Four Past Midnight
|Four Past Midnight|
First edition cover
|Cover artist||Rob Wood-Stansbury|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
Four Past Midnight is a collection of four novellas by Stephen King, published in 1990. The four stories are "The Langoliers"; "Secret Window, Secret Garden"; "The Library Policeman"; and "The Sun Dog".
The ten remaining confused passengers are Brian Engle, a troubled, off-duty airline pilot traveling to Boston to attend his ex-wife's funeral; Dinah Bellman, a young blind girl with minor psychic powers; fifth-grade teacher Laurel Stevenson, who takes to watching over Dinah; Nick Hopewell, a junior attache & "mechanic" for the British Embassy; Don Gaffney, a retired tool-and-die engineer on a trip to see his grandchild; Rudy Warwick, a businessman; Albert Kaussner, a talented teen violinist heading to a prestigious school of the arts; Bethany Simms, a teenager being sent by her family to rehab; Bob Jenkins, a mystery author who acts as the voice of logic; and Craig Toomey, an irritable investment banker on the verge of a psychotic breakdown. They realize only those sleeping are now left on the plane. They get into several arguments as of what to do next, and Toomey and Hopewell almost get into a fistfight. Engle takes control of the aircraft and lands the plane in Bangor, Maine for safety reasons, despite Toomey's protests.
Upon arrival, the airport appears abandoned with no signs of life. There are no odors, electricity, or echoes. Food and drinks are tasteless and matches simply sputter out. They soon hear "radio static" in the distance. Craig believes it is "The Langoliers", monsters his abusive father told him about, who eat those who waste time. Unable to get to his business meeting, Craig finally snaps, and goes through horiffic hallucinations of his father before taking Bethany as a hostage. Craig attempts to kill Albert, but is subdued.
Bob begins to theorize that they have flown through a time rip, resembling an aurora, over the Mojave Desert. Bob realizes that the world they are in is the past, which forbids people to interfere with past events, therefore being a deserted world that "time" and everything else has left behind for the future. To get back, Bob theorizes, they must fly back through the rift.
As the survivors desperately attempt to refuel the plane, Toomey escapes and rampages through the abandoned world, just as they realize that the "radio static" may, in fact, be the "Langoliers" who may be real after all, and may threaten their very existence. Now, the survivors must attempt to escape both Toomey and the "Langoliers".
Secret Window, Secret Garden
Mort Rainey is a successful novelist in Maine. One day, he is confronted by a man from Mississippi named John Shooter, who claims Mort plagiarized a story he wrote. Mort vehemently denies ever plagiarizing anything. Shooter leaves, but not before leaving his manuscript, "Sowing Season". Mort notices that Shooter left without his story; he drops it in the trash can. When Mort's housemaid recovers the manuscript—thinking it belongs to Mort—he finally reads Shooter's story, discovering that it is almost identical to his short story "Secret Window". The two differ, but very slightly; they share the same plot elements. The only differences are the title, the character's name, the diction, and the ending. Mort becomes disturbed by these findings.
Shooter returns a few days later. Having learned that "Secret Window" was published two years before Shooter claimed to have written "Sowing Season", Mort confronts Shooter with this information. An enraged Shooter accuses Mort of lying and demands proof, giving Mort three days to show him his published story. Overnight, he kills Mort's cat and burns down the house of Mort's ex-wife, which contained the magazine issue in which "Secret Window" was published. Mort orders a new copy of the magazine; he also asks his caretaker Greg Carstairs to tail Shooter and to talk to a man named Tom, who drove past Mort and Shooter. Shooter, angry that Mort has involved other people in their business, kills both men and plants evidence framing Mort for the murders. Upon receiving the magazine and returning home, Mort finds that "Secret Window" has been removed.
Mort quickly begins to come to terms with reality, and realizes that his life, and maybe even his own sanity may be at stake as he attempts to discover what is real and what is not.
The Library Policeman
The Library Policeman was written after King's son did not want to go to the library as he was afraid of the library police. King felt this was a nice idea and used it. What if there were serious men in long coats that came to your house and fetched the books if you did not return them in time? And most importantly: what happens if you lose the book you borrowed?
Sam Peebles is asked to give a speech to the Rotary Club. An office assistant (Naomi) directs him to the public library to check out two books that might help with speech writing. In doing so he runs across Ardelia Lortz, the librarian. He checks out two books with the warning that they must be returned or he should beware of the Library Policeman. Naomi eventually informs us that Ardelia Lortz is not living and is not spoken of any more. Through a series of events we are introduced to Dave Duncan "Dirty Dave" a former lover of Ardelia's. He finds that Ardelia is not a person but a being which feeds on fear and that Duncan was a sometimes unwilling companion/conspirator in helping her feed from the fear of children. We find that Ardelia had "died" in 1960 after killing two children and a Police Officer. She is now back and Duncan believes she seeks revenge and a new host. The Library Policeman turns out to be a recreation by Ardelia of a man Peebles had run into as a child at his local library who had raped and threatened him. The Library Policeman however is not just a recreation but also an embodiment of Ardelia who sought access to Sam as her new host. Dave dies defending them from Ardelia. They appear to have beaten the Library Policeman/Ardelia, only to discover at the end that she has already attached to Naomi. Sam removes her from Naomi's neck and destroys her under the wheels of a passing train.
The Sun Dog
Kevin Delevan receives a Sun 660 Polaroid camera for his fifteenth birthday. He soon notices that there is something strange about the camera: the only photographs it produces are of a malicious, feral black dog that seems to move closer with each shot as though to attack the person who is taking the pictures. On a recommendation, Kevin seeks help from Reginald "Pop" Merrill, the wealthy and unscrupulous owner of a junk shop in the town of Castle Rock, Maine. While just as unsettled by the phenomenon as Kevin, Merrill sees an opportunity to further his own interests; namely, selling the camera to a paranormal enthusiast for a great deal of money. He manages to switch out the camera for another of the same model, which Kevin destroys. Much to his dismay, however, Merrill cannot rid himself of the Sun as prospective buyers either dismiss it outright as a fake or decline to purchase it due to the discomfort and unease they feel upon viewing the photographs. Furthermore, Merrill finds himself increasingly compelled to use the Sun – the dog slowly advancing as it transforms into something more savage and monstrous with every picture he takes.
In the meantime, Kevin is plagued by recurring nightmares about the dog. Realizing that Merrill tricked him and the Sun was not destroyed, he sets out to prevent Merrill from taking any more pictures for fear that the dog will "break through" into the real world. By this point, the camera's influence over Merrill has caused him to lose his grip on sanity. After waking up in the middle of the night to find himself holding the Sun and repeatedly pressing its trigger, he resolves to smash it in the morning. However, he hallucinates that one of the cuckoo clocks hanging on the wall of his store is really the camera and smashes it instead. Guided by the illusion that he is repairing a clock at his workbench, Merrill starts taking pictures again. At this moment, Kevin and his father arrive to confront Merrill, but they are too late to stop him. The dog begins to tear its way out of the final photograph, killing Merrill in the process. Inspired by a scene from one of his nightmares, Kevin has brought another Sun along with him, and just as the dog is about to release itself, he takes its picture, trapping it once more in the "Polaroid world".
In the epilogue, Kevin gets a computer for his following birthday. In order to test its word processor function, he types "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy sleeping dog." Rather than a printout of this text, the page reads, "The dog is loose again. It is not sleeping. It is not lazy. It's coming for you, Kevin. It's very hungry. And it's VERY angry."
Film and TV
Of the stories featured in Four Past Midnight, two have been adapted for the screen. On TV, the miniseries The Langoliers appeared in 1995, featuring Dean Stockwell and Bronson Pinchot. In 2004, Secret Window was released in theaters, starring Johnny Depp and John Turturro.