King's Highway pt. 35: Backroads and Mist

We have reached the point in our trail guide where we diverge from the Dark Tower series for an extended foray into other King works.

First up, we return to

for another look at "The Mist." I first covered this one here, but it has the following connection to the Dark Tower mythos:

"..the cause of the Mist is alluded to be a tear between universes, similar to the Todash Darkness, a concept explored in the series, both of which supposedly renders its inhabitants "blind" and contains horrible creatures which prey on them. Additionally, several creatures described are physically similar to some of those shown in the series. In the film adaption, David Drayton can be seen painting a portrait of Roland in the opening scene."

Totally missed this, the first time around, how fun. I wonder what people who noticed this but didn't recognize the gunslinger make of this? i.e. "Establishing shot of main character, painting some kind of Clint Eastwood/ fantasy world pastiche..."
So, I guess The Arrowhead Project, alluded to but never explained in the text, is some kind of military attempt to harness the power of Thinnies? Close enough, at any rate. But, as so often happens with such attempts, something went awry and unleashed the strange beasts of this Todash Darkness? (Something I haven't gotten to yet, so I won't worry about it.)

This remains a quick and entertaining read. My impressions of it didn't change much, but in the same way something like The Birds is even more entertaining when you bring Freud/ Oedipus into it, "The Mist" works even better when you project Dark Tower onto it.

A comment on The Stephen King "Goremet" Book Club post re: the Dark Tower "road-map" brought "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut" to my attention as a Dark Tower tie-in.

I didn't comment on this story in my original post on Skeleton Crew, but it's a fun read. Another Castle Rock adventure!
Both the title and the content brought Wind in the Willows to mind.
The plot for this is fairly straightforward. Mrs. Todd, one of Castle Rock's "summer people," (i.e. not a year-round Maine resident) is a student of short-cuts and backroads. She strikes up a conversation/ friendship with Homer Buckland, the caretaker of the property she and her husband rent in Castle Rock, about shaving off time/ distance on the commute to Bangor. Homer accompanies on one such journey, where she flies through ominous backroads where the trees seem to swat at them as they drive underneath. With each short-cut, she seems to grow younger and younger. At the story's end, she has long disappeared, and Homer is seen getting into a car with a woman in her teens, off for points unknown.

The connection to the Dark Tower is (potentially) in the backroads. Mrs. Todd is accessing a network of "thinnies" in her short-cuts. I don't think she is alluded to in the Dark Towers to come, but I like to think of her and Homer, rocketing in-between the worlds on an omniversal road trip. (Additionally, the creatures she scrapes off her windshield and grill bear some resemblance to Dark Tower/ creatures of the Mist)

I quite like the following passages from the story:

- There's something powerful about knowing the shortest way, even if you take the longer way because you know your mother-in-law is sitting home. getting there quick is often for the birds, although no one holding a Massachusetts driver's license seems to know it. But knowing how to get there quick - or even knowing how to get there a way that the person sitting beside you don't know... that has power.

- Because there is no ultimate blue ribbon. There is zero, and there is eternity, and there is mortality, but there is no ultimate.

- Olympus must be a glory to the eyes and the heart, and there are those who crave it and those who find a clear way to it, mayhap, but I know castle Rock like the back of my hand and I could never leave it for no shortcuts where the roads may go; in October the sky over the lake is no glory but it is passing fair, with those big white clouds that move so slow; I sit here on the bench, and think about 'Phelia Todd and Homer Buckland, and I don't necessarily wish I was where they are... but I still wish I was a smoking man.

Amen, King's-Reoccurring Constantly-Quitting-Smoking-Character, Amen.

Next, we circle back to 'Salem's Lot, to re-acquaint ourselves with Father Callahan.

Played by James Gallery in the original TV adaptation and by Zefram Cochran in the remake, Father Callahan will play a major part in the Dark Towers yet to come. All we need to remind ourselves, now, is that at the end of Salem's Lot, rather than kill him, the vampire Barlow forces the faith-wavering priest to drink his blood, thus cursing him to walk between the worlds/ live the life of the undying.

Finally, I noticed "The Reploids" is listed among the major works connected to The Dark Tower. I don't know how major of a work it is; it's only ever been published in the anthology book Night Visions 5.

Google-image searching it only brings up images from Megaman.
But it, too, is a fun read. America tunes into The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (1989) but instead of Johnny pantomiming his golf swing and making fun of Doc's crazy-shirt, what America gets is some guy named Ed Paladin. Ed has never heard of Johnny Carson but acts like he belongs there, even calling out to Ed McMahon by name. He is interrogated by the cops for trespassing/ suspicion of kidnapping America's favorite late-night talk show host. The story ends with the cops discovering the currency in his wallet is different. The Fed Reserve Notes are blue and the one-dollar-bill has a picture of James Madison instead of George Washington. Roll credits.

Its connection to the Dark Tower is only that Ed Paladin appears to be from one of the worlds Father Callahan mentions traveling through in the yet-to-be-blogged Dark Tower V: Wolves of Calla, a world distinguishable by different colors/ Presidents on its US currency.(I keep waiting for President Chadbourne to get mentioned somewhere else. JULY 2013 EDIT: "Under the Dome" would be perfect!)

'It is neither believed nor disbelieved. It is simply part of the weird Godhead mantra that made up the accelerating flow of events and experience as the century neared its end.'



  1. You know, I actually like "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut" less when viewed through a Dark Tower lens. That, to me, is one of those stories that benefits from there being absolutely NO explanation, so the idea that Mrs. Todd is somehow riding the thinny highway kinda lessens the story for me.

    It definitely makes "The Mist" even stronger, though; same for "The Reploids."

    1. You know, I kind of wonder if it might not be a bit of a stretch, myself, re: Mrs. Todd's Shortcut. I mean, a lot of his short stories could be ret-conned into Dark Tower mythos, of one got creative.

      Either way, it's a fun story, for me, but I hear you; sometimes trying to tie everything-into-everything lessens the impact/ obscures the fun rather than deepens the mystery.

      I should have mentioned: I have you to thank for sending me 'The Reploids...' Thanks again!

    2. Grrr... I wish I could edit my comments, once published...

      * ...IF one GETS creative.

  2. I'll mention Zelazny and his "Amber" books again, because "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut" reminds me of a sequence in which protagonist Corwin and his brother Random drive a Mercedes through Shadow, which is reminiscent of this idea of navigating "Thinnies," approaching Castle Amber itself, until the car is torn apart in the Forest of Arden by hounds belonging to Julian, yet another brother of Corwin.

    1. Oh yeah, I remember that part, now that you mention it. I like that part quite a bit, with the sky "flipping" between blinks, and each piece of the landscape being swapped for another.

      I'm sure King's read both Zelazny and Elric. I wish he'd give an interview commenting on whether or not he liked them/ was influenced by them.

      Anyway, the section described from the first Amber book is different enough than the "Shortcut" story itself, (i.e. in the story, one never gets the idea that they're navigating Thinnies/ flipping through reality), but the Dark-Tower-connection, if indeed there, of navigating Thinnies, is actually quite a bit similar.