Four Past Midnight is a collection of four novellas by Stephen King, published in 1990. The four stories are "The Langoliers"; "Secret Window, Secret Garden"; "The Library Policeman"; and "The Sun Dog".
Passengers that have been napping on a plane wake up to find themselves alone. Everyone aboard that was awake has disappeared, leaving their clothes, dental fillings, pace makers and so on. This happened when the plane flew through a rip in time to the past. The past is a lifeless worn-out version of the present.
After landing and exploring for a time the survivors take off to return to the rip, narrowly avoiding the langoliers - creatures that eat the past, leaving only a void.
Escaping from these, the passengers fly back through the rip which takes them to the near future, a pristine fresh lifeless version of the present. Shortly the present "catches up" with them and they rejoin the normal world.
The Langoliers was adapted into a two part TV mini-series in 1995.
Secret Window, Secret Garden
Secret Window, Secret Garden is similar to King's earlier novel The Dark Half. Both are about an author, in this case Mort Rainey, who is a thinly-veiled analogue of King himself. Mort is visited by a man who takes the name of John Shooter, with a manuscript which proves to be an almost exact copy of a story that Mort himself wrote and published some years earlier. The man claims that Mort stole it from him and demands that Mort either prove himself innocent or write a story in Shooter's name as compensation. Shooter warns bad things will happen if Rainey does not.
This story has been adapted into a movie Secret Window (2004), starring Johnny Depp. The novella and the movie end very differently.
Rock band Brand New got the title for their song "Sowing Season (Yeah)" from the name of Mort Rainey's story.
The Library Policeman
The Library Policeman was written after King's son didn't want to go to the library as he was afraid of the library police. King felt this was a nice idea and used it. What if there were serious men in long coats that came to your house and fetched the books if you didn't return them in time? And most importantly: what happens if you lose the book you borrowed? Eventually, the main character is forced to confront a suppressed childhood memory and realizes the horrors occurring in his world have been unleashed by a shape-shifting figure who lives off of others' fears.
The Sun Dog
The Sun Dog is set in King's fictional city of Castle Rock, Maine, and is a prelude of sorts to King's 1991 novel Needful Things.
Kevin gets just what he wants for his fifteenth birthday - a Polaroid camera. Soon, though, he notices that there is something strange about the camera. It prints similar pictures all the time, and they are never of what the camera is pointed at. Kevin seeks help from Reginald 'Pop' Merrill, the owner of the Emporium Galorium (a junk shop) and a relatively rich man who lends money to people for illegal interests. Unbeknownst to Kevin, Pop Merrill once lent 400 dollars to his father because he lost a bet, something he deeply regrets. As the novella continues, the boy finds that the pictures are of a terrifying dog preparing to leap at the camera.
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