Distillations podcast

Deep Dives into Science Stories, Both Serious and Eccentric
December 14, 2017 Arts & Culture

Sci-Fi Radio Drama

A cautionary tale of technology run riot.

Vintage illustration of a man sitting in chair watching a 1950s TV. He has a bucket of beers next to him. A woman is closer to the TV in another chair. Her shoes are off. They are both staring at the image of the TV which appears to be a picture that takes up the whole wall.

As you ponder which shiny new gadgets to put in your children’s stockings this holiday season, beware of the story of the Abbott family, whose lives were forever changed after a little too much screen time.

Distillations brings you a live performance of Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Veldt.” Originally titled “The World the Children Made,” it’s a science-fiction tale about the dangers of our growing overdependence on technology.

“People ask me to predict the future when all I want to do is prevent it,” Bradbury said. “We have too many cellphones. We’ve got too many internets. We have got to get rid of those machines.”

Special thanks to Mechanical Theater and the Hear Again Radio Project for the live performance.

Credits

Hosts: Michal Meyer and Bob Kenworthy
Senior Producer: Mariel Carr
Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez
Our theme music was composed by Zach Young
Dream (instrumental) by Chan Wai Fat, courtesy of the Free Music Archive

Transcript

Sci-Fi Radio Drama: A Cautionary Tale of Technology Run Riot

Michal: Hello and welcome to Distillations, the science, culture, and history podcast. I’m Michal Meyer, a historian of science and editor in chief of Distillations magazine, here at the Chemical Heritage Foundation.

Bob: And I’m Bob Kenworthy, CHF’s in-house chemist. The holidays are upon us, and perhaps you’re thinking about what shiny new gadgets you’ll buy for your children.       

Michal: Here at CHF our friend and part-time Distillations guest host, Alexis Pedrick, had an interesting, idea about how to celebrate the holidays with our First Friday event series. Alexis, first you should probably tell us what First Fridays are.  

Alexis: First Fridays are free events at CHF in Old City Philadelphia. They’re open to the public, and not surprisingly happen on the first Friday of each month. For December we wanted to put on a radio play, and we thought, ‘why not go out with a cautionary tale about the dangers of consumption in our hyper-connected world?’ So we worked with two local theater groups, the Mechanical Theater and the Hear Again Radio Project to bring to life a story by the master of sci-fi and dystopia himself, Mr. Ray Bradbury.

Michal: Ray Bradbury was a major science fiction writer of the 20th century. Many of us read his most famous book in middle school.

Alexis: Right, Fahrenheit 451. I remember reading it…[CAN IMPROVISE IF YOU WANT] He was born in Illinois in 1920 but moved to Hollywood as a teenager. He loved it. He used to roller skate around town trying to meet movie stars.

Alexis: As a writer he was really tuned in to the dark downside of our love affair with technology. He once said, “People ask me to predict the future when all I want to do is prevent it.” And near the end of his life he said: “We have too many cellphones. We’ve got too many internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now.”

Bob: So you’re about to hear a live performance of Bradbury’s short story “the Veldt.” It was adapted for the radio by an NBC radio series called X Minus One in the 1950s.

Alexis: Right, it was near the end of the golden age of radio, when radio dramas were really popular. It aired on August 4, 1955. But its message is still stunningly relevant. Bradbury originally called his story “The World the Children Made,” and it’s a cautionary tale of technology run amok. And also maybe the dangers of letting your kids have too much screen time.

The Veldt       

From the far horizons of the unknown come transcribed tales of new dimensions in time and space. These are stories of the future, adventures in which you’ll live in a million could-be years on a thousand maybe worlds. The National Broadcasting Company, in cooperation with Street and Smith, publishers of Astounding Science Fiction, presents — (HEAVY ECHO) X Minus One!

MUSIC:

TO A CLIMAX … THEN OUT

ANNOUNCER: X-1.TheVeldt 2

Tonight’s story, Ray Bradbury’s tale “The Veldt.”

MUSIC:

FOR AN INTRODUCTION … BRISK BUT WARM … THEN IN BG, OUT BY [X]

NARRATOR:

This is the office of Dr. David McClean, resident psychiatrist of the New Chicago Institute of Human Engineering.

MCCLEAN:

(TO SECRETARY) All right, Miss Carver, will you take this, please? (DICTATES) To Charles S. Howorth, senior psychiatrist, New Chicago Institute of Human Engineering. The following constitutes my report on the case of George and Lydia Abbott, which we discussed by telephone. Subject George relates onset of symptoms to the purchase of a sixty thousand dollar soundproofed HappyLife Home. Under narco-synthesis during initial interviews, subject described the experience in the following manner. (TO SECRETARY) Miss Carver, would you play back the sonic record of the initial interview? [X]

SOUND:

CLICK! OF SWITCH

GEORGE:

(ON RECORD, HESITANT) We’d always wanted one and – then we could afford it so–

MCCLEAN:

(ON RECORD) Go on, Mr. Abbott. Tell me about the home.

GEORGE:

(ON RECORD) The home. Well, it was supposed to do everything, the agent told us. And it did, I guess. It clothed us, fed us, and rocked us to sleep; played and sang and– It was good to us. Very good, sure.

MCCLEAN:

(ON RECORD) Tell me about the nursery.

GEORGE:

(ON RECORD) The nursery. The nursery. Ahhh. X-1.TheVeldt 3

MCCLEAN:

(ON RECORD) It was completely automatic?

GEORGE:

(ON RECORD) Completely automatic. There were crystalline walls that wavered from two to three dimensions. There were pseudo-textured floors that shifted from brick to dirt to waving grass. The nursery was the best, but – then, we wanted the best — for the children. (PAUSE, SLOWLY) Doctor? I must be crazy. We have no children.

MCCLEAN:

(ON RECORD) What about Peter and Wendy? They’re your children.

GEORGE:

(ON RECORD) Oh, no, no. We have no children, doctor. (SHOUTS) We have no children!

SOUND:

CLICK! OF SWITCH

MCCLEAN:

All right, Miss Carver. To continue. (DICTATES) After three sessions, the subject was able to recall and accept the idea that he had two children. He described the first day.

GEORGE:

All right, Peter and Wendy. This is your nursery.

PETER:

What’s so special about a nursery, Dad?

GEORGE:

Plenty! Just go in and see.

WENDY:

Do we have to?

LYDIA: X-1.TheVeldt 4

You’ll be surprised.

SOUND:

DOOR OPENS

MUSIC:

MAGICAL … THEN IN BG

PETER:

(IN AWE) Gee!

GEORGE:

Go ahead.

WENDY:

I’m scared.

PETER:

I’m not. Hey — it’s nice in here.

WENDY:

It is?

PETER:

Come on in, Wendy. Boy, look at the pictures on the walls! They’re real!

GEORGE:

(LAUGHS) They’re almost real. You can change them any way you like just by thinking about it.

LYDIA:

(GENTLY, TO WENDY) Go on in, dear.

WENDY:

Well, all right, Mommy. X-1.TheVeldt 5

PETER:

Hey, Wendy — look what I can do with the pictures!

WENDY:

That’s the White Rabbit — from “Alice in Wonderland”!

PETER:

Sure! I just thought about it and there it was!

WENDY:

Let me try. Peter, let me try.

PETER:

Well, go ahead. Just think.

WENDY:

How about Wizard in Oz? I wanna see Wizard in Oz! (STARTS TO LAUGH)

SOUND:

DOOR SHUTS … ABRUPTLY CUTS OFF CHILDREN AND MUSIC [X]

GEORGE:

(PROUD) Well, dear, there we are.

LYDIA:

(PLEASED, WARMLY) Oh, they like it, don’t they?

GEORGE:

Why shouldn’t they? All they have to do is think and they’ve got whatever they want in three dimensions, color, sound, and smell.

LYDIA:

(LAUGHS) Oh, it’s nice that we can give them all the advantages.

GEORGE: X-1.TheVeldt 6

Sure. What else are we workin’ for, huh?

LYDIA:

Mm.

GEORGE:

Well, what do you want to do this evening?

LYDIA:

Well, the Petersons asked us over for bridge but if you–

GEORGE:

Well, we don’t have to worry about the kids. They’ll be all right in the nursery. Come on, Lydia. We deserve a night out.

MUSIC:

WARM AND AFFECTIONATE … THEN IN BG, OUT AT [X]

NARRATOR:

And in the nursery, the walls were a kaleidoscope of time and space and imagination. The green forest of Sherwood and the quiet forms of Robin and his merry men gave way to the roll of the high seas and the smell of salt in the air as Sir Henry Morgan sailed into the harbor at Jamaica. And behind the crystalline quartz walls, the vacuum tubes and grids and banks of mental image tape spun quietly and efficiency, erasing the line between illusion and reality. Of course the electric bill from Consolidated Utilities was tremendous. But it was worth it. The HappyLife Home breathed contentedly as life proceeded with soft automaticity as guaranteed in the brochure and bill of sale. [X]

LYDIA:

(UNEASY) George?

GEORGE:

(UNINTERESTED) Hm?

LYDIA:

George, I wish you’d look at the nursery. X-1.TheVeldt 7

GEORGE:

What’s wrong with it?

LYDIA:

I don’t know.

GEORGE:

I was in the nursery last week. It’s perfectly all right.

LYDIA:

It’s different now.

GEORGE:

What do you mean, different?

LYDIA:

I want you to come and see.

GEORGE:

Are the kids there?

LYDIA:

No. Madge Allen took them to a show along with her kids. That’s why I want you to look at it now before they get back.

GEORGE:

Oh, all right. But what you expect me to do, I don’t know. I’m no mechanic.

LYDIA:

This isn’t a question of a leaky faucet, George.

GEORGE:

(EXASPERATED) All right, dear, I’m coming.

MUSIC: X-1.TheVeldt 8

BRIDGE … THEN IN BG, OUT AT [X]

NARRATOR:

The nursery light flicked on as they came down the hall. The relays clicked and the tubes warmed and chemical odor banks and pipes bubbled into life as they paused before the closed door. [X]

LYDIA:

Go ahead, George. Open it.

MUSIC:

SLOW, OMINOUS AFRICAN DRUMS … THEN IN BG

NARRATOR:

On all sides, in three dimensions, stretched the hot, tired landscapes of an African veldt, reproduced to the last stick and pebble and bit of straw. The ceiling above them became a sky with a hot yellow sun. A wind blew in from the baked veldtland. The hot straw smell of lion grass, the cool green smell of the hidden water hole, the great rusty smell of animals …

SOUND:

JACKALS HOWL, OFF

NARRATOR:

… the howl of the jackal in the distance, and the papery rustling of the great vultures that wheeled and circled under the yellow, burning sun.

GEORGE:

Let’s get out of this sun. It’s a little too real.

LYDIA:

Oh, George, you promised you’d look around.

GEORGE:

Well, I don’t see anything.

LYDIA: X-1.TheVeldt 9

Wait a minute. There are the vultures.

GEORGE:

Filthy creatures.

SOUND:

LIONS ROAR, OFF

LYDIA:

There! There are the lions. Far over, that way.

GEORGE:

Yes, I see them.

LYDIA:

Why, they’re on their way to the water hole. They’ve just — eaten.

GEORGE:

It’s some animal. A zebra or a baby giraffe, maybe.

LYDIA:

Can you see it? Are you sure?

GEORGE:

It’s a little late to be sure. Nothing over there but cleaned bone, and the vultures swooping down for what’s left.

LYDIA:

Did you hear that scream?

GEORGE:

What scream?

LYDIA:

About a moment ago? X-1.TheVeldt 10

GEORGE:

Sorry, no.

SOUND:

LIONS GROWL … GROWING CLOSER, IN BG

LYDIA:

Oh! Here come the lions. George, they’re frightening.

GEORGE:

Take it easy, Lydia. They’re just illusion.

SOUND:

LIONS GROWL, CLOSE … THEN IN BG

MUSIC:

OMINOUS AFRICAN DRUMS INCREASE IN TEMPO … JOINED BY OTHER INSTRUMENTS … THEN IN BG, OUT AT [X]

NARRATOR:

The lions were fifteen feet away, so real, so startlingly real, you could feel the prickling fur on your hand, and your mouth was stuffed with the dusty upholstery smell of their heated pelts, and the yellow of them was in your eyes like the yellow of an exquisite tapestry, the yellows of lions and summer grass, and the sound of the matted lion lungs exhaling on the silent noontide, and the smell of meat from the panting, dripping mouths.

SOUND:

LIONS GROWL … VERY CLOSE

LYDIA:

George — I’m afraid. They’re so real.

GEORGE:

They’re only an illusion, Lydia, that’s all.

SOUND: X-1.TheVeldt 11

LIONS ROAR … VERY CLOSE

LYDIA:

Watch out! (SCREAMS)

GEORGE:

Out! Quick! Outside!

SOUND:

DOOR SLAMS CUTTING OFF ROARS AND MUSIC [X] … ABRUPT SILENCE

LYDIA:

(UNNERVED) They almost got us.

GEORGE:

Now, take it easy. Calm down.

LYDIA:

(STARTS TO CRY) I could feel their breath. (SOBS, IN BG)

GEORGE:

Get a hold of yourself, Lydia. They aren’t real. Walls — that’s all it is; crystalloid walls.

LYDIA:

They look so real.

GEORGE:

Of course they do. But it’s all dimensional, color reactionary process and mental tape film behind glass screens. It’s all odorophonics and sonics. Now, here, take my handkerchief.

LYDIA:

(SOBS) I’m afraid. Did you see? Did you feel? It – it’s too real!

GEORGE:

Now, now, Lydia. X-1.TheVeldt 12

LYDIA:

And we’ve got to tell Wendy and Peter not to read any more on Africa.

GEORGE:

Of course – of course, dear.

LYDIA:

(INSISTENT) I want you to lock that place up!

GEORGE:

But you know how difficult Peter is about that. I punished him last week by locking the nursery for an afternoon and he threw a tantrum. And Wendy, too. Why, they live for the nursery.

LYDIA:

It’s got to be locked. That’s all there is to it.

GEORGE:

You’ve been working too hard, Lydia. You need a rest.

LYDIA:

I don’t know. Maybe I don’t have enough to do. I have too much time to think. All I do is set the Menu Selector dials at the beginning of the week–

GEORGE:

But that’s the whole idea. The house is automatic–

LYDIA:

I know. But couldn’t we turn it off for about a week and take a vacation?

GEORGE:

(AMUSED) You mean you want to fry eggs for me?

LYDIA:

And darn socks. (BEAT) I feel like I don’t belong here. The house is wife and mother and maid. How can I compete with the African veldt? (A SUDDEN THOUGHT) George? X-1.TheVeldt 13

GEORGE:

Hm?

LYDIA:

(NERVOUS) Those lions – can’t get out of there, can they?

GEORGE:

Of course not, dear. Now, don’t think about it any more.

MUSIC:

PENSIVE … THEN IN BG, OUT AT [X]

NARRATOR:

They ate alone. He sat idly, watching the dining-room table produce warm dishes of food from its mechanical interior.

GEORGE:

(CASUALLY, TO THE TABLE) You forgot the ketchup.

SOUND:

BELL – BUZZER – CLUNK! OF KETCHUP BOTTLE SLIDING INTO PLACE

GEORGE:

That’s better.

NARRATOR:

It wouldn’t hurt to lock the children out of the nursery for a while. It was clear that they had been spending too much time in Africa. That sun! — he could feel it on his neck, still, like a hot paw. And the lions. And the smell of blood.

Remarkable how the nursery caught the telepathic emanations of the children’s minds and created a life to fulfill their desires. The children thought zebras, and there were zebras. Sun – sun. Giraffes – giraffes. Death — and death.

They were so young, but long before you knew what death was, you were wishing it on someone else. But this — the long, hot African veldt — the awful death in the jaws of a lion. And repeated again and again and again. X-1.TheVeldt 14

The children came home dutifully at eight-thirty. [X]

PETER:

Hi, Mom. Hi, Pop.

LYDIA:

Hello, darling.

GEORGE:

Hi.

LYDIA:

Do you want something to eat, dear? We’re just having dessert.

PETER:

We’re full of strawberry ice cream.

WENDY:

And hot dogs.

PETER:

We’ll just sit and watch.

GEORGE:

Sure. Uh, Peter, uh– Tell us about the nursery.

PETER:

(CAGEY) The nursery?

GEORGE:

All about Africa and everything.

PETER:

I don’t understand. X-1.TheVeldt 15

GEORGE:

Well, your mother and I were just traveling through Africa with rod and reel.

PETER:

There’s no Africa in the nursery.

GEORGE:

Oh, come now, Peter. We know better.

PETER:

I don’t remember any Africa. Do you, Wen?

WENDY:

Uh uh. (NO)

PETER:

Go run and see, huh?

WENDY:

Sure. Uh, I’ll be right back.

GEORGE:

(SHARPLY) Wendy, come back here! Wendy!

PETER:

Oh, she’ll be right back, Pop.

GEORGE:

(STERN) She doesn’t have to. I’ve seen it. Come on.

SOUND:

GEORGE RISES FROM CHAIR

PETER: X-1.TheVeldt 16

Sure, Pop. But Wendy’ll tell us.

GEORGE:

Open the door.

SOUND:

DOOR OPENS … BIRDS CHIRP PEACEFULLY, THEN IN BG

WENDY:

See, Daddy? It’s not Africa. It’s Florida. Like in “Bambi.”

PETER:

There go the deer! See? It isn’t Africa.

GEORGE:

(UNHAPPY) I see it isn’t. Go to bed.

PETER:

But it isn’t nine o’clock.

GEORGE:

(SHARPLY) You heard me. Go to bed.

PETER:

(DISAPPOINTED) Okay. (MOVING OFF) Good night, Mom. Good night, Pop.

WENDY:

(MOVING OFF, CHEERY) Good night!

LYDIA:

Good night, dear. I’ll be right in.

GEORGE:

Wait a minute, Lydia. Look at this. X-1.TheVeldt 17

LYDIA:

What is it?

GEORGE:

This is the corner where the lions were, isn’t it?

LYDIA:

Well, what is that you picked up?

GEORGE:

(SLOWLY) An old wallet of mine. There’s a smell of hot grass on it, and the smell of a lion. It’s wet — with saliva. And it’s been chewed.

LYDIA:

(UNNERVED) George? Those smears – are blood.

GEORGE:

Come on out.

SOUND:

DOOR SHUT AND LOCKED … CUTTING OFF BIRDS … SILENCE

GEORGE:

Now, let’s go to bed.

MUSIC:

AN ACCENT, THEN IN BG, OUT AT [X]

NARRATOR:

But, in the middle of the night, he was still awake, and he knew his wife was awake. [X]

LYDIA:

George? How did your wallet get in the nursery?

GEORGE: X-1.TheVeldt 18

I don’t know. Wendy must have changed the walls from the African veldt. I’m going to keep it locked. Maybe it isn’t good for the children. My father used to say “Children are like carpets, they should be stepped on occasionally.” We’ve never lifted a hand. They’re spoiled and we’re spoiled. I think I’ll have Dr. McClean come tomorrow morning and have a look at “Africa.”

LYDIA:

(WRY) But it isn’t Africa now, it’s Florida, and Bambi.

GEORGE:

I have a feeling it’ll be Africa again before then.

MUSIC:

FOR AN UNEASY NIGHT’S SLEEP … THEN IN BG, OUT AT [X]

NARRATOR:

Although their automatic somno-beds tried very hard, the two adults could not be rocked to sleep for another hour. A smell of cats was in the night air.

And, in the morning, the stove cooked French toast, and the dining room table poured the syrup and melted butter. [X]

SOUND:

UTENSILS AND DISHES AT BREAKFAST

PETER:

Pop?

GEORGE:

Yes?

PETER:

You aren’t gonna lock up the nursery for good, are ya?

GEORGE:

That all depends.

PETER: X-1.TheVeldt 19

On what?

GEORGE:

On you and your sister.

LYDIA:

We feel you should have some variety, dear.

PETER:

I wouldn’t want the nursery locked up, ever.

GEORGE:

Well, as a matter of fact, we’re thinking of turning the whole house off for about a month. Sort of camping out.

LYDIA:

Be fun for a change. Now, don’t you think so, Wendy?

WENDY:

No. It’d be awful.

PETER:

I don’t want to do anything but look and listen and smell; what else is there to do?

GEORGE:

(EXASPERATED) Oh, all right, all right. Go play in Africa.

PETER:

Are you gonna shut off the house soon?

GEORGE:

We’re considering it.

PETER:

I don’t think you’d better consider it any more, Pop. X-1.TheVeldt 20

GEORGE:

I won’t have any threats from you, son!

PETER:

Okay, Pop. Come on, Wendy. Let’s get back.

MUSIC:

BRIDGE … THEN IN BG, OUT AT [X]

NARRATOR:

After breakfast, Dr. David McClean arrived. [X]

MCCLEAN:

I saw the nursery last year, George. It looked all right to me.

GEORGE:

You didn’t notice anything unusual?

MCCLEAN:

No. The pattern showed the usual violence, a tendency towards slight paranoia. All children feel persecuted by their parents; perfectly normal.

SOUND:

A LION ROARS, OFF

GEORGE:

There! There it is.

MCCLEAN:

Suppose we take a look at it now.

MUSIC:

OMINOUS AFRICAN DRUMS & OTHER INSTRUMENTS … MEDIUM TEMPO (BUT SLOWLY INCREASING DURING SCENE) … THEN IN BG, OUT AT [X] X-1.TheVeldt 21

NARRATOR:

They entered without knocking and sent the children out. The screams had faded and the lions were feeding quietly under the trees.

GEORGE:

I wish I could see what they’re eating.

MCCLEAN:

How long has this been going on?

GEORGE:

A little over a month.

MCCLEAN:

It certainly doesn’t feel good.

GEORGE:

I don’t want feelings; I want facts.

MCCLEAN:

Now, George, George. A psychologist never saw a fact in his life. He knows about feelings. And this doesn’t feel good. Now, my advice to you is to have the whole room torn down and your children brought to me every day for the next year for treatment.

GEORGE:

Is it that bad?

MCCLEAN:

I’m afraid so. You know, that’s why the nursery was developed originally. To let us examine the patterns left on the wall by a child’s mind.

GEORGE:

But what is it? What’s wrong with Peter and Wendy?

MCCLEAN: X-1.TheVeldt 22

It’s hard to say.

GEORGE:

I haven’t punished them more than average. Oh, I took away a few gadgets. Last week, I locked the nursery to show I meant business.

MCCLEAN:

You’ve let this room replace you and your wife in your children’s affections. This room is their real father and mother. And now you come along and want to shut it. Well, you can feel the hatred coming out of that sky. George, turn everything off — the nursery, the automatic kitchen, the whole automatic house. Start now.

GEORGE:

But won’t the shock be too much for the children?

MCCLEAN:

I don’t want them going any deeper.

SOUND:

GROWLING LIONS APPROACH

MCCLEAN:

(SPOOKED) Let’s get out of here. Never liked these rooms; get me nervous.

GEORGE:

Those lions look real, don’t they? I don’t suppose there’s any way —

MCCLEAN:

What?

GEORGE:

— that they could become real?

MCCLEAN:

Not that I know. X-1.TheVeldt 23

GEORGE:

Some flaw in the machinery? Tampering?

MCCLEAN:

No.

GEORGE:

I don’t imagine the room will like being turned off.

MCCLEAN:

Nothing ever likes to die — even a room.

GEORGE:

I wonder if it hates me for turning it off.

MCCLEAN:

Paranoia is thick today. Wha–? Hello. Is this your scarf? It’s stained. Brown. Blood.

GEORGE:

That’s Lydia’s! Come on, the main fuse box is out here.

SOUND:

THEIR HURRIED FOOTSTEPS TO DOOR WHICH OPENS

MCCLEAN:

All right, go ahead. Pull the switch.

SOUND:

FUSE BOX OPENED, SWITCH PULLED

MUSIC:

DRUMS DECREASE IN TEMPO AND SLOWLY FADE OUT … SILENCE

GEORGE: X-1.TheVeldt 24

(RELIEVED) There. It’s off.

MUSIC:

A MELANCHOLY ACCENT … THEN IN BG, OUT AT [X]

NARRATOR:

The two children were in hysterics. They screamed and kicked and threw things. They yelled and sobbed and swore and jumped on the furniture, weeping.

GEORGE:

It’s off, and it stays off! The whole house dies as of now!

NARRATOR:

He marched around the house, cutting switches and pulling fuses. [X]

SOUND:

FOOTSTEPS … SWITCHES CUT, FUSES PULLED

PETER:

(TO THE HOUSE, DISTRAUGHT) Don’t let them do it! Don’t let Pop kill everything! (TO GEORGE) I hate you! I hate you!

GEORGE:

Insults won’t get you anywhere.

PETER:

I wish you were dead!

GEORGE:

We were, for a long while. Now we’re going to start really living. Instead of being handled and massaged, we’re going to live.

WENDY:

Once more, Daddy! Just once more!

PETER: X-1.TheVeldt 25

One more minute of the nursery, that’s all! Just one more minute!

LYDIA:

Oh, George, it can’t hurt really.

WENDY:

(CRYING) Awwwww–!

GEORGE:

Oh, all right – all right. Only shut up! One minute — and that’s the end! Forever.

PETER:

Gee, thanks, Pop! Thanks!

GEORGE:

And then we’re going on a vacation. Dr. McClean is coming in half an hour to help us out. Lydia, turn on the nursery for just a minute.

PETER:

Oh, boy! (HURRYING OFF) Come on, Wendy, come on!

WENDY:

(HURRYING OFF) Thanks, Daddy! Thanks a lot!

GEORGE:

(CALLS) Just one minute, remember! (TO HIMSELF) Now, where’d I put those suitcases? (CALLS) Lydia?!

LYDIA:

Don’t shout, George. I’m right here.

GEORGE:

(SURPRISED) Did you leave them alone in the nursery?

LYDIA: X-1.TheVeldt 26

Well, I’ve got to get ready, George.

GEORGE:

Well, I guess we’d better get them out of there before they get involved with those beasts again.

PETER:

(OFF) Pop! Pop, come here!

WENDY:

Daddy! Mommy!

GEORGE:

(TO LYDIA) Come on, quick!

LYDIA:

(CALLS) Wendy? Peter! What’s the matter?!

GEORGE:

Hurry up. Open the nursery.

SOUND:

DOOR OPENS

MUSIC:

AFRICAN DRUMS & OTHER INSTRUMENTS … FAST TEMPO … THEN IN BG

GEORGE:

Wendy? Peter?

LYDIA:

(PUZZLED) Why, they aren’t anywhere. Wendy? Peter?

GEORGE:

Peter! X-1.TheVeldt 27

SOUND:

DOOR SHUTS AND LOCKS

GEORGE:

The door! Open the door!

SOUND:

DOOR KNOB RATTLES

GEORGE:

They’ve locked it from the outside!

SOUND:

GEORGE POUNDS ON DOOR

GEORGE:

Peter!

LYDIA:

Peter!

SOUND:

GEORGE AND LYDIA POUND ON DOOR

LYDIA:

Wendy! Peter! Open the door, dear!

GEORGE:

Let us out, Peter! Open the door! It’s time to go! Open the door!

SOUND:

GROWLING LIONS APPROACH

LYDIA: X-1.TheVeldt 28

George! The lions.

GEORGE:

Peter, do you hear me?! Open this door!

SOUND:

ROARING LIONS … CLOSE

LYDIA:

They’re all around us, George!

GEORGE:

Son?! Son?! Do you hear me?! Let us out! Son?!

SOUND:

ROARING LIONS … VERY CLOSE

LYDIA:

George! Look out! The lions! They’re coming! (BLOODCURDLING SCREAM)

GEORGE:

(BLOODCURDLING SCREAM)

SOUND:

ENTIRE SCENE, INCLUDING MUSIC, FADES OUT … SILENCE

MUSIC:

SOMETHING SWEET, BUBBLY AND PASTORAL … THEN IN BG, OUT AT [X]

NARRATOR:

When Dr. David McClean came a half hour later, he found the two children in the nursery sitting in the center of the open glade eating a picnic lunch. Beyond them was the water hole and the yellow veldtland; above was the hot sun. At a distance, Dr. McClean saw the lions fighting and clawing and then settling down to feed in silence under the shady trees. [X]

MCCLEAN: X-1.TheVeldt 29

Hi, kids. Where are your mom and dad?

PETER:

Oh, they’ll be here directly.

MCCLEAN:

Good, good. We’ve got to get along.

MUSIC:

UNEASY … THEN IN BG

NARRATOR:

He squinted at the lions with his hands up to his eyes. Now they were done feeding and they moved to the water hole to drink. A shadow flickered as the vultures dropped down from the blazing sky — to finish what the lions left.

WENDY:

Dr. McClean? Dr. McClean?

MCCLEAN:

Huh? What?

WENDY:

(INNOCENTLY) Have a cup of tea?

MUSIC:

FADES OUT SLOWLY

MCCLEAN:

(DICTATES) Which concludes my report to date. There were no lions, of course. Not in a physical sense. Lydia and George were devoured, however, almost as surely as if there had been lions. Their personalities were devoured by the mechanistic marvels which had usurped their role as parents. All four members of the family are under intensive therapy now and are doing as well as can be expected. (TO SECRETARY) Send that by Telerope, Miss Carver. (STARTS TO FADE) Oh, and, uh, would you ask George Abbott to step inside? I’m ready for him now. (FADES OUT) X-1.TheVeldt 30

SOUND:

TRANSITIONAL PAUSE

ANNOUNCER:

You have just heard “X Minus One,” presented by the National Broadcasting Company in cooperation with Street and Smith, publishers of Astounding Science Fiction.

MUSIC:

CLOSING THEME … IN BG, FADES OUT AT [X]

Michal: Distillations is more than a podcast. We’re also a multimedia magazine.

Bob: You can find our videos, our blog, and our print stories at Distillations.org.

Michal: And you can follow chemheritage on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Michal: For Distillations, I’m Michal Meyer.

Alexis: And I’m Alexis Pedrick, thanks for having me!

Bob: and I’m Bob Kenworthy.

BOTH: Thanks for listening.

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