by Stephen King
Jessie Burlingame and her husband Gerald, a successful and aggressive lawyer, travel to their secluded lakehouse in western Maine for an unplanned romantic getaway. The titular "game" involves handcuffing Jessie to the bed for lovemaking, a recent addition to their marriage that both partners find exciting. This time, however, Jessie finds herself reluctant after being handcuffed to the bedposts and asks to stop, only to be ignored by Gerald, who pretends her protests are only part of their game. Realizing her husband is deliberately feigning ignorance and that he plans to rape her, Jessie lashes out, kicking Gerald in the chest. The shock causes him to have a fatal heart attack. He dies, leaving Jessie still handcuffed to the bed.
At first Jessie is only horrified at her husband's death and fears the embarrassment of being discovered semi-naked and handcuffed, but she quickly realizes the situation is far more dire: it is unlikely that she or Gerald will be missed for several days, no one will think to look for them at the lakehouse, and all the usual lake residents have gone for the season. There is a real possibility that Jessie will die if she cannot escape. While Jessie frantically explores and rejects plans, a combination of panic and thirst causes her to hallucinate voices: "The Goodwife" or "Goody Burlingame," a Puritanical version of herself that undermines her escape attempts by insisting that things will be fine and that she should wait to be rescued; "Punkin," a representation of Jessie as a young girl; Ruth, a college roommate whom Jessie abandoned after a conversation that strayed dangerously close to uncovering Jessie's childhood; and Nora, Jessie's former psychologist with whom she had a similar encounter and who she likewise abandoned. Guided by these voices, Jessie is able to recall the long-repressed memory of being sexually abused by her father during a solar eclipse when Jessie was ten. She also begins to acknowledge how unhappy and controlling her marriage to Gerald was, suspecting that she gave up her independent and courageous spirit for the security of being Gerald's trophy wife. Waking from an imaginary confrontation with all these characters to a dark bedroom, Jessie sees a tall, gaunt apparition in the corner of the room, whom she initially mistakes for the spirit of her long-dead father and whom she nicknames "Space Cowboy" (after a line from a Steve Miller song, "The Joker"). The figure shows her a wicker basket of jewelry mixed with human bones. Unsure if the figure is another hallucination, Jessie dismisses it, saying aloud that it is "only made of moonlight," which seems to make it vanish. Her inner voices, however, believe that the figure is real and will return to harm Jessie if she does not escape by the next night. The following morning, Jessie manages to secure a drink of water from a glass on the bedside table. Refreshed and encouraged by her own ingenuity in getting the water, she renews her efforts to escape, first by trying to break the headboard, then by trying to slip off the bed and push it to the bureau where the keys are placed. Inspired by her memory of the eclipse, in which her father warned her not to cut herself on the glass panes they used as eclipse viewers, Jessie breaks the water glass and uses a sharp shard to slice her wrist, giving herself a degloving injury to lubricate her skin enough to slide her right hand from the cuff. She is then able to escape the bed, reach the keys, and free her other hand, only to faint from blood loss. When she awakens, it is nearly dark and the Space Cowboy, now undeniably real, has returned. Jessie throws her wedding ring at his box of jewelry and bones, thinking that is what he wanted all along, then runs to her car and drives away, only to discover the Space Cowboy hidden in the back seat. Jessie crashes and is knocked unconscious. Months later, Jessie is still recuperating from her ordeal. An attorney at Gerald's law firm assists her in covering up the incident to protect her and the law firm from scandal, but Jessie feels this is another version of burying her trauma, just as she buried her childhood abuse years before. To free herself, Jessie writes to the real Ruth, with whom she has not spoken in decades, detailing what really happened at the lakehouse and subsequent events. The "Space Cowboy" was a serial killer and necrophile named Raymond Andrew Joubert who had been living in and robbing lakehouses in the area. Jessie confronted Joubert at his court hearing, where Joubert mocked her "made of moonlight" statement, confirming that the encounter really occurred and causing Jessie to spit in his face. Being able to directly confront the man who once terrified her allowed her to face the other manipulative men in her life, including her father and Gerald, freeing her of fear and allowing her to deal more honestly with her past. She apologizes for abandoning Ruth, acknowledging that Ruth had confronted her with a truth she could not then face, and hopes they can resume their friendship. After mailing the letter, Jessie is able to sleep without nightmares for the first time since her ordeal at the lakehouse.