Mile 81 by Stephen King
STEPHEN KING and
King at His Horrific Best.
WITH THE HEART of Stand By Me and the genius horror of Christine, Mile 81 is Stephen King unleashing his imagination as he drives past one of those road signs…
At Mile 81 on the Maine Turnpike is a boarded up rest stop on a highway in Maine. It’s a place where high school kids drink and get into the kind of trouble high school kids have always gotten into. It’s the place where Pete Simmons goes when his older brother, who’s supposed to be looking out for him, heads off to the gravel pit to play “paratroopers over the side.” Pete, armed only with the magnifying glass he got for his tenth birthday, finds a discarded bottle of vodka in the boarded up burger shack and drinks enough to pass out.
Not much later, a mud-covered station wagon (which is strange because there hadn’t been any rain in New England for over a week) veers into the Mile 81 rest area, ignoring the sign that says “closed, no services.” The driver’s door opens but nobody gets out.
Doug Clayton, an insurance man from Bangor, is driving his Prius to a conference in Portland. On the backseat are his briefcase and suitcase and in the passenger bucket is a King James Bible, what Doug calls “the ultimate insurance manual,” but it isn’t going to save Doug when he decides to be the Good Samaritan and help the guy in the broken down wagon. He pulls up behind it, puts on his four-ways, and then notices that the wagon has no plates.
Ten minutes later, Julianne Vernon, pulling a horse trailer, spots the Prius and the wagon, and pulls over. Julianne finds Doug Clayton’s cracked cell phone near the wagon door — and gets too close herself. By the time Pete Simmons wakes up from his vodka nap, there are a half a dozen cars at the Mile 81 rest stop. Two kids — Rachel and Blake Lussier — and one horse named Deedee are the only living left. Unless you maybe count the wagon.
About Stephen King:
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes Doctor Sleep and Under the Dome, now a major TV miniseries on CBS.
His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association.
He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.
What They Are Saying about Mile 81:
Stephen King has said it himself: the short story is ailing in America. But with a new story that is part coming-of-age, part paranormal tale, he has helped give the form a boost–and us a reminder of how skillfully he works in a small space.
In King’s worlds, peril and disaster often hide in the most ordinary things and places, and in Mile 81, danger lurks at an abandoned rest stop in the author’s standard Maine setting. With expert pacing, King allows a short but life-changing journey to unfold for his young protagonist, and the most pedestrian details of the rest stop take on eerie significance with each quickly-turned page: a cut-up chain-link fence surrounding the place, a hollowed-out Burger King left fallow, a door of a filthy car hanging silently “open like an invitation.” Fans will recognize nods to Christine and From a Buick 8, but the destructive force in Mile 81 is even more savage, the horror more faceless and primal.
And as one would expect, it’s not just a scary story–it reads, in ways, as parable, his characters at once archetypal and uniquely crafted. Although set in present day, Mile 81 feels timeless—it’s a story about good people encountering the terror of the unknowable, and about the courage that innocents must summon in the face of it, when there is no one left to protect them. —Simone Gorrindo