Background: This is a retelling of the end of the film Misery based on Stephen King’s book of the same name. Paul is an author who has killed off his successful character, Misery. Annie is the obsessive fan who rescued him for certain death after a car crash (and is a little less evil in this version). Believing Misery deserves another chance at life and that she can offer Paul a better life with her, Annie has practically imprisoned Paul, and he is considering going to extremes to escape.
Paul’s plan was to write what he knew Annie would want to hear, to distract her with words into believing that he posed no threat. She still had so many questions about Misery which his last book left unanswered, and he knew she wouldn’t carry out the most drastic of her plans without him satisfying her curiosity, even if he had to resurrect the character he thought he had killed off to do that. He expected to set alight the manuscript in front of her, and — in her moment of confusion and horror at what he had done — to use the typewriter as his weapon against her in order to escape.
Hadn’t he been using his returning strength (at least in his upper body) to lift the typewriter, to build the muscles he needed to be able to throw the heavy mechanical millstone he’d felt tied to until he completed the book? But the novel, which started as a way to buy time, had taken on it’s own life. It’s protagonist, which could have died an untimely death, was alive and living a life inside his mind which was more vibrant and noble than she ever had before. He had Annie to thank for that, as she had insisted that there could be no dubious excuses for her revival or mediocre writing to address the questions Misery’s return raised. She really was his number one fan and knew well when he was writing to the best of his ability or was just making a half hearted effort. She had pushed him to do better and he did so as if his life depended on it, and in doing so immersed himself in his characters and their world in the way that Annie always had, and worked hard to create a book worthy of her.
Misery’s life was so sad because of men. Paul had used her as a character of pity and let her die in sadness. But the Misery who was saved from death was no longer the victim of circumstance, she became a leader, a reformer, and a challenger of tradition. The beau who had deceived her to win her love was gone, shot dead as he deserved to be when his betrayal was revealed. She now took the lead in her life and was supported by her devoted lover, who served her as a goddess.
Could he now set aflame the greatest of his accomplishments? Could he destroy Misery just as she had became more real to him than she had ever been before? Could he hurt Annie by doing so, even though she sometimes frightened him so much? Hadn’t Annie made it impossible for him to ever run away? Hadn’t she caused him as much pain as she relieved him of? Hadn’t she put him in as much danger as she rescued him from? So why did he feel this sense of loyalty to her? Why did he feel like there was still an outstanding debt he could never fully repay? Was it that he would have otherwise been dead without her? Was it that she had brought back his love of writing which he had lost so long ago? Was he losing his mind or getting his life back? A life focused on everything that was truly important to him?
Annie forgave Paul for Misery’s murder then gave him a chance to return her to life. He could have given up his greatest literary legacy for some dirty-worded story about a street gang, which was devoid of hope or nobility. He suddenly felt guilty that he hadn’t shown Annie the appreciation she deserved and all the time he initially wasted.
What had Paul’s life been before? A series of lonely nights in hotels, with barely time to sleep between book signings and press events, alimony payments to two ex-wives, and a vapid model he’d been seeing, made more of plastic than anything real. Had anyone really cared for him before Annie? Maybe his mother, but she was now gone. But Annie was real, she had real substance. He imagined he could hold on to her without worrying about grasping her too tightly, and she would fill his arms. She had real strength, enough to pry his smashed car door open and carry him to her home. There was something startlingly pretty in her eyes, in her smile when she was pleased with him, in her confidence in her rightness and surety of how the world should work. She’d become his muse.
If she hadn’t found him he would have died. He’d have never have stopped his smoking. He would have let the characters he gave life to die too soon and too easily. But she saved him from all that. How could he even consider repaying her with a violent escape that might injure her? What did he think he was escaping from? A life without appreciation! What did he think he was escaping to? A lack of purpose and people who only wanted his company for the money they could make from him! She had saved him from all that.
If he was being honest with himself he had never had anyone care for him as much as Annie did. She cared enough for him to save him from himself. “Her lips brought me back to life,” he thought to himself, “I awoke from the blackness and cold as she cradled me in her arms. She carried me when the world had laid so heavily upon me. I repaid her with suspicion and she only asked for trust. I deserved to be punished for my deceptions, but I was only deceiving myself and paid the price, and yet she still gave me another chance and still I stupidly considered running from it, from her, from her care and her love.”
This wasn’t just gratitude. It was something more. Hadn’t she said she loved him and called him darling? He said it too, but didn’t mean it, not at first. He had been used to using words to get his way, forgetting that others put their heart into them, as he had once done as a young author, before he had begun to resent the books that made him famous. Annie meant what she had said and he had shown so little genuine gratitude for all she had done for him.
It was Paul’s chance now to begin giving back, beginning with the book. There was so much more he could yet do too. She had fed him and he could do the same. He wasn’t a bad cook as a bachelor and could do even better cooking for two. She had kept his room tidy and he could certainly help around the house; Not just help, it was time she had a break from the housework, and soon he’d be strong enough to do it all. She had changed his sheets and washed his clothes and laundry was another chore he could do for her. In fact there wasn’t any she would ever need to do again. She had dressed him and yet she probably hadn’t bought new clothes in a while, but he could make sure she dressed in whatever she wanted, price would be no object. She would want for nothing. His own needs were simple, he didn’t need much, and he had no use for money any more, just a typewriter and to be with her.
He could see the desire in her eyes and knew that she was fully a woman in every way, with all the needs a woman might have and he longed to fulfill them. He had selfishly looked after his own needs for too long, using shallow people, and had felt empty doing so. But now he hoped he could satisfy and fulfill her, or spend his life trying.
She was aware too that he had feelings and instincts. She paid extra attention to certain parts when cleaning him. He was embarrassed at first, but hid it, realizing he wasn’t yet strong enough to take care of himself. Then as he got better and his pain was under control he didn’t say anything because he didn’t want her to stop. Her fastidious attention to cleanliness began to feel like vigorous caresses: enough to arouse, to the point that he wished her hand wouldn’t move away, but then leaving him wishing for her to return and tend to him again.
As he was beginning to heal he was already missing the pain she had caused because of his disobedience, but he was sure there would be more punishments as he was learning and growing in the process of becoming all that she needed him to be. He didn’t want the pain as much as he knew that it showed she cared enough to teach him in a way that he would remember and think twice about repeating the same mistakes again. He could overcome his stubbornness and selfishness by focusing on her needs, and he could think of no greater purpose.
She brought a cigarette, a bottle of champagne and a glass for him, to celebrate the completion of the book. He knew there would have been no novel, indeed no chance of him living to ever write it if it weren’t for her. A wave of gratitude washed over him and he was happy to be alive for the first time in a long time. He asked if she could get a glass for herself too, as it was a moment they should celebrate together. She agreed and upon her return he handed her the completed manuscript. As she looked down upon it she noticed on the title page something she didn’t expect:
“Misery’s Retur[n] by A[nn]ie Wilkes”
Paul decided he was best left dead in the minds of the public. Annie’s star would rise and her fortunes, but he would know her warmth closest and see it brightest. He needed no credit, just to be allowed to live with and worship her. A lifetime of stories had yet to be written in her name and with her help, so that he, Misery and Annie would live a fuller life that they had ever known before.
Had she known he had considered escaping again? He was sure she did and yet he didn’t go through with his plan and she didn’t bring it up. He was sure she knew everything, the deepest parts of his heart, and the furthest reaches of his mind, and yet she still loved him and that was more love than he could ever imagine.
He declined the cigarette she offered him. He’d quit with her help, although he was tempted at the thought of it. She slowly took the cigarette from the packet and placed it between her fingers and lighted it herself. There was a gracefulness and deliberateness to this simple act that he found so attractive. Then, she drew in a breath and blew a ring of smoke in his face, which he took in deeply. He couldn’t imagine being more happy.