On a routine morning, a man reads the front page of the newspaper and is reminded of his time as a student, eight years previously, at New Sharon Teachers’ College. Those were the days when a strawberry spring descended before a severe cold snap afflicted the region. It brought with it thick nights of fog, an eventual blizzard and a murderous madman the media nicknamed Springheel Jack.
During the unnamed narrator’s time at New Sharon, he learned that a strawberry spring was a false spring which occurred, unlike an Indian summer, every eight to ten years. He also learned that when someone was murdered, somehow, through the thinnest of threads, everyone knew the victim. On New Sharon’s small campus, knowing the murdered was inevitable.
After the first body is found, that of a Miss New England first runner-up, panic and fear, naturally set in. As more victims are left, and taunts to the police by the murderer, a curfew is instated and suspicion runs rampant. The police are clueless to the killer’s identity and each student only knows they are not Springheel Jack.
“Strawberry Spring” can be found in Stephen King’s 1978 collection, Night Shift. It’s the best story in the collection (my personal opinion), and one of the best he’s written in his long career (again, my opinion). For a story to feel so simple, it becomes deeper the more you read it. And as a perennial favorite of mine, I’ve read it many, many times.