Standalone paperback edition cover
|Publisher||Viking Press (Dark Forces anthology)|
|1980, 1985, 2007 (Signet)|
The Mist is a psychological horror novella by American author Stephen King. First published by Viking Press in 1980 as part of the Dark Forces anthology, an edited version was subsequently included in King's 1985 collection Skeleton Crew. In the story, the small town of Bridgton, Maine is shrouded in a dense mist that conceals otherworldly creatures. The protagonist and narrator David Drayton, who has taken refuge with his young son in a supermarket, tries to survive against not only the creatures of the mist, but also fanatical aggression from other survivors. In The Mist, King addresses the themes of man-made fears and religious fundamentalism.
King was inspired to write The Mist by a trip to his local supermarket following a thunderstorm, during which he imagined prehistoric animals and giant insects besieging the building. The Mist was nominated for the World Fantasy Award, and critics have considered it to be one of King's iconic works and a classic in its genre. Some reviewers lamented the superficial explanation of the mist's nature, while others were pleased with the cinematic presentation. A film adaptation directed by Frank Darabont was released in 2007, and a television series based on the novella's premise aired on Spike in 2017.
The morning after a severe thunderstorm, an unnaturally thick mist gradually envelopes the small town of Bridgton, Maine. Artist David Drayton, along with his son Billy and neighbor Brent Norton (whose car had been smashed by a fallen tree), go to the local supermarket for groceries. Upon arrival, their suspicions are aroused by the sound of a siren. The mist completely covers the supermarket and conceals strange and hostile creatures. The situation is aggravated by an earthquake, which damages communications and leaves the store without electricity. When a young bagger, Norm, goes outside to fix a clogged vent in the store's generator, he is dragged into the mist by tentacles.
David and assistant manager Ollie Weeks witness Norm's death and try to convince the remaining survivors of what has happened, imploring that no one leave the store. Norton and a small group of people accuse David of lying and go outside for help, only to be killed by a huge creature. Ollie is given a revolver by the young Amanda Dumfries. Later, pterosaur-like creatures fly into the store and are killed by improvised means. Two soldiers from a nearby military base reveal that the mist may be associated with "Project Arrowhead" - in which they were involved - before committing suicide. David leads a group of people to obtain medical supplies from an adjacent pharmacy, where they encounter huge spiders. In the wake of mass hysteria among the survivors, religious fanatic Mrs.Carmody convinces them that the current events fulfill a biblical prophecy of the end time, and believes that human sacrifice is required to save themselves from God's wrath.
Later, David, Billy, Ollie, Amanda and a few other survivors attempt to break out of the store, but are thwarted by Mrs.Carmody, who convinces the crowd to offer Billy and Amanda as sacrifices. Ollie shoots Mrs.Carmody and dissolves her congregation. En route to David's car, Ollie and one other survivor are killed, while another flees back to the store. The group attempts to reach David's house, but the roads to it are either blocked or damaged. On the radio, through the interference, David hears of Hartford, and he drives on in the hope of an escape from the mist.
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.