What’s The Jaunt all about?:
The Jaunt follows a family about three hundred years in the future on their re-location to Mars as the father tells the story of when teleportation was first discovered.
What did I think?:
I started this story with a bit of trepidation to be perfectly honest, even as a huge King fan as the last story I read from this collection – Mrs Todd’s Shortcut I wasn’t that crazy about and to my surprise I realised he has the power to disappoint me, a sentence I never thought I would be writing. The Jaunt is set around three hundred years in the future where the Oates family are waiting in a terminal, much like an airport but they are about to travel further then you could ever expect, to Mars. Mark Oates has just secured a new job there for a two year period and after long discussions with his wife, Marilys has decided to move the whole family with him. The whole family are nervous about the trip as this would be the children’s first “jaunt,” or teleportation, compulsory for visiting the planet.
To calm them down, Mark tells them the story of the man who first discovered teleportation was possible, a man called Victor Carune in 1987. At first, he carries out experiments on white mice but finds that each mouse that goes through the portal comes out the other side incredibly sick, weak and dies within minutes:
“Sensory input, he thought almost randomly. When they go through they see something – hear something – touch something – God, maybe even smell something – that literally kills them. What?”
After further investigations with his first human volunteers (who are actually criminals, usually arraigned for life) he learns that if humans go through the portals in an unconscious state, there is a better likelihood of survival on the other side. Survival is not one hundred percent assured however. There are rumours about one criminal who is offered a pardon if he comes out the other side intact with full mental faculties…. and well, he doesn’t.
The last thing Mark wants to do is frighten his family, after all he has made it through his Jaunt Jumps twenty-four times now, although we get a sense that he has not escaped the process without a few mental scars of his own. The Jaunt crew are walking through the terminal giving “the gas,” to all the passengers, making them slip into unconsciousness and even now he notes that some people are resisting or are completely terrified:
“Mark glanced to his right and saw the attendants talking to a timid-looking man, persuading him. At last he took the mask and seemed to fall dead on his couch seconds later. First-timer, Mark thought. You can always tell.”
I don’t want to say too much more about the story for those of you that haven’t read it but the ending was absolutely terrifying and will play on my mind for a while to come. I think Stephen King has written a brilliant piece of science fiction that sounds implausible in every way and your logical mind will instantly reject but makes you gibber and quake at the thought of it. Like H.P. Lovecraft, there’s a lot that is only hinted and and not really said but I think your imagination takes you beyond the boundaries of what he is suggesting – if that makes any sense! Mr King, you have renewed my faith in your writing, hurrah!
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY : Camp Sundown by Nathan Englander from the collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank