"Suffer the Little Children"
is a horror genre short story by Stephen King
. It was first published by Cavalier
in February, 1972. The story was later published as part of Nightmares and Dreamscapes
in 1993. In the "Notes" section of Nightmares and Dreamscapes
, King wrote that it was originally supposed to be published in the 1978 collection Night Shift
, but editor Bill Thompson opted to have it cut. King had wanted to cut "Gray Matter
", but deferred to Thompson's choice.
King has stated that the story reminds him of the works of Ray Bradbury, and similarities have been noted. He wrote that "Suffer the Little Children" had "no redeeming social merit whatever." In The Complete Stephen King Universe, it is described as an "effective chiller."
An elderly teacher with back problems at Summer Street School, Miss Sidley, uses the reflection on her glasses to watch her class. She calls on Robert to use the word "tomorrow" in a sentence. He says "Tomorrow a bad thing will happen." Miss Sidley is disturbed by the nature of Robert's answer, and in the reflection of her glasses she see his face change into something described as "different". She turns around to find that Robert looks normal. While checking the paper towels in the girls' lavatory, she hears two girls talking about her. They are suggested to be alien in nature, like Robert. When confronted by other teachers, she claims to have slipped. The next day, she keeps Robert after class. He tells Miss Sidley that there are eleven of them. He offers to change for her, and claims that he can sometimes feel the original Robert in his mind. When Miss Sidley tells him to go away, Robert ignores her, and changes. His mouth disappears, and his head elongates. His eyes flatten, and his nostrils form together. The process is described as looking like "melting wax." Miss Sidley runs out of the classroom, and into a street, where she is almost hit by a bus.
After taking a month long break, where she sees a doctor, she comes back to her class. She now believes that all of them have changed. Robert confirms that there are more, and tells her that no one would believe her if she told them. Miss Sidley brings a gun into school the next day, which her brother had taken from a dead German after the Battle of the Bulge
. She tells them that there is a test, and that it will be taken in the sound-proofed mimeograph room. She kills twelve of her students, including Robert. Another teacher, Margaret Crossen, comes in for composition paper, and begins to scream. Miss Sidley demands that the girl, who she brought in to kill, change for Mrs. Crossen, but the girl only cries.
Miss Sidley is sent to Juniper Hill, a mental institution. In experimental therapy, she is allowed to work with mentally retarded children. Buddy Jenkins, the psychiatrist who is observing her, thinks that she is performing well. She then seems to see something that upsets her, and she asks to be taken away. Miss Sidley commits suicide, by cutting her throat. Buddy Jenkins begins watching the children closely and it is suggested that they have become subject to the forces which possessed Miss Sidley's class.
- Miss Sidley - the protagonist. She is a teacher with health problems regarding her back.
- Robert - a student who is overcome by a force with unknown intention, although it is clear that the cause involves taking over the bodies of children.
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