The Langoliers

literary work by Stephen King

The Langoliers is a novella, one of four works published in the Stephen King book Four Past Midnight in 1990.

See also The Langoliers (miniseries).


  • Never believe a writer. Listen to them, by all means, but never believe them.
  • …of the langoliers, who obviously did not know, they were lurking everywhere, behind every bush and tree, in every shadow, just over the horizon… The langoliers had come for all the foolish, lazy people, just as his father had always said they would.
  • Shortly after the fourth anniversary is the optimum time for divorce, he would tell them.
  • If you want something to kick around the house, buy a dog.
  • … all children are afraid from time to time, especially in situations that are new to them.
  • He had always believed that if anyone was absolutely right to play the consumptive dentist, De Niro was the one.
  • He had been flying passengers long enough to know a good bit…about their group psychology. When a passenger freaked out, few if any of the others ever moved. Most air travellers meekly surrendered their option to take individual action when they entered the bird, sat down, and buckled their seatbelts around them. Once those few simple things were accomplished, all problem-solving tasks became the crew's responsibility. Airline personnel called them geese, but they were really sheep ...
  • When you called for help on the emergency band, you always got a prompt response.
  • I've found, though, that in real life coincidence is not the exception but the rule.
  • Deep in the trenches carved into the floors of the Pacific and the Indian Oceans, there are fish which live and die without ever seeing or sensing the sun. These fabulous creatures cruise the depths like ghostly balloons, lit from within by their own radiance. Although they look delicate, they are actually marvels of biological design, built to withstand pressures that would squash a man as flat as a windowpane in the blink of an eye. Their great strength, however, is also their great weakness. Prisoners of their own alien bodies, they are locked forever in their dark depths. If they are captured and drawn toward the surface, toward the sun, they simply explode. It is not external pressure that destroys them, but its absence.
  • He remembered a pilot telling him once, 'They pay us a hundred thousand dollars or more a year, Brian, and they really do it for just one reason. They know that in almost every pilot's career, there are thirty or forty seconds when he might actually make a difference. They pay us not to freeze when those seconds finally come.'
  • He reflected that people used the slide with much less coaxing and a lot more enthusiasm when there was a threat they could see - a hole in the fuselage or a fire in one of the portside engines.
  • Any temporal dislocation west-east travellers feel goes the other way. They feel it's earlier than it should be.
  • 'Second, people think better when their stomachs are full.' He shrugged. 'It's just a law of nature.'
  • 'I can always feel the light. It's like heat inside my head.'
  • It's like glimpsing a beautiful woman for just a moment in the back seat of a limousine - she looks even more beautiful than she really is because you know she's not yours, can never be yours.

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