11. "Cain Rose Up" (Short Story)

Original publication date: 1968
Included in: Skeleton Crew (1985)

For 90% of its word count, “Cain Rose Up” reads like a slice-of-life look at college student Curt Garrish’s last day on campus before summer break starts. His fellow students are going about their end-of-school business, and Curt’s brief run-ins with a few peers are as mundane as any random hallway encounter. Except that Curt isn’t particularly warm to the people who try to talk to him, and his internal monologue wishes death upon those around him for no known reason. Nor is there a feasible explanation as to why Curt locks himself in his dorm room at the very brief story’s end, grabs a shotgun, and starts blowing students away from the sniper-ready comfort of the room’s window.

Cleverly, King heightens the quiet horrors of “Cain Rose Up” by clouding Curt’s motives; all we’re able to gather is that he’s depressed about something. Yet it can’t be his loving father, right? Or school itself, since we learn that his grades are exemplary, correct? King never tells us—he just simply presents a flesh-and-blood monster with the casualness that the victims of Columbine must’ve felt before their lives ended. And for that, “Cain Rose Up” scars one’s thoughts.