Short Story Review: Stephen King’s “Autopsy Room 4”

Stockbroker Howard Cottrell wakes up to find himself paralyzed and lying inside a body bag. He quickly realizes that only he knows he is still alive. This is a problem because Howard finds himself lying on the table in autopsy room 4 with a doctor and a medical student, both of whom have every intention of cutting Howard open.

“Autopsy Room 4” didn’t terrify me in a way that I’d expect from a horror story. The actual plot didn’t make my heart race. I’ve never really feared the possibility of being alive during my own autopsy or awake during a surgery. That’s probably because I’ve never thought that far ahead.

What scared me the most were Howard’s gory descriptions of autopsies and his fear of what’s only minutes away from happening to him. He knew exactly how autopsies were performed, having seen a number of field ones during a tour of duty in Vietnam. I felt afraid for Howard. I didn’t want him to be split open. I wanted to scream at the others in the room, to make them see that the body on the slab was still breathing.

“Autopsy Room 4” sent shivers up my spine. The quasi-epilogue at the end detracted from the story, but overall it’s a creepy little story that deserves the attention of any horror fan.

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