In a post-apocalyptic settlement, the inhabitants' survival is dependent on the advice of an unseen man living in a nearby cave. This dependence is tested when a band of soldiers descends on their town.
Ten years after an atomic apocalypse, a small group of survivors manage to eke out a very difficult existence. They've managed to survive in large part due to the advice they receive from an old man who lives in a cave outside of the town. Goldsmith acts as the intermediary and the old man's advice on things like crops or the safety of a batch of old canned goods are usually correct. When four soldiers led by Major French arrive in the town, the social order is upended with the townsfolk attacking the old man's cave but not really prepared for what they find inside. Written by
Where is this old man that keeps you on a diet? When does he come out?
He never comes out. He stays in the cave.
Well, I'm not surprised, Mr Goldsmith. I'm not surprised at all. You see, off Lake Erie we've got a pack of wierdies up there that bay at the moon once a week. And then around what used to be Chicago, man, we've got a real swinging cult goin' there. They've built themselves a statue made out of fissionable lead. This is their "diety". What do we have here? We have an invisible old ...
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Not one of my favourite entries. Thought provoking, yes, but Serling's closing statement tends to annoyingly simplify the meaning in a way that I just cant accept. The people who have survived a nuclear war are so wretchedly hungry and miserable it is hard to judge them whoever they follow. Other TZs depict some sort of survival after a nuclear war but this one shows a pointless encore for the human race. From the start I'm reminded of a line from A Midsummer Night's Dream, 'Moonshine and Lion are left to bury the dead'. There just isn't a palpable human spirit among the survivors, and why should there be? How far can we expect people to cling on desperately to life when the identity of the 'old man' is not explained to them. Who's to say faith is more useful than knowledge? An 'old man' in a cave who never comes out is an absurd rationale for detecting which food sources are contaminated by radiation. This story shows me that a lack of knowledge is dangerous.
You can easily find real world counterparts to Major French and Mr Goldsmith but I soon grew tired of this post-apocalypse preachy stuff.
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