In the Tall Grass
|"In the Tall Grass"|
|Publication date||June/July–August 2012|
"In the Tall Grass" is a novella written by Stephen King and his son Joe Hill. It was originally published in two parts in the June/July and August 2012 issues of Esquire magazine. This is King and Hill's second collaboration since "Throttle", published in 2009. On October 9, 2012, "In the Tall Grass" was released in e-book and audiobook formats, the latter read by Stephen Lang.
Cal and Becky Demuth are inseparable twins. Becky finds out during her sophomore year of college that she is pregnant, leading the twins' parents to suggest she go live with her aunt and uncle until the baby is born. Since it is spring break, Cal decides to accompany her on her cross-country trip. They stop at numerous tourist locations along the way, including the biggest ball of twine.
After driving for about three days, they stop at a field of tall grass after they hear a little boy named Tobin Humbolt calling for help. The twins stand outside the field, listening to Tobin screaming for help, and his mother Natalie Humbolt yelling at him to stop yelling, saying that "he will hear you". Despite seeing a deserted sedan with maggoty hamburgers inside (presumably the Humbolt's), Cal thinks he hears Tobin just a few feet inside the tall grass. Cal walks into the tall grass to rescue the boy, Natalie's cries having mysteriously gone silent. At first, Tobin's voice sounds so close, Cal dives for him, only to end up lying in a puddle of gritty water. Tobin's voice now sounds about twenty feet away.
Becky, scared of being left alone, calls 911 as she follows Cal into the tall grass, but the signal is cut off when she is just a few feet in. While trudging along looking for Tobin (and Becky), Cal stumbles across a golden retriever's dead body, having died of dehydration. An hour and a half of cat-and-mouse calling, running, and chasing later, none of the three have located each other.
Becky continues to call for Cal and Tobin, but has no luck and recites limericks to comfort herself, as she is dehydrated and tired. She spies someone ahead, and a man steps out of the grass in front of her, wearing a "world's largest ball of twine" souvenir tee-shirt. He introduces himself as Ross Humbolt, saying that he is the father of Tobin and the husband of Natalie. He begs Becky to follow him, saying that she will be safe with him. Despite not trusting Ross, she follows him anyway. He lures her to a stamped-down circle of grass, where Becky finds Natalie's bloody, dismembered body. Ross explains that he found "the rock" and that "the dancing men have shown him the secrets of the tall grass". He then attacks her, trying to kill the baby, but Becky stabs him to death with her house key.
Cal, now severely dehydrated and exhausted in his attempts to look for Becky, feverishly drinks the gritty water that the long grass grows in. Now half-crazed, he attempts to burn down the tall grass, but the grass is so wet that none of his matches burn for more than five seconds. He then finally runs into Tobin, who is eating a dead, rotting crow. Tobin explains that the rotting dog was his, and that "the tall grass doesn't move dead things." Tobin leads Cal into a field in the middle of the grass, where a large rock with strange drawings of dancing men and words written all over it. Tobin says that the rock will help Cal find Becky like the rock helped Tobin and Ross find each other. Cal, despite his fear of the rock and the strange, seemingly-moving drawings, gives in and hugs it.
Meanwhile, Becky gives premature birth. Cal and Tobin then appear and wrap the baby in a shirt. Becky then passes out to "slurping sounds." When she wakes up, her baby is nowhere in sight. Cal and Tobin drag a half-conscious Becky to the rock and throw her on it.
An unspecified amount of time later, an RV full of hippies (wearing "world's largest balls of twine" tee-shirts) pulls into a parking lot across the street to have a barbeque and smoke marijuana. They hear Tobin's calls for help, and the whole group walks into the tall grass to help.