Stephen King’s “The Reach” is something of an anomaly out of the hundreds of short stories he’s written – while it contains elements of gothic horror, there’s nothing overtly horrifying about it. The protagonist, Stella Flanders, is the oldest resident of Goat Island and has never crossed the titular Reach, the body of water that surrounds the island. That changes when she begins to see the ghost of her dead husband and other deceased residents, begging her to cross the Reach to the mainland. It’s revealed that Stella is dying from cancer, and that the ghosts are trying to get her to accept the inevitable, to accept death by crossing the Reach.
The atmosphere of the story is based on King’s experience living in Maine, with its harsh winters and close-knit communities – the residents of Goat Island are all part of an extended family and depend on one another, so it’s easy to see why the death of one person affects everyone. Stella is affected by the death of her husband, her best friend, and many other people she outlived, so when she realizes that her time is up, naturally, she denies it, ignoring the appearance of her dead husband – only when she accepts that she’s dying does she respond.
The Reach itself is both literal and metaphorical: Stella’s crossing the frozen waters over to the mainland mirrors her crossing over to death. The scene takes place during a blizzard, where the blowing snow and gusting winds create an otherworldly atmosphere, almost unreal. I don’t know what dying would feel like, but it would probably be similar to the “gauzy and grey” sights Stella sees.
I’d recommend checking this out, as it’s a departure from the terrifying stories King normally writes.
— Mike Malan, Blogger
Editor’s Note: Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing. Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.