Ginger Nuts of Horror
In 1985 I was trapped in a supermarket with nightmarish monsters lurking outside and maniacal zealot running loose inside. In some ways, I never came back from that experience.
This adventure took place in “The Mist,” a novella in Stephen King’s collection Skeleton Crew. Other stories featured a carnivorous oil slick, an auto-cannibalistic surgeon, and a demonized cymbal monkey. Each of these was fun and frightening, but “The Mist” was the one that never let me go.
I connected with the story because the characters are everyday people doing everyday things. They aren’t soldiers or scientists or superheroes. A man named David takes his son Billy shopping at a supermarket after a storm hits their small town in Maine. What could be more normal?
A monster-laden mist soon rolls into town, leaving David and Billy trapped in the supermarket along with a handful of other shoppers and townspeople. I found it easy to imagine myself in their situation. It’s an exciting scenario and most of the characters respond by making intelligent choices. They close off the entrances, investigate the mystery, and try to stay calm.
But the monsters aren’t limited to the fanged, tentacled, multi-segmented horrors out in the fog. A religious fanatic named Mrs. Carmody, also trapped in the supermarket, slowly begins to unravel. By the end, she proposes human sacrifice to appease the demons in the mist.
As director Frank Darabont pointed out,
“The story is less about the monsters outside than about the monsters inside, the people you're stuck with, your friends and neighbors breaking under the strain.”
More on Frank Darabont in a moment.
For me, the biggest failure of “The Mist” was the ending, or lack thereof. No one can take you on a roller-coaster like Stephen King, but he doesn’t always know when or where or how to bring the ride to a stop. After a harrowing escape from the supermarket, the story simply comes to an end. David and Billy and a few others drive off into the dark. I felt frustrated by this. I wanted desperately to find out what happened next. And this is where I learned to be careful what I wished for…
When Frank Darabont adapted “The Mist” as a feature film in 2007, he added what is quite possibly the most nihilistic ending ever. I won’t spoil it here, because Stephen King threatened to incarcerate anyone who gave away the ending, but I will say that it teaches a valuable lesson: Never, ever, ever, give up.
For the record, King has stated that he loved the Darabont ending and wished that he had come up with it when he first wrote the story.
I don’t love the new ending. As a parent, I’m not sure that really buy it. But I don’t hate it either. It has a tremendous impact and I won’t ever forget it.
One other adaptation of “The Mist” bears mentioning here. A fantastic audio-dramatization of the novella was produced with a full cast and elaborate sound effects. I recommend it enthusiastically.
It’s pretty easy to see echoes of “The Mist” in my new novel The Dinosaur Four.
The Dinosaur Four focuses on normal everyday folks. It’s a dinosaur thriller but there are no paleontologists or mathematicians. Tim is a construction worker hoping to meet up with his new girlfriend. Lisa is a small business owner worried about her bottom line. Al is a computer repairman with poor people skills and William is a UPS delivery man.
Instead of a supermarket in Maine, these people come together in a café in downtown Denver. I felt that a café was the sort of place anyone could relate to and most people like to visit.
At the end of the first chapter, the café is transported 67 million years into the past, along with ten people inside.
As with “The Mist” (and many classic disaster films), the survivors find themselves struggling to get along with each other as they try to figure out what happened and what they can do about it. Several characters vie for leadership of the group and small factions form as they all get to know each another.
One of the survivors turns out to be just as dangerous as the monsters outside. Unlike Mrs. Carmody, my villain isn’t looking for religion. His objectives are much more carnal in nature.
“The Mist” is novella, but The Dinosaur Four is a full-length novel with a fully realized ending that pays off.
If you haven’t read “The Mist,” give it a read or listen to the dramatization. And if you’re hungry for another great survival story, please check out The Dinosaur Four at Amazon.
To quote a recent review:
Fast paced and exciting with a great ending
“This is one of those books that absorbs you completely and you suddenly realize it's 3am. It's a fast-paced adventure back to the past, filled with dinosaurs, survival, twists and turns. I enjoyed the book all the way through but the ending really sold me on it. It was unexpected and satisfying. All in all, a really exciting read.”
Geoff Jones graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Colorado. His honors thesis was a novella about dragons taking over the world.
After graduation, Geoff worked as a video game designer, writing story and dialog for licenses such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Conan the Barbarian, LEGO, and Marvel Superheroes.
Geoff lives in Colorado with his wife and two daughters, and has begun work on his next novel, also about everyday folks trapped in an extraordinary (but quite different) situation.
Read more at www.GeoffJonesWriter.com
Read an interview with Geoff here
Business is brisk at the Daily Edition Cafe as Tim MacGregor arrives to meet his new girlfriend. Two joggers enjoy a hit of caffeine before work. A delivery man takes a break from his route. Behind the counter, the baristas are busy brewing, frothing, and pouring.
But on this morning, the cafe and the people inside are suddenly transported millions of years into the past.
Ten strangers find themselves in the world of Triceratops horridus and Tyrannosaurus rex. Three survivors compete for leadership of the group, while another plots to keep them all in the past. Tim only wants to find out what caused the disaster and how to get home.
THE DINOSAUR FOUR is a fast-paced action-adventure mixed with carnage and suspense in the tradition of JAWS, THE MIST, and JURASSIC PARK.
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