Stephen King Wiki

"The Reach" is a short story written by Stephen King. It was first published in the November 1981 issue of Yankee under the title of "Do the Dead Sing?", and later included in King's own 1985 collection Skeleton Crew.


Stella Flanders, the oldest resident of Goat Island, has just celebrated her 95th birthday. She has never crossed the reach, the body of water that separates the Island from the mainland, in her entire life. She tells her great-grandchildren when they ask, "I never saw any reason to go." Stella comes to the realization that the cancer that she's known she has, and kept to herself, is it its final stages when she starts seeing the deceased residents of Goat Island. Her visions start with her husband inviting her to "come across to the mainland."

As her impending death draws near, Stella encounters more apparitions of the dead of Goat Island, and she makes peace with the knowledge that it is her time to go. Dressed in her warmest clothes, plus her son's long johns and hat, Stella heads across the frozen reach toward the mainland.

As she starts her trek, it starts to snow - the blowing wind, along with the snow, makes it difficult for her to find her way and she becomes afraid of being lost in the storm. Along her walk, she meets up with the woman who was her best friend, Annabelle, as well as several others. When the wind whips the hat off of her head, her dead husband, Bill, is there and gives her his hat. She is surrounded by her friends and family and they sing to her as she crosses over from this life.

Stella Flanders is found, dead, sitting in a rock chair on the mainland. Her son, Alden, recongizes his father's hat. He comes to believe that the dead sing and that they love those still living.


Stephen King's inspiration for "The Reach" came about from the story his brother-in-law, Tommy, told him while in the Coast Guard. The real-life alter-ego of Stella Flanders lived and died on a small Maine Island, never stepping foot on the mainland. She remained on a small stretch of land with a community so close, they were more like family. She had everything she needed on this island and had no need to cross the Reach until the day she died. Being intrigued by the idea of the Reach, and flabbergasted with Flanders' counterpart, King came up with the idea for this short story.