The Raft (short story)
|Genre(s)||Horror short story|
|Published in||Gallery (1st release),
|Media type||Print (Periodical & Paperback)|
|This article does not cite any sources. (October 2008)|
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 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 and dissolves her. 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 living thing that is waiting to eat them. 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. 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 pulled through the crack by the creature and devoured. Randy later realizes with horror that he and LaVerne could have swum to shore while the creature was busy eating Deke.
Now unwilling to risk swimming for shore, Randy and LaVerne take turns watching the creature, which changes positions every now and then. 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. The iridescent surface hypnotizes and disorients them into almost falling off the raft, but they are able to look away in enough time. During the course of the night, LaVerne convinces Randy that they should sit and watch it together and keep each other warm. He eventually touches one of LaVerne's breasts and they end up having sex. During intercourse, LaVerne's hair falls over the side of the raft. Before Randy can pull her up, the creature grabs onto her hair and manages to flow 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.
A day passes, and the creature now flows under the raft every time Randy tries to sit down, forcing him to remain permanently standing. Randy fantasizes about rescue, suffering from extreme fatigue.
After nightfall, Randy finally gives up, acknowledging the hopelessness of the situation. He turns to the creature and begins to think 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 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, 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.