A freak storm overtakes the small town of Bridgton. It knocks down trees, powerlines, crippling the small town. David takes his son and neighbor into town to pick up some supplies. They stop at the Federal Food Supermarket to find it packed with other townsfolk.

As they wait in line, a thick mist swallows the town. It’s no ordinary mist. It contains a horde of massive mutated bugs straight from a Lovecraft fever dream.

And then, the bodies start to pile up.

About The Mist

The Mist is a novella written by Stephen King in 1980. According to Wikipedia, it was printed in an anthology called Dark Forces. The novella would be later published in King’s Skeleton Crew anthology and be made into a movie, tv series, and even a video game.

The cover for The Mist text adventure.
The Mist text adventure box art. Credit to the StoryFix blog (thestoryfix.blog)

I absolutely adore this story. It’s a post-apocalyptic tale where there is no solution. There’s no escaping the mist. The most you can do is to find a comfortable shelter and hunker down until the food runs out.

The story focuses on David doing everything in his power to save his son. As is the case in apocalyptic fiction, the true enemy isn’t so much the mist, but rather other people.

A parking lot showing a wall of mist blowing over the cars.
From the 2007 film adaption of The Mist

After spending days trapped in the supermarket, several townsfolk fall into despair. Mrs. Carmody, a religious fanatic, manipulates the despairing townfolk. She demands blood sacrifices and then hilarity ensues.

One thing I do find funny in the novella is how quickly David goes from “I must save my wife” to “hot for teacher” in like a day. Granted, David assumes his wife to be dead and he is in a very stressful situation. But come on man!

That’s not to say David isn’t conflicted. He manages one good cry and next thing you, he’s rolling around in the produce aisle with his son’s elementary school teacher.

The whole bit reminds me of an old but good Onion article titled, In Retrospect, I Guess We Might Have Resorted To Cannibalism A Bit Early. I would have loved to have seen Tabitha King’s response to that part of the novella.

Living with The Mist

The Mist actually appears on my mental map with the text adventure. My dad loved video games and bought them by the truck load. One day he came home with The Mist and soon, he, my brother and I were playing.

We never played it together. Rather, we’d play it on our own and then talk about it. It was a great way to pool knowledge but also all share our experiences while not spoiling the overall adventure.

A screenshot showing The Mist text adventure
This was cutting edge gameplay in 1985

You can actually play this game in your web browser now. If you like text adventures, it’s worth checking out (although very dated).

After we beat the game, I managed to get my sister’s copy of Skeleton Crew. This was an anthology of short stories produced by King.

I read The Mist every day on my way to school. I hated the bus. I hated my school. The Mist was a wonderful escape from that grey part of my life.

This passage in particular stood out to me. In the story, David and some fellow survivors decide to investigate the neighboring store to see if anyone survived. This what King described.

A man in a maroon T-shirt lay facedown in the doorway. Or at first I thought his T-shirt was maroon; then I saw a few white patches at the bottom and understood that once it had been all white. The maroon was dried blood. And there was something else wrong with him. I puzzled it over in my mind. Even when Buddy Eagleton turned around and was noisily sick, it didn’t come immediately. I guess when something that … that final happens to someone, your mind rejects it at first-unless maybe you’re in a war.

Stephen King, The Mist

That description of the maroon shirt really showed me the power of descriptive writing. I was in that store, staring at that man and his shirt now covered in dried blood. That image has stuck with me for well over thirty years.

Powerful writing, indeed.

Little did I know that finishing the novella didn’t end my connection with the story. Several years later, I’d live in the small Maine town featured in the story. Not only that, I’d come to experience, first hand, the inspiration behind it.

Bridgton and the Mist

Bridgton is a small town just forty-five minutes north of Portland, Maine. It’d be easy to think of it as a remote little backwoods town, but it features Shawnee Peak which brings in a lot of tourists and ski bums.

Ric, my best friend in high school, spent every summer there. His father bought a cottage across from Shawnee Peak. Every so often, I’d come up with him and whenever we drove by Food City (otherwise known as Federal Food Supermarket in the story), he’d point it out.

“That’s where the mist took place.”

A recent photo of Food City. While the building has changed quite a bit, the location is still the same.

The Mist took place in Bridgton because Stephen King lived there for some time. He didn’t live there long but long enough to capture the town with his typewriter.

I’d ultimately move to Bridgton. I didn’t apply myself in high school and as a result, I had few prospects for colleges. I ended up enrolling in a post-graduate program that taught academics and study habits.

The school is known as Bridgton Academy. It is the only one-year post-graduate school in the country. It serves to enforce study habits in athletes and students who didn’t do very well (like me).

A photo of the Bridgton Academy campus
Bridgton Academy’s campus. Cleaves Hall is on the right.

I spent the year in Bridgton Academy in Cleaves Halls, jokingly referred to as “the crack house”. I lived on the top floor and every morning, I trekked down to the basement to take my shower.

The showers consisted of one large open room with shower nozzles. There was no privacy. I hated taking group showers so instead, I opted to wake up at the crack of dawn and take a shower by myself.

A picture of Long Lake with some mist on it.
The mist on Long Lake. Photo from Trip Advisor.

Now Cleaves Hall sits on a hill overlooking Long Lake; David, in the novella, lives on this lake. Every morning when I woke up early, I noticed a thick mist on the lake. It’d burn off by mid-morning. Had I not woke up to take my early shower, I would have missed it.

I imagine a young Stephen King woke up one morning, saw the mist, and soon his typewriter got clacking.

A little epilogue of sorts; my friend Ric did ultimately move to Bridgton. I was able to drive up and visit him right before the Covid locked everything down. Bridgton still looks the same as it always has. It’s a wonderful sleepy town and I look forward to visiting again.

Concluding Thoughts

The Mist has been turned into a movie and ultimately a television series. I haven’t seen either of them. I hear they weren’t so good and really, the novella has left me totally satiated.

I love how The Mist ties into my life with my family, my friends, and even where I lived for a time. Funny enough, it even ties into where I am now. I put a spoiler below in case you haven’t read the story.

Spoiler
At the end of the story, David hears the first spoken word on the radio for a long time. It’s a word that gives David hope being that people continue to live in spite of the mist. The word turns out to be Hartford. Funny enough, I moved fifteen miles outside of Hartford in 20o5 and continue to live there to this day. Let’s just say, Hartford isn’t the savior you think it is! 😉

The Mist is a wonderful read. If you like horror, post-apocalypse, and strong storytelling, then you can’t go wrong. And hey, when our current Covid apocalypse wraps up, the story makes for a great reason to explore the awesome state of Maine.