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Literature / From a Buick 8

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In rural Pennsylvania, one of life's great losers looks up from behind his gas station counter and notices that a big old Buick is still sitting out front with its driver nowhere in sight. After a quick search, he can't find the driver but fears he may have fallen into the river, so he calls the state police. When the police arrive, they cannot find any trace of the man and take the car away as potential evidence. Only... only it's not really a car. There's no way it can drive, it's missing essential parts and looks like it never had them and seems more like it teleported in judging by the lack of mud.

And that's just the start because things come out of it - the story—as written by Stephen King—is framed as the current Sergeant Commanding and some other officers explaining the thing to the traumatized son of an officer who was tragically killed by that same loser years later.


  • Alien Geometries: It seems to have a direct connection to another universe, perhaps another world linked to The Dark Tower.
  • Alien Sky: In the climax, Sandy Dearborn pulls Ned Wilcox out of the car, and in the process, gets a brief glimpse of the world on the other side, an alien world with a deep purple sky, along with remnants of the people absorbed by the Buick.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Basically the point. You don't get many answers by the end. There are multiple theories, but you don't know if any are true.
  • Animalistic Abomination: The "bat-thing", one of the otherwordly creatures the Buick produces, which quickly died once it appeared in our world. It's not actually a bat of any sort, and doesn't really look like one at all, it's just the closest description the characters can think of.
  • Arc Words:
    • Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back.
    • Come closer, children. See the living crocodile. Mind its teeth...
    • "Oil's fine!"
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: The following conversation between Tony Schoondist and George Stankowski, when the former orders the latter to get a pair of gerbils plus a cage so they can test if being inside the Buick is dangerous:
    George: Should I get them some food, too?
    Tony: Absolutely not. We're going to buy a couple of gerbils and then let them starve to death out in the shed.
    George: Really? That seems sort of mean to—
    Tony: [sighs] Get them food, George, yes.
  • Asshole Victim: The Neo-Nazi Brian Lippy, who was arrested for reckless driving and beating his girlfriend, is "eaten" by the Buick after it's implied he tried to hide in the trunk.
  • Attack of the Killer Whatever: Well, it looks like a car, anyway.
  • Audience Surrogate: Ned, who's trying to puzzle out what happened to his father. Deconstructed in that the reader, like Ned, is repeatedly warned that answers won't be forthcoming.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In the final chapter, set 4 years after the rest of the story, it is strongly suggested that Ned Wilcox has committed suicide in a car crash; the car was Curtis Wilcox's vintage Chevrolet and it is mentioned that SC Dearborn will have to inform the victim's mother and sisters. The twist: it was actually Eddie Jacubois who was in the car, having bought it from Ned earlier. Ned is alive and well and has just joined Troop D.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Buick remains a complete mystery by the end of the novel... but newly hired deputy Ned notices that the once-pristine car is showing signs of damage, meaning it's dying and whatever threat it represents will soon fade.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The creatures that come out of the Buick. In addition to the visually apparent weirdness, there is something about their chemical makeup that makes them start decaying almost instantly in our atmosphere (the one seemingly-inanimate-technologic-maybe itemnote  that comes out of it begins to corrode after a week despite being sealed in a Ziploc bag, and after a year it has fallen apart into a little pile of fragments). An attempted Alien Autopsy of the "bat"-creature does not go well. Sandy later realizes that if some of the blood-like black substance that squirted out of the thing had gotten into Curtis' mouth, he would have died.
  • Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": Various things come out of the trunk of the Buick. They tend to get called things like "birds", "fish", and "leaves" when it is very clear that that is not what they are at all; Ned's repeated failure to grasp this point irritates Sandy immensely.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Subverted. Curtis is eventually killed in a hit and run by the same guy who called the police about the Buick, but Sandy speculates that the Buick somehow arranged it.
  • Cool Car: It'd be an impressive vehicle if it actually, you know, was a vehicle.
  • Deliver Us from Evil: Discussed in its gender-flipped form. One character mentions that sometimes crooks straighten themselves out after becoming fathers, but that more often it just means that they have one more person to victimise.
  • Departure Means Death: Things from the trunk can't survive in our world, and it's assumed stuff from ours wouldn't survive there either. No one knows why, although it's theorized it's due to the change in the air.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Eddie at the end, though it was set up to seem as though it was Ned. Also counts as a Dropped a Bridge on Him moment after his prominent role near the end of the novel.
    • George Morgan, who could never get over accidentally killing a pedestrian during a high-speed pursuit. It wasn't his fault, but he blamed himself nonetheless.
  • Eldritch Abomination: One officer notes that looking at the things that come out of the trunk made him feel like his EYES were being raped.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Mister Dillon, Troop D's German Shepherd mascot, reacts violently to the car whenever he gets near it. It's enough proof to the cops that the car is indeed something bad.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: The Buick causes a drop in temperature when it's brewing up to do something awful.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Zig-zagged. The bulk of the story is set on a single evening with all members of Troop D telling Ned about the history of the Buick and Curtis' time on the force. The stories they tell him, however, span a time period of 25 years.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The Contrived Coincidence nature of Curtis's death is mentioned from the beginning of the novel.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • After the autopsy of the bat-creature, Curt says that it was lucky they decided to wear masks to cover their mouths so they didn't ingest any of the creature's blood. "I think the results of something like that might have been quite nasty."
    • Tony has Curt buy some high-grade climbing rope to be used as a safety line. Tony comments, "I hope we never have to find out how good it is." In the climax, the rope is one of the things that saves both Sandy and Curt's son Ned from the Buick.
  • From Bad to Worse: The "worst day ever", as described by Shirley, starts with a chemical tanker colliding with a school bus, causing all of Troop D to head to the accident, leaving her alone with Huddie Royer and Mister D. Eddie Jacubois pulls over his old high school bully Brian Lippy, who has since become a neo-Nazi drug addict, for beating his girlfriend. He and his partner George take him back to the troop, where they discover to their horror the Buick has given live birth to a Humanoid Abomination, which they are forced to kill. Mister D, driven mad with fear, attacks the creature and ingests some its flesh, suffering a horrifying death. Finally, Brian Lippy escapes custody in the confusion, and is "eaten" by the Buick while hiding from the troopers. Yeah, it was a pretty shitty day indeed.
  • Haunted Technology: The Buick.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The mysterious driver of the Buick that originally left it at the gas station at the start of the story, and who disappeared behind the building. The gas station attendant described his ear (the only feature he saw clearly) as looking "melted, like he'd been in a fire", and he had a very odd posture. His voice is described as sounding like he's speaking through a mouth full of jelly. Outside the novel, said driver is generally theorized to be a Low Man.
    • The thing that came out through the Buick on "the worst day ever", which was vaguely humanoid, and implied to have been sapient. It's so mindbreakingly horrifying the officers on duty are driven to tear it apart just out of self-preservation, despite it not actually being hostile.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu:
    • The one thing that makes it out of the Buick's trunk alive sees the officers as just as mind-breakingly horrible as they see it.
    • When Sandy gets a glimpse of the world beyond the Buick, he sees Ennis Rafferty's hat lying on the ground with a wooden stake driven through it, as if whoever or whatever found Ennis was afraid he would come back to life.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: The above creature was not afraid as it was torn to bits, only very, very confused at what these horrible things were doing to it.
  • The Insomniac: Sandy doesn't sleep properly for a month after Curt's autopsy of the bat-thing. Shirley and a few other officers also mention the same problem after their own encounters with the Buick's "births."
  • Jumped at the Call: Curtis, when it came to studying and guarding the Buick.
  • Magic Realism: When the novel isn't about the Buick and the crazy shit that happens because of it, it's a perfectly grounded look at the lives of a group of state troopers. Tellingly, the Buick only ever claims the life of one of the troopers, while others die throughout the years due to car accidents or suicide.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Brian Lippy does this to Eddie Jacubois.
    Brian: Fat Eddie Jack-you-boys! How many boys did you jack, Eddie?
  • Meaningful Name: Brian Lippy sure does mouth off to the troopers who arrest him for beating on his girlfriend. And he pays for it in the end.
  • Mercy Kill: The first time something comes out of the Buick that lives long enough for the officers to interact with it, the station dog, Mister Dillon, goes nuts and attacks it, apparently ingesting some of its flesh. The poor dog starts burning from the inside out, and one of the officers decides to shoot him, as there is nothing else they can do to help him.
  • Mockstery Tale: It has the attributes of a detective story, but in fact, it is all about coming to terms with the fact that some mysteries cannot be solved.
    • Out of universe however, the car is heavily implied to belong to a Low-Man, linking this work to the Dark Tower series
  • Mrs. Robinson: Invoked. Sandy wonders if Shirley might be telling Ned so much and so easily because he's good looking and wonders if she might be thinking of "playing Mrs. Robinson", but nothing ever comes of it.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: After they kill the previously mentioned "live birth" creature, Shirley says "We killed a thinking being. That's murder."
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The world on the other end of the dimensional portal in the Buick is only glimpsed briefly by the narrator, but in that brief moment, he sees the remains of the people the Buick had drawn in. No bodies, just a boot, a swastika necklace that had belonged to Brian Lippy, a policeman's hat belonging to Ennis Rafferty, and Ennis's gun. Someone has driven a stake through the hat, and the gun is rusted. What exactly happened to the people is never revealed.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Averted, as the creatures that come out of the Buick pretty much die and sometimes rapidly decompose when exposed to the open air. It's theorized it would be the same for someone going into their world.
  • Oh, Crap!: The general mood whenever someone at the station realizes the Buick is doing something out in that shed...
  • One-Steve Limit: There are two cops named George at the station, George Stankowski and George Morgan.
  • Painting the Medium: The novel uses a strict Switching P.O.V. and starts new chapters whenever a new trooper begins telling their part of the story. At one point late in the book, when a character interrupts with about two sentences of perspective, they get their own two-sentence chapter.
  • Police Brutality: Commented on in-story. Sergeant Tony Schoondist notes that small town cops are good enough, but they get a bad rap from bigger cities — "for every three honest, hard-working cops in Los Angeles, there's two Hitler Youth wannabes on motorcycles."
  • Police Code for Everything: Played with; Troop D doesn't standardly have a code for dealing with supernatural cars, but they come up with "Code D" to use in case they need to inform each other about the Buick over the radio. Later, it's mentioned, other troops in the area would adopt the "Code D" as shorthand for "home base", due to repeatedly hearing exchanges like "Is D five-by?" "Affirmative, everything is cool with D."
  • Posthumous Character: Ned's father Curtis, whose death brought Ned to Troop D and whose obsession with the Buick provides a lot of the story. Other deceased officers make appearances in the flashbacks as well.
  • Rule of Scary: This is one of the themes of the book. The creatures that come out of the Buick, and the Buick itself, make no sense by human standards and will probably never really be understood. The same goes for the motivations of the driver who abandoned the Buick; there is no elaboration of who, or more likely, what he was — just that he drove the "car" to the gas station, left it there, and then disappeared.
  • Shout-Out: One of the cops thinks that he might find himself in a galaxy far, far away, greasing X-wing fighters or polishing Darth Vader's shiny black ass for the rest of his life if the Buick does its thing on him.
  • Sinister Car: The titular Buick is an otherworldy car that acts as a portal between two worlds.
  • Stress Vomit: A general reaction to the Buick's "births." Phil, while telling Ned his story of witnessing one of these births, compares it to his first road fatality, when he vomited on seeing the severed half of a child's body.
  • Surreal Horror: Big time.
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: The attitude of most of Troop D towards the Buick. Even the ones who do want to know more about it, Curtis and the previous sergeant, Tony Schoondist, don't want to call in any scientists to look at it beyond their usual forensics guy, mainly because they feel it's "theirs" now and don't want to give it away.
    • Tony Schoondist tells his officers that the Buick needs to be kept a secret, and points out that it's fallen right into the hands of people equipped to do that.
  • Title Drop: Narrator Sandy recalls looking in the shed containing the "car" and thinking the scene is like a modern art exhibit, called something like "From A Buick 8" — a Shout-Out to Bob Dylan, who wrote a song called "From a Buick Six".
  • Uncanny Valley: The car itself looks very much like a Buick 8, but there's enough wrong with it to make people think it's more of a sculpture of a car instead. It has a wood dashboard when all American cars at the time it was "made" had vinyl dashes. Its controls not only don't work but don't move. It has seven, rather than eight porthole vents on its radiator, 3 on one side, 4 on the other (which side isn't mentioned, implying that the odd vent moves position sometimes). The exhaust system is entirely made out of plexiglass instead of metal. The engine's just as bad, with no distributor cap and wires that just feed into the engine block (stamped all over with "BUICK 8" like it's a reminder), very much not to the battery, which itself isn't connected to anything. The key, which the driver left in the ignition, turns out to just be a plain metal stick, and the ignition can't turn. People who get inside it start picking up subconscious clues for earthquakes.
  • The Unreveal: In-universe and meta both. Sandy warns Ned (and by extension, the reader) that nobody has the answers on the Buick.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: A running theme throughout the novel is how the Buick is overshadowed by the often mundane, occasionally dangerous, and once in a while lethal life of a state police officer. The Buick may be an otherworldly, inexplicable thing from somewhere else, but the troopers have other things to do, and have gotten used to it.
  • Vomiting Cop: The horrible things that come from the Buick make several cops throw up.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The driver of the Buick is seen from behind by Bradley Roach, the gas station attendant, and they exchange a few words as he exits the car and walks toward the other side of the building. Then the driver rounds the corner and is never seen again.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: The Buick itself. It's speculated that its (imperfect) resemblance to a Buick 8 is a the closest they can comprehend of its true shape. The things it lets out are incredibly alien and horrible, but you can see them properly. The Buick is speculated to be something along the line of the breathing valve for an Eldritch Abomination's scuba gear.
    • It's also speculated that, for all the scary power the Buick possesses, the vehicle was left behind because it was somehow broken...