||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (September 2013)|
First edition cover
|Cover artist||Cliff Nielsen|
|Publication date||March 20, 2001|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
Dreamcatcher (2001) is a science fiction novel written by Stephen King. It was adapted into a 2003 movie of the same name. The book, written in cursive, helped the author recuperate from a 1999 car accident, and was completed in half a year. According to the author in his afterword, the working title was "Cancer." His wife, Tabitha King, persuaded him to change the title.
Dreamcatcher is set near the fictional town of Derry, Maine. It is the story of four lifelong friends: Gary Ambrose "Jonesy" Jones; Pete Moore; Joe "Beaver" Clarendon; and Henry Devlin, who save Douglas "Duddits" Cavell, a young teen with Down syndrome, from a group of sadistic bullies. The four friends grow up and away from Duddits, but maintain close bonds with each other, sharing memories of Duddits and their good times together. Each has his own troubles: Beaver is terrible in relationships, Pete is an alcoholic, Henry is suicidal (unknown to his friends), and Jonesy almost died from a severe car accident from when he walked into open traffic, having seen a vision of Duddits calling to him.
The four go on a hunting trip together each year, and plan to visit Duddits on their return from this year's trip to the Hole-in-the-Wall (a cabin in the woods). While on the trip, Jonesy finds a disoriented and delirious stranger wandering in the woods during a blizzard, and talking about lights in the sky. The man exhibits dyspepsia and extremely foul flatulence but claims that these are the result of eating berries and lichen while he was lost; he has a reddish discoloration on his face, which he dismisses as an allergic rash. Beaver and Jonesy notice large numbers of animals, all with a similar reddish discoloration, migrating.
Henry and Pete, driving back to the cabin, lose control of the car and crash when avoiding a woman sitting in the road. Pete's knee is badly injured while Henry only suffers minor injuries. They approach the woman, who mumbles about lights, mentions the man found by Jonesy, and displays the same foul flatulence and burps. Henry and Pete drag her to a safe clearing; Henry goes to find help and tells Pete to stay with the woman and not to go back to the car for the beer.
Beaver attracts the attention of rescuers in helicopters, and is told that the entire area has been put under quarantine. The army quarantine is headed by Colonel Abraham Kurtz.
Upon returning to the cabin, Beaver and Jonesey find the man dead on the toilet, and the floor covered with his blood. They hear the toilet water splashing; Beaver sits on the toilet lid, trapping something inside it that they believe was excreted from the dead man. Jonesy rushes to the garage to find duct tape to seal off the toilet while Beaver holds the lid down with his body weight; the creature trapped inside keeps trying to escape. Beaver has a nervous habit of chewing on toothpicks; as he tries to take one from his pocket, the creature hits the seat, and Beaver spills all the toothpicks on the blood-covered floor. One toothpick lands on a clean tile, and Beaver bends down to retrieve it. The trapped creature hits the lid from inside the toilet; Beaver loses his balance and falls to the floor, freeing the creature, which then attacks him.
The lost man, his hunting companion the woman, and the stampeding animals all have similar symptoms caused by infection with an extraterrestrial virus. Army scientists named this The Ripley, after the protagonist of the Alien series, partly because of its extreme resilience to destruction. The friends discover that eating or inhaling the red mold causes large worm-like aliens, called byrum (derived from the name of the alien mold, byrus) to infest the host. Byrum are red, lamprey-like creatures with multiple rows of razor-sharp teeth; a second form of byrus grows on open wounds and mucous membranes. When an infestation is sufficiently established, the host develops a form of telepathy with other infested individuals. The friends name the byrum "shit weasel" because it exits the body through the anus, killing the host.
Byrum are highly aggressive and, although small, are more than capable of killing a human. The byrum matures into a form called a Gray; in their normal environment they would maintain a symbiotic relationship with their host, but the cold environment causes them to react badly and kill their earthly hosts. Once outside the host they die quickly in the cold, as does the byrus fungus.
Colonel Kurtz states that the Grays have tried several times over the past century to attack and gain control of earth, but have failed. This time the Grays are outside a crashed spacecraft, sending radio messages stating that they come in peace and are helpless, to try to fool the Army. Several helicopters are sent to wipe out the Grays; they mainly succeed, but many of the soldiers are exposed to the byrus in the attack. Meanwhile, all people in the area who have been affected by the byrus fungus are rounded up by the Army, with the intention that they will later be executed.
Jonesy returns to the bathroom, to discover Beaver being killed by the byrum. Beaver uses the last of his strength to hold onto the byrum to prevent it attacking Jonesy, who closes and bolts the door. The byrum begins to break through the door, and one of the escaped Grays appears behind Jonesy, takes over his body and controls it – with difficulty as the human body is so different to its own. Back in Derry, their childhood friend, Duddits, cries and screams to his mother, "Beaver's Dead! Beaver's dead!"
Pete, who had returned to the car for the beer, makes his way back to the woman but finds her dead; the shit weasel has made its escape from her body and attacks Pete, who defeats it by throwing it into a fire they had built for warmth. His battle with the byrum exposes him to the byrus fungus, which begins to cover his body. Henry, meanwhile, gets to Hole-in-the-Wall, and discovers Jonesy taken over by the alien, Mr. Gray, who uses Jonesy's body to leave on a snowmobile. Inside the house, Henry finds Beaver's dead body and the shit weasel that killed him in the bedroom. The byrum is weak from the cold; Henry shoots it and burns a clutch of eggs which it had laid. Henry leaves to seek help, but is captured by the army and placed in quarantine.
Flashbacks to their childhood reveal that each man gained a certain degree of telepathy from being in contact with Duddits, who has special powers. Through their friendship and Duddits' powers they find a missing girl, trapped from falling down a hole.
Jonesy battles Mr. Gray in his mind, stealing and locking away his memories of Derry and Duddits from Mr. Gray. While Mr. Gray is in control, Jonesy can see everything happening, but can do nothing. Pete finds Jonesy/Mr. Gray who forces him to direct and accompany him to Derry, after which Mr. Gray makes Byrus fungus constrict and kill Pete.
Henry convinces Army officer Owen Underhill to help him, revealing deep memories of the man through the telepathy gained from Duddits. Henry tells Underhill about Jonesy, that he thinks the alien is planning to infect the town's water supply with byrus, and that cold is fatal to the byrus, therefore infected people do not need to be executed. They form a plan.
Henry communicates telepathically with the byrus-infected captives, showing them that the Army intends to execute them. They panic and riot; many are killed attempting to escape, but most flee into the woods. Kurtz discovers the plan formulated by Henry and Underhill; he gathers a few of his men, and an officer infected with a byrum, and pursues Henry and the "rogue" officer Underhill.
Mr. Gray loses his way in the town, following old memories in place of the new ones stolen by Jonesy. Mr. Gray eventually becomes weak from hunger, not recognising what it is; Jonesy guides him to a diner to buy time.
Henry and Underhill make their way to Duddits, as Henry believes he is the only hope to defeat Mr. Gray; they find Duddits already packed up and ready to go as he knew they were coming. Duddits is very sick with leukemia; his mother is reluctant to let him go, but she accepts that Duddits needs to help his friends, and that he would be much happier dying in their company than dying alone in his room.
Mr. Gray eventually gets to the water supply for several cities in the area; Henry and Duddits confront him. Duddits uses his powers to force Henry and Jonesy into a place in which Mr. Gray, inside of Jonesy, will be vulnerable; he and Henry kill Mr. Gray. As Henry and Jonesy make their way back to their original bodies they find that Duddits has died from the combination of overusing his powers and leukemia. Outside, Kurtz finds Underhill and they are both killed. The byrum from the infected officer escapes but dies in the fire. The last of the alien byrus on earth dies.