Zero Hour

“Zero Hour” from The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

It’s just a normal day for the Morris family. Mrs. Morris is taking care of the home and little Mink is playing with her friends. Except today Mink is grabbing all kinds of things and running around with her friends more excited than usual playing Invasion.

While they are playing, Mrs. Morris notices that the kids won’t let a 12 year old play with them as he is too old.

Hmm…

She hears how serious the kids are with Mink demanding and ordering about, organizing like a general. She runs out and about everywhere, as it is a “matter of life and death.”

Oh kids

They have to hurry as Drill needs them to finish the Invasion. Drill is from outer space and needs help to come to their dimension. Drill and his compatriots have been trying to invade Earth for years and couldn’t make it. Then they decided to use kids under nine and their imagination. They promise the kids they can get and do whatever they want when they arrive.

“Drill says I won’t have to take baths,’ said Mink.

‘Oh, he does, does he?’

‘He told all the kids that. No more baths. And we can stay up till ten o’clock and go to two televisor shows on Saturday ‘stead of one!’

‘Well, Mr. Drill better mind his p’s and q’s. I’ll call up his mother and —‘

Mink went to the door. ‘We’re having trouble with guys like Pete Britz and Dale Jerrick. They’re growing up. They make fun. They’re worse than parents. They just won’t believe in Drill. They’re so snooty, ‘cause they’re growing up. You’d think they’d know better. They were little only a coupla years ago. I hate them worst. We’ll kill them first.’

‘Your father and I last?’

‘Drill says you’re dangerous. Know why? ‘Cause you don’t believe in Martians! They’re going to let us run the world. Well, not just us, but the kids over in the next block, too. I might be queen.’ She opened the door.

Mrs. Morris calls her friend in New York and finds out that the kids there are playing the same thing. It seems that this game and “Drill” have spread all over the nation.

The day continues and Mink tells her mom it will be soon, Drill is stuck halfway but they are working on it. Five o’clock is zero hour. Mr. Morris returns home from work and Mrs. Morris is struck with how quiet the street is. What are the children up to?

Then an explosion happens and all Mrs. Morris’ fears explode with it. Sh grabs her husband and runs up to the attic hoping to hide out there and escape that night. Her husband thinks she is crazy, but Mrs. Morris doesn’t care.

Footsteps come into the house:

Heavy feet. Twenty, thirty, forty, fifty of them. Fifty persons crowding into the house. 295 The humming. The giggling of the children. ‘This way!’ cried Mink, below.

‘Who’s downstairs?’ roared Henry. ‘Who’s there!’

‘Hush. Oh, nononononono!’ said his wife weakly, holding him. ‘Please, be quiet. They might go away.’

‘Mom?’ called Mink. ‘Dad?’ A pause. ‘Where are you?’ Heavy footsteps, heavy, heavy, very heavy footsteps, came up the stairs. Mink leading them.

‘Mom?’ A hesitation. ‘Dad?’ A waiting, a silence.

Humming. Footsteps toward the attic. Mink’s first.

They trembled together in silence in the attic, Mr. and Mrs. Morris. For some reason the electric humming, the queer cold light suddenly visible under the door crack, the strange odor and the alien sound of eagerness in Mink’s voice finally got through to Henry Morris too. He stood, shivering, in the dark silence, his wife beside him.

‘Mom! Dad!’

Footsteps. A little humming sound. The attic-lock melted. The door opened. Mink peered inside, tall blue shadows behind her.

‘Peekaboo,’ said Mink.”

For more Ray Bradbury, go to Marionettes, Inc.

For more from The Illustrated Man, go to The Veldt

For more aliens, go to The Andromeda Strain

For more short stories, go to Stowaway

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Marionettes, Inc.

“Marionettes, Inc.” from The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

Braling and Smith are very good friends, but haven’t spent a lot of time together since Braling got married. Braling’s wife is very dependent, and doesn’t let him do anything. That is just the beginning of their bad relationship, they only got married because she was going to go to the police and accuse him of rape if he didn’t.

10 years later and Braling feels trapped and so unhappy as he can’t do anything or go anywhere, just stuck at home with his needy wife.

Braling shows Smith how he has finally managed to escape his home. There is another Braling at home with his wife.

What?!

A month ago he went to a company called Marionettes, Inc. They charge from $7000 to $15000 for a humanoid plastic model.

Changed to $5,000 for Alfred Hitchcock’s Presents.

Braling has always wanted to go to Rio, and now he has his chance to do it.

Smith leaves, reading the business card and thinking about doing it himself as his wife loves him too much-it’s driving him crazy. He goes to his bankbook in preparation to write a check but discovers that $10,000 is missing!

He looks at his wife and realizes-she is a marionette. She is gone.

Meanwhile, with Smith heading home, Braling puts the marionette away in his box-but the marionette doesn’t like it.

He hates being put away, he resents that Braling gets to go to Rio, and he has fallen in love with Braling’s wife.

I think you see where this is going…

For more Ray Bradbury, go to Punishment Without Crime

For more on The Illustrated Man, go to The Veldt

For more short stories, go to A Case of Identity

The Veldt

“The Veldt” (originally published as “The World the Children Made”) from The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

Thoughts Before Reading:

Usually I post short stories on a Sunday, but as it was originally published on September 23, 1950, I thought I would post the review on that day.

Happy anniversary!

I first read The Illustrated Man, over fifteen years ago and completely fell in love with it, devouring it from beginning to end. I thought it was phenomenal and utterly creepy.

Hold me!

This story is so well written, just reading the name sends shivers down my spine.

Now as you read the synopsis, the story may sound slightly familiar to you fellow ’90s kids, as this is what the DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie) Smart House was based on.

Plot Synopsis:

The story is set in the future and the houses are full of all kinds of technology and gadgets that people don’t have to do anything for themselves.

You ask for something, the house makes it and it appears. You have devices that paint for you, read to you, etc.

 The walls can change to mimic anything you wish, and what the children, Peter and Wendy Hadley, in this home keep asking for is the African Veldt.

And it is starting to scare the parents, Linda and George. They don’t know why, but something is…wrong. When they see the far off lions eating something, with the vultures waiting their turn it frightens them, but why?

Lately, the parents and children have been having some issues.The parents have decided that the children have become too spoiled and need to do things for themselves instead of having the house do it all for them, things like tying their shoes themselves, brush their own teeth, take their own bath, etc.

They call in their friend, a psychologist. David McClean, who quickly diagnosis the problem.

“You’ve let this room and this house replace you and your wife in your children’s affections. This room is their mother and father, far more important in their lives than their parents. And now you come along and want to shut it off. No wonder there’s hatred here. You can feel it coming out of the sky. Feel that sun. George, you’ll have to change your life. Like too many others, you’ve built it around creature comforts. Why, you’d starve tomorrow if something went wrong with your kitchen. You wouldn’t know how to tap an egg. Nevertheless, turn everything off. Start new. It’ll take time. But we’ll make good children out of bad in a year, wait and see.”

The kids don’t like it:

But the adults are all convinced they will get over it. Will this prove to be a great solution? Or will the parents be unable to stop the Veldt?

Thoughts After Reading:

I loved it!!!!

It was chilling, thrilling, and had a great and terrifying end.

I suggest you read it right away.

Read it today!

For more by Ray Bradbury, go to The Utterly Perfect Murder

For more short stories, go to The Red Headed League

For more science fiction, go to Emilie and the Sky World