody.

He hammered alomg, arms swinging by his sides. He was known, well known, along the highways in hiding that are traveled by the poor and the mad, by the professional revolutionaries and by those who have been taught to hate so well that their hate shows on their faces like harelips and they are unwelcome except by those like them, who welcome him to cheap rooms with slogans and posters on the walls, to basements where lengths of sawed-off pipe are held in padded vices while they are stuffed with high explosives, to back room where lunatic plans are laid: to kill a cabinet member, to kidnap the child of a visiting dignitary, or to break into the boardrooms of Standard Oil with grenades and machine guns and murder in the name of the people. He was known there, and even the maddest of them could only look at his dark and grinning face at an oblique angle.

When he walked into a meeting the hysterical babble ceased– the backbiting, recriminations, accusations, the ideological rhetoric. For a moment there would be dead silence and they would start to turn to him and then turn away, as if he had come to them with some old and terrible engine of destruction cradled in his arms…

Stephen King, The Stand (edited)
Chapter 17