The End of the Whole Mess

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"The End of the Whole Mess"
Author Stephen King
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Science fiction short story
Published in Omni Magazine (1st release),
Nightmares & Dreamscapes
Publication type Periodical
Media type Print (Magazine, Hardback & Paperback)
Publication date 1986

"The End of the Whole Mess" is a short science fiction story by Stephen King which was first published in Omni Magazine in 1986, and in 1993 was collected in King's Nightmares & Dreamscapes.

Plot[edit]

The story, narrated by Howard Fornoy in the form of a personal journal, recounts the life of his genius younger brother, Robert. Bobby, a child prodigy whose adult interests led him to study a variety of scientific disciplines, discovered a chemical that reduces the aggressive tendencies of humans and other organisms. While doing sociological research in Texas, Bobby used crime statistics to create a sort of topographic map which displayed a geographical pattern of violent crime. Examining the map, Robert noted diminishing levels of crime centered around the town of La Plata. When he arrives to investigate, he finds that this town has never had any violent crime. Bobby is ultimately able to determine that the cause of the non-aggression is the presence of a chemical unique to the town's water supply, a phenomenon that is mentioned in (but had nothing to do with the causations of) King's earlier novel It. Even minimal exposure to the chemical will calm down an angry person or animal, and Bobby has been able to isolate the chemical and reduce it to concentrated form.

At a time of international chaos suggestive of an approaching total nuclear war, Bobby and Howard, with the aid of a volcano in Borneo that is set to erupt and blow millions of tons of ash into the atmosphere, disperse a large quantity of this substance throughout the world, in the hope of preventing a catastrophe. Indeed, the effects are quick and expected: a massive decrease in hostilities around the globe.

Several months later it is discovered that, to the Fornoys' horror, there was another constant about La Plata that was not studied until after the substance was released. It does eliminate aggression, and increases calm, but it does the job too well. It builds up, out of control, in a subject's system, ultimately giving them symptoms resembling dementia or Alzheimer's disease and eventually resulting in death. Howard's journal entries after this point begin to include increasing amounts of grammar, spelling, and other mistakes, eventually devolving into incoherence as Howard succumbs to the effects of the chemical. It is implied the human race will also eventually die out as adults start to forget how to care for newborn children.

The style of Howard's entries near the end are reminiscent of those of the character Charlie in Daniel Keyes' book Flowers for Algernon.[1]

Television adaptation[edit]

"The End of the Whole Mess" was included as the fourth installment of Turner Network Television's Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King, starring Ron Livingston as Howard and Henry Thomas as Bobby. It originally aired on July 19, 2006. In this version, Howard is an Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker instead of a writer, and he tells his story in front of a video camera. In addition, the events of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks are incorporated into the story and are used as a catalyst for Bobby's inspiration. At the end, Bobby and his brother commit suicide by injecting themselves with a concentrate of the aggression decreasing substance.

Bryan Pope of DVD Verdict rates the television episode an A- and praises the acting.[2] Christopher Noseck of DVD Talk said it is the best episode of the series, both believable and straightforward.[3] Jon Condit of Dread Central rated the episode 4.5/5 stars and wrote, "This is a really touching, character driven, and emotional story."[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Beahm, George (1998). Stephen King from A to Z: An Encyclopedia of His Life and Work. Andrews McMeel Publishing. ISBN 9780836269147. 
  2. ^ Pope, Bryan (2006-11-14). "Nightmares And Dreamscapes". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 2013-11-27. 
  3. ^ Noseck, Christopher (2006-10-24). "Nightmares & Dreamscapes - From the Stories of Stephen King". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2013-11-27. 
  4. ^ Condit, Jon (2006-07-20). "Nightmares & Dreamscapes: The End of the Whole Mess (TV)". Dread Central. Retrieved 2013-11-27. 

See also[edit]