Stephen King may be the master of horror, but he’s also mastered the art of short fiction. With six collections of short stories and five quartets of novellas, Stephen King has published nearly 400 works of short fiction in his decade spanning career. He served as editor for the 2006 volume of Best American Short Stories and described how the task reignited his love for the format in his introduction to his own collection Just After Sunset. Never one to rest on his laurels, King also loves to take a risk and frequently publishes short stories in new formats.
In 2000, “Riding the Bullet” became the world’s first mass market ebook and “Blockade Billy” was published along with a baseball card as a limited edition hardcover to coincide with the start of the 2010 Major League Baseball season. Stephen King also lends short stories to anthology collections with other authors, most recently contributing a story to Revelations: Horror Writers for Climate Action. With no shortage of ideas, it’s an art form he returns to frequently and this May 2022 saw the publication of a brand new story.
Finn follows a young Irishman prone to bad luck who winds up in a very scary place. At just under 30 digital pages, the darkly humorous tale flies by, but never fear…
Here are 13 more Stephen King short stories to read when you’ve reached the final pages of Finn.
One for the Road
Stephen King’s first short stories collection, Night Shift, contains bookends to one of his most popular early novels, ‘Salem’s Lot. The collection opens with “Jerusalem’s Lot,” an 1850s era epistolary tale which serves as an origin story for the vampires that eventually overtake the small community. The collection’s penultimate story, “One for the Road,” closes the chapter on King’s doomed town. The story follows Booth and Herb “Tookey” Tooklander, two old-timers waiting out a blizzard in the general store of Falmouth, Maine, adjacent to the deserted town of ‘Salem’s Lot. When a stranded motorist, Gerard Lumley, bursts in begging for help, the two old men venture out into the snowy night to save his wife and young daughter. Unfortunately the undead residents who now live in the Lot have found them first. The story is a haunting coda to King’s second novel and a perfect conclusion to his vampire saga.
I Am the Doorway
Best known as a horror writer, King has also written quite a bit of science fiction with many stories in his canon straddling the line between genres. An early example is “I Am the Doorway,” a disturbing mashup of alien invasion and body horror. Artie is a retired astronaut paralyzed after a botched return trip on a mission to Venus. But his body endured more than just physical injuries from the accident. Having been exposed to a mysterious alien life force, Artie returns to earth with a cluster of eyes growing on his hands. His body becomes the doorway through which the aliens watch our world. They eventually grow stronger, possessing Artie’s body and causing him to commit terrible crimes. Artie’s attempts to contain this growing infection are both terrifying and relatable, made even worse by his growing assertion that once the door has been opened, it cannot be closed.
I Know What You Need
This unsettling tale of college love may be set in the 1970s, but it feels frighteningly familiar today. Elizabeth Rogan is a college student who’s new friend Ed Hamner Jr. has an uncanny ability to anticipate her every need. Though initially resistant to the charms of this quirky young man, she finds herself growing disillusioned with her current boyfriend and more dependent on the support Ed constantly offers. A shocking tragedy draws them together and Elizabeth begins to fall for Ed who appears to be the perfect boyfriend. But Elizabeth’s roommate worries there may be something sinister lurking beneath his devotion. Originally published in a 1976 issue of Cosmopolitan, this haunting story of obsessive love is perfect for long days at the beach or to pass the time waiting for an exciting date.
Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut
Stephen King’s second short stories collection may not boast as many cinematic adaptations as its predecessor, but Skeleton Crew contains some of the author’s best short stories to date like “The Raft,” “Gramma,” and “The Jaunt.” Also lurking within the frightening collection are gems like “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut,” an early foray into the author’s connected universe. The story follows Ophelia Todd, a wealthy housewife who spends her time volunteering in the city of Castle Rock, Maine. When not donating her time to help others, she obsesses over finding the shortest possible route between any two points on a map, traversing unpaved roads and hidden paths in her Mercedes Go Devil. She keeps her trips logged in a notebook and relishes sharing stories of her adventures with handyman and caretaker Homer. But some of her roads lead to mysterious worlds and Mrs. Todd finds herself growing both younger and stronger with every passing mile. Though not particularly scary, this fantasy story is filled with excitement and empowerment, a beautiful tale about testing life’s limits and daring to find out what lies beyond.
The Reaper’s Image
Clocking in at just eight pages, this haunting tale proves that less is more and packs a powerful punch with the story it leaves untold. James Spangler is an antiques collector obsessed with viewing and obtaining the unique Delver Glass, a mirror with an unsettling habit of consuming those who view it. The glass is currently in storage after a string of notable disappearances, building the piece’s deadly reputation. While most people who look into the mirror will see nothing but a slightly distorted version of themselves, the occasional viewer will notice a blurry figure in black standing behind them in the distance. Those who do see the Reaper walk away from the glass and into the unknown, never to be seen again. Perfect for fans of ghost tours and haunted attractions, the story begins with a fascinating recount of the mirror’s tragic history. But the final pages are a masterclass in tension and dread, steadily building to a conclusion that will leave Constant Readers wary of looking into mirrors of their own.
King’s third collection, Nightmares and Dreamscapes, is divisive among Constant Readers earning its contradictory title with fan favorites like “Popsy” and the “Night Flier” alongside less savory entries like “Dedication.” The collection also features some genuine oddities including a screenplay, a Sherlock Holmes story, and a non-horror essay called “Head Down” which chronicles Owen King’s 1989 little league baseball season. King ventures into Lovecraftian Lore with “Crouch End,” a deeply unsettling story of an American couple on a doomed trip to London. Having lost their way, they wander down the wrong street and possibly into another dimension filled with hideous monsters and sinister approximations of city life. Set in a real district of London, the story was inspired by King’s trip to the UK to visit collaborator and friend Peter Straub. King resists the urge to fully reveal Crouch End’s mysteries, creating another haunting example of less-is-more horror.
“Home Delivery” is one of King’s few zombie stories and finds the master of American folk horror putting his unique stamp on the genre. Maddie Pace is a young mother-to-be who suffers from crippling indecision and struggles to get by after her fisherman husband is lost at sea. The oblique title comes into sharp focus when Maddie realizes that she will have to give birth to her child at home due to the zombie outbreak currently ravaging the world. Her small island community must defend themselves against hordes of reanimated dead including Maddie’s husband who returns to her from his watery grave. First published in the 1989 zombie anthology Book of the Dead, “Home Delivery” is quintessentially King, a massive tragedy filtered through an intimate lense.
The Road Virus Heads North
King’s fourth collection, “Everything’s Eventual” sees King returning to the fast and furious horror of earlier collections. While “1408” is arguably the crowd pleaser, another story is equally scary and perhaps even more gruesome. “The Road Virus Heads North” follows Richard Kinnell, a horror writer from Derry, Maine who makes a deadly purchase at a yard sale on his way back from Boston. He’s entranced by a painting called The Road Virus, an unsettling portrait of a young greaser and his titular hot rod. Each time Kinnell looks at the painting, the kid’s sinister glare and sharp-toothed grin turn more firmly in his direction as the Road Virus heads north in pursuit of Kinnell. Another entry in King’s unofficial Derry saga, the short, but horrifying story is a fast-paced horror with a grim final image.
The Man in the Black Suit
This award winning story is King’s homage to Nathaniel Hawthorn and reminiscent of his famous “Young Goodman Brown.” Gary is a nine-year old boy in a rural town who passes a beautiful day by going fishing. Having recently lost his brother to an allergic reaction to a bee sting, Gary is now terrified of the tiny creatures and wakes from a nap on the river’s edge to find one perched on his nose. He then encounters a man in the titular attire with an aura of sulfur and a mouth full of sharp teeth. Chuckling, the man tells Gary of the awful tragedy currently happening at home before describing his plans to devour the young boy. Though he escapes with his life, Gary’s encounter with a man he comes to believe is the devil will haunt him for the rest of his life. First printed in the New Yorker, “The Man In the Black Suit” is a perfect example of daylight horror and a mesmerizing character study from a time long gone.
The Gingerbread Girl
One of the longer stories in King’s fifth collection, “The Gingerbread Girl” is a spiritual sister to the novel Duma Key. Emily has retreated to a small Florida Key to recover from the devastating loss of her infant daughter. She manages her grief with long runs on the deserted beaches, perhaps hoping to outrun her pain. On one of her sprints, she glimpses an ominous bit of hair spilling out of her neighbor’s open trunk. Investigating further, she stumbles into the lair of a serial killer who decides to make her next victim. Emily must use all the strength she’s gained in her recovery to escape his terrible plans. Though it takes a little while to get to the hook, “The Gingerbread Girl” is touching and relatable story about a woman trying to hold herself together that takes a grisly turn into terror.
One of King’s most unique stories is also one of his best. Told through the notes and letters of a therapist, “N.” recounts the tragic life of an anonymous man who stumbles upon a gateway to another world. While photographing the sunset in a remote field, he finds a formation of seven stones. Or is it eight? N. becomes obsessed with the stones and consumed with the responsibility of holding the door closed against a hideous monster lurking on the other side. The story, filled with slowly creeping dread, is also a heartbreaking depiction of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and the horror of believing the weight of the world rests on your shoulders.
The Little Green God of Agony
Stephen King’s most recent collection of short stories, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is filled with characters struggling in the aftermath of trauma. One of its most terrifying entries is “The Little Green God of Agony,” a story that may open a window into King’s response to his own brush with death. Andrew Newsome is one of the world’s wealthiest men left crippled by a crash in his private jet years ago. Sparing no expense, he’s been searching the world over for relief from the constant pain that plagues him. He finds it in Reverend Rideout, a mysterious faith healer who believes his pain is exacerbated by a god of agony attached to his shattered body. Newsome’s private nurse, Katherine Macdonald, believes her patient is simply unwilling to do the hard work of recovery until she gets a taste of Newsome’s suffering first-hand. The exorcism is terrifying, but the story’s real power lies in King’s description of Newsom’s unrelenting pain juxtaposed with Katherine’s skepticism, perhaps inspired by his own recovery after a near fatal accident in 1999.
This short and nasty entry is a chilling story of premonition and obsession. Retired Florida Supreme Court Judge Harvey Beecher found the titular dune as a boy and has been rowing out to it ever since, reading the names he finds written on its sandy surface. Each name given by the deserted beach proves to be a kind of obituary in advance, predicting those who will die in the coming days and weeks. Judge Beecher becomes addicted to this terrible knowledge which makes him grow cold and disaffected from the world around him. Now an old man, he tells his story to a young lawyer tasked with preparing his last will and testament. The story itself is eerie, but the jaw-dropping ending is guaranteed to send chills up and down the spines of even the most hardened Constant Readers.
Do you have any other favorite Stephen King short stories? Comment and let us know!