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Riding the Bullet

Riding the Bullet

3.6 241
by Stephen King

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From international bestseller Stephen King the first ebook ever published—a novella about a young man who hitches a ride with a driver from the other side.

Riding the Bullet is “a ghost story in the grand manner” from the bestselling author of Bag of Bones, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and The Green Mile—a


From international bestseller Stephen King the first ebook ever published—a novella about a young man who hitches a ride with a driver from the other side.

Riding the Bullet is “a ghost story in the grand manner” from the bestselling author of Bag of Bones, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and The Green Mile—a short story about a young man who hitches a ride with a driver from the other side.

Editorial Reviews

Raymond Sokolov
This is a classic King contrivance, matter-of-fact about everything from the phantasmagorical to masturbation, so insidiously normal and easy-to-read that it draws you into its little down-home chamber of horrors before you know it.

This makes it an ideal vehicle for enticing neophytes into reading their first e-book.
Wall Street Journal

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
E-publishing takes a giant step with the release of this grandly entertaining ghost story. Not only is it the first original e-publication by a megaselling author, but it may be the most accomplished work ever to appear only in cyberspace--and it's available through an unprecedented number of vendors and platforms. The story is vintage King. Narrator Alan Parker, 21, learns that his beloved mother has had a stroke and hitchhikes through rural Maine to see her. On the way he's picked up first by a horrid old man, then by someone far more awful: a dead young man who offers him a terrible choice. The simple, potent prose skims along spurred by high suspense. The atmospherics roil like a classic nightmare: a moonlit graveyard, howling wind, rising mist; but King spins them with a wicked modern touch--the dead man drives a Mustang, and as the corpse pulls on a cigarette, Alan sees "little trickles of smoke escape from the stitched incision on his neck." When Alan makes his choice, the story deepens as King taps horror fiction's particular ability to illuminate the terror of the human condition. Anyone concerned about King's writing abilities after his near-fatal accident can relax. This genuinely chilling, haunting tale finds his talent--and the state of e-publishing--in the pink. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Riding the Bullet was originally published in March 2000 exclusively as an e-book and has now found its way to print and audio. It's a classic King ghost story/urban legend about a college student who hitchhikes across Maine to visit his hospitalized mother and gets more than he bargains for during his rides. Film and theater actor Josh Hamilton provides an excellent reading, with a promising command of pace and characterization. However, for many libraries, the economics of buying an audio version of a single, extremely short story may be questionable. Recommended with that reservation only.-Kristen L. Smith, Loras Coll. Lib., Dubuque, IA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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I've never told anyone this story, and never thought I would -- not because I was afraid of being disbelieved, exactly, but because I was ashamed...and because it was mine. I've always felt that telling it would cheapen both me and the story itself, make it smaller and more mundane, no more than a camp counselor's ghost story told before lights-out. I think I was also afraid that if I told it, heard it with my own ears, I might start to disbelieve it myself. But since my mother died I haven't been able to sleep very well. I doze off and then snap back again, wide awake and shivering. Leaving the bedside lamp on helps, but not as much as you might think. There are so many more shadows at night, have you ever noticed that? Even with a light on there are so many shadows. The long ones could be the shadows of anything, you think.

Anything at all.

I was a junior at the University of Maine when Mrs. McCurdy called about ma. My father died when I was too young to remember him and I was an only child, so it was just Alan and Jean Parker against the world. Mrs. McCurdy, who lived just up the road, called at the apartment I shared with three other guys. She had gotten the number off the magnetic minder-board ma kept on her fridge.

"'Twas a stroke," she said in that long and drawling Yankee accent of hers. "Happened at the restaurant. But don't you go flyin off all half-cocked. Doctor says it wa'ant too bad. She's awake and she's talkin."

"Yeah, but is she making sense?" I asked. I was trying to sound calm, even amused, but my heart was beating fast and the living room suddenly felt too warm. I had the apartment all to myself; it was Wednesday, and both my roomies had classes all day.

"Oh, ayuh. First thing she said was for me to call you but not to scare you. That's pretty sensible, wouldn't you say?"

"Yeah." But of course I was scared. When someone calls and tells you your mother's been taken from work to the hospital in an ambulance, how else are you supposed to feel?

"She said for you to stay right there and mind your schoolin until the weekend. She said you could come then, if you didn't have too much studyin t'do."

Sure, I thought. Fat chance. I'd just stay here in this ratty, beer-smelling apartment while my mother lay in a hospital bed a hundred miles south, maybe dying.

"She's still a young woman, your ma," Mrs. McCurdy said. "It's just that she's let herself get awful heavy these last few years, and she's got the hypertension. Plus the cigarettes. She's goin to have to give up the smokes."

I doubted if she would, though, stroke or no stroke, and about that I was right -- my mother loved her smokes. I thanked Mrs. McCurdy for calling.

"First thing I did when I got home," she said. "So when are you coming, Alan? Sad'dy?" There was a sly note in her voice that suggested she knew better.

I looked out the window at a perfect afternoon in October: bright blue New England sky over trees that were shaking down their yellow leaves onto Mill Street. Then I glanced at my watch. Twenty past three. I'd just been on my way out to my four o'clock philosophy seminar when the phone rang.

"You kidding?" I asked. "I'll be there tonight."

Her laughter was dry and a little cracked around the edges -- Mrs. McCurdy was a great one to talk about giving up the cigarettes, her and her Winstons. "Good boy! You'll go straight to the hospital, won't you, then drive out to the house?"

"I guess so, yeah," I said. I saw no sense in telling Mrs. McCurdy that there was something wrong with the transmission of my old car, and it wasn't going anywhere but the driveway for the foreseeable future. I'd hitchhike down to Lewiston, then out to our little house in Harlow if it wasn't too late. If it was, I'd snooze in one of the hospital lounges. It wouldn't be the first time I'd ridden my thumb home from school. Or slept sitting up with my head leaning against a Coke machine, for that matter.

"I'll make sure the key's under the red wheelbarrow," she said. "You know where I mean, don't you?"

"Sure." My mother kept an old red wheelbarrow by the door to the back shed; in the summer it foamed with flowers. Thinking of it for some reason brought Mrs. McCurdy's news home to me as a true fact: my mother was in the hospital, the little house in Harlow where I'd grown up was going to be dark tonight -- there was no one there to turn on the lights after the sun went down. Mrs. McCurdy could say she was young, but when you're just twenty-one yourself, forty-eight seems ancient.

"Be careful, Alan. Don't speed."

My speed, of course, would be up to whoever I hooked a ride with, and I personally hoped that whoever it was would go like hell. As far as I was concerned, I couldn't get to Central Maine Medical Center fast enough. Still, there was no sense worrying Mrs. McCurdy.

"I won't. Thanks."

"Welcome," she said. "Your ma's going to be just fine. And won't she be some happy to see you."

I hung up, then scribbled a note saying what had happened and where I was going. I asked Hector Passmore, the more responsible of my roommates, to call my adviser and ask him to tell my instructors what was up so I wouldn't get whacked for cutting -- two or three of my teachers were real bears about that. Then I stuffed a change of clothes into my backpack, added my dog-eared copy of Introduction to Philosophy, and headed out. I dropped the course the following week, although I had been doing quite well in it. The way I looked at the world changed that night, changed quite a lot, and nothing in my philosophy textbook seemed to fit the changes. I came to understand that there are things underneath, you see -- underneath -- and no book can explain what they are. I think that sometimes it's best to just forget those things are there. If you can, that is.

Copyright © 2000 by Stephen King

Meet the Author

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes The Bill Hodges Trilogy—Mr. Mercedes (an Edgar Award winner for Best Novel), Finders Keepers, and End of Watch; the short story collection The Bazaar of Bad Dreams; Revival; Doctor Sleep, and Under the Dome. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller. His epic series, The Dark Tower, is the basis for a major motion picture from Sony. He is the recipient of the 2014 National Medal of Arts and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

Brief Biography

Bangor, Maine
Date of Birth:
September 21, 1947
Place of Birth:
Portland, Maine
B.S., University of Maine at Orono, 1970

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Riding the Bullet 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 241 reviews.
tattooedmommie More than 1 year ago
This is a great short story (44 pages roughly), but don't let the shortness scare you away, it's a great story that has a perfect ratio of creepy to keep you reading through it until the end. I wish it were actually a longer story, but the plot was great and it read perfectly, so making it longer would probably ruin the story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A good bit of spokey material. We can always count on King for that. I recommend this book King fan or not. It's entertaining and well written. Makes you feel like you experienced something weird with the main character.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ride the Bullet is the first ebook that I've bought. And it's a great one to start with. Although this story is told in very little pages, the plot is quite interesting and tells a big story. I recommend this one to every ebook reader out there.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was skeptical about buying an e-book, thought that they would be boring and hard to read. Boy was I surprised! King is usualy enthralling self. The story is quick and full of surprises. King never forgets to add the human touch to his stories, and this one is no different. Definately read this story.
feather_lashes More than 1 year ago
★★★½ Riding the Bullet is a horror novella written by Stephen King. This short-story does not contain the typical blood, gore, and blatant suspense that you may expect when you think of horror, but it offers the subtle, f*ck with your head variety. It's a story that makes you consider what you may very well do in a similar predicament as our main character, thus horrifying yourself by your hesitation. They don't call Stephen King the king of horror for nothing! My favorite quote: "I know something now that I didn't before. The worst stories are the ones you've heard your whole life. Those are the real nightmares."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book but scary as it's meant to be,
ncpower More than 1 year ago
Not bad, but keep in mind it is a short story or novella at most. I purchased the Nook version thinking it would be a novel. Anyway, if you have an hour and want to get in a King-fix, this is perfect.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JohnTCullenAuthor More than 1 year ago
this was not by FAR the first ebook ever published, by several years. Mr. King has written better novels as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
loved it!!! my husband and i ride so i can relate !!
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pepopbunnyks More than 1 year ago
King teaches us a lesson in this tale! Great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just read one of his other books and he said that most people don't even read this book and just ask him how it sold.
RevAl More than 1 year ago
Stephen King is always fun to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a good bedtime read. Another notch for the master. Thank you sk where ever you are.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
alice0309 More than 1 year ago
I have been reading Stephen King since the 70's and haven't been disappointed yet. I even bought Richard Bachman back then and commented how simular his writings were to Kings. Anyway, this short story is complete, doesn't leave you hanging, says all it needs to to insure you'll never hitch hike. Don't turn down a King story.
GBurnell More than 1 year ago
I'm a Stephen King fan and I always love it when I run across one of his short stories I haven't read. This book was know exception when it comes to the enjoyment I get from reading his work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you don't have the time or want to become fully immersed in one of Mr. King's full novels, this is a great short story for an afternoon or less. It is a creepy ghost story with all of the satisfying elements of a good King read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago