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You Died Last Night

Suspense

You Died Last Night 

Apr 01 1962 





DRAMATIS PERSONAE:

JOE PRESCOTT, hard-bitten, cynical

TONY, a warm, cultured voice

NELLIE, the pack mule (2 lines)







ANNOUNCER: And now -- a tale well-calculated to keep you in--


MUSIC: CHORD


ANNOUNCER: --SUSPENSE! In a moment, Act One of "You Died Last Night," starring Bob Readick and Santos Ortega, and written especially for SUSPENSE by Robert Arthur.


2ND ANNCR: This portion of SUSPENSE is brought to you by the makers of Alpine Cigarettes. 


MUSIC: DREAMY ... THEN IN BG


2ND ANNCR: What's it like to smoke an Alpine? Well, it's like many pleasant things you know. Nothing at all like the sort of smoking you may be used to. Alpine is a fresh, clear sort of smoke. If this sounds good to you, try Alpine filter cigarettes.


SINGERS: There's something more to smoking with an Alpine - cigarette!


MUSIC: COMMERCIAL JINGLE ENDS ... THEN A BRIEF INTRODUCTION ... THEN BEHIND JOE--


JOE: (NARRATES) My name, Joe Prescott. Occupation, garage mechanic; age, thirty-four. Unmarried. Nobody ya ever heard of before.


But I have a question for you. What happened to ya last night? Now, don't answer, because whatever you say, you're wrong. All of you. You see, I know what happened last night. Because I saw it happen. You, and you, and you. And all of you. You died last night.


MUSIC: UP, FOR AN ACCENT ... THEN BEHIND JOE--


JOE: (NARRATES) All right, let's start over; and don't bother to say I'm off my rocker; I'm gonna tell you what happened. And I'm gonna do my best to make all of you believe it, because if you don't -- all of you -- I got a pretty good idea you're gonna die again, some night soon.


So we go back two days, to the day before yesterday. Time, exactly four p. m. Place, thirty miles northeast of Bakersfield, California. Characters, just me, Joe Prescott, and Nellie, my pack mule. I was prospecting, like I do every year for a couple of weeks, for the fun of it. Only this time, I'd struck somethin' -- somethin' that looked big. Because I didn't have anyone else to talk to, I talked to Nellie.


(LIGHTLY, TO NELLIE) Nellie, old girl, looks like you'll be able to retire if this is as big as I think it is.


NELLIE: (HEE HAWS)


JOE: (CHUCKLES) That's right -- laugh. But this time I mean it. I'm gonna blow a hole in this ridge and see what's down there. A nice big hole; about twelve sticks of dynamite.


MUSIC: ACCENT ... THEN BEHIND JOE--


JOE: (NARRATES) I tied Nellie to a tree, then I drilled a hole. I put in twelve sticks of dynamite. I attached a sixty-second fuse and lit it. 


SOUND: EERIE NOISE OF SPACESHIP APPROACHING ... CONTINUES BEHIND--


JOE: (NARRATES) And then I heard the noise. And out of no place, I saw it appear. A kind of blur above the rocks, like a spinning top. I knew I wasn't imagining it because Nellie heard it, too.


NELLIE: (HEE HAWS NERVOUSLY)


JOE: (LOW, TENSE) All right, easy, girl, easy, easy. Easy!


SOUND: EERIE NOISE FADES OUT


MUSIC: UNEASY ... BEHIND JOE--


JOE: (NARRATES) And there it was -- sitting in the rocks where I just planted the dynamite -- a spaceship. An honest-to-gosh flying saucer, half as big as a house. I acted automatically, not even thinking; put my foot on the fuse and crushed out the spark.


And then I looked at this thing, goggle-eyed. An opening appeared near the ground and something came out.


It looked-- Well, it looked sort of like a - a fuzzy orange teddy bear, five feet tall. It had two eyes, raised on long stalks, and those eyes looked at me. And I looked at them.


And then this teddy bear spoke to me.


TONY: (FILTERED, DRY) Hello, Joe. What do you know?


MUSIC: ACCENT ... THEN IN BG, OUT AT [X]


JOE: (NARRATES) Sure, it sounds funny, but that's what this thing said to me. It's funny because it's a slang line that I use myself, and the teddy bear had just plucked it right out of my mind, along with all the other words that I knew.


TONY: (FILTERED) Please do not be frightened, Joe. I just want some information.


JOE: (NARRATES) I believed it. And I relaxed. The teddy bear nodded.


TONY: (FILTERED) That's better, Joe. How 'bout coming inside the ship with me?


JOE: (NARRATES) I crawled inside, and he followed. The lens-like opening closed and I was in-- Well, I suppose it was a control room. It had some dials and screens -- like television screens -- and a couple of overstuffed toadstools that turned out to be sort of chairs. And while I was looking around, the teddy bear started -- (UNNERVED) -- taking off his orange skin. [X]


TONY: (FILTERED) Easy, Joe. Don't panic. This is just a spacesuit I'm wearing. Naturally, it doesn't look like your spacesuits. (WITH EFFORT, AS HE REMOVES SUIT) I can't breathe your air.


SOUND: SPACESUIT REMOVED


TONY: (VOICE NO LONGER FILTERED) The nitrogen would poison me. (EXHALES) You can breathe my air, though. The nitrogen is replaced by something inert. There. Do I look any better to you?


MUSIC:  UNEASY ... BEHIND JOE--


JOE: (NARRATES) Well, now he certainly looked more human. Though I don't guess he was. Anyway, not exactly. Out of the orange spacesuit, he looked like a five-foot-tall old man wearing some flowing green material. He was bald, had pointed ears. He had large green eyes that seemed - friendly.


TONY: Good. Now you're not afraid any more. Incidentally, what you are thinking of is my ears are really-- Uh, what's your word, uh--? Antennae. Like, uh-- Yes! Like your moths.


JOE: (STILL STUNNED) Antennae, huh?


TONY: Yes. Ordinarily, I could use my antennae to hear your thoughts. But your human thought patterns seem so different from ours that we'd better use speech. Now that I've picked enough words out of your mind and, uh-- Why don't you call me "Tony"? (NO ANSWER) Joe?


JOE: Mm hmm. Sure. But Tony what?


TONY: Just Tony. Short for Thonian. That's what we call ourselves, Thonians. Just as you call yourselves humans.


JOE: So you're from outer space.


TONY: Yes. About fifteen light-years away. And it seems I got here just in time.


JOE: I don't get you. What do you mean, "just in time"?


TONY: To take the necessary steps, Joe.


JOE: Necessary steps for what? 


TONY: A few hours ago, our galactic survey bureau picked up radioactive waves coming from space. We located them in this solar system and I was sent here immediately. Apparently, about fifteen years ago, you humans exploded a quantity of radioactive material for the first time. 


JOE: Yeah, I guess so. The first atom bomb.


TONY: That means you humans have discovered the secret of atomic energy. It won't be long before you're building spaceships and traveling to the stars.


JOE: I suppose you're right.


TONY: You see, we Thonians are rather set in our ways. We like peace and quiet. Frankly, we've had a lot of trouble with younger races who discovered atomic energy and came journeying through the universe trying to conquer everything in sight.


JOE: Yes, I can see how that might happen. They'd rather fight than be friends, hm?


TONY: Much too often. So now we just prevent trouble before it starts. I'm here to find out what the human race is like. If it doesn't measure up, I may have to take - drastic action.


MUSIC: OMINOUS ACCENT ... THEN BEHIND JOE--


JOE: (NARRATES) That's what he said -- "drastic action." Meaning that if he didn't like our looks, he was going to destroy the human race -- before it could ever get dangerous to the Thonians.


TONY: Now, Joe, you mustn't be upset. It may not come to that. I'm here to take corrective action, yes. But I can decide whether it will be mild, severe, or -- drastic. 


JOE: (DRY) Mm hm. And what does "mild" mean?


TONY: (CASUAL) Oh, blow up all atomic energy installations.


JOE: And what would "drastic" be?


TONY: That would involve turning your world into a ball of flaming gas.


JOE: That's nice.


TONY: But it's hardly ever necessary.


JOE: Oh, that's a consolation. So what is the other possibility -- "severe" measures?


TONY: Mmmm, I'd say, er-- Eradicate all large cities and towns.


JOE: You mean wipe them out?


TONY: Remove them from existence.


JOE: And kill a few hundred million human beings?


TONY: Oh, more than that. Reduce the population of the world to, say, fifty million people, and let them rebuild. But believe me, Joe, it would be quick and painless.


JOE: (IRRITATED) Oh, just like that, huh? Kill off most of the population and leave a few to rebuild?


TONY: Really, it's not as bad as you think. You could think of it as, um-- What's the word I want? Ah, yes. As, uh, pruning.


JOE: (SLOW, ICY) You mean like fruit trees?


TONY: Exactly. Sometimes races need - pruning, too. And I'm afraid that from the Thonian viewpoint, the human race badly needs - pruning? Yes, Joe. Rather, perhaps, eh?


MUSIC: ACCENT ... THEN BEHIND JOE--


JOE: (NARRATES, WITH DISGUST) There you have it. Here was - "Tony," a representative of a super-race from the stars, come to our Earth in a super-spaceship to destroy us. And what could I do about it? Nothing. Oh, I grabbed for the revolver that I always carry when I'm prospecting, but Tony turned those big green eyes on me and I froze, paralyzed like a statue. 


TONY: You see, Joe? You're helpless. Please accept the inevitable. It'll be better that way.


JOE: (BITTERLY) Okay, Tony. What choice do I have? (INHALES DEEPLY, DRY) Well, what now? When do the festivities start?


TONY: Festivities? (BEAT) Oh, you are being humorous. You mean, when do I begin corrective measures?


JOE: That's right. I suppose you have ray guns, bombs, stuff like that, to do your dirty work.


TONY: Joe, if only you wouldn't use words like "dirty work." If you could just think of it as a necessary and helpful - pruning.


JOE: Yes, well, I can't. (BEAT) Let's keep it on a high plane. Suppose I say "preventive" measures?


TONY: Well, it does sound better, I must admit. But to answer your questions, I do have a store of bombs. Very small, but very efficient. I don't carry any armaments as such. My ship is very light and delicate. It's built for speed, not for fighting. But then, we Thonians haven't had to fight anyone for the last million years.


JOE: Killed off the opposition before it got started, huh?


TONY: I guess you could put it that way. Later, the other races we've dealt with have grown up to be mature and peaceable. So there are no wars, interplanetary or otherwise.


JOE: I get the picture. I don't say I like it, but I get it.


TONY: Splendid. I'm favorably impressed by your quickness, Joe. Perhaps the human race is better than I think. But now let's start out on our tour of inspection.


JOE: Inspection?


TONY: Of your Earth. I have to make it before I decide what preventive measures to take -- mild, severe, or -- drastic. 


SOUND: BANG! THE SPACESHIP ENGINES START AND REV UP ... ENGINE HUM CONTINUES IN BG, IN AGREEMENT WITH FOLLOWING--


JOE: (NARRATES) Tony pushed some buttons. The walls of the spaceship became transparent. It was as if we were sitting in mid-air. And then we began to move, drifting up and away. I saw Nellie, my pack mule, raise her head and hee-haw after us. And then we were zipping over the mountains until they were only a blur under us. I began to ask Tony questions about how the ship worked, looking for an angle -- anything -- that might help. (BEAT, TO TONY) Tony, how--? Did you say that it was only a few hours ago that your race first knew an atomic bomb had been set off on Earth?


TONY: Four hours and -- let me see -- forty-eight minutes, by your time, Joe.


JOE: And then you covered fifteen light-years in under five hours? How could you do that? I thought nobody could travel faster than the speed of light.


TONY: They can't, Joe. But, you see, this ship travels both in space - and in time.


JOE: Travels in time?


TONY: When I have a long trip to make, I start the space-drive and set the automatic pilot. Then I turn the time-control forward to the estimated duration of the trip. And there I am -- at my destination.


JOE: That way you can do a year's traveling in a second.


TONY: More or less. Time travel is a little tricky. But very convenient for long distance travel.


JOE: Yes, plenty convenient. But can you travel backwards in time?


TONY: Yes, the process is reversible. We could go back to that instant when you first saw the ship, if we wanted to.


JOE: And would I be standing there looking at you, the way I was?


TONY: Uh, no, you'd be inside the ship -- because you are now. So the past would be changed. Going backwards is a bit tricky, you see. We seldom do it.


JOE: Mm. Now, Tony--?


TONY: Yes?


JOE: Now, let me see if I've got this straight. Back on your planet, fifteen years have passed since you left?


TONY: That's correct. And fifteen more will pass before I get back, Joe. (ADMIRING) You humans are intelligent. And rather likable, judging from you. I do hope I won't have to take - drastic measures on your world.


SOUND: SPACESHIP ENGINE UP AND FADES OUT WITH--


MUSIC: UNEASY TRANSITION ... THEN BEHIND JOE--


JOE: (NARRATES) Well, I learned something, but not much. We sped along and there were the lights of a city underneath us, Los Angeles. Tony slowed down to study it. (BEAT, TO TONY) That's one of the cities I suppose you're going to have to blow up, isn't it, Tony?


TONY: Oh, I do hope I won't have to, Joe. Perhaps it can be avoided. What is that over there?


JOE: Oh, that? That's, um-- It looks like an amusement park.


TONY: An amusement park? I'd like to study that.


MUSIC: FOR AN AMUSEMENT PARK ... THEN IN BG--


JOE: (NARRATES) The ship came to a stop a hundred feet in the air above a big amusement park right on the beach. Apparently, we couldn't be seen, but we could see and hear everything down below perfectly. First, Tony seemed interested in the rifle range.


SOUND: RIFLES FIRED, TARGETS HIT, BELLS RING, ET CETERA


JOE: (NARRATES) And next, he swooped down over an open-air dance platform where a band was playing while a hundred couples danced.


MUSIC: CHANGES BRIEFLY TO DANCE BAND, THEN IN BG--


JOE: Well, Tony, there you are. Human beings. Enjoying themselves, having fun.


TONY: (MUSES) Having fun. Yes, your race has still the capacity to enjoy itself. We Thonians are very serious, I'm afraid.


MUSIC: DURING ABOVE, THE BAND FADES OUT FOR--


SOUND: ENGINE HUM OF HOVERING SPACESHIP ... IN BG


JOE: You still think we're so bad, we humans?


TONY: Joe, I never said you were bad. But you may be dangerous. It's my job to find out. Now let us see some more of your world.


SOUND: SPACESHIP ENGINE REVS UP


MUSIC: TRANSITION ... THEN BEHIND JOE--


JOE: (NARRATES) He pushed a button and the saucer leaped eastward across the continent. Beneath us, the mountains, the plains, the farmlands, forests, the lakes and cities. Tony kept pushing buttons and I asked him what he was doing.


SOUND: ENGINE HUM OF SPEEDING SPACESHIP ... IN BG


TONY: Why, Joe, I'm making a record. Sort of a-- What's your word? Ah, yes. Movie. A record of life on your world, for our scientists to study.


JOE: I thought you said it was up to you to make the decision whether or not, you know, you were gonna take "action."


TONY: Oh, it is. This record is in case I do take action. Then, a thousand years from now, our scientists can study these records and see if the new world you build after I -- Well, after I finish - pruning, shall we say? -- is better than the old one.


SOUND: SPACESHIP ENGINE REVS UP


MUSIC: TRANSITION ... THEN BEHIND JOE--


JOE: (NARRATES) What could I say to that? I kept my mouth shut. Suddenly, we were over New York. Tony slowed down the ship, brought it close to the ground. For a minute, we hovered there, directly over Times Square, unseen. Directly under us was the usual snarl of traffic, of people coming and going, the big electric signs flashing, the heart of the world's greatest city beating. For a couple of seconds, we just sat and listened. 


SOUND: TRAFFIC NOISE, HORNS HONKING, WHISTLES, ET CETERA ... THEN IN BG


TONY: (QUIETLY IMPRESSED) What energy your people have, Joe. What vitality! To what heights your race can climb.


JOE: If you let us.


TONY: If you let yourselves. Well, we must be going on.


SOUND: SPACESHIP ENGINE REVS UP


MUSIC: TRANSITION ... THEN BEHIND JOE--


JOE: (NARRATES) He pushed another button. We swept onward. And I saw the world as no man has ever seen it before. All the beauty and wonder and misery and horror of it.


MUSIC: CHANGES BRIEFLY TO BAGPIPE BAND BEHIND JOE--


JOE: (NARRATES) In England someplace, we stopped long enough to watch a parade led by a band of highland pipers. And then on across the rest of Europe.


SOUND: ENGINE HUM OF SPEEDING SPACESHIP ... IN BG


MUSIC: SNEAKS IN AT "WE SAW A MAN" BELOW ... THEN IN BG, OUT AT [X]


JOE: (NARRATES) Tony seemed to like to see human beings enjoying themselves. But we visited Berlin, too, and there we stopped a minute. We saw a man and a woman suddenly jump from a window in East Berlin, over the wall that they've erected, and run for safety in West Berlin. And we saw what happened.


SOUND: MACHINE GUN FIRE


JOE: (NARRATES) The man and woman fell and lay there where they fell. Tony pushed the button and then we were sweeping over barren wasteland, and suddenly Tony pointed.


TONY: Joe, look. See that?


JOE: (NARRATES, UNNERVED) I looked and hundreds of miles away I saw a tremendous burst of light, followed by the most enormous mushroom-shaped cloud the world has ever known. Tony pushed a button and suddenly we were thousands of miles out in space looking down at the Earth spinning underneath us. [X]


SOUND: ENGINE HUM OF HOVERING SPACESHIP ... IN BG


TONY: (QUIETLY) Joe, that was an atomic explosion. A tremendous one.


JOE: (SHAKEN) Yeah, I read the Russians were planning to set off another big one.


TONY: (APOLOGETIC) I guess that about decides it, Joe. Right up to the end, I was hoping that mild corrective measures would be enough. I like you humans. You're full of laughter and vitality. And you can be kind and generous. But you're also full of cruelty and hate. Such a puzzling race, Joe. And our scientists will study these records for a long time.


JOE: Only we'll all be dead, huh?


TONY: No. Not quite all of you. I'll leave a few of you to rebuild. And hope they'll do - a better job next time.


MUSIC: FOR THE PRUNING ... IN BG-- 


JOE: (NARRATES) He pushed a switch. 


And down below us, in ten thousand different spots, the Earth blew up. 


Ten thousand cities and towns vanished. 


Ten thousand times ten thousand people were gone, as if they'd never existed. 


And that was when it happened. 


Last night. 


When you, and you -- and you ...


... died.


MUSIC: SUBSIDES ... THEN IN BG, IN AGREEMENT WITH FOLLOWING ... OUT AT [X]


JOE: (NARRATES) I had to tell you all this so you'd understand how you died. 


When it was over, Tony told me he'd put me back on Earth anywhere I wanted. And that's when the idea hit me. I asked him to put me down at the exact spot that he picked me up. He pushed a button and we were back there, hovering over that little California valley. And then I asked Tony to satisfy my curiosity, to show me how his time travel gadget worked. In fact, I asked him, just a for a second, to take me back to the very instant, at four o'clock the day before, when I'd first seen his ship. He agreed; he turned a dial. And, all of a sudden, time turned backwards. It was the day before and none of it had happened.


You were all alive. The world was just as it had been. Everything was the same.


Except one thing.


The first time, I had been outside the ship. And now -- I was inside. Everything else was exactly -- exactly! -- the same, including that twelve sticks of dynamite with the fuse sputtering.


And now -- the dynamite was going to go off, because I wasn't outside to stamp out the fuse.


And as we hovered there ... [X]


... it did.


SOUND: MASSIVE EXPLOSION! 


MUSIC: IN BG, IN AGREEMENT WITH FOLLOWING--


JOE: (NARRATES) That explosion had ripped Tony's spaceship open; blew me out through a rip in the wall, and, as I lay dazed on the ground, I saw the Thonian spaceship go spinning wildly around, up into the sky, and out into space. And I knew Tony must be dead -- because his ship was a wreck; he'd have no air.


So I'd fixed things.


The world was okay.


You're all still alive.


I'd tricked Tony. He hadn't known about the dynamite.


MUSIC: ACCENT ... THEN BEHIND JOE--


JOE: (NARRATES) All right. There you have it. The whole story. How you died last night and why you're still alive now.


I had a broken ankle and a lot of bruises, but I rode Nellie back to town and told my story. And they laughed at me.


I suppose you're laughing at me now, thinking I've made all this up just to entertain you.


But you're wrong.


(SAVAGELY) You are wrong! Because out there in the stars is a race that doesn't that think we can be trusted. In fifteen years, they'll wonder why Tony doesn't come back. They'll send someone else to find out. Just fifteen years!


Before then, we have got to prove they can trust us after all.


We've got to act like human beings. We've got to live up to the best that's in us, not the worst.


And we've only got fifteen years.


(DEEP BREATH) I only hope we can do it in time.


MUSIC: UP, FOR A CURTAIN


ANNOUNCER: SUSPENSE!


MUSIC: CHORD


ANNOUNCER: You have been listening to "You Died Last Night," starring Bob Readick and Santos Ortega, and written especially for SUSPENSE by Robert Arthur.


MUSIC: SUSPENSE THEME


ANNOUNCER: SUSPENSE is produced and directed by Bruno Zirato Jr. Music supervision by Ethel Huber. Sound patterns by Joseph Cabibbo. Listen again next week when we return with "Let There Be Light," written by Erwin Lewis, another tale well-calculated to keep you in--


MUSIC: CHORD


ANNOUNCER: SUSPENSE!


CBS ANNCR: They're the most! Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney, weekdays, on the CBS Radio Network.



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