Mine is a small, pleasant town, much like one you'd see in the movies. Nothing ever happens here. But one day some students at our elementary school went home with headaches. Our boys and girls were usually so healthy. What had gotten into them? Then teachers began to cough and wheeze. When the principal broke out in hives, the local health authorities closed the school to investigate. "No big deal," a team of experts said. "Just a fungus in the carpets. Pretty common these days." Everyone was satisfied, except me.
I grew up on B-movie science fiction. Raised on classics like The Creature From Planet Zork and The Beast with 1,000 Toes, I knew that truth was often stranger than science fiction. This fungus plot seemed familiar. Hadn't I seen the same scenario in It Came From Beyond the Sun, the movie in which a fungus from a distant asteroid chokes a small, pleasant town? What was going on here?
As our authorities debated how to kill it, the fungus grew out of the school carpet and up the walls. I knew there was only one solution. First we'd need a Professor with a white lab coat. Then we'd find the Town Blonde and an Average Guy With Heroic Shoulders. At a critical moment, we'd have the Professor turn to the Hero and say, "I'm afraid there's nothing that ordinary science can do, Steve. This thing's a monster!" Cue Steve, who slams his fist on the table. The Blonde screams. Then the Army rolls in tanks and blasts the fungus to smithereens. THE END.
But movies were not reality . . . not yet. In real life we got some federal cleanup money and scoured the school. The fungus was gone. Everyone was relieved, except me. I knew that once life began imitating B-movies, it was just . . . The Beginning of the End (the 1957 classic in which giant locusts eat Chicago, then cast a hungry eye on Milwaukee).
Soon my daughter started muttering "Heh heh, cool, heh heh!" She was normally such an articulate child. Then right next door, 7-year-old Jason turned on MTV and began gyrating around the room. Soon, children all over our pleasant town were thrashing to music, "talking trash," behaving like fiends. The P.T.A. blamed it on cable TV, but I knew we were living in . . . The Village of the Damned (the 1960 masterpiece in which aliens possess a town's children and make their eyes glow).
I couldn't remember how that damned village saved its children so I went to the P.T.A. meeting and said, "I'm afraid there's nothing that ordinary science can do, Steve. This thing's a monster!" Sadly, only a few parents agreed with my plan to blow the kids to smithereens. Some limited their kids to 40 hours of TV a week, but the rest watched helplessly as pleasant children turned into garbage-mouths.
Next the newspapers declared that it was no longer safe to eat anything! According to scientists, all our food — butter, margarine, meat, eggs, sugar, apples — contained chemicals! Some blamed the media for fear mongering, but I knew we were living in Attack of the Giant Experts (aliens plant electrodes in scientists' necks to control a small Midwestern town). In the sequel, The Giant Experts Go to Washington, the aliens brainwash Congress by implanting American-flag lapel pins in Congressmen's coats. The nation is saved when they herd all scientists and politicians into the Grand Canyon and call in the Army. THE END.
Blowing up experts may have worked in the 1950s, but these days there would be environmental concerns and lawsuits from lawyers named Steve. We were defenseless, bombarded by the latest studies and government reports!
What was happening? I turned to my wife and said, "You've got to believe me! The fungus, the fiendish kids, the evil experts . . . I've seen all this before!" She sent me to a psychiatrist who said I had sci-fitis, the delusion that life imitates B-movies. "But it's all true!" I said. "Don't you read the papers?" I whipped out the evening paper. All over the country, UFOs were abducting law-abiding citizens, just like in Invaders from Mars. Supermarkets were selling genetically grown veggies (Attack of the Killer Tomatoes). Millions were watching brain-killing TV shows and reading cat books (Invasion of the Mind Snatchers). "We've got to do something!" I told the shrink. Then I saw the electrodes in his neck.
The next morning I awoke, showered and went to the mirror. My God! Was that me? Once so young and striking, I had become . . . The Incredible Aging Man (the thriller in which a man looks more like his father every day). Then I checked the calendar. It was 1995! Whenever an old sci-fi movie took place in the future, somewhere in the last reel Steve turned to the Professor and said, "But Professor Dreen! Surely you have a weapon that can keep the Monster from devouring Elm City! After all, it's 1995!" And now it was!
Every day I tell my daughter to turn off the TV. I tell my wife to skip the warnings, to eat anything she wants. I tell people our politicians are possessed. No one believes me. I'm afraid there's nothing that ordinary science can do. I slam my fist on the table. In the distance a blonde screams. Has anyone tried calling in the Army? THE END. Or is it just . . . the beginning?