The End of the Whole Mess

The End of the Whole Mess

Infobox short story |
name = The End of the Whole Mess
title_orig =
translator =
author = Stephen King
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Science fiction short story
publication_type = Periodical
published_in = "Omni Magazine" (1st release),
"Nightmares and Dreamscapes"
publisher =
media_type = Print (Magazine, Hardback & Paperback)
pub_date = 1986
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"The End of the Whole Mess" is a short science fiction story by Stephen King which was first published in Omni Magazine in 1986, and later published in the "Nightmares and Dreamscapes" collection.

Plot summary

The story, narrated by Howard Fornoy in the form of a personal journal, recounts the life of his genius younger brother, Robert. Bobby, a child prodigy whose adult interests led him to study a variety of scientific disciplines, discovered a chemical that reduces the aggressive tendencies of humans and other organisms. While doing sociological research in Texas, Bobby used crime statistics to create a sort of topographic map which displayed a geographical pattern of violent crime. Examining the map, Robert noted diminishing levels of crime centered around the town of La Plata. When he arrives to investigate, he finds that this town has "never" had "any" violent crime. Bobby is ultimately able to determine that the cause of the non-aggression is the presence of a chemical to the town's water supply, a phenomenon that is mentioned in (but had nothing to do with the causations of) King's earlier novel "It". Even minimal exposure to the chemical will calm down an angry person or animal, and Bobby has been able to isolate the chemical and reduce it to concentrated form.

At a time of international chaos suggestive of an approaching total nuclear war, Bobby and Howard, with the aid of a volcano, disperse a large quantity of this substance throughout the world, in the hope of preventing a catastrophe. Indeed, the effects are quick and expected: a massive decrease in hostilities around the globe.

Several months later it is discovered that, to the Fornoys' horror, there was "another" constant about La Plata that was not studied until after the substance was released. It does eliminate aggression, and increases calm, but it does the job too well. It builds up, out of control, in a subject's system, ultimately giving them symptoms resembling dementia or Alzheimer's disease and eventually resulting in death. Howard's journal entries after this point begin to include increasing amounts of grammar, spelling, and other mistakes, eventually devolving into incoherence as Howard succumbs to the effects of the chemical and (presumably) dies. It is implied the human race will also eventually die out as adults start to forget how to care for newborn children.


"The End of the Whole Mess" was included as the fourth installment of Turner Network Television's "", starring Ron Livingston as Howard and Henry Thomas as Bobby. It originally aired on July 19, 2006. In this version, Howard is a documentarian instead of a writer, and he tells his story in front of a video camera. In addition, the events of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks are incorporated into the story and are used as a catalyst for Bobby's inspiration.

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