As we begin the month of March, let’s take a look at the human psyche. Humans were never designed to be solitary wanderers on this planet traversing the cosmos.
As future generations of humans venture beyond the confines of their home world, what awaits them in the vastness? Will they find a new home or will they experience poignant loneliness on a thousand different worlds?
In the classic Twilight Zone episode THE LONELY written by Rod Sterling, he took the viewers to another place and time. Here is his opening words for this episode so far from earth yet so true of the human heart.
“Witness if you will, a dungeon, made out of mountains, salt flats, and sand that stretch to infinity. The dungeon has an inmate: James A. Corry. And this is his residence: a metal shack. An old touring car that squats in the sun and goes nowhere – for there is nowhere to go. For the record, let it be known that James A. Corry is a convicted criminal placed in solitary confinement. Confinement in this case stretches as far as the eye can see, because this particular dungeon is on an asteroid nine-million miles from the Earth. Now witness, if you will, a man’s mind and body shriveling in the sun, a man dying of loneliness.”
Solitary confinement behind prison or padded walls takes a toll on the human spirit. The human genome is not complete without championship.
Into James A. Corry’s world a supply ship visited on their routine stops between the prison asteroids. Their stop was only transitory like a dandelion being blown by the winds after it has ceased to live.
James maintained his innocence. It was self-defense, but the tribunal sent him to solitary confinement anyway.
It was implied that the earth was not a place where guilt and innocence mattered. Removing undesirable carbon units from earth seemed to be the tribunal’s modus operandi.
Perhaps it was a social experiment to see how a human would deal with isolation and eventual loneliness. Cruelty in crime and punishment has always been a trademark of human incarceration.
On a supply visit a box was left for James. He did not want a present, he wanted his freedom, a pardon and if that was not in the stars, then someone to play a game of chess with, a simple mental exercise with human companionship.
After the ship had left, he opened the box. To his amazement it was a robot or android that resembled a human female and the machine was named Alicia.
Like any opening gamut in a human relationship with two strangers, James wanted nothing to do with Alicia. To him she was just a machine like his old car outside without the sand erosion.
As time moved forward on this barren asteroid, James and Alicia grew close. James realized that Alicia was more than a machine. She was a genuine companion.
One night as they sat under the stars, James pointed out
“Alicia, look. That’s the star, Betelgeuse. It’s in the constellation of Orion. And there’s the “Great Bear” with its pointer stars in line with the Northern Star. And there’s the constellation Hercules. You see, Alicia? He traces a path across the sky with his upraised hand and her eyes follow it. Then he turns to look down at her face upturned in the half-light.
ALICIA (softly) God’s beauty.
James (nods) That’s right, Alicia. God’s beauty.
However, their astronomy lesson was interrupted by a strange light in the night sky. It was a ship coming to the asteroid.
James was overjoyed because it was an unscheduled visit, and he hoped it would bring good news—his pardon! His hope was not to be disappointed, but there always seemed to be a catch to true hope especially off world.
With an implied change on earth in its judicial system, pardons had been granted to another group of isolated inmates. The news turned bitter when James was told that Alicia could not come with them because of weight restriction-only 15 pounds was allowed since the ship had seven other pardoned men on board.
Despite James’ fervent protests that Alicia was more than just a series of mechanical parts, Captain Allenby felt his anguish, but his mission was on a precise timeline. At times the mission must prevail over human dignity and protests.
James called for Alicia. Eventually, they found her. It was implied that she knew what was to happen by the sad look on her countenance.
In order to break James’ frantic grasping for Alicia, Captain Allenby removed his pistol and executed Alicia. She fell to the ground “a broken machine, twisted and bent wires, a cracked eye, a couple of fragments of plastic, all the remains of a face.”
To all except James she was just a machine made in a human image. He loved her in the Twilight Zone far from the raceways of humans living their lives unaware that they too were just a collection of designed cells, bones, nerves and vessels.
Rod Sterling’s Epilogue:
“On a microscopic piece of sand that floats through space is a fragment of a man’s life. Left to rust is the place he lived in and the machines he used. Without use, they will disintegrate from the wind and the sand and the years that act upon them. All of Mr. Corry’s machines, including the one made in his image, kept alive by love, but now obsolete – in The Twilight Zone.”
G. D. Williams © 2017