February 4, 2009

"He meets a deaf woman who loves music. Her hearing aid has broken. But she has good eyes and can read to him, but she slurs the words."

"It turns out that he plays the guitar, and she can hear it, a bit. Then in a final shocking twist, we learn that his middle name is 'Adam,' and her name is 'Eve.' Sadly, however, she is a robot."

That's Original George's entry in the "Time Enough At Last" challenge. The idea was to write a sequel to the famous "Twilight Zone" episode in which a man, Henry Bemis, who only wants to be left alone to read, is the sole survivor of a nuclear attack and then, with time enough at last to do all his reading, he breaks his glasses, without which he cannot read. So, what next?

Christy's entry is more "The Remake" than "The Sequel":
He is on the steps to the paperless Library circa 2020, picks up a Kindle and discovers the electromagnetic pulse has wiped all digital media clean.
Actually, the comments thread veered away from the challenge and into the philosophical inquiry: If there were no longer any possibility of interaction with human beings in real life, what books would be worth reading?

Anyway, I wrote the original post saying I'd reveal my sequel idea later, so here goes:

We see Henry agonizing over his broken glasses and suffering. He has to grope about in his near blindness, etc. etc. Eventually, he gropes his way into an eyeglass store. But all the glasses are melted from the nuclear blast. And the frames in an eyeglass store don't have prescription lenses anyway, Henry, you idiot. But there, under the counter there's a safe, blasted half open. Inside, there is a pair of glasses — thick glasses, like his old ones. We see through his eyes as he tries them on: The vision is clear. Henry is jubilant. He runs through the town back to his old stack of books on the library steps. He sits down, and, no sooner does he open up a book to read than the glasses fall off, hit the step, and break.

12 comments:

AllenS said...

We see Henry agonizing over his broken glasses and suffering. He has to grope about in his near blindness, etc. etc. Eventually, he gropes his way into an eyeglass store. But all the glasses are melted from the nuclear blast, except for one. He puts the glasses on and can finally see. He moves in front of a mirror, and finds out that the last glasses were the ones that have the big brushy eyebrows, big nose, and big bushy mustache. Oh, no, he exclaims, "I've turned into Groucho Marx!"

Bissage said...

I’m glad I didn’t enter that contest because my idea was pretty lame.

Henry’s glasses break and he stands there all discombobulated by the irony and he wails, “No. No. There was time now. There was time.”

And he stands there with his eyes looking skyward pleading to the heavens.

And then Jack Nicholson appears out of nowhere and murders him with a fire axe.

Original George said...

Lawd a mercy, Professor, at least give the man a temporary Eleisha (Jean Marsh) as in "The Lonely."

I think the character's flaw was not so much selfishness and incompetence but that he preferred the interaction with fictional characters in his imagination to interaction with real people in real relationships. Thus, the ending must teach him that the warmth of the human touch is better than the feel of dead, dry paper.

Another alternative might be his finding only one book, a rare classic, but in order to save someone's life (probably an adversary) he has to use its pages to start a fire. Perhaps a remote setting, a Bible, and Henry is, instead of being a teller is a hidebound minister who must learn that the thing he must love is humanity not the written law. He must sacrifice the thing he loves most to rise to a higher moral level, as in O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi."

The ending must, in Serling's universe, offer some moral lesson, some instruction, the viewer can take and use to improve his own life.

Yes, Serling did the ol' eternal over-and-over again trap in Shatner's devil doll diner in "Nick of Time" and the timewarped 707 in "Odyssey of Flight 33" whose closing voice-over was the haunting:

"So if some moment, any moment, you hear the sound of jet engines flying atop the overcast, engines that sound searching and lost, engines that sound desperate, shoot up a flare or do something."

A beautiful ending, because it calls on the audience to act, to help the players, an frustrating impossibility, and it fixes the memory of the episode in our minds because every time we hear a lost roar above the impenetrable clouds we will be conscious of the inexplicability of fate. Much is hidden behind the curtains.

Meade said...

Those are all great but I must admit I like Bissage's best just 'cause it's SO mean... and unabashedly cruel.

EDH said...

He sits down, and, no sooner does he open up a book to read than the glasses fall off, hit the step, and break.

So remind me, how did this clumsy mother fucker end up being the one person to survive a nuclear blast?

Icepick said...

He sits down, and, no sooner does he open up a book to read than the glasses fall off, hit the step, and break.

Nuclear Armageddon happened on Ground Hog's Day?

Bender said...

Inside, there is a pair of glasses — thick glasses, like his old ones. We see through his eyes as he tries them on: The vision is clear. Henry is jubilant. He runs through the town back to his old stack of books on the library steps.

He begins his dream of reading his wonderful books. Soon thereafter, a small group of people walk by. Other survivors!

They are rejoiced to see Henry. They want to help him. They ask him to join them; they implore him to come with them. They have learned that there is a larger group of survivors in the next town, and they are going to join up with them. Not only that, there is a large store of food that was protected from the blast and radiation. People and food.

Henry grouses at them. "Go Away!" he says. "I don't need you now, I don't want you now. I found new glasses and there is, once again, time for my books. My precious, precious books. I can finally read my books! Go away, you're not wanted here!"

So the people grant him his wish. They go away sad, leaving him to his precious books and reading. They meet up with the larger group in the next town, where there are people and food. They go on to live and prosper and rebuild society.

Meanwhile, Henry sits down, and, no sooner does he open up [yet another] book to read than the glasses fall off, hit the step, and break.

blake said...

Saw it coming.

(Mandatory statement required after every TZ "reveal".)

I still think his eyeballs should fall out, though.

EDH, he survives by accident. He's in the vault when the bomb goes off.

I always thought it was a bit much, this one. His only crime was preferring books to people, but let's be honest: The people around him were pretty awful.

Original George said...

Of course, in reality, he would have been incinerated in the vault.

Visited Hiroshima a while back. Big city. New.

In the shade of the museum, man pedaled up on a bicycle.

Stopped.

Stared at me with his eye, because one side of his face was melted.

"Me Hiroshima boy," he said.

Then he pedaled off.

Smilin' Jack said...

He sits down, and, no sooner does he open up a book to read than the glasses fall off, hit the step, and break.

Really pissed now, Henry stomps down the street, cursing a blue streak, until he finds a drugstore. He smashes his way in and gropes around until he finds the reading glasses. Then he finds the Croakies and straps a pair of glasses securely to his head. "Fuckin' sorted this time" snarls Henry as he stomps back to the library (he'd been reading Irvine Welsh.) Just as he resumes reading, the glasses are snatched from his head by another survivor, a kid who has snuck up behind him. "Ha ha, Four-Eyes, ha ha," taunts the kid as he runs off into the now blurry distance.

Really, really pissed now, Henry stomps down the street until he finds a gun store....

And thus is civilization reborn.

Meade said...

"Really, really pissed now, Henry stomps down the street until he finds a gun store....

And thus is civilization reborn"

Yes. And then, on accident, Henry shoots himself squarely in the foot.

jaed said...

Except that instead of the kid calling him "Four Eyes", Henry sees the kid grafitti-ing the library steps. He mutters, "Damn vandals" and stomps down the street until he finds a gun store, etc.