The Raft (short story)
|Genre(s)||Horror short story|
Gallery (1st release),|
|Media type||Print (Periodical & Paperback)|
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Four college students named Randy, Deke, Rachel, and LaVerne decide to swim to a wooden raft on a remote Pennsylvania lake to celebrate the end of summer.
While swimming out to the raft in the middle of the lake, Randy notices a mysterious oil slick-like substance floating on the surface that appears to go after the girls as they reach the raft. Deke and LaVerne ridicule Randy's suspicions that the oil slick was chasing the girls until Rachel remarks on the beautiful bands of colors on the slick's surface and touches it. The oil slick instantly coats her finger and pulls her into the water, where it covers her with itself and dissolves her alive. The horrified trio are helplessly forced to watch her die.
After the initial panic, the three remaining friends contemplate their next course of action. They realize they are trapped by what is apparently some unknown blob creature (similar to a slime mold) that is waiting to devour whoever enters the water. Swimming past the creature is not an option, as it moves too fast. The group has driven eight miles off the nearest back road without having told anyone where they were going, making rescue impossible. Their only hope is to wait and see if it goes away. The iridescent surface of the creature hypnotizes and disorients them into almost falling off the raft, but they realize that it can be avoided if you look away in enough time. After a while, the creature squeezes under the raft. Deke decides he could make a swim to the shore, but as he prepares to jump into the lake the creature oozes up through two boards and grabs him by his foot. Unable to free their friend, Randy and LaVerne watch helplessly as Deke is slowly pulled through the crack by the creature and devoured. LaVerne faints from the sight; Randy fights to maintain his sanity and contemplates swimming to shore while the creature is busy eating Deke, but finds he cannot do so, as laying her down would cause her to suffer the same fate as Deke.
After LaVerne regains consciousness, Randy and LaVerne take turns watching the creature. They also take turns sitting and standing, allowing brief moments of rest for one while the other watches for when it goes under the raft. During the course of the night, LaVerne convinces Randy that they should sit and watch it together and keep each other warm. The two start having sex, and LaVerne's hair falls over the side of the raft. Before Randy can pull LaVerne up, the creature manages to tangle itself in her hair and flows over her head, melting her face. Unable to save LaVerne, he kicks her over the side of the raft in a panic, quickening her death.
As morning comes, Randy fantasizes about rescue, suffering from extreme fatigue. Eventually, the creature begins to flow under the raft every time Randy tries to sit down, forcing him to remain permanently standing. Randy finally breaks down and gives up, acknowledging the hopelessness of the situation.
After night comes, Randy turns to the creature and contemplates that the creature's colors will take the pain out of being consumed. Randy does not look away as the creature shimmers hues at him, and the story ends.
The bulk of the story is faithful to the short story, but the ending was changed for the film. As soon as the creature takes LaVerne, Randy makes a swim for shore and is quickly pursued. Crawling out to apparent safety a few feet from the water's edge, he yells "I beat you!", but the creature becomes a wave, throwing itself up on the shore, and engulfs him. As the creature quietly slides back down into the lake, the screen pans over a no-swimming sign that also features a warning, which was hidden in overgrown reeds, near the now-abandoned Camaro.
In the intro to the story in The Twilight Zone Magazine and in afterword to the book Skeleton Crew, King relates an anecdote about the story's possible 1969 publication in Adam magazine in different form, under the title "The Float". He explains that the story was accepted for publication by Adam magazine. A short time after that King was arrested in the town of Orono, Maine for removing a number of traffic cones from the street after one of them had damaged his car. He was unable to pay the $250 fine handed down by the court and was about to be jailed for 30 days when the payment check for "The Float" arrived in the mail, an event King referred to as akin to "having someone send you a real Get Out of Jail Free card." Despite the fact that King received payment for the story, he has never been able to locate a copy of the magazine with the published story in it.