Time Enough at Last: Stories that Inspired Classic Episodes of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and Other Classic SF Television Series
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by Jean Marie Stine
Category: Science Fiction/Horror
Description: Great SF that Became Great Television SF! This one-of-a-kind anthology gathers together seven science fiction novelettes and short stories that were adapted into classic episodes of legendary television series like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Tales of Tomorrow, and From Out of This World. Here are Lyn Venable's "Time Enough at Last," the classic short story that inspired The Twilight Zone episode that was voted number twenty-five on TV Guide's list of the one hundred all time favorite TV episodes. You will also find stories that inspired other classic TZ shows as Paul Fairman's "People Are Alike All Over," Jerome Bixby's "It's a Good Life!," and Malcolm Jameson's "Of Late I think of Cliffordville," along with and Eando Binder's "I, Robot," inspiration for a moving Outer Limits episode, Rog Phillip's "The Yellow Pill," filmed for the British series, From Out of This World, and Raymond Z. Gallun's "Stepson of Space," adapted as "Many Happy Returns" for the legendary Tales of Tomorrow. In addition, you will find videographies listing each story's first appearance, the name of the screenwriter who adapted it for television, the episode's director, air date, length, cast, and more. This is your chance to read seven of the most famous science fiction stories ever written, including one, Gallun's "Stepson of Space," which is reprinted here for the first time ever since its original magazine appearance.
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/PageTurner, 2005
eBookwise Release Date: August 2005
17 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [195 KB]
Reading time: 125-176 min.
MANY HAPPY RETURNS
RAYMOND Z. GALLUN
ADAPTED FOR TALES OF TOMORROW 1952
* * * *
Series: Tales of Tomorrow
Episode title: Many Happy Returns
Based on: "Stepson of Space" by Raymond Z. Gallun
Publication: Astonishing Stories, October 1940
Teleplay: Frederick Pohl
Director: Don Medford
Cast: Gene Raymond (Andy), Flora Campbell (Jane), Clifford Sales (Jack), Edwin Cooper (Dr. Barnes), Richard Trask (Peter).
Air Date: October 24, 1952
* * * *
MANY HAPPY RETURNS
Scared? That was hardly the word.
Andy Matthews' bristly, dust-grimed cheeks felt stiff; and there was a sensation inside him as though his heart was trying to burst.
He couldn't get it all at once. To do so, fortunately, would have been impossible. He only knew that there was something fearfully and incomprehensibly wrong about his eight-year-old son, Jack!
Andy just stood there in the tool room over the granary, and stared, like a big, dumb ox, frightened, confused, pathetically grim, yet helpless. Oh, he would have died for his boy a hundred times over, if the danger was something he could really approach and fight. But this was different. It made him want to crawl into a dark corner with a loaded shotgun, and wait for a masked mystery to reveal itself. But he knew right away that this wouldn't be any good either!
The apparatus had looked so very harmless when he had first accidentally uncovered it. A peach box base. Tin cans nailed in a circle on top of it. A length of fine gauge wire from an old radio set was wrapped around each can, in a clumsy yet patiently involved design. The lengths of wire converged toward the center of the circle of cans, to form a kind of wheel-like net, each strand of which was stapled to a heavy central block of wood. The exposed upper surface of the latter bore a deep, elongated indentation, as though some object had struck it with terrific force. Except for an old fashioned double-throw electric switch, nailed to the side of the box, that was all.
The thing looked like any of the various contraptions that kids pound together while playing inventor. Andy had chuckled fondly when he'd dragged the rigamajig out of its place of concealment, and had begun to fuss with the switch; for he remembered the hammering he had heard, here in the tool room every time he had come in from the fields. Jack had been working on his "invention" for almost all month.
So Andy had been entirely unwarned. But when he had closed that switch, he had received the surprise of his life. His fingers had been a little off the insulated handle, and had touched the metal. Blue sparks had snapped across Andy's calloused palm. His whole body had recoiled under the staggering blow of a high-tension shock. It might have killed him, had he not stumbled backward.
If that was the point now--the reason for his fearful confusion--the focus of an incredibly incongruous mixture of facts. Jack was just eight. This rigamajig--peach-box, cans, and wires--was kid stuff. And yet the shock that had struck Andy was like the wallop of a high-voltage line! Nor was there any source, within half a mile or more, from which the contraption might draw power!
The thought that he was perhaps the father of a child genius got Andy nowhere. Jack was smart, all right; but certainly no eight-year-old, no matter how brilliant his mind might be, could ever invent a miracle like this.
The apparatus was still active there on the floor, for the switch was closed. A greenish fluorescence, like worms of turbid light, had crept along each of the radiating wire strands. In the brown shadows of the tool room, that soft witchfire burned wickedly, to the accompaniment of a low murmur, that seemed to threaten and predict unguessable developments. In the dusty air, there was a slight odor of scorched insulation.
Moved by instinct, Andy Matthews picked up a small wooden splinter from the floor, and tossed it toward the apparatus.
Even as the chip flew toward its goal, he regretted his impulsive act with a cold doubt as to its wisdom. He ducked and crouched back, as the splinter landed on those glowing wires.
The splinter seemed hardly to touch the wires at all. But the cold emerald light flashed around it. Instantly it seemed to rebound, as if from rubber. Whisking speed increased to a point beyond the range of living retinas. There was a twanging, almost melodious note, and the chip was gone. But in the low-raftered roof above, there was a little hole, as neatly punctured as if made by the passage of a bullet. The splinter had been hurled fast enough to make that hole...
Andy Matthews gulped with the strain of his tightened nerves. His big head, with its close-cropped black hair, swung this way and that, in bewildered belligerence. He hadn't been able to go to school much, but he'd read a lot, and he was shrewd. The kid had made the contraption, all right; but he couldn't have thought it out alone! And who else was there?
From the back porch of the farmhouse. Jane, Andy's pretty wife, was calling for him to come in to supper. But he hardly heard her. He hardly heard anything at all, as his brain fought with a mystery far beyond the knowledge of any person that he knew.
But he wheeled about like a burglar, caught with the goods, when the door behind him opened.
* * * *
Jack stood in the entrance. He just stood there, not saying anything, his face lighted up by the green glow. He looked petulant and startled, sure of punishment.
Andy had no idea at all what to say at first. But then love tangled with fear of the unknown to produce fury. Andy's teeth showed. His slitted eyes snapped. His voice, when he spoke, was a hoarse, unsteady growl.
"Come here, you!" he commanded.
Just for a moment the kid hesitated, his grey eyes vague and clouded in the green flicker. Then he came forward timidly, his scuffed shoes scraping in the untidy litter on the floor. He looked so pathetically little in his soiled overalls.
Andy's heart longed to melt, as it always had, for his son. But this was no time to give way to sentiment.
Andy clutched a small shoulder, and shook it violently, "What's this thing, here?" he snarled, pointing to the miracle beside them. "Who showed you how to make it? Come on! Out with it! Or, so help me, I'll break every bone in your body! Hurry up! Who showed you?"
Again there was that timid hesitation, which required more violent shaking to dissipate; but the kid spoke at last:
"Mister Weefles--He showed me."
Whereat, Andy snorted in sheer, boiling exasperation. "Mister Weefles!" he growled. "Always Mister Weefles! That's no answer at all!" Andy swung a hard palm. With a sharp snap, it landed on the side of Jack's cheek.
"Now will you tell me?" Andy roared.
The kid didn't let out a whimper. That was maybe a little funny in itself. But then those grey eyes met Andy's levelly, and Andy felt a dim, deep consternation. There was something warning and hard and strange, looking out of those eyes. Something that wasn't his son!
"I said, Mister Weefles," the kid told his father quietly. "He hasn't got any name of his own, so I started calling him that long time ago."
Andy had released his grip on the boy, and had moved back a step. The answer seemed to be nothing but pure, childhood fantasy. But its tone, and that level, warning stare, told a much different story. So Andy's mind seemed to tumble swiftly back through the years, to the time when Jack had been little more than a baby.
Almost since be had first learned to talk, it had been the same. Always there had existed that shadowy individual, Mister Weefles.
And remembered himself asking on many different occasions: "What did you do today, son?"
And Jack's answer had so often been like this--"Oh! I was thinking about Mr. Weefles. I dreamed about him last night again. He's a nice old guy, he's awful lonesome and awful funny looking, and he knows an awful lot. Only lives all by himself. All his folks are dead..."
A kid story, Andy had thought. Lots of imaginative youngsters made up dream worlds for themselves, and imaginary characters. So Andy had accepted the friend of his son as a matter of with tolerant humor.
But now? In that green-lit, flickering light of the dusty tool room, a kid's unimportant legend had suddenly assumed an aspect of real danger!
Andy Matthews began to sweat profusely. Mister Weefles was only a name his boy had given to something--true! Tin cans, wires, a peach box, an unknown source of terrific electric power; and the bullet-like flight of a splinter of wood, goin' where? All this was plain evidence of its truth!
Suddenly Jack moved forward toward the busy contraption on the floor. Andy gave a choked exclamation of warning, and made a grab to stop him. But then he only watched, with the intentness of a cat watching a mouse. Because Jack's movements were so skillful, so practiced, showing that he'd somehow been taught, and knew how to do everything. His fingers touched the tip of the insulated handle of the switch. With an expert lightness of touch, he swung it open quickly. The turbid light that had enveloped the radial wires of the apparatus died out. A complete darkness, alleviated only by the evening afterglow from the window, settled over the cluttered room.
But the sharp, muddled concern that screamed in Andy Matthews' heart, could not be extinguished so easily.
They faced each other again, then--father and son--as though across an abyss which seemed to separate them forever. But Andy Matthews' anger was dissolved, now, by his overshadowing fear. He was ready to grope and plead, in the hope that thus he might find a loose end--a tangible means of approach to the sinister presence that had enmeshed itself with his child's personality. His blood throbbed with frustrated, fighting courage.
"Jack," he husked into the gloom. "I'm your dad, boy. Tell me about this pal of yours. Where does he live?"
Once more there was a pause. Then, grudgingly and sullenly, the kid responded:
"I don't know exactly. Someplace a long way off. It's a terrible scary kind of place."
"You only dream about it, and about Mister Weefles?" Andy persisted. "At night--when you're asleep?"
"No, Dad," Jack returned. "Sometimes him and all his stuff are there ... in the daytime, too. I just have to shut my eyes and I can almost see him. He's been getting plainer all the time because I've got more practice figuring out just what he thinks. And he's got a special kind of machine he uses, too. Mostly it's the practice I got, though. And he told me that there's something special about my brains, that makes them a lot easier to talk with than most folk's brains. He don't say anything to me out loud, really. He just thinks, and I think with him ... But he's an awful nice old guy ... sorta sad. I do what he wants. Just now he made me turn off--" There the kid stopped, sullenly, as though somehow he'd been warned not to talk further.
Andy didn't press the point; but his quick, ragged, breathing came still faster, and he took hold of the kid's shoulder again. He pointed to the now-inactive peach box apparatus at their feet. The thing was newly constructed--an outgrowth rather than a cause of a queer mental contact. From what he had seen of its action, Andy concluded that its purpose had nothing to do with minds. It had catapulted that chip through the roof--
"What's this rigamajig for, son?" Andy asked quietly. "What is it supposed to do?"
The question wasn't much use. The kid just shook his head and began to whimper. Andy picked him up, then--a small, tight bundle of unrelated, resentful nerves and muscles. The barrier between himself and his boy seemed wider than ever.
"Hurry up and spit it out!" Andy snapped in fresh anger, shaking the kid furiously.
Jack didn't respond; but suddenly there was a tinkling sound on the floor. Something had fallen out of Jack's overall pocket. Instantly the boy became a squirming wildcat, almost impossible to hold. But Andy Matthews was far from feeble; and he was certainly determined, now, too.
Still hanging onto the kid with one arm, he bent down to search for the dropped object. It wasn't hard to find, for it had fallen right by his shoe; and the bright metal of it glinted even in the semidarkness. He picked it up, and then set Jack on the floor. The boy immediately backed away, panting, his mop of yellow hair streaming down into his face. He seemed to wait for an opportunity to recover what he'd lost.
"Now!" Andy said grimly, with a sort of triumph. "Maybe we'll find out something!"
He took the object close to the window. It was a three inch cylinder, almost like a short, thick metal pencil; for it was tapered at one end. A flaky, ashy stuff, which still covered part of its burnished surface, came away in his palms. It was as though the thing had once been accidentally thrown into a furnace, or burned by the friction of a meteoric flight through the atmosphere.
The tapered end of the cylinder could be detached, like a screw. Directly beneath this conical cap, there was a little spindle. Andy tugged at it avidly, drawing a tiny, scroll from its tubular container. Carefully, but with shaking fingers, he unrolled it sensing that here was a thing, the like of which he had never touched before. One side of the long, silky, metallic ribbon was coated with a fine glaze. Holding the smooth strip up to the dying light of day at the window, he squinted at it. But this effort to see was unnecessary, for the smooth surface was phosphorescent. It was divided into three little rectangles, one above the other, as in a postcard folder. Each rectangle was a picture, a photograph. They were luminous, like colored lantern-slide images, cast on a screen.
Andy didn't have to be told that these were pictures from another world. He was no fool, and he knew that no Earthly stars were as sharp as those pictured in the uppermost photograph. No Earthly mountains were ever so rough and clear and lifeless. Hell, everybody read about things like this, once in a while, in the scientific magazines!
But here it all was, now--true--an inescapable part of a mystery that had settled over his own life! The second picture revealed a shadowy cavern, full of machines and apparatus, in which must course fearful power. There were globular tanks, glowing red with the fiery chemicals inside them. There was a squat, complicated lump of metal which looked like some weird kind of dynamo.
The third picture was of the interior of a great crystal sphere, or compartment, whose walls were rimed with patches of thin, lacy frost. Devices of various kinds crowded it too; but Andy scarcely noticed these at first, for at the center of its concave floor stood a shaggy, lonely figure, clad in white polar fur, which seemed a natural part of him. He was quite a little like a man. Over his immense shoulders wires were draped, originating from a boxlike apparatus, upon which his fur-tufted paws rested. The wires led to an odd metal helmet, which covered his head just above his great, bat-like ears.
Through the transparent sides of the sphere, the same kind of terrain as that pictured in the first photograph could be seen; for the strange structure was built in the open. Hard, devil-mountains, and frigid, steady stars.
Mounted on the sphere's top, and visible, too, through its crystalline substance, was a thing resembling the crude contraption that Jack had made, except that it was much larger, and of course far more finely made. And attached to it were heavy bars of coppery metal, which must carry a terrific load of current from somewhere below.
Andy Matthews, looking at those colored, phosphorescent pictures, was a little dull just then, as far as feelings went. Wonder and fright had left him, momentarily--to be replaced by a semi-daze, which, however, seemed to sharpen and quicken his reason. Like a man in a death struggle, he had forgotten fear and wonder; he was devoting all his energies to understanding and defeating his enemy.
Scattered factors in the puzzle that confronted him, fell together coherently with amazing swiftness. The furry figure in the third photograph was of course Jack's hidden friend. The helmet the being wore, and the wires and the dialed box attached to it, looked like advanced forms of radio equipment. Andy knew his radio. He'd been a ham when he was nineteen ... But this wasn't radio equipment. Jack had spoken of a special kind of machine for thought-transference. This must be it! The source of the weird dreams that Jack had experienced since his babyhood.
Nor was the question of how Jack had come to possess the metal tube with the pictures in it so difficult to answer, now, either! With vivid, cold memory, Andy recalled what had happened to the splinter of wood he had tossed onto the glowing wires of Jack's contraption. Zip! And like a bullet it had gone through the roof! Doubtless it had continued on, up into the air, and away, through the vacuum abyss, toward this similar wheel-like apparatus on top of the globular compartment in the picture.
There was that deep indentation in the upper surface of the wooden block at the center of Jack's rigamajig. Then there was that old-fashioned, double-throw switch. The power, acting across the void, could be turned around!
It would have been simple for the kid to carry his machine out into the open, where it could work freely, with no roof in the way.
Come to think of it, there were a lot of things missing around the place, now, Andy thought with a shudder. A new adjustable wrench. A spirit-level, a couple of radio tubes. And Jane had lost a tape measure. Andy knew what had become of these things. The monster would be fondling them, now. Probably they were treasures to him--curiosities. Like a man getting stuff from Mars!
But--God! What did the shaggy freak really want? What was he meddling with Jack for? What was his deeper purpose? How could anybody tell? Andy's cool, swift reasoning had taken on a new note now; for seeing what he faced emphasized his helplessness. He was up against a knowledge as old as a dead world, and as unreachable.
Dully he rolled up the scroll of pictures, and put it back into the tube. He screwed the cap into place, and dropped the thing into his hip pocket.
Andy wanted to act. But what was there to try? For a second a wild idea blazed in his brain; then was submerged by its futility. And he couldn't leave Jack out of his sight for a moment now. But it wasn't enough just to watch. Those howling nerves of his yelled for movement, for a means to drain away some of their straining, fighting energy.