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Headscratchers / The Langoliers

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I will freely admit right now that I only ever saw the miniseries. Perhaps the book went into detail about these things but I have questions. Lots of questions.

  • Why did they fly through time aurora/time wound/skygina/whatever?
    • Time portals just happen once in a while. They're like earthquakes.
    • The portal was also on their flight path. They only thought of it as an occurrence of the aurora borealis, and some people were looking forward to seeing it.
  • Why did it exist in the first place? (Besides the fact that without said phenomenon there would be no story, obviously.) How long did it last for? Is it a link to that one snapshot of the past or does it offer a semipermenant link to different pasts depending on when you go through it?
    • I'm guessing it probably takes you back a certain amount of time from when you enter it.
  • The langoliers themselves:
    • Where do they come from? How many are there? Do they have to follow every single Plank Time of the universe around eating it? If so how do they keep up with the world when it seems to take them several hours to devour everything? Or does time cease to exist in a linear unified timeline and by the time they finish up one world the next one is just ready to be eaten? Or does a new world pop into existence every instant and langoliers with it? If so what happens to the langoliers of the old world?
    • Do the langoliers need to eat the universe? Are there quadrillions of langoliers out there eating up whole galaxies?
      • Yes.
    • Do langoliers have to "eat" the atmosphere too?
      • Yes.
    • Where does it stop? Do langoliers eat spacetime? What about that weird swirling gas that the airport inexplicably fell into?
      • It doesn't stop, yes, and that was probably recycled spacetime.
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    • Where does all the stuff go after langoliers eat it? Does it get recycled into a new world? Do they use it to make more langoliers? Are the langoliers just a natural process we can't fully perceive?
      • Yes, yes and yes.
    • Why did they eat Toomy but ignore everyone else? We see two of them catch up to the plane but they leave them alone and rejoin the swarm. Why?
      • Even if they had wanted to eat the plane, the plane is not part of the past that they are devouring and would probably have not be able to eat it. As for Mr. Toomey, I guess he was a minor-enough stranger to this world that he could be eaten without a problem.
      • Most of the langoliers were drawn to where Mr Toomy was. It's possible that the two that caught up recognized that the others were moving with haste and purpose and decided to leave them alone.
      • Because he was an asshole and they wanted to be rid of him.
      • Or because Toomy brought it on himself. His father ground the idea that if he's not running, only scampering (i.e. not being productive), the langoliers would eat him. His belief drew them to him and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
      • Or, since he seemed he was already corrupt at the start of the story, he was already worn down enough to attract them in addition to being far away enough from the plane. Also, they were drawn them to him by screaming and running (while the plane was sitting still and everyone else held still enough to not draw attention to themselves until Toomy lured them away).
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    • Where did the langoliers go after they took off? We see several minutes of the runway collapsing and the langoliers just vanish. Why? Were they cutting up the world so a giant langolier underneath could eat it or something?
      • The present was all munched up and the humans were headed for the future, so they were done for the time being.
      • Also, in flight, the plane apparently had plot armor.
      • More like plot speed. It's hard to catch up with a plane that's moving quicker than they could (which is why we see them trying to take out the runway as it was trying to take off, as they probably knew that doing so would slow it down enough to allow for them to catch up with it. Fortunately, it didn't work).
  • The 'old' world:
    • Why does the world spawn a new world after the instant of time is done? And why does it need to be eaten?
      • It may be a facet of time travel specifically, rather than the natural flow of time. Traveling through time creates these pockets inherently, and the langoliers clean it up.
    • Sandwiches still exist. From this it can be assumed that fruit, vegetables and meat still exist too. What about dead bodies? If not what makes cadavers any different from a chicken that's been killed, cooked and shoved into a sandwich?
      • Dead bodies exist. There just aren't a whole lot of them piled up in an airport.
      • For that matter what about other places? Are there bags of flower and stuff laying around granaries? Are butcher shops empty or do they have meat hanging there?
      • Yes, and yes.
    • How and why does bringing something that was "used up" into current time work? We see that bringing matches onto the plane makes them work (again?) and carbonated drinks refizzle. Is there some sort of field around the people and the plane? Does the air they let out when they open the door stay "current" or does it become used up? If it stays current shouldn't the drinks, matches and jet fuel they bring on board stay "used up"? And if it doesn't and becomes old once it leaves what makes the inside of the plane so special, where does this field end and why does it end where ever it does?
      • Yep. This was explained.
    • The people on the plane disappeared. Where did they go? Are there a planes worth of bodies splattered over the Mojave desert? Or did it they all just cease to exist? And if so why are people who are asleep exempt from this event? Would it work for people in comas?
      • They just stopped existing. Presumably people who are in comas would survive since they are unconscious. I have no idea why sleeping people are the only ones allowed through though.
    • Shouldn't there be more people asleep on an overnight cross country flight?
      • There would, but Toomy's just that much of a pain in the arse that he kept everyone up.
      • It's possible most of them were woken up by other passengers or general commotion to look at the time rip.
      • Plus, in the beginning of the novella, it was noted that the aurora over the desert was something a lot of people wanted to see. Hence, they would've been awake deliberately.
      • Also, falling asleep in essentially a room full of hundreds of strangers, some of whom are using lights or talking, might have kept most of the other passengers awake.
    • Why was inorganic stuff left behind? And why were clothes (cotton, etc) exempt from this? And if the organic material has to be alive what about hair and nails? Hell what about leather belts and cotton shirts?
      • The mechanics of the vanishing thing is intentionally left vague for the sake of creepiness. We can do our best to understand parts of what's going on, but there are still gaping blind spots. It's the nature of eldritch horror.
    • When the plane lands and everyone gets out, we see no planes or luggage or anything indicating that anyone was ever there aside from a pickup truck or two. Why? We later see that there are clocks, matches, guns, even a fridge with food inside! Why can sandwiches exist but suitcases can't? What determines what is and isn't left laying around to be eaten?
      • Active, present airports lose people's luggage all the time. Why would a "used up" airport do any better?
      • Presumably, anything that was in active use or being interacted with by people flows through time with them. For the same reason, we don't see laptops and newspapers scattered about, baby strollers, or any of the zillions of clutter objects crammed into any airport larger than a thimble. Like the "what disappears versus doesn't" problem, it's highly inconsistent.
      • Real answer? This was a low-budget made-for-TV movie. Hundreds of suitcases just weren't in the budget.
    • For that matter, why is that there are no people or animals but trees and other plants are fine? What makes plant life different from other life?
      • Could something to do with consciousness - which may also tie into the whole "you vanish if you time travel while you're awake" thing.
      • People and animals move around, while trees and many plants stay in the same space. In the future, the plants and trees occupy the same spots that they have in the present, while the people and animals have not arrived in their places at that time yet.
      • Scenery versus actors and props. Actors and props keep moving. Animals are actors, too (in that they take action). Trees are not; they're scenery. Scenery gets chomped.
    • Just what was that black gas stuff? Does it need to be eaten too?
      • Maybe Langoliers' gases? they do it a lot.
      • For some bizarre reason, the VFX team added diesel exhaust to the langoliers.
  • When they arrive back at the 'future':
    • How did they manage to overshoot time in the first place?
    • Why would they catch up to real time and stop there instead of continuing to exist in the World That Has Yet To Be?
      • Time moves forward, not backward. Think of it like missing a bus. If you're behind the bus, then it's gone. You have to catch up. But if you're ahead of it, the bus will come to you.
      • If they ate a sandwich in the future does the sandwich in the present suddenly cease?
      • No, you just get really bad IBS.
    • If they lagged from the future into the present wouldn't they then lag from the present into the past?
      • See bus simile.
      • (They got on the bus.)
    • How far into the future does the world go? Is all of time predestined?
      • These are the mysteries we are meant to ponder.
    • How did nobody notice several people flashing into existence in LAX during the middle of the day, especially when the whole process looked to be very eye-catching and take a minute or so?
      • It was eye-catching to the protagonists because they were viewing time from an angle no one else has ever seen it. The people at the airport, meanwhile, are going through business as usual.
      • In the novella at least, one kid did notice the "new people," but the parents were in too much of a hurry to care. In a crowded airport, it's unlikely anybody would notice any random small collection of people over the thousands of other random people, particularly since most travelers are focusing only on their own issues.
    • Did the plane follow suit? Did it just appear on the runway?
      • Yep.
      • Did anyone get telefragged by it?
      • Every single time an object seems to suddenly appear and smack you in the face, it's actually returning home from a trip to the past.
    • What about the survivors? When an entire plane full of people goes missing - some of whom were very important no less (the British assassin, Toomy who just lost $43 million on purpose) - what happens to those who knew them? What are the British government or the company/companies that lost money going to do? What about the families of people who went missing?
      • In all likelihood, King realized the same problem and that's why the novella just ends on the happy "hey, we all got back!" note. Presumably, some lawyers are going to make a boatload on the disposition disputes (c.f. the "Jaunt murder case" in The Jaunt).
      • By ceased to exist, did King mean just disappeared, or that every memory or impression of them has disappeared as well? If the latter, it would imply that the three kids whose deaths haunt Nick Hopewell had not died in this version of the world.
      • No. If you think of human interaction as a tapestry, the Nick thread got snipped at that point. It didn't get yanked out of the whole thing.
    • Wouldn't the survivors get questioned on what happened? What are they going to tell everyone? Hell, Engle was still working as a pilot! What is he going to tell everyone?
      • They woke up, people were gone, the girl was dead. Absolutely no idea what happened. What are the authorities going to do with them? Arrest them?
  • At one point, Toomy thinks of the man who was supposed to be watching out while Jesus prayed in the garden before he was arrested. If Toomy was raised to do nothing but work, where did he learn the Gospels from? An attitude of "LOVE IS NOT PART OF THE BIG PICTURE!" doesn't exactly gel with a Christian upbringing.
    • The phrase 'tough love' is frequently used to justify examples of malicious child abuse, and the tough love concept is pretty much the kernel of Christian belief. Toomy's dad is just not bothering to sugarcoat what he's doing. He definitely seems like he could be an Old Testament kind of guy.
    • Also, demanding that his son take rigorous Sunday-school lessons as a young child might have seemed to Toomy's father like a logical precursor to making him study extra-hard in school.
    • Basically, there are lots of people who call themselves "Christians." Some are in it for the message of love, forgiveness and charity, others more for the "eternal punishment for everyone who is Bad."
  • If the Langoliers eat each world, but they don't eat the whole thing at once, where do they start every time that Bangor is further down the way?
    • Probably wherever they were when they finished off the previous instant.
  • Can you imagine what the FAA/NTSB report on this is going to look like? A plane vanishes from radar in the middle of the night and turns up back at the airport it started from, completely empty (except for luggage and personal effects - some of them very personal); and the few surviving passengers, who deplaned without being seen by anyone, tell a completely unbelievable story.


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