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Tak (Stephen King)

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Trouble with these bodies is how fast they wear out... but you should last a while.
~ Tak

Tak is an extradimensional entity existing within the Stephen King universe. Its activities are limited to the Stephen King and Richard Bachman novels Desperation and The Regulators, respectively (two books which are, in fact, parallel worlds of one other).

The word "tak" itself appears to mean, simply, "big" and/or "powerful".

Unlike most forces of evil in the Stephen King Universe, Tak is incorporeal and seems to be completely unable to form a body on its own; in Desperation, it possesses the bodies of living things (which quickly wear out due to the stresses Tak's energies apparently place on living tissue). In the parallel world Earth of The Regulators, it partially takes over the mind of an autistic boy named Seth (the boy's consciousness remains within the host body, unlike the minds of those possessed by Tak in Desperation).

In both cases, the creature manifests itself in Earth's dimension via an entry point (called an ini) in the bottom of a very deep well in a once abandoned but recently re-opened mine shaft in Nevada. In Desperation, its physical body is actually located in another dimension, but in The Regulators, the entirety of Tak's form consists of an intangible mist with bright red specks throughout; in both cases, it seems unable to move around in this dimension as a free-roaming, disembodied spirit for very long without a corporeal host.

History

Desperation (novel)

The novel begins with Peter and Mary Jackson, a couple driving cross-country in Peter's sister's car after visiting their friends the Sodersons. Collie Entragian pulls over the Jacksons on the pretext of their missing rear license plate and arrests them for possession of marijuana after finding a baggie in the car trunk. Once they arrive at the Desperation Municipal Building where the holding cells are kept, Entrangian shoots Peter in the stomach several times and leaves his body in the doorway before dragging Mary over a dead girl's body and up the stairs to jail.

Once thrown in jail, Mary meets the Carver Family, Ralph, Ellen and their son David, who tell Mary that the girl on the stairs was their daughter Kirsten; Entrangian pushed her down the stairs once the family arrived at the police station, breaking her neck. The other captive in the cells is Tom Billingsley, the town veterinarian and former councilman. Billingsley witnessed Entrangian systematically murder almost every other person in the town of Desperation.

On the outskirts of town Johnny Edward Marinville, an aging author riding cross country on his motorcycle gathering material for a new book (a direct reference to King's own motorcycle trip) with his assistant Steve, comes to the attention of Entrangian. Entrangian plants the drug baggie found in Peter and Mary's car in one of his bike bags and bundles him into the patrol car. While Entrangian is burying his bike, Johnny manages to get a call through to Steve on his cell phone; however, due to the bad transmission, he is unable to tell him to call the state police. Steve senses that his boss is in trouble and his female hitchhiker, Cynthia, agrees that they need to locate Johnny and find out what has happened.

Entrangian throws Johnny in a cell in the Municipal Building before leaving all the captives. Johnny tells the others that Entrangian is bleeding both internally and externally, leading the group to conclude that something is very wrong with him. However, Entrangian returns before the conversation can get much further, taking Ellen away in the patrol car and leaving a coyote to stand guard on the captives.

David receives a message from God and realises that they need to escape from their cells before Entrangian returns; after using a bar of soap and killing the coyote guard, he is able to free the others. It is revealed that David Carver has an ability to communicate with and receive guidance from God after a miracle involving his best friend, Brian, and a horrible accident. Upon some advice from Tom, the group arm themselves with weapons from the Municipal Building and decide to hide out in Desperation’s abandoned theatre. David uses Johnny's cell phone to call Steve and Cynthia, who are now inside of Desperation, and inform them of their plans; the two agree to leave Steve's truck and meet up with the others at the theatre. Tak returns to the Municipal Building in Ellen’s body to discover that the captives have escaped, and promptly sends out creatures to determine where they are hiding.

Once holed up in the theatre, the group begins to discuss their options; Steve and Cynthia had stumbled across another survivor, Audrey Wyler, who begins to tell the group about how the Desperation Mining Corporation had recently accidentally uncovered the China Pit (an old mining shaft). The survivors' first inclination is to escape Desperation, until David reveals that it is God's will that they confront Tak and seal it in the China Pit again; the group begins to argue amongst themselves about whether they should stay or go. Tom leaves the group, and is soon attacked by a desert beast being commanded by Tak; the rest of the group, except for Audrey and David, rush to his rescue and kill the beast, but Tom bleeds out from his wounds. While the others were distracted, David hid in a rear room of the theatre to pray to God and ask for help. Audrey comes across David while he is in a prayer trance and attempts to strangle him- Steve and Cynthia burst into the room and separate Audrey from David, revealing that Audrey is being controlled by Tak through the use of ‘can-tah’s (bewitched stone animal figures). While the group is busy checking on David and watching Audrey’s body disintegrate, Tak-possessed Ellen grabs Mary and takes her to the mining pit.

No longer feeling safe in the theatre, the survivors move to Steve’s truck to try to determine what they should do. David explains the visions that the had while in his prayer trance, and the group comes to understand that Entragian was possessed by an ancient evil, a supernatural entity that calls itself Tak, which had been imprisoned in the China Pit mineshaft until the Desperation Mining Corporation unearthed it. Tak has the ability to control the local desert wildlife, such as buzzards, snakes, spiders, scorpions, and coyotes, and can also take more direct control of human hosts, though such manifestation causes rapid deterioration of the host's body. As such, Tak needs to frequently find new hosts to inhabit in order to travel outside the ini, as well in an underground chamber, and Tak’s entryway into this world. After discussion, David, Johnny, Ralph, Cynthia and Steve decide to go to the mining pit to both rescue Mary and seal Tak inside the mining shaft.

Meanwhile, Mary has escaped from the shed where she was being held and begins to run out of the mining pit, the possessed Ellen giving chase. Ellen’s body disintegrates before Tak can catch Mary, and is forced to possess a nearby golden eagle. The group arrive in time to help Mary inside, and gather some ANFO explosive to blow up the China Pit. Tak lies in wait at the China Pit entrance for the group to enter, managing to kill Ralph Carver in front of his son before the group manages to kill the golden eagle he is possessing. Johnny prevents the rest of the group from going forward, and proceeds to blow up the ini with the ANFO, sacrificing himself in order to seal Tak in the China Pit.

David, Mary, Steve and Cynthia evacuate the pit as the explosion goes off, and begin to leave the town of Desperation. Before leaving, they stop to collect Mary's car; while in it, David finds in his pocket the hall pass from his previous ‘deal with God’ with a message from Johnny written on it.

Desperation (TV movie)

In the Nevada desert, a couple, Peter and Mary Jackson are driving just as they are stopped by a sheriff, Collie Entragian. He soon learns they are in possession of marijuana. In response, he takes them to jail. After they enter the police station, they see a little girl, dead, on the floor and Entragian shoots and kills Peter. Mary is thrown in a jail cell along with a young boy, David Carver, his parents, Ralph and Ellen, and an old man, Tom Billingsley. It's also learned the little girl is the Carver's daughter named Pie. In jail, David is praying to God and he's been doing it because of his best friend, Brian. David and Brian were riding bikes just as a crazy drunk guy in a car was coming towards them. David saves himself while the car hits Brian's bike making him fly. The car crashes and injures the man while Brian flies and smashes his face on a nearby house, causing David to pray for him, which works. The doctor at the hospital where Brian had to go called it a "miraculous recovery".

Meanwhile, Steve Ames is in his truck following famous author Johnny Marinville who is 50 miles up ahead. Steve soon picks up a young female hitchhiker named Cynthia Smith. Johnny stops in the desert to urinate just as Entragian shows up behind him and puts the same weed he got from Peter and Mary under Johnny's motorcycle seat and "arrests" him.

Later, David realizes Entragian's skin is breaking out and he keeps saying "Tak" because he is possessed. Entragian then takes Ellen so he can shift his spirit into her body and puts a vicious dog in charge of things. Pie's ghost appears and gives David a green bar of soap. He proceeds to scrub his body with the soap and while the dog is distracted, David slips through the bars of the jail cell and gets out of the room. David searches the police station and finds a gun on the corpse of another sheriff. He returns to shoot the guarding dog to free everyone.

Meanwhile, Steve drives up to where Johnny was captured by Entragian to find Johnny's motorcycle hidden behind dry bushes. Cynthia and Steve later search the town of Desperation, where they find all the residents dead. That night, they both meet up with the gang. They gather at a theater and Tom tells a story that took place 120 years ago, when Chinese workers digging in a mine discovered an evil spirit named "Tak." The now possessed Ellen sends in a mountain lion and Tom is killed. Mary is captured by Ellen so that she can have a new body.

David sees the ghost of Pie in the theater again and she leads him to the movie editing machine revealing the truth of how Tak came to the town. Mary wakes up to find herself trapped in a shed waiting to be the next host for Tak. With the help of Pie, she manages to escape, while seriously injuring Ellen's body forcing Tak to take over the body of a vulture.

Johnny later confesses 40 years ago in Vietnam he saw a guy, possessed by Tak, blow up the bathroom of a bar killing 87 people. The group decides to return to the cave with some explosives they found to put an end to Tak. At the entrance, a vulture comes out and kills Ralph. In order to redeem himself, Johnny goes into the mine and falls in a hole leading to a small hole where Tak is. Johnny ignites the explosives, blowing up the mine while the rest of survivors drive away in Steve's truck.

Along the route driving away from the town, they pass by the RV vehicle owned by David's family and Peter's sister's car. Mary tells Steve to stop the truck to retrieve an overnight package from the car. In the back seat Mary finds an album belonging to Pie, which Steve identifies as being signed by Johnny.

Powers and Abilities

Tak's powers vary within the context of the individual books in which it is featured.

In Desperation, Tak's abilities include mental control of animals and insects and the transmission of its essence into any host body in range that it chooses. It first accomplishes this by forming makeshift arms that can transmit its essence to anyone or thing close to the ini, after this it only needs to connect mouths with its next intended host. The less physically robust the victim, the less time that the host body will last; Tak's energies took nearly a full week to wear down the body of the already physically massive and healthy sheriff, Collie Entragian, while a sickened woman, Ellen Carver, lasted only a few hours. Though it primarily uses human hosts, Tak can take over large animals such as timberwolves or golden eagles, though these are not remotely as strong as human hosts, and will "burn out" in a matter of minutes. It is noted in the book that if Tak were to inhabit anything too small, it will explode instantly. The body of the host/victim physically grows in size and strength; even the relatively frail Ellen Carver's body was grown to a size nearly as large as that of her husband's after being infused by Tak. The souls of those beings, sentient or otherwise, who are invaded by Tak are seemingly forever displaced; the moment that Tak leaves a host body, it falls lifeless to the ground regardless of the damage that may or may not have been done to it. When the host body dies without Tak transmitting itself to another, all the creatures under its control at that time are killed. Tak can only inhabit one host at a time, but it can take control of other humans through the use of can tahs ("little gods") in the form of small stone animals. However, the degree of control is lesser and the affected human will die a gruesome death if separated from the can tahs.

The can tak itself - that is, the combination of the Host Body and Tak's essence - has superhuman strength, feels no pain, and has the ability of supernatural sight that allows him to "see" in an undetermined radius all around him, even through solid objects; on one occasion, Tak was able to see a name plaque inside the Carvers' RV even though he hadn't stepped foot inside or looked through any of the windows. On another occasion, while looking straight down in the front seat of his police cruiser, he brought up a loaded shotgun with his other hand and kept it locked onto the prisoner in the rear seat, Johnny Marinville, who unsuccessfully tried to avoid it. In addition to the supernatural sight enjoyed by his host body, Tak can also see through the eyes of any animal under his control, even if they don't actually see (he once located a target by literally "seeing" what a flying bat's sonar could echolocate). He can furthermore see through many pairs of eyes in this manner at exactly the same time and form a mental picture from the multiple inputs.

The Tak that exists on the Desperation Earth also has the ability to mystically "infect" over time inanimate objects that lay in the vicinity of Tak's portal to Earth, the ini; these artifacts, can tahs, quickly drive to murderous insanity almost any human beings that pick them up.

Finally, at close proximity to the ini, Tak can partially override the movements of living beings; in this way was it able to force its first victim, Cary Ripton, to open his mouth against his will and force its essence into his body.

In The Regulators, Tak's abilities are even more powerful. While in the mind of an autistic boy named Seth, Tak had the ability to alter reality itself. The nearby landscape (though, inexplicably, not the humans trapped in the area) began to take on the cartoonish aspects of the boy's childhood fantasies, albeit with Tak's murderous proclivities and appetite for chaos. At one point, Tak was able to seemingly remove Poplar Street from the world altogether, placing it into a pocket dimension of his own design (c.f. Jerome Bixby's "It's a Good Life"). Although the images are actually not there and are, in fact, just visions, the visions can cause physical damage to living beings. The most prominent example of this is the aliens and cowboys Tak sends to drive by shoot the people on Poplar Street.

Unlike its alter-Earth counterpart, this Tak seemingly cannot inhabit anyone's body but Seth's, apparently due to the boy's nascent mental powers (and, it is implied, the reason that Tak grows powerful enough to warp reality in the first place). On the one occasion that it tried to change hosts, Tak overloaded and blew up a human's head from the inside mere moments after entering the new body.

Weaknesses

The Tak of Desperation could not repair the physical defects in his host bodies; in fact, his magical energies sped up the various defects in such host bodies to such an extent that even normally harmless defects soon burned the body out - and forced Tak to constantly look out for replacements.

In Cary Ripton's case, a case of cancer that would have killed him in months went into overdrive once Tak possessed the body, and Tak was forced to dispose of it after only about 24 hours. His next host, Brad Josephson, had a leaky heart valve, a congenital birth defect which might have persisted harmlessly for years unmolested but which was rapidly worsened by the mystic energies involved and which forced Tak to leave that body behind. His strongest host, Collie Entragian, was in almost perfect physical condition, but was easily sunburned; nevertheless, he lasted almost an entire week. Finally, his fourth and last host Ellen Carver had nothing more than an otherwise "harmless" yeast infection, but the condition was nevertheless enough for Tak's energies to cause that body to bleed out after less than twelve hours. The novel does not make it clear just how long a perfectly healthy host body would last, although Collie's body literally begins falling to pieces, which seemed unrelated to his skin sensitivity.

The Tak of The Regulators, on the other hand was almost powerless without a host body, and could only use exceptional host bodies such as that of Seth Garin's; other, non-exceptional bodies blew up from the inside out in seconds if he tried to possess them. This Tak was also completely unable to keep Seth's body running (heartbeat, respiration, circulation, et al.) without the boy's essence present. For this reason and this reason alone, it did not expel Seth's consciousness once it co-opted Seth's body. Moreover, despite his incredible appetite for cruelty, gore, and death, Tak is nevertheless thoroughly repulsed by the act of defecation, and always exited Seth Garin's body whenever the boy had to do so.

Defeat and Re-imprisonment

In both novels, Tak's underestimation of his enemies proves in the long run to lead to his downfall.

In Desperation, Tak is "outsmarted" by God Himself; most of the central characters that found themselves trapped in Desperation each had his or her role to play in either distracting Tak or confronting it outright. At the end of this novel, Tak finds itself to have been manipulated all along, bereft of host bodies, and re-imprisoned in the China Pit mine by a disastrous explosion which buried the Rattlesnake No. 1 Shaft and caved in the surrounding area to such an extent that it would appear unlikely that any mining expeditions would ever again be launched in the vicinity.

In The Regulators, Tak found itself outsmarted by the extraordinary intelligence of autistic Seth Garin, who used another character in the novel to kill himself to prevent Tak from using his powers. Tak later swore revenge on the survivors, but without a host body - and specifically, a special host body with similar powers to Seth's - was all but powerless.

Connections to The Dark Tower and other King Books

Although some phrases used by Tak in these two books make their way into various Stephen King books and short stories regarding the The Dark Tower, (e.g. can toi and mi him en tow), Tak is never mentioned by name in any other Stephen King book. Unlike many other forces of evil in the Stephen King Universe, Tak seemingly does not answer to anyone or anything else, including the Crimson King (nor does it make any reference to him). The Tak of the Desperation setting was aware of the existence of God in Earth's dimension.

In It, one of the novel's heroes describes the true form of the main antagonist, Pennywise, as "deadlights", in a way which similarly describes Tak's form in The Regulators.

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