21. "I Know What You Need" (Short Story)

Original publication date: 1976
Included in: Night Shift (1978)

Viewed in a demented light, “I Know What You Need” plays out like the creepiest fantasy of shy men unable to kick game to women. Interestingly, King tells this story of forced attraction from the perspective of the pretty-young-thing, Elizabeth, who is manipulated into finding her college’s resident unapproachable nerd sexy through the geek’s paranormal mind control abilities. “I Know What You Need” takes its schoolboy crush premise miles beyond normalcy, revealing that the freaky villain, Ed, has been obsessed with Elizabeth since childhood, and he’s gone so far as to murder one of her past lovers using black magic.

The most interesting thing about “I Know What You Need” is how well King makes the reader sympathize with Ed, who, for all intents and purposes, is a pathetic monster. For a second, you’re actually rooting for the sick fuck, hoping that his voodoo will lead to calling Elizabeth his “wife.” But, ultimately, he’s the consummate bad guy, and King’s even better at scripting those.