Pet Sematary Author:Stephen King Louis Creed, a doctor from Chicago, moves to a house near the small town of Ludlow, Maine with his wife Rachel, their two young children, Ellie and Gage, and Ellie's cat, Winston Churchill ("Church"). Their neighbor, an elderly man named Jud Crandall, warns Louis and Rachel about the highway that runs past their house; it is used by trucks from ... more »a nearby chemical plant that often pass by at high speeds.
Jud and Louis become friends. Since Louis's father died when he was three, his relationship with Jud takes on a father-son dimension. A few weeks after the Creeds move in, Jud takes the family on a walk in the woods behind their home. A well-tended path leads to a pet cemetery (misspelled "sematary") where the children of the town bury their deceased animals. A heated argument erupts between Louis and Rachel the next day. Rachel disapproves of discussing death and she worries about how Ellie may be affected by what she saw at the "sematary". (It is explained later that Rachel was traumatised by the early death of her sister, Zelda, from spinal meningitis.)
Louis has a traumatic experience as director of the University of Maine's campus health service when Victor Pascow, a student who is fatally injured after being struck by an automobile, addresses his dying words to Louis even though they have never met. On the night following Pascow's death, Louis is visited by the student's walking, conscious corpse, which leads him to the "sematary" and refers specifically to the "deadfall", a dangerous pile of tree and bush limbs that form a barrier at the back. Pascow warns Louis not to "go beyond, no matter how much you feel you need to." Louis wakes up in bed the next morning convinced it was a dream, but discovers his feet and the bedsheets covered with dirt and pine needles. Louis dismisses the episode as a result of stress from Pascow's death coupled with his wife's anxieties about death. He dismisses the situation as a bout of sleep walking.
Louis is forced to confront death at Halloween, when Jud's wife, Norma, suffers a near-fatal heart attack. Thanks to Louis's immediate attention, Norma recovers. Jud is grateful for Louis's help and decides to repay him after Church is run over during Thanksgiving. Rachel and the kids are visiting her parents in Chicago, and Louis frets over breaking the news to Ellie. Jud takes him to the pet sematary, supposedly to bury Church. Instead Jud leads Louis beyond the deadfall to "the real cemetery": an ancient burial ground that was once used by the Micmacs, a Native American tribe. Following Jud's instructions, Louis buries the cat and constructs a cairn.
The next afternoon, the cat returns home. However, while he used to be vibrant and lively, he now acts ornery and "a little dead," in Louis's words. Church hunts for mice and birds much more often, but rips them apart without eating them. The cat also smells dead. Louis is disturbed by Church's resurrection and begins to regret his decision.
Several months later Gage, who had just learned to walk, is run over by a speeding truck. Overcome with despair, Louis considers bringing his son back to life with the power of the burial ground. Jud, guessing what Louis is planning, attempts to dissuade him by telling him the story of Timmy Baterman, a young man from Ludlow who was killed during World War II. His father, Bill, put Timmy's body in the burial ground, where he came back to life, soon being seen by the terrified townsfolk. Jud and three of his friends went to the Baterman house to confront the pair, but Timmy confronted each of them with indiscretions they had committed, indiscretions he had no way of knowing, thus giving the impression that the resurrected Timmy is some sort of all knowing demon. Jud and his friends flee the house horrified, and Bill soon shoots his son and burns his house to the ground, killing himself. Jud concludes that Gage died because he showed Louis the burial ground. There are hints that the burial ground was sometimes used for victims of cannibalism and that the ground behind the pet cemetery has become the haunt of the Wendigo, a terrible creature of the forest, whose mere presence gives men a taste for flesh of their own kind.
Despite Jud's warning and his own reservations, Louis's grief and guilt spur him to carry out his plan. Louis has Rachel and Ellie visit her parents again, not telling them his intentions. Louis exhumes his son's body and hikes him to the burial site. Along the trail, the Wendigo nearly frightens him away, but Louis's determination, combined with the power of the burial site, keeps him moving.
Ellie has a nightmare featuring Victor Pascow on the flight to Chicago. Because of this and an agreement between Rachel and her daughter as to Louis' behavior, Rachel attempts to fly back to Maine, but can only get a flight to Boston on such short notice. She reaches the decision to drive the rest of the distance to her home that night.
Louis buries Gage at the burial ground. Gage returns as a demonic shadow of his former self, able to talk like an adult. He breaks into Jud's house and taunts Jud about his wife's implied infidelity, then kills Jud with one of Louis's scalpels. When Rachel arrives at Jud's house, Gage kills her also (and, it is implied, partially eats her corpse). It is suggested that this event pushes Louis's mind into its final stage of insanity; thus, the curse of the sematary had fully influenced him. Louis kills Gage without hesitation with a fatal dose of morphine, and then grieves for his son by sitting in the corner of the hallway.
Louis burns down Jud Crandall's house, then carries Rachel's body to the burial ground, saying that he "waited too long" with Gage but is confident that Rachel will come back the same as before. After being interrogated by investigators about the fire, Louis waits until nightfall for Rachel to return. Playing solitaire, he hears his resurrected wife walk into the house, and the novel ends with Rachel speaking: "Darling."« less