Thursday, November 3, 2011
After The Collapse - Who Will Your Neighbors Be?
Dr. William Stockton celebrates yet another birthday surrounded by family and friends in the midst of a grand suburban paradise. The party is warm, and the evening is filled with joy and merriment. These people singing his praises, laughing and imbibing generous amounts of spirits, are neighbors he’s known for over 20 years. He understands them well, or at least, he thinks he does…
The good doctor, as his neighbors often point out with a jabbing chuckle, is a prepper; a brand of survivalist who participates in the day to day routine of mundane American life while using his spare time to safeguard against unforeseen disaster. His friends view this behavior as an amusing curiosity, an eccentric hobby, but none take it nearly as seriously as William does. It’s not that he is paranoid; far from it. In fact, William Stockton is a professional, a man of sense, and a man of family. He merely lives in an era of great potential danger, where nuclear war and societal collapse are anything but fantasy. Stockton takes these issues into account as an individual, and acts according to the severity of his environment. Much more than his neighbors, he represents legitimate rationality.
Unfortunately for the doctor, and for those who live around him, the days of wine and frosted cake are about to abruptly end as a Civil Defense emergency bulletin blares over the wire. The reality that today’s comforts could disappear in the blink of an eye sets into the minds of the frightened listeners. And soon, we begin to witness the TRUE character of those William once held dear.
This scenario might sound like a familiar consideration to many of us, but for now it remains the stuff of nighttime TV. So begins a rather prophetic and ingenious episode of The Twilight Zone entitled “The Shelter”…
The fascinating thing about “The Shelter” is that it is one of the few short stories showcased in The Twilight Zone (a science fiction program) which hasn’t a single element of science fiction within it. “The Shelter” is terrifying exactly because it is NOT a product of wild imagination, but a representation of social fact that cuts to the calcium rich bone of our culture, even 50 years after it aired on television.