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"The Mist" is a horror novella by the American author Stephen King, in which the small town of Bridgtonmarker, Mainemarker is suddenly enveloped in an unnatural mist that conceals otherworldly monsters. It was first published as the last and longest story of the 1980 horror anthology Dark Forces. A lightly re-edited version was included in King's 1985 short-story collection Skeleton Crew. The story is the longest entry in Skeleton Crew and occupies the first 155 pages. To coincide with the theatrical release of the film based on the novella, The Mist was republished as a stand-alone novella by Signet.

Plot summary

The morning after a violent thunderstorm, a thick unnatural mist quickly spreads across the small town of Bridgtonmarker, Mainemarker, reducing visibility to near-zero and concealing numerous species of bizarre creatures which viciously attack any human who ventures out into the open. The source of the fog and its inhabitants is never revealed, but strong allusions are made to an inter-dimensional rift caused by something known second-hand to the townsfolk as "The Arrowhead Project," long rumored to be conducted at a nearby top-secret military facility.

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 Brenton Norton, who accompanied them into town after his car was smashed by a tree. Amongst others trapped in the market are a young woman named Amanda Dumfries and two soldiers from The Arrowhead Project; the soldiers' eventual joint suicide lends some credence to the theory of the Project being the source of the disaster.

Soon after the mist comes, something plugs the store generator's exhaust vent. When a young bagboy named Norm steps outside to fix the problem, he is pulled into the mist by a swarm of tentacles. David, Ollie Weeks, the store's assistant manager, and two others, who witness Norm's death try to convince the remaining survivors of the danger lurking outside. Norton and a small group of others (dubbed "The Flat Earth Society" by David) refuse to believe and venture out into the mist to find help, where they are killed by a huge, unseen creature. This, along with a deadly incursion into the store by a creature resembling a pterosaur and a disastrous expedition to the pharmacy next door in which five people are killed by oversized spiders, 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 the majority of the remaining survivors that these events fulfill the biblical prophecy of the end times, and that a human sacrifice must be made to save them from the wrath of God. 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 seize her chosen victims: Billy and Amanda. Ollie shoots Carmody dead, causing the mob to back off, but en route to David's car, he is in turn killed by a large lobster-like creature. David, Billy, Amanda, and an elderly, yet tough, school teacher Hilda Reppler reach the car and leave Bridgton, driving south for hours through a mist-shrouded, monster-filled New Englandmarker. 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.

Influences

King, in the Notes section in Skeleton Crew, says that the inspiration for The Mist came from a real life experience. While there were no strange creatures, a massive thunderstorm much like the one which 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.

In the second issue of the Marvel Comics series The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born (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. This phenomenon, known in the Dark Tower universe as a thinny resembles the mist from The Mist.

The Mist bears resemblance to the earlier H.F. Arnold short story "Night Wire," in which a radio operator details how a malevolent mist falls over a city, containing creatures that consume townspeople "piecemeal." (The story, in its entirety, can be read here.)

The story makes brief mention of the horrors writer H. P. Lovecraft, as the creatures and the concept of their origin in another dimension share a similarity with themes which commonly appeared in Lovecraft's writing. King has widely praised Lovecraft as a horror writer and has directly borrowed from him in several other stories.

The experiments conducted at the military base in the story reflect those which allegedly transpired during the Montauk Projectmarker.

Influence in other media

  • The 1996 tokusatsu series Ultraman Tiga 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 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 first Silent Hill video game takes place in a town shrouded by monster-infested mist. As in The Mist, a pterosaur-like creature crashes through a diner window and the game features a radio that gives off nothing but static. Some of the game's characters are very similar to the main characters of The Mist.




Characters and creatures

This is a list of brief contextual descriptions of characters from the novel.

Human characters

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.


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.


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 nonbelievers into the mist, where a large, unseen creature kills them.


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 an imminent human sacrifice, but is killed minutes later during the climactic escape attempt by a unseen creature 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 shot and killed by Ollie after attempting to have Billy and Amanda killed.


Amanda Dumfries
A young woman trapped in the supermarket. She has a husband who is out of town and encouraged her to carry a pistol while he was away. Ollie Weeks uses the weapon to kill Mrs. Carmody. She is one of the last main characters seen.


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 a "spider-web" during the expedition to the pharmacy, which cuts through his throat.


Sally
A clerk at the supermarket who works for Bud Brown. She is only mentioned a couple of times. It is unknown whether she became a follower of Mrs. Carmody or remained neutral.


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 spider-like creature 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 spider-creature 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 is part of the pharmacy expedition and is one of the last main characters seen.


Norm
An 18-year-old bag boy, he goes outside to check the generator. He is killed by a unseen multi-tentacled predator.


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. His fate is uncertain.


Ambrose Cornell
An elderly man, Cornell decides to try and leave with the group. However, after he sees Ollie get killed, he flees back into the market during the climactic escape sequence, and is left behind.


Buddy Eagleton
One of the stock boys. He is killed during the expedition to the pharmacy when a spider-creature 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; Drayton surmises the smell of rotting meat finally breaks his sanity. He becomes one of Mrs. Carmody's followers, and is last seen as a catatonic wreck.


Tom Smalley
A survivor inside the store who is unlucky enough to be under the window where the pterodactyl comes in, which proceeds to kill him.


Creatures

  • 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 explains what the tentacles are attached to. Similar creatures appear in From a Buick 8 and in the movie Deep Rising.


  • Scorpion-flies - Small, plump, flying creatures between two and four feet long which swarm over the store windows at night. These creatures have pink, burnt-flesh colored skin, and their eyes are on stalks protruding from their heads.


  • Albino Pterobuzzards - Nocturnal reptile-like creatures which pluck the aforementioned creatures off of the store windows. One enters through a hole in the store's display window and kills a man named Tom Smalley.


  • Gray Widowers - Black spider-like predators each about the size of a dog, which hunt by scent. These have the ability to project acidic "spider-webs" which 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.


  • Arachnilobster - A creature with a scorpion-like segmented body with lobster claws that kills Ollie Weeks by ripping him in half. One of these creatures may have killed Brent Norton and his followers.


  • Behemoth - A behemoth 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 six-foot-deep footprints the size of a large SUV in solid concrete.


  • Killer Kite - A giant kite-like creature glimpsed flying through the mist.


  • Green Dracofly - A large, green insect resembling a twisted and deformed dragonfly with long, clear wings, which alights on the car.


References

  1. ISBN 978-0-42-518160-7



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