Standalone paperback edition cover
|1980, 1985, 2007 (Signet)|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
The Mist is a horror novella by the American author Stephen King, in which the small town of Bridgton, Maine is suddenly enveloped in an unnatural mist that conceals otherworldly monsters. It was first published as the first and longest story of the horror anthology Dark Forces 1980. A slightly edited version was included in King's collection Skeleton Crew (1985). The story is the longest entry in Skeleton Crew and occupies the first 134 pages. To coincide with the theatrical release of the film based on the novella, The Mist was republished as a stand-alone paperback book by Signet on October 2, 2007.
The morning after a violent thunderstorm, a thick unnatural mist quickly spreads across the small town of Bridgton, Maine, reducing visibility to near-zero and concealing numerous species of bizarre creatures which viciously attack anyone and anything that ventures out into the open.
The bulk of the story details the plight of a large group of people who become trapped while shopping in the town supermarket, among them a commercial artist named David Drayton (the protagonist and narrator), David's young son Billy, and their estranged neighbor Brent Norton, who accompanied them into town after a tree smashed Brent's car. Amongst others trapped in the market are a young woman named Amanda Dumfries and two soldiers from a nearby military installation, home to what is referred to as "The Arrowhead Project". The two soldiers' eventual joint suicide lends some credence to the theory that this Project was the source of the disaster.
Soon after the mist develops, something plugs the store generator's exhaust vent. When a young bag boy named Norm steps outside to fix the problem, he is pulled into the mist by a swarm of tentacles. David and Ollie Weeks, the store's assistant manager, witness Norm's death and try to convince the remaining survivors of the danger lurking outside. Norton and a small group of others refuse to believe, accusing David of lying. They venture out into the mist to seek help, where they are killed by a huge, unseen creature. This, along with a deadly incursion into the store by a pterosaur-like creature and a disastrous expedition to the pharmacy next door, lead to paranoia and panic consuming the remaining survivors. This spiraling breakdown leads to the rise to power of a religious zealot named Mrs. Carmody, who convinces most of the remaining survivors that these events fulfill the biblical prophecy of the end time, and that a human sacrifice must be made to save them from God's wrath.
David and Ollie attempt to lead their remaining allies in a covert exit from the market, but are stopped by Mrs. Carmody, who orders her followers to kill her chosen victims: Billy and Amanda. However, Ollie, using a revolver found in Amanda's purse, kills Mrs. Carmody, causing her congregation to break up. En route to David's car, Ollie is bisected by the claw of a very large creature similar to a giant lobster or crab. David, Billy, Amanda, and elderly, yet tough, school teacher Hilda Reppler reach the car and leave Bridgton, driving south for hours through a mist-shrouded, monster-filled New England. After finding refuge for the night, David listens to a radio and, through the overwhelming static, possibly hears a single word broadcast: "Hartford". With that one shred of hope, he prepares to drive on into an uncertain future.
King, in the Notes section in Skeleton Crew, says The Mist was inspired by a real life experience, when a massive thunderstorm much like the one that opens the story occurred where King lived at the time. The day after the storm, he went to a local supermarket with his son. While looking for hot dog buns, King imagined a "big prehistoric flying reptile" flapping around in the store. By the time the two were in line to pay for their purchases, King had the basis for his story: survivors trapped in a supermarket surrounded by unknown creatures.
While experiencing the unusual spring weather which precedes the storm, some characters make reference to the real-life Great Blizzard of 1888, which devastated much of the northeastern United States.
Connections to other works
In the second issue of the Marvel Comics series The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born (2007, a project overseen by King), the short prose story at the end of the book details events similar to those that occur in The Mist. In the story, a beam quake (caused by an attempt to tear down the Dark Tower) splits the Earth, and from within the split rises a thick mist inhabited by dark creatures that have escaped into the real world.
Influence in other media
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- A film of the book, titled The Mist (2007), was directed by Frank Darabont and starred Thomas Jane. This adaption changes the ending, as it removes the scene with the radio, and instead has the survivors agreeing to commit suicide after seeing the seemingly overrun New England, with the main character killing the others, including his son, but having used up the bullets, is unable to kill himself. He instead wanders through the mist, only to encounter a truck of military personnel destroying the mist with flamethrowers and assisting survivors, forcing him to realize that he killed his family for nothing.
- The developers of the Half-Life video game series, which also deals with creatures from parallel dimensions breaking through to ours, have listed The Mist among their primary influences for the game plot. The first game in the series was originally going to be called Quiver, as a reference to the Arrowhead base from The Mist.
- The setting for Konami's Silent Hill series was inspired from The Mist. It included the flying Pterodactyl as an in-game enemy.
- In The Secret World, the fictional New England town of Kingsmouth is enveloped in a mysterious mist which conceals sea monsters, zombies and cultists, while a writer clearly based on King hides in a lighthouse, writing about it. This is in keeping with the game area's references to modern horror stories such as the Cthulhu Mythos and The Shining.
- The film adaptation was referenced in King's novel Under the Dome (2009).
- The tokusatsu series Ultraman Tiga (1996) features an episode entitled "The Mist", which uses a plot heavily based on the story, with one character even alluding to its similarities to a "story she once heard".
- The episode "Monster in the Mist" of the kids' show Fanboy and Chum Chum, is about the titular characters as well as two employees trapped in the "Frosty Mart" convenience store surrounded by a thick fog, fearing that a monster is outside. Several references are made to the film, including sending someone out with a rope attached to their waist.
Characters and creatures
- David Drayton
- Husband of Stephanie, father of Billy. A moderately successful commercial artist, David is the narrator of the story and one of the few survivors as the story ends.
- Billy Drayton
- Billy is David's five-year-old son. He is cared for by his loving father, David, during their ordeal in the supermarket. Billy is traumatized by the experience, although David is fairly successful at shielding his son from any direct violence.
- Amanda Dumfries
- A young woman trapped in the supermarket. She is married, but her husband is away and is encouraged to carry a pistol while he was away. Ollie Weeks uses the pistol to kill Mrs. Carmody. Amanda also has a sexual encounter with David and is one of the survivors at the end of the story.
- Stephanie Drayton
- Stephanie is David's wife. David and Billy leave her at home when they go to the supermarket. Since she was working outside and one of their home's windows was broken during the storm, she had little chance of surviving the monsters but her fate is left unknown.
- Brent Norton
- David Drayton's neighbor, Brent refuses to believe what is happening. Prior to the story, he had lost a property dispute with Drayton, creating a bitter relationship between the two. His wife died a few months prior to the events of the story. He eventually leads a small group of non-believers into the mist. Whether or not he is killed by the creatures is unknown.
- Ollie Weeks
- The assistant manager of the supermarket. Ollie remains among the most sane of the survivors, accepting the truth about the mist and trying to keep the survivors calm. He is part of the pharmacy expedition and survives it. He kills Mrs. Carmody in order to prevent Billy and Amanda's sacrifice, but is killed minutes later during the climactic escape attempt by an arachnilobster which tears him in half with one of its claws.
- Mrs. Carmody
- A middle-aged townswoman with a borderline reputation as a witch and an extreme belief in a bloodthirsty God. She actively thrives in the situation, starting the story as a near-pariah, and eventually convincing a large fraction of the survivors that a human sacrifice must be made to clear away the mist. She is killed when Ollie shoots her in the abdomen after attempting to have Billy and Amanda killed.
- Bud Brown
- The manager of the store, he maintains a relative degree of sanity by, as Drayton puts it, assuming the role of "Protector Of The Store." He does not join the final escape attempt and his fate is uncertain.
- Mike Hatlen
- A town selectman, Mike becomes one of the leaders in the market. He is killed by the web of a gray widower during the expedition to the pharmacy, which cuts through his throat.
- A clerk at the supermarket who works for Bud Brown. She is only mentioned a couple of times.
- Dan Miller
- An "out of towner" who owns a summer home in the area, Dan also becomes a leader in the market. He is killed by a gray widower in the mist during the expedition to the pharmacy, which completely encases him in its acidic web.
- Hattie Turman
- A middle-aged woman, she looks after Billy during the times that David is otherwise occupied. She is killed by a gray widower in the mist during the final escape.
- Hilda Reppler
- An elderly, but tough and competent school teacher. Mrs. Reppler proves to be one of the most capable of those trapped in the market, using cans of Raid as weapons against the Mist creatures. She hated Mrs. Carmody and refused to join her group. After everything that had happened, Mrs. Reppler was trusted enough by David to join in the final escape attempt. She survived and stayed with David, Billy and Amanda.
- An 18-year-old bag boy, goes to check the generator in the loading dock. He is killed by an unseen, octopus-like creature with several spike-covered tentacles.
- Jim Grondin
- One of two men who sends Norm the bag boy to his death. Consumed by guilt, he drinks heavily. He is later killed by an unseen predator during the expedition to the pharmacy.
- Myron LaFleur
- Jim Grondin's friend, who also contributed to Norm's death. He becomes one of Mrs. Carmody's followers. When Mrs. Carmody dies, he is horrified and runs off. His fate is uncertain.
- Ambrose Cornell
- An elderly man, Cornell decides to leave with the group in the final escape but makes a hasty retreat back into the supermarket after seeing Ollie and Hattie killed by the monsters. His fate thereafter is uncertain.
- Buddy Eagleton
- One of the stock boys. He is killed during the expedition to the pharmacy when a grey widower wraps an acidic web-strand around his leg, causing him to bleed to death.
- Mr. McVey
- The store's butcher, who cooks for the survivors; He later becomes a follower of Mrs. Carmody and attempts to kill Billy and Amanda, but Mrs. Carmody's death stops him from doing so.
- Tom Smalley
- A survivor inside the store who is unlucky enough to be under the window where the pterobuzzard comes in, which proceeds to kill him.
- Numerous mollusk-like tentacles that kill Norm in the storage room. The suction cups on the tentacle serve as mouths, consuming Norm as the tentacles envelop him. The story never directly explains what the tentacles are attached to, although several characters engage in light speculation on the matter.
- Fly creatures – Small, plump, flying creatures between two and four feet long that swarm over the store windows at night. These creatures have pink, burnt-flesh coloured skin, and their eyes are on stalks protruding from their heads.
- Albino, nocturnal pterosaur-like creatures called "Pterobuzzards" that pluck the aforementioned fly creatures from the store windows. One enters through a hole in the store's display window and kills a man named Tom Smalley. The creature is then killed by David Drayton.
- Black spider-like predators, each about the size of a dog called "Grey Widowers", that hunt by scent. These have the ability to project acidic "spider-webs" that can burn through materials like cloth and flesh. They claim the lives of Jim Grondin, Buddy Eagleton, Dan Miller, Mike Hatlen, Hattie Turman and several patrons of the next-door pharmacy.
- A mostly unseen creature with a scorpion-like segmented body with lobster claws that kills Ollie Weeks by ripping him in half.
- A massive creature with six legs. Other than the legs, with hundreds of the aforementioned small flying creatures attached to them, this creature is unseen. Although the creature's exact size is never specified, David gets the impression that its size would make a blue whale resemble a trout if both were posed together, and its weight is sufficient to leave deep footprints the size of a large SUV in solid concrete.
- A giant kite-like creature glimpsed flying through the mist.
- A large, green insect resembling a twisted and deformed dragonfly with long, clear wings, which alights on the car.