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Literature / Just After Sunset

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Just After Sunset is Stephen King's fifth collection of short stories, published in 2008. It contains many stories that appeared in magazines before, and some previously unpublished ones.

Stories in Just After Sunset:

  • Willa: A man goes to great lengths to find his missing fiancée after an apparent train crash.
  • The Gingerbread Girl: After her baby daughter dies, a woman takes up running to deal with her pain.
  • Harvey's Dream: A middle aged married couple discuss a dream the husband had which seems to be coming true.
  • Rest Stop: An author overhears a fight between a man and a woman in a rest stop.
  • Stationary Bike: A man desperate to lose weight sets up a stationary bike in his basement, which seems to transport him to alternative realities.
  • The Things They Left Behind: An insurance salesman who worked in the Twin Towers but was absent on 9/11 is shocked to find various items from his dead colleagues turning up in his apartment.
  • Graduation Afternoon: A graduating teen's day at her rich boyfriend's family home is very abruptly interrupted.
  • N.: Takes the form of a doctor's notes and various letters and messages. A man suffering from OCD believes he has found a gateway to another reality in a field in Maine.
  • The Cat from Hell: A professional hitman is offered $12,000 to take out an unusual target a cat. This story was adapted in the anthology Tales from the Darkside: The Movie.
  • The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates: A widows receives a phone call from her husband who died two days before in a plane crash.
  • Mute: A middle-aged salesman vents his frustration at his wife's infidelity and gambling addiction to a sleeping deaf mute hitch-hiker he has picked up.
  • Ayana: A man recounts his father's battle with pancreatic cancer and the miraculous intervention of a blind seven-year-old girl named Ayana.
  • A Very Tight Place: A man is trapped inside a portable toilet by his neighbour, with whom he is having a legal dispute.

Just After Sunset contains examples of:

  • Afterlife Angst: Willa is about a number of passengers who are waiting at a rural station for the next train to pick them up after a train wreck. In fact, all of them are ghosts who died in the wreck; the main character David and his fiancee Willa both accept this, while all the others prefer to stay in denial.
  • Animal Testing: In The Cat from Hell a guy got rich testing a human heart medication on cats. So many died that a cat has come to avenge this.
  • Attack the Mouth: The cat in The Cat From Hell eventually takes out the hitman, who was sent to kill the cat, by leaping into the hitman's mouth, jamming itself in the hitman's throat, and causing him to choke to death.
  • Bench Breaker: The Gingerbread Girl features a version of this. Emily is duct taped to a chair by a psycho who will return in a little while to kill her. She's unable to get free of the tape, so she ends up breaking the chair instead to free herself. This later comes in handy when the psycho returns, as she's able to use the splintered remains of the chair to fight him off.
  • Cats Are Mean: The Cat from Hell has a cat driven by vengeance. A pharmaceutical company did drug testing that killed a lot of its fellow felines, so it's going after the president of that company, killing anyone in his way, such as the president's sister, her best friend, his servant, and even the hitman the president hires.
  • Chest Burster: After the cat in The Cat from Hell forces itself into the body of one of its victims, it claws out a hole in the stomach to get out.
  • Circle of Standing Stones: "N" has one in a field which an OCD man thinks is a gateway to another world.
  • Confessional: The protagonist in Mute goes to confession and tells his story to a priest, because he believes that he has sinned in some way, but not sure how.
  • Dead All Along: The protagonists of Willa.
  • Downer Beginning: The Gingerbread Girl begins with Emily's grief over her baby daughter's cot death.
  • Electrified Bathtub: Curtis in A Very Tight Place uses this trope when he confronts Grunwald, tossing an electric hair-dryer into the man's lap while he's sitting in his jacuzzi. It turns out to be just a psychological attack, as the dryer's not plugged in.
  • Eldritch Location: The standing stones on Ackermann's field in N.
  • Grief-Induced Split: In "The Gingerbread Girl," Emily takes up running to deal with the grief of losing her daughter Amy to cot death. The unhealthy degree to which she pushes herself in this new hobby leads Emily and her husband Henry to agree on a trial separation, whereupon she moves to her father's summer home in Florida.
  • Groin Attack: The cat in The Cat from Hell goes after a hitman's crotch with its claws as its penultimate attack (in that the hitman screaming left his mouth wide open for attack).
  • Hellgate: Ackerman's field in N., which keeps back a terrifying monster called Cthun.
  • Here We Go Again!: At the end of N., the psychiatrist who had been treating the titular patient ends up infected by his madness and tries to piece together what happened to him. By the story's end, the psychiatrist has committed suicide, and his sister is beginning to show the same signs of insanity that he did...
  • Language Barrier: One Hispanic bystander is stymied when Emily calls him for help because she doesn't speak Spanish, but her would-be attacker can. She is able to communicate that he is "loco" and the kitchen shears he was carrying as a weapon falls out onto the sand. When the serial killer tries to dismiss her as "boba perra," the bystander gets the gist of the situation and attempts to protect Emily. He fails.
  • Love Forgives All but Lust: As the salesman protagonist in "Mute" describes, there were many things that he could forgive about his wife. The issue wasn't her gambling addiction or embezzlement. It was her leaving him for another man and saddling the two of them with all her debts.
  • Murder by Inaction: Emily of The Gingerbread Girl sits back and watches when she realizes Pickering is drowning.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The salesman in "Mute" is struck with this when he thinks his venting to the hitchhiker about his wife cheating on him and embezzling from her job, indirectly led to the other man killing his ex-wife and new lover. The hitchhiker only took the photograph that the trucker had, and she was found dead later.
  • Number Obsession: One of the short stories in this collection is N., written from the point of view of a psychiatrist who is treating a patient with severe Obsessive-Compulsive disorder. The disorder centers around a ring of stones in a field that the patient believes to be a portal holding back an Eldritch Abomination from another dimension. If he can see all 8 stones, the portal is secure; if he only sees 7, the portal is in danger of breaching. He also believes that he can strengthen the portal by focusing on "good" and "bad" numbers — even numbers are good, especially if the individual digits add up to an even number; odd numbers are bad, particularly prime numbers.
  • Once is Not Enough: Touched on The Gingerbread Girl, when the protagonist has to make a split-second decision after managing to batter the serial killer to the ground using the chair as a club: with the chair now smashed to bits, does she try and get the knife he's currently laying on top of to finish him off, or run for it. She runs.
  • Orifice Invasion: In The Cat from Hell the cat leaps into the mouth of a hitman. It then crawls further into the mouth until the hitman starts to choke. Once the hitman dies from that, the cat then crawls all the way inside.
  • Overturned Outhouse: In A Very Tight Place, Curtis Johnson is locked up in a tipped over portable toilet by his neighbor Tim Grunwald, and left trapped there in the heat of a Florida summer day to die.
  • Phone Call from the Dead: This is the premise of The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates. A husband who died in a plane crash was trying to call his wife just before impact; she gets the call two days later, and gets to talk to him in the afterlife (which, apparently, is a bus station). She gets to say goodbye, and he warns her about a future disaster, which she manages to avoid.
  • Plot Twist: Graduation Afternoon is about a graduating teen calmly realizing that her relationship with her rich boyfriend is probably about to end... and then she and all the other guests at his parents' Connecticut home abruptly witness New York City being destroyed by a massive nuclear explosion.
  • Scenery Dissonance: The scariest portions of The Gingerbread Girl take place in the middle of a sunny day in the Florida Keys. Emily, the protagonist, is forced to outrun Pickering, the man who kidnapped her with intent to rape. It ends with one of the only other people on the beach being brutally slaughtered by Pickering and Pickering himself drowning.
  • Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere: A Very Tight Place — The room? A steel-plated, overturned, and uncleaned port-a-toilet located on a long-abandoned construction site.
  • Serial Killer:
    • Jim Pickering in The Gingerbread Girl.
    • The cat in The Cat from Hell is effectively one, despite having only one deliberate target. It just takes everyone else out before finally going after that person.
  • Slap Yourself Awake: In The Gingerbread Girl, Emily bites down on her injured lip to keep herself from passing out when she should be trying to untie herself.
  • Straight Gay: Curtis from A Very Tight Place seems to be.
  • Survivor Guilt: In The Things They Left Behind, Scott is unable to shake his guilt at having called in sick and survived 9/11. He is able to start overcoming this guilt by returning the supernatural items of his dead coworkers (which keep appearing in his apartment) to their families.
  • Trapped by Gambling Debts : The protagonist in "Mute," as a result of his wife's addiction. This is combined with Never Win the Lottery, and she embezzled over 120,000 dollars in total, buying expensive lingerie with the first half of it and then scratch tickets with the second half, trying to win the jackpot and pay it all back. The back story is Very Loosely Based on a True Story.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: It turns out that Jim Pickering, who has a mansion in the Florida Keys, can't swim. Emily defeats him by getting him into the water and letting him drown.