The Institute

by Stephen King

Tim Jamieson leaves his job in Florida and prepares to head to New York City. The flight attendant says a federal officer is boarding the plane and a passenger must give up their seat. As compensation, they will be offered a hotel voucher and $400. Tim gives up his seat, asking for a refund and an additional $2,000. He eventually ends up in the fictional small town of DuPray, South Carolina. A decorated former policeman, Jamieson takes a job working for the local Sheriff as a Night Knocker.

Months before Tim arrives at DuPray, in suburban Minneapolis, an exceptionally intelligent child named Luke Ellis attends the Broderick School for Exceptional Children. His parents go to visit the school and the principal says that Luke is so smart that he should try applying for Harvard or MIT. His parents are against this at first, but reluctantly agree. His parents take him out and celebrate with pizza. After they come home, a group of professional assassins murders twelve-year-old Luke Ellis's parents and kidnap him. They take him to the Institute, a facility located deep in the woods of Maine and Luke eventually wakes up in a room almost identical to his own. At The Institute are a number of other kidnapped children, each with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who live in rooms of their own. Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and (later) ten-year-old Avery Dixon and Helen Simms are all in the area known as Front Half while others have "graduated" to the Back Half of The Institute. Mrs. Sigsby, the institute's director, and her staff are dedicated to extracting the special talents from the children - known as TP's (telepaths) and TK's (telekinetics). To do this, experiments (similar to those performed by Josef Mengele) are performed on the children to try and enhance their talents. Additionally, it is hoped that some TK's will get increased TP abilities and vice-versa.

Once the experiments are deemed to have reached their maximum effect, the children "graduate" to Back Half. None of the children who have gone to Back Half have ever been seen again. As each of his friends disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to escape and get help.

Maureen is a cleaner at The Institute, who had previously been a snitch for Mrs Sigsby. However, financial issues caused by a messy separation from her gambling addicted husband had caused her to seek - and accept - help from Luke Ellis. As payback, Maureen helps Luke to escape The Institute and then commits suicide in order to help hide the fact that he is missing. Indeed, security is so lax at The Institute that it is almost 24 hours before the staff there even know he has gone, by which time he has found himself on a train (this was not part of the original escape plan) and - by chance - he jumps off the train as it slows down approaching the town of DuPray.

A hotel owner in DuPray is on the payroll from those in charge of The Institute and he informs them that Luke is in town. Meanwhile, Luke has managed to convince Tim Jamieson and several other police officers of his story and, when the Sheriff arrives, a USB stick containing a confessional from Maureen, along with a harrowing video taken secretly in Back Half convinces them to help him.

As this agreement is made, a large number of staff from The Institute arrive in DuPray and, following a shoot-out, several police and all but Mrs Sigsby and a doctor from The Institute are killed. Tim and Luke take the captured Mrs Sigsby back to The Institute, where her second-in-command, a man called Stackhouse, tries to ambush them. This is partially thwarted by Tim having made Mrs Sigsby drive the car to The Institute, so she is killed accidentally.

Whilst Luke has been away, several Back Half children (including Avery Dixon, who was sent to Back Half as punishment for helping Luke escape) round up those who have been in Back Half for longer and whose minds are almost completely broken and plan a revolution. They are stopped and blocked in a corridor and Stackhouse gives orders to kill them using poison gas created by mixing cleaning chemicals. As the gas is released, Avery, Kalisha, Iris, George, Nick and the others join together and fight back. They use their minds to levitate areas of The Institute into the air. Kalisha, George and Nick escape, but the others are killed when the corridor they are trapped is crushed when an area of The Institute crashes on top of them.

The remaining Institute staff are all killed or flee and Tim takes Luke and his surviving friends back with him. At the end, Mrs Sigsby's supervisor (an unnamed man who speaks with a vague lisp) tries to explain that The Institute was being used to eliminate those who precogs working for The Institute have seen threatening the safety of the entire world. The Institute is just one of several around the world, although all of them have suffered revolutions at the same time - apparently coordinated by Avery Dixon. The lisping man leaves Luke alone for the promise that the USB Stick (which has been hidden in a safe, each of the surviving children has a key) will not come to public knowledge.