MILE 81 by Stephen King
“Mile 81” is the first original short story Stephen King has written for the Kindle, and it’s also a return to the kind of horror story that he used to write before he got famous. The story has very pulpy roots, and the action is something that – along with the short length – that encourages reading it in a single sitting.
Pete, the main protagonist of the story, stands out as one of those kids that Stephen King likes to write about: the very worldly and innocent at the same time kind of kid. Probably very much like the kind of pre-teen that King himself was.
Pete comes alive on the pages and that’s pretty enjoyable, but those initial pages eat up a lot of story space. The narrative tension led me to expect that something in the abandoned Burger King would leap out and get him, and that isn’t what happens at all. Then Pete kind goes MIA throughout the rest of the story till the very end, popping back on stage just in time to save the day and preventing more adult death.
The other scenes with less fortunate characters are well done the way King always renders those people, but they are an investment that is quickly in actual story time.
By the time Pete reappears and saves the day, I was actually hoping to see more of the station wagon/monster. At least enough to figure out what it really was and how it was so easily vanquished. King does really well with things that are spooky and mysterious, but this scenario felt like it just sort of played out at the end.
Overall, “Mile 81” kept my attention, but the story was like a snack that didn’t quite fill me up before it was gone. I’m viewing the story more as a fungo (a baseball practice term for hitting high, easy ones for outfielders to practice on) and that King will return later with something with more meat on the bone. And something ferocious to gnaw it off.