Suffer the Little Children
|"Suffer the Little Children"|
Nightmares & Dreamscapes
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
"Suffer the Little Children" is a horror short story by American writer Stephen King. It was first published by Cavalier in February, 1972. The story was later published as part of the collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes in 1993. In the "Notes" section of Nightmares & Dreamscapes, King wrote that it was originally supposed to be published in his 1978 collection Night Shift, but editor Bill Thompson opted to have it cut. King had wanted to cut "Gray Matter", but deferred to Thompson's choice.
King has stated that the story reminds him of the works of Ray Bradbury, and similarities have been noted by other authors as well. King also wrote that the story had "no redeeming social merit whatever." In The Complete Stephen King Universe, it's described as an "effective chiller."
Miss Emily Sidley is a first grade teacher. On one particular day, while she's teaching spelling, Sidley gets the disconcerting feeling that one of her students is staring at her. She turns around and notices that Robert, the quietest student, has his gaze fixed on her. During the following week, Miss Sidley eventually punishes Robert for her suspicions. Robert taunts her by asking her if she wants to see him "change", which he does (whether it really happened or was a figment of her imagination is not exactly explained) and terrifies the teacher who runs screaming and is nearly run down by a bus.
After the incident, Miss Sidley takes a leave of absence. When she returns, Robert taunts her at recess about there being more creatures at school, posing as normal children. They have replaced the real children they look like, who are imprisoned within their doppelgangers. He says of the real Robert: "I can hear him screaming, Miss Sidley. He wants me to let him out."
The things Robert is saying soon get to Miss Sidley, and the terrified teacher decides to take drastic measures. She takes out her deceased brother's Luger pistol from a drawer and puts it in her purse. That day at school, she takes twelve of her students to a testing room where sound is well-concealed, and shoots each one dead. Another teacher comes in as Sidley is preparing to shoot a thirteenth student, and Sidley's bad back gives way as the other teacher struggles with her.
Miss Sidley is sent to a mental institution after the murders. She works with little preschoolers each day for therapy. One day she feels the fear that drove her to her crime and asks to be removed from the room. As she is taken away, some of the children slyly watch her, implying that they are also doppelgangers. That night, Miss Sidley commits suicide by slashing her throat and her former psychiatrist soon focuses intently on the children.
- King, Stephen (1993). Nightmares and Dreamscapes. New York: Viking. p. 801. ISBN 0-606-06623-3.
- Golden, Christopher; Hank Wagner (2006). The Complete Stephen King Universe: A Guide to the Worlds of Stephen King. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 518. ISBN 978-1-4177-3411-5.
- Suffer the Little Children: Home Page
- King, Stephen. "Nightmares & Dreamscapes". Official page. Stephen King. Retrieved 2011-03-25.
- Fleming Jr., Mike (September 11, 2017). "Stephen King Short Story 'Suffer The Little Children' Draws Sean Carter To Write, Direct". Deadline. Retrieved September 11, 2017.