The Ten O'Clock People
|"The Ten O'Clock People"|
|Published in||Nightmares & Dreamscapes|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
"The Ten O'Clock People" is a short story by American author Stephen King, published in the Nightmares & Dreamscapes collection. Unlike many of King's stories which take place in fictional places like Castle Rock, Maine, "Ten O'Clock People" takes place in the distinctly recognizable Boston, Massachusetts.
The main character, Pearson, is a smoker trying hard to quit for health reasons. He discovers a horrible aspect of reality that only those attempting to quit like him are capable of seeing—that many of the people living among us in positions of power, including many police officers and political figures and even the Vice President of the United States, are in fact inhuman monsters disguised as people. A unique chemical imbalance, caused by his smoking only on his morning break (thus the reference to Ten O' Clock in the title) makes him able to see the true nature of these creatures through their disguises. When Pearson first notices one of them, a young black man named Dudley "Duke" Rhinemann stops him from screaming and calms him down.
Dudley later explains that if Pearson wants to live, he must go about his day as usual and meet him at 3 o'clock after work. Pearson does as he is told and discovers that his boss is also one of the "batmen". He leaves work a bit shaken, meets Dudley and goes to a bar with him. After explaining that smokers trying to quit are the only ones who see them, Dudley invites Pearson to a meeting of those who can see the "batmen".
Shortly after arriving, the leader of the group says he has "big news" for them all. Pearson, who already had some suspicion about the idolized leader, realizes the man is stalling for time, and gives warning. The treacherous leader then says the batmen have granted them amnesty, but soon after a horde of them attack those in the meeting. Many die. Pearson, along with two others, manage to escape the meeting. The trio flee to Omaha and form a new resistance group of 'Ten O'Clock People'. This group successfully kills many 'batmen', and Pearson notes that their war against the batmen was a lot like quitting smoking: "...you have to start somewhere."
Connections to other works
Several of King's other stories, most notably Low Men in Yellow Coats and The Dark Tower, feature malevolent creatures called Can-toi, which bear a strong resemblance to the 'batmen' of 'The Ten O'Clock People'. Servants of the Crimson King, the Can-toi are vaguely humanoid beings with large rodent heads, which they hide beneath masks in order to infiltrate human society. It is not clear if the batmen are intended to be Can-toi or if they are an unrelated group. King references Raymond Chandler in the story, as to disguise the real reason of the meeting, they claim to be Raymond Chandler enthusiasts '(Hardboiled Yegs)'. In the book's ending notes, King relates that this story had one of the shortest gestation periods of any of his pieces—he conceived and wrote it feverishly over a mere three days. It has been noticed that the plot of King's story also resembles the premise of John Carpenter's movie "They Live", made in 1988. In this movie, however, the enemy is an extraterrestrial one and their disguise is penetrated by the wearing of special sunglasses. It must be noted that any similarities between the two are coincidental.
In May 2011 Making Ten O'clock Productions acquired the rights to adapt "The Ten O'Clock People" into a feature film, which is scheduled to be released in 2015 and will star Jay Baruchel ("This Is the End"). The film's plot is a modernization of King's original story and will be directed by Tom Holland (who had previously adapted "The Langoliers" into a 2-part miniseries), produced by Making Ten O’clock Productions and Holland’s Dead Rabbit Films with industry heavyweight Don Carmody producing and Pascal Borno, Scott Karol, Nathaniel Kramer and E.J. Meyers exec producing.