As promised in my previous list, today I’m tackling the best short stories of Stephen King. It was much harder to narrow it down than I expected, but here goes . . .
I have excluded novellas, such as “The Mist,” and the stories included in Different Seasons and Full Dark, No Stars, etc. To me, novellas are stylistically different enough from short stories to be in a separate category.
An unfortunate psych patient’s life is being taken over by fear and paranoia when he finds what may be a portal to a horrible otherworld. His doctor is, at first, concerned that the man is suffering from OCD. But then he starts to wonder if there is some truth to the story. This one is so compelling that I began to wonder, too.
2. The Jaunt
This one has a great deal of science fiction involved. Humans have found a way to teleport, but you must make sure to follow the procedure properly. If you don’t, well, it’s pretty much the worst thing you can imagine. The ending is so killer, especially when you really ponder the implications.
3. Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut
A woman is preoccupied with finding shortcuts. According to her odometer, she is finding ways to get places by traveling less distance than even going in a straight line. So where in the hell is she driving?
4. Survivor Type
Simple premise, disgustingly beautiful delivery. The journal of a man who becomes stranded on a tiny, uninhabited island. He’s got a whole mess of heroin, but there doesn’t seem to be any food around. Good thing he’s a surgeon.
A man looking to debunk famously haunted hotel rooms for his book finally finds one that proves itself. There are creepy paintings, hallucinations (or are they?), and maybe the most unsettling phone call ever. The movie adaptation was pretty good, but still didn’t quite capture the dread the main character experiences.
6. Lunch at the Gotham Café
One of the most bizarre characters King has ever written terrorizes a lunch date. Dark humor and lots of blood.
Alternate universes by way of an Amazon Kindle. It may not be the strongest story of the bunch here, but I loved it. The use of a modern gadget to reveal the multiverse idea is just a great premise, and King is one of the few that is able to present it a manner so cleverly disturbing.
8. Everything’s Eventual
A man finally finds a job that allows him to use his special talent. The perks are great when you can kill people by drawing weird designs.
9. The Raft
Four college students just looking to have a good time swim out to a wooden raft in the middle of a lake. No one else is around. Except, of course, for the terrible thing in the water that resembles an oil slick. It moves fast, and it sure has a hearty appetite.
10. A Very Tight Place
A gross out story for the ages. A guy gets trapped in an overturned port-o-potty, with the door facing the ground. I’ll leave it at that.
Outraged that there’s nothing from Nightmares and Dreamscapes? Well, “Crouch End” and “The End of the Whole Mess” came very close. Others that I agonized over leaving off the list were “The Ledge,” “The Lawnmower Man,” “The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet,” “The Road Virus Heads North,” “Stationary Bike,” and “Throttle” (with Joe Hill). So many choices! Get to reading.
And check out my top 10 King novels here