By Stephen King
Background: This short story is included in King’s 1985 collection, Skeleton Crew, but was first published in 1982 in Gallery magazine. Also, he may have been predicting the future with this one, since a similar-looking blob-like entity was seen near Alaska a few years ago. Freaky.
What it’s about: One of my favorite King short stories, this one has a fairly simple premise: a group of twenty-somethings decide to swim out onto a deserted lake to get to the raft that’s floating in the middle. Once they get out there, they spot a strange black blob in the water that they realize isn’t an oil slick when it moves towards them to feed.
Those who get caught in the water when the blob shows up are utterly destroyed in a glorious burst of gore as the thing feasts. The rest find themselves stranded on the raft and unable to swim back to shore because the thing is circling them, waiting for them to go in the water.
Of course, they can’t stay out there forever. Not to mention there are cracks between the boards in the raft…
Why it will keep you up at night: The image that has stayed with me through the years after first reading this story is what happens when they realize the blob can eat them through the cracks in the raft. One of them steps on a crack and gets his foot eaten right down to the bone. The blob is so powerful that it manages to contort and crush his foot until it actually gets completely sucked down through the crack, lending a whole new, terrifying meaning to the phrase “step on a crack and you’ll break your mother’s back.”
What follows is truly gruesome, as the blob manages to suck his entire body down through that narrow crack. As the blood balloons his chest with the crushing force of his lower half being pulled through a very narrow space, bits of him burst open, and he is sucked all the way down to his head, and then in the final crushing moment that disappears as well (he’s long dead by then, of course).
But it’s also completely awesome. I first read this years ago, in the dark, before going to bed, and I was so enraptured by the horror that it stuck with me through my dreams. The story’s simplicity lends to its success, I think, as we don’t need to know what the blob is, only that it will kill you if you go anywhere near the water, and at some point, you’re going to have to sit down and consider the possibility of getting your ass sucked down through the cracks.
Truly King at his finest. Get yourself a copy; all the other stories in the collection are excellent, too. It also includes one of my other favorites, “The Jaunt,” which I reviewed a while back.