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Let's talk, you and I. Let's talk about fear.
Stephen King in the foreword

Night Shift is Stephen King's first collection of short stories, published in 1978. It contains many stories that appeared in magazines before, and some previously unpublished ones.

Not to be confused with the 1982 comedy film directed by Ron Howard and starring Michael Keaton.

Stories in Night Shift:

  • Jerusalem's Lot: Scrapbook Story set in 1850. Homage to H.P. Lovecraft.
  • Graveyard Shift: Workers cleaning up the basement of an old textile mill meet giant rats. Made into a 1990 film.
  • Night Surf: Post-apocalyptic story, where nearly all humans have died in an influenza pandemic. Precursor to The Stand.
  • I Am the Doorway: Former astronaut discovers that an alien lifeform inhabits his body, and eyes appear on his fingers.
  • The Mangler: A mangler in an industrial laundromat is possessed by a demon.
  • The Bogeyman: A man tells how his children were killed one by one by the titular monster.
  • Gray Matter: A man turns into a Blob Monster after drinking a can of contaminated beer.
  • Battleground: A professional hitman is attacked by living toy soldiers.
  • Trucks: Trucks and other big machines revolt against humanity. Basis of the film Maximum Overdrive, later filmed again under the original title.
  • Sometimes They Come Back: A teacher's brother was killed by teenage greasers when they were kids. Many years later, they appear in his class, still as teenagers. Made into an instantly-forgotten movie (that somehow got two sequels ANYWAY)
  • Strawberry Spring: A story about a serial killer with a Twist Ending.
  • The Ledge: A crime boss blackmails a man into circumnavigating a 5-inch ledge surrounding a multistory building.
  • The Lawnmower Man: Pan operates a lawn moving business. The movie with the same name has nothing to do with the story, despite using King's name.
  • Quitters, Inc.: A group of ruthless criminals operate a firm that helps people to quit smoking. Or else.
  • I Know What You Need: A social outcast uses black magic to get the girl of his dreams.
  • Children of the Corn: In a small Nebraska town, a demonic entity convinces the children to kill all the adults. Adapted into a movie, followed by several crappy sequels.
  • The Last Rung on the Ladder: A man tells a childhood story about him and his sister who later committed suicide. Very different from King's usual style.
  • The Man who Loved Flowers: Another story about a Serial Killer with a Twist Ending.
  • One for the Road: A man's car is stranded in the abandoned city of Jerusalem's Lot. Sort of a sequel to Salem's Lot.
  • The Woman in the Room: A man euthanizes his terminally ill mother with painkillers.

Tropes in the short stories:

  • After the End: Night Surf.
  • Alien Geometries: Inverted in I Am the Doorway, where the alien eyes see a sieve as "a device constructed of geometrically impossible right angles".
  • Bad Boss: Warwick in Graveyard Shift.
  • Body Horror: The eyes on the protagonist's fingers in I Am the Doorway.
    • Which eventually start appearing on his chest.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: The Mangler.
  • Creepy Child: The children of Children of the Corn.
  • Downer Ending: Almost all of the stories.
  • Driven to Suicide: The protagonist in I Am the Doorway, after the eyes appear on his chest.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Most of the characters in Trucks (trucker, counterman, girl).
  • Eyes Do Not Belong There: In I Am the Doorway.
  • Forced to Watch: In Quitters, Inc. the titular firm's method to make smokers quit is this: they keep them under constant surveillance, and if they smoke, they torture their family members and force them to watch it.
  • Genre Adultery:
    • The Last Rung on the Ladder, a melancholic story with no supernatural or horror elements.
    • The Lawnmower Man has an unusually comedic style for a Stephen King story (though the protagonist still gets slaughtered by an autonomous lawnmower).
  • Haunted Technology: The titular machine in The Mangler.
  • Homicide Machines: Trucks, The Mangler again. The story also features a murderous fridge. Also, the lawnmower in The Lawnomwer Man.
  • Humans Are Ugly and Humans Are Cthulhu: The alien eyes in I Am the Doorway see everything in the world — but especially humans — as monstrous and abominable.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: In I Am the Doorway.
  • I Am a Humanitarian: Richie Grenadine in Grey Matter, after turning into a Blob Monster, starts eating humans.
  • In Name Only: The film The Lawnmower Man is so different from the short story that King successfully sued the producers for using his name.
  • Life or Limb Decision: In a way. In I Am the Doorway, the protagonist eventually soaks his hands in kerosene, and puts them into fire to kill the alien lifeform inhabiting his body. It turns out that this was only a temporary solution.
  • Living Toys: The toy soldiers in Battleground.
  • Locked Into Strangeness: The protagonist's hair at the end of The Mangler. In Grey Matter, the protagonist mentions that a sewer worker that he knew once saw something horrible in the sewers, which caused his hair to turn white in fifteen minutes.
  • Lost in the Maize: Children of the Corn.
  • The Mafia: Quitters, Inc. was founded by a gangster named Mort "Three-Fingers" Minelli, after he got lung cancer from smoking.
  • Mercy Kill: In The Woman in the Room, the protagonist gives painkillers to his mother who is dying of cancer. He knows that they will kill her, and so does she, but neither of them say it openly.
  • Mordor: Venus is portrayed like that in I Am the Doorway. The protagonist says that his expedition around it was like "circling a haunted house in deep space."
  • Nameless Narrative: Trucks, The Man Who Loved Flowers and The Woman in the Room. In the last, we know that the protagonist's name is John, because other characters call him on his name, but the narrative never does.
  • Next Sunday AD: In Strawberry Spring, written in 1968, the narrator recalls events happened in 1968 from the then-future year of 1976.
  • No Ending: Grey Matter.
  • No Name Given: The narrators in Trucks and Strawberry Spring, the protagonist (and everybody else) in The Man who Loved Flowers. In several other stories, only the first or last names of the main characters are given:
    • Hall and Warwick in Graveyard Shift
    • All the characters in Night Surf
    • Arthur and Richard in I Am the Doorway
    • Cressner in The Ledge
    • Kitty and Larry in The Last Rung on the Ladder
    • Johnny in The Woman in the Room
  • Rodents of Unusual Size / Swarm of Rats: In Graveyard Shift.
  • Serial Killer: The protagonists in Strawberry Spring and The Man Who Loved Flowers.
  • Shout-Out: Necronomicon, H.P. Lovecraft's famous Tome of Eldritch Lore appears in I Know What You Need. And as noted, all of Jerusalem's Lot is an overt Lovecraft homage.
  • Teens Are Monsters: The children of Gatlin in Children of the Corn and the teenage killers in Sometimes They Come Back.
  • Things That Go Bump in the Night: The Bogeyman.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Gatlin in Children of the Corn.
  • Twist Ending: Several:
    • In Strawberry Spring, the narrator describes the murders committed at his college community by a Serial Killer nicknamed "Springheel Jack". At the end he realizes that the killer is his Split Personality.
    • The Man Who Loved Flowers describes a young man bringing flowers for his girlfriend. When he gives them to her it turns out that they never met before, and the man is actually the insane hammer murderer, who kills women.
    • In The Bogeyman, the protagonist tells to a therapist how his three kids were murdered by the titular monster. At the end it turns out that the therapist is actually the bogeyman in disguise.
  • Undead Child: The vampire girl in One for the Road.
  • Unnamed Parent: The mother in The Woman in the Room.
  • Villain Protagonist: Renshaw in Battleground. He's a hitman who killed a toymaker, Hans Morris; the murderous toy soldiers are sent to him by Morris's mother as a revenge.
  • Vomiting Cop: Officer Hunton in The Mangler after seeing the remains of a woman caught in the machine.
  • Weakened by the Light: The Blob Monster in Grey Matter.
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