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"The End of the Whole Mess" is a short story written by Stephen King. It was first published in the October 1986 issue of Omni, and later included in his 1993 collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes as well as the 2008 collection Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse.


The story, narrated by Howard Fornoy in the form of a personal journal, recounts the life of his genius younger brother, Robert Fornoy. 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 crude topographical map which displayed a geographical pattern of violent crime. Examining the map, Robert noted diminishing levels of crime centered on 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 unique 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 quickly calm an angry person or animal, and Bobby has been able to isolate the chemical and distill 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 in Borneo that is set to erupt and blow millions of tons of ash into the atmosphere, 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 occurs 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. It is implied the human race will also eventually die out as adults start to forget how to care for newborn children.

The style of Howard's entries near the end are reminiscent of those of the character Charlie in Daniel Keyes' book Flowers for Algernon


The audiobook version of this story, in the Nightmares and Dreamscapes collection, is read by Matthew Broderick.


The story was adapted into the fourth episode of Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King, airing on 19 July 2006. The episode was directed by Mikael Salomon. The episode starred Ron Livingston as Howard,Henry Thomas as Bobby and Rebecca Gibney as India Fornoy. In this version, Howard is an Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker instead of a writer, and he tells his story in front of a video camera. In addition, the events of 9/11 are incorporated into the story and are used as a catalyst for Bobby's inspiration. At the end, Bobby and his brother commit suicide by injecting themselves with a concentrate of the aggression decreasing substance.

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