This section contains 1,326 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
Chapters 24 - 26 Summary
In Chapter 24, Leslie tells Jack that Stephanie and Randy are gone. Since the back door is still padlocked, Jack believes they are still in the house and that Randy is taking care of Stephanie, so he decides to continue his search for Susan. When they reach the room where Betty are Susan are, they hear Betty asking the girl why the two are trying to save her. Jack cracks the door and can see Betty brushing Susan's hair. Susan reminds Betty that White is not beyond death and that although White may have had the power to bring the house to life, there was someone there before he was. Betty indicates that if Jack and his group were as strong as Susan thinks they are, they would not be fooled by her. Betty tells Susan she believes they should have killed her the day she first entered the house. Even though he is not sure whose side Susan is on, Jack goes in the room after her. Betty presses a knife against the girl's throat. Betty warns Jack that Susan is part of the game, the only thing keeping them alive. At Leslie's prodding, Jack hits Betty with the spade he is holding. Jack grabs Betty's shotgun and the three run for the stairs to the main house. When they enter the main hall, White is standing in the hallway. He tells then that he still requires one dead body and that Betty doesn't count. Susan calls for them to follow her and disappears through a door. White shoots and the door slams shut, locked. Jack and Leslie run for the upstairs door and make it through. Instead of the upstairs hallway, though, they are in the boiler room where Stephanie and Jack have just entered through the other door.
In Chapter 25, a message is scrawled across the room: "The wages of sin is one dead body." Jack and Randy begin fighting over the guns. They both reload their weapons. The house groans and Stephanie insists that it is alive. For once, no one argues with her. Jack wonders if he does produce a dead body for White if White will fulfill his promise and let the others go free. He suspects that he will not. As he contemplates, a dead body hung from a rope drops from the ceiling of the broiler room. The body looks like that of Randy. Black smoke creeps from the dead Randy's mouth and gathers on the floor. Jack suddenly wonders who the Randy next to him is if the real Randy is dead. He aims his gun at the Randy standing next to him. Jack is tempted to pull the trigger just because he believes he would be killing Randy in self-defense and at the same time fulfilling White's requirements for release. The body disappears and more people enter the room. There are now twins of each of the people in the room.
In Chapter 26, all eight of the men and women are uncertain who is real and who is not real. Jack suggests they all fire their weapons at the wall, believing that the guns held by the apparitions will not fire. This suggestion is not correct as all the guns fire. Randy points out that the bodies of those who are not real appear to leak black smoke when wounded. He suggests they cut themselves and see who leaks black smoke. Just after Jack cuts himself and passes the knife to Randy, the door opens and Susan runs in. Susan tries talking to them, but her voice skips and makes no sense. Black smoke begins to seep from the cut on Jack's hand. Susan reminds him that it is just as she has been trying to tell him, that they are all guilty. Black fog pours from a vent in the ceiling and gathers on the floor. Jack and the others feel pain as the smoke hits them. Guns begin shooting as the fog thickens and fills the room. Suddenly, the fog is sucked back toward the ceiling, leaving only the original people in the room. Jack is suddenly aware of the sin in his own life, that he would have killed Randy if given the opportunity. He is also aware that Randy also intended to kill him. He wonders in all of this evil, where the good is.
Chapters 24 - 26 Analysis
Notice in this section Jack continues to connect Susan, the strange girl he finds in the basement of the house, with his daughter, Melissa. He acknowledges that it is not the girls' ages, but their innocence that makes him connect the two. Although Jack was unable to save his own daughter, he seems determined for his relationship with Susan to have a different outcome, even though he is still not sure if Susan is even on the same side as them or not. Leslie, like Jack, knows that Susan was responsible for saving their lives. But when she and Jack hear the conversation between Betty and Susan, they are not sure if Susan is working with White, with Betty and her group, or is really just a victim like Jack and his group.
One important factor to notice in this section of the novel is the black smoke that comes from those who are wounded. Susan is the only one who does not leak black smoke when Betty nicks her throat with the knife. Betty and Stewart begin leaking black smoke almost immediately after they are injured. Jack is beginning to understand the significance of the black smoke when he suggests to his friends and their twins that they cut each other to see who leaks black smoke. It is Jack's belief that those who are not real will not leak smoke; however, he is surprised to learn that even he has black smoke leaking from the cut on his hand. It is Susan who tells him this black smoke represents evil, and that all of them are capable of leaking it. Jack comes very close to determining the real meaning of the game when he comes to the conclusion at the end of chapter twenty-seven that the house is filled with evil. He wonders where the good is that should be present to even out the evil.
Although Stephanie is still not happy with Jack in these chapters, she has the sense to realize that Jack is probably the only one who can bring them out of their current situation alive. She also realizes he is the only one who has not undergone a major personality change since he entered the house. He has kept his wits about him while Randy has given into his anger and fear again and again; the scientific Leslie has begun to think about the possibility of religion and haunted houses and she has become angry and almost combative. Even the thought of singing a song makes her want to hit someone.
It is interesting to note Leslie's acknowledgment that something strange is happening in the house. Although she is a psychoanalyst and has made her living by being scientific and methodical, she is beginning to accept the idea that a house, an inanimate object, might be reacting to the people inside it. This house is aware of and responds to their sins, fears and weaknesses.
As Jack and Randy's actions are masked by the fact that they have twins, as well as the black fog that surrounds them, Jack realizes how seriously he really considers killing Randy. He wonders if he kills Randy in self-defense if this death would fulfill the Tin Man's requirements for one dead body. It seems, however, that Tin Man wants the death and killing to come from an intent of malice and hate, not one of self-defense. His intention is to show those who are playing his game that they are as guilty as he is.
This section contains 1,326 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)