October 2

1959 — The Twilight Zone debuts on CBS

 

“Hey, ‘It’s a cookbook!’  Remember that one?”

The others in the circle smile at Will’s comment, but you think he’s gone for the easy one.  Everybody remembers the twist of that episode.  Better to choose something more obscure, so others ask you to explain — back up and summarize the full story, filling in every plot detail, every line of dialogue you can remember.

“How about…”  Julie brings her arms close to her sides, lets her eyes glaze over, and you think she’s going to do the Anne Francis one where all the store mannequins come to life.  Then she squeezes herself tighter, as if she can shrink herself, and you’ve figured out her choice.  “ ‘I’m Talky Tabitha, and I’m going to effing kill you!’ ”

She got the doll’s name wrong, but her imitation of the mechanical voice was pretty good.  Julie altered the quote by adding a mock swear word, which feels like cheating to you, but it struck others as high-larious, encouraging the rest of the circle to contribute progressively vulgar variations.

“I didn’t think a doll could do that,” you say after about the tenth crude comment.  Martin accuses you of being a spoil sport.

“My turn,” Leah says.  She points into darkness beyond the range of the campfire glow.  “ ‘There’s a man out there!’ ”  Her acting is good enough that people turn to look, even though they all know they’re supposed to be on an airplane in a rain storm.

“ ‘Time enough at last,’ ” Zach says, and people groan.  That one always hits a little too close to home.

“I’ve got one,” you say.  “It’s from a script I read, of an episode that never got produced for the show.  The last line is, ‘Follow me, and everything will become clear.’ ”

“Who says that?  What does it mean?”  It’s Martin, who criticized you earlier — but now he looks ready to hang on your every word.

Alex interrupts.  “No, don’t explain the twist.  Don’t spoil it.  Start from the beginning, since it’s an episode we’ve never seen.”

So you do your best, even though you were lying.  You’ve never read an unproduced TV script from their favorite show.  But you know how a lot of the episodes work, and you think you can improvise something plausible.

You start with your “memory” of the narrator’s introduction.  Something about a dozen people brought together by circumstance, sitting around a campfire.  It could be any campfire, in any town in the U.S., or Canada, or Europe.  Or any country on Earth, or even another planet.  We all tell stories to each other.  We all like a twist ending, especially when the evil people get punished.

“Stop it,” Will says.  But the others dismiss him, and you continue with your summary of the unaired episode.  The characters reveal horrible secrets about themselves, and those secrets bear an uncanny resemblance to confessions you’ve heard from different listeners over the years.  Will again implores you to stop, even though you’ve already narrated his terrible crime.

Then you mention a sound in the darkness beyond the campfire.   It’s an unearthly voice, calling someone’s name.  A single person stands (in your story), looks into the dark and wonders what it will be like to walk toward that voice:  if it offers a blissful oblivion, an escape; or if it invites the person to suffer unimaginable tortures.

As you continue with your story, you decide the unearthly voice has called your own name.  You stand, ready to walk away from the campfire.  “Follow me, and everything will become clear,” you say.

And you wonder what the twist ending will actually mean.