Gray Matter
"Gray Matter" is a short story by Stephen King
Stephen King
Stephen Edwin King is an American author of contemporary horror, suspense, science fiction and fantasy fiction. His books have sold more than 350 million copies and have been adapted into a number of feature films, television movies and comic books...

, first published in the October 1973 issue of Cavalier
Cavalier (magazine)
Cavalier is an American magazine that was launched by Fawcett Publications in 1952 and has continued for decades, eventually evolving into a Playboy-style men's magazine...

magazine, and later collected in King's 1978 collection Night Shift
Night Shift (book)
Night Shift is the first collection of short stories by Stephen King, first published in 1978. Many of King's most famous short stories were included in this collection.-Stories collected:-Details:...

. It is set in the same area as King's novel Dreamcatcher
Dreamcatcher (novel)
Dreamcatcher is a horror novel written by Stephen King. It was adapted into a 2003 movie of the same name. The book, written longhand, was the author's tool for recuperation from a 1999 car accident, and was completed in half a year...



"Gray Matter" takes place in Bangor, Maine during a snow storm. The characters move from inside a convenience store to an apartment building.

Plot summary

The story, told from the perspective of an older "local" man, begins as he is sitting around at a convenience store
Convenience store
A convenience store, corner store, corner shop, commonly called a bodega in Spanish-speaking areas of the United States, is a small store or shop in a built up area that stocks a range of everyday items such as groceries, toiletries, alcoholic and soft drinks, and may also offer money order and...

 with a group of his friends during a heavy snowstorm. A young boy runs in, deathly afraid. The men recognize him as the son of Richie Grenadine, a local man who was injured some time ago in a work accident, and was given lifetime worker's compensation. With no need to support himself, Richie became a recluse
A recluse is a person who lives in voluntary seclusion from the public and society, often close to nature. The word is from the Latin recludere, which means "shut up" or "sequester." There are many potential reasons for becoming a recluse: a personal philosophy that rejects consumer society; a...

, rarely seen outside the confines of his apartment except to purchase the cheapest of beer
Beer is the world's most widely consumed andprobably oldest alcoholic beverage; it is the third most popular drink overall, after water and tea. It is produced by the brewing and fermentation of sugars, mainly derived from malted cereal grains, most commonly malted barley and malted wheat...

, although lately, he had been sending his son out to purchase his beer for him.

After speaking privately with Richie's boy, the owner (Henry) and a few other regulars decide to take the beer to Richie personally. On their way, Henry relates some of the terrifying experiences the kid had told him — of how one day his father drank a "bad" can of beer (according to the boy, there was a gray sludge substance that most likely contained some sort of mutagen) and since has been slowly transforming into an inhuman blob-like abomination that detests light and craves warm beer. Spying on him one night, the boy saw his father eat a dead cat
The cat , also known as the domestic cat or housecat to distinguish it from other felids and felines, is a small, usually furry, domesticated, carnivorous mammal that is valued by humans for its companionship and for its ability to hunt vermin and household pests...

, causing him to finally seek help.

Arriving at Richie's home, the men confront Richie from behind his closed door, demanding that he come out and show himself. The odor pouring out from behind the door convinces the group that Richie was eating more than dead cats, speculating that he may be responsible for a recent rash of missing people, as well.

The men are horrified when Richie opens the door, and shambles out. No longer resembling anything human, Richie is more fungus
A fungus is a member of a large group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds , as well as the more familiar mushrooms. These organisms are classified as a kingdom, Fungi, which is separate from plants, animals, and bacteria...

 than man. Worse yet, he appears to be in the process of dividing
Mitosis is the process by which a eukaryotic cell separates the chromosomes in its cell nucleus into two identical sets, in two separate nuclei. It is generally followed immediately by cytokinesis, which divides the nuclei, cytoplasm, organelles and cell membrane into two cells containing roughly...

. The rest of the men run off, as Henry stands his ground, firing his pistol at the creature.

The story ends with the narrator calculating the exponential growth
Exponential growth
Exponential growth occurs when the growth rate of a mathematical function is proportional to the function's current value...

the creature is capable of, as they sit at the convenience store, waiting to find out who survived, Henry or the creature.

External links

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