For an agonizingly true glimpse of human nature, put down the psych textbooks, and check out Stephen King’s “Storm Of The Century” (1999). Set on mythical Little Tall Island, located off the coast of Maine, the close-knit community must band together to deal with two dreadful threats–one natural and one supernatural.
As Little Tall prepares for the colossal winter storm of the title, one of the town’s oldest citizens, Martha Clarendon is brutally murdered in her own home. The perp, calling himself Andre Linoge, calmly waits at her house, where he is picked up by part-time constable Mike Anderson, and his friend Hatch. With the weather closing in on Little Tall, it is not possible to simply turn Linoge over to the authorities on the mainland, so he must be incarcerated in the makeshift jail, located in the back of Anderson’s general store.
As Linoge is led through the store to be locked up, he takes an immediate shine to Anderson’s son Ralphie, and blurts out disturbing secrets of many of the townsfolk who are in the store. Clearly, something odd is afoot, but no one knows just what.
More strange deaths occur, and Linoge comes to hand, identifying himself as some sort of dark angel or demon, who has lived for thousands of years, and is now dying, although this will take perhaps another hundred years. “Give me what I want, and I will go away,” he demands. All the people are to assemble in the town hall that night, and he will specify just what it is that he wants.
To an all too cool and collected audience, Linoge reveals his terrible demand: He wants one of the children to raise as his own, to carry on his unspecified work. Of course, the child chosen will have the best of everything, and may somehow inherit the near immortality of his foster father. Linoge cannot take the child forcibly. Rather, the child must be given up willingly. Before he leaves the hall to let the town decide on its course of action, he implies that once a community refused his request–the doomed 16th century settlement of Roanoke Island–and even invokes the mysterious “CROATON” inscription, which was the only clue those settlers left.
Alone among all of Little Tall, and that includes his wife Molly, Mike Anderson argues passionately against cooperating with this monstrous evil. He says that they are being deceived, and should stand firm. Figuring that there are better odds that it won’t be their kid taken, all the parents, and the rest of the town outvote him.
The sacrificed child is chosen by drawing stones (seven white and one black). To no one’s surprise, Ralphie is selected, and it is only then that the unspeakable loss sinks in with Molly. Far from being comforted by her neighbors, she is chided by many who note that she would have been just fine with the arrangement, had the unlucky child been one of theirs. And, of course, she would have.
Some months later, Mike leaves town after divorcing Molly. A monument is erected in Little Tall memorializing all who were killed in the storm, even though they were really killed by Linoge. One of the names is Ralph Anderson, who is alive and well, and training to be a dark lord.
“Storm” may be a work of fiction, but its themes hit way too close to home.
- Amidst the grotesquely immoral popular culture, the good guy gets screwed. Think loyal employee versus corrupt corporate exec.
- A precious child is sacrificed to expediency. Think abortion on demand.
- Even after facing evil incarnate, the long-term reaction is complacency and denial. Think United States, 30 days after 9/11.
- Far too often, a close-knit community can develop a “skull society” mentality, performing despicable acts to preserve its own illusions about itself, not to mention its external image. Think molestations by priests, and the subsequent cover-ups.
Toward the end of the story, a chilling exchange occurs between Linoge and Mike Anderson:
Is Linoge’s point of view too cynical or spot on?