Tekeli-Li!: Edward Morris

FADE IN: INT, STUDIO SOUND STAGE, DAY

NARRATOR paces, smoking and looking pensive. NARRATOR is ROD SERLING.

ROD SERLING: Tonight’s hour-long special broadcast was originally written in Nineteen and Thirty-One, by a gentleman from New England whose imagination was too big for his time. It is brought to the CBS screen by a good friend of mine, another great writer, Charles Beaumont, and a star-studded cast.
I told Chuck no one else could do this like he could. Chuck says, ‘No one’s going to.’
Material may be strong for some viewers. Please use your discretion. And enjoy the show. Based on At The Mountains of Madness, the great novel of Cosmic Horror by Howard Phillips Lovecraft, we present “Tekeli-Li!”

DISSOLVE TO: STOCK OPENING “TWILIGHT ZONE” MONTAGE

CUE OPENING THEME:

ROD SERLING (Voice-Over): You are about to leave the last hint of the known world behind, and enter a haunted, accursed realm where Life, Death, Space and Time, have made blasphemous pacts in the unknown aeons since Life first wriggled and flopped in the primal steaming waters as the continents slid across the planet like butter on a hot skillet. The stars overhead are not of this Earth… but of the Twilight Zone.

SLATE: “TEKELI-LI!”
STARRING:
DARREN MCGAVIN as DR. DERLETH
PAUL PETERSEN as HOWIE
VINCENT PRICE as DR. PICKMAN
HENRY DANIELL as DR. WAITE
and SLIM PICKENS as GEDNEY

FADE DOWN OPENING THEME. FADE IN: INT, BEAUMONT HOME; WOODLAND HILLS, CALIFORNIA,
NIGHT
SLATE: AUGUST 13, 1963

Chuck leans back in his leather office chair, massaging his temples. Under his fingers, his chestnut hair is going gray there, nowhere else. Slowly. He catches sight of his reflection in the window-glass. Outside his window, two houses away, a transistor radio is playing the Drifters’ “This Magic Moment”, but he hears the song only as white noise.

Chuck’s been preoccupied tonight. He doesn’t want to have to admit the headache has returned. Not now. God damn it, not tonight.

Tonight feels like a dream, like everything is just that tiny bit off, down the rabbit hole, as clear as it is utterly unearthly. Perhaps the headache will keep him awake to finish. They almost invariably do. But magic moments come with them, and sometimes decide to stay.

When the headaches come, Chuck feels like a child with a nosebleed, or a case of the mumps. Like a child who had to go and get meningitis, and make his poor mother work so hard she had to get… mad, a little mad, sometimes mad enough to punish him. He never told Dad about those punishments. Dad must have known. He must have known something.

Mom called him a faker. Mom made him put on… those clothes, the wig. Made him go about in a dress until he said he was sorry, or she’d do for poor little Belshazzar with strychnine in the Alpo. A man didn’t talk about those things with anyone, not when a parent went crazy like that.

All right, parents. And the creepy Aunts up in Washington wondered why he got so twitchy when they tried to tease their foundling, after he stopped living with Mom and Dad. He couldn’t tell them, and Grandmother knew enough to keep quiet.

A man didn’t talk about those things with other people. Only on the page. “Better this present than a past like that.” Chuck mutters into the silence of his own studio. Lovecraft’s father died of syphilis on a nut ward, he thinks for the thousandth time, staring at the typer and waiting for the red cloud to clear.

He’d seen a picture of the young writer in pigtails and a middy blouse, never explained, a half-forgotten plate in an old collection. The Providence Spook had crazy parents, too, and aunts who tried to clean up the mess.

As he thinks this, the thought gives rise to thoughts of several other kinds. He is so consumed, he barely has time to scribble them down, right on the typescript of his notes for the teleplay.

Chuck snickers. It’s coming easier now. He can’t believe how easy any of this is. This show, this new show of Rod’s, is the greatest gift anyone ever dropped into Chuck’s lap, or Dick Matheson’s lap, or any of the boys in that gang.

Even Chuck’s own kids get as ramped-up as he does when a new episode comes closer and closer to air-time. His wonderful, long-suffering wife Helen wept when she saw a younger version of him, played by an actor, suddenly popped out of his Walter Mitty job by a little wooden doll coming to life and playing a clavichord.

Everyone loved what he and his friends were doing, and the stick of female dynamite who was his best editor loved it best of all. And in workshop, Richard Matheson kept him honest, or he kept Dick honest, or somewhere in between.

One of the two of them was always going under the earth to mine raw ideas, while one stayed above to weigh them and clean them. Like sparring-partners. “Or like a drag race,” Chuck grins tiredly. “Like a couple of goddamn J.D. kids drag-racing.”

The teasing doesn’t touch his heart. What does is the chance he has been given to take so many chances, the buffer that Rod Serling makes between the writers and the network execs as thick and strong as a mountain.

Like their writing workshop. Chuck thinks of the way everyone in that room looks at him sometimes. Like he was a real writer like Bradbury, or that young fireball Harlan Ellison. Like he, Chuck, was somehow responsible for anything the rest of them were doing. Like he was…

But he can’t say it. Not even to himself.

BOOM. BOOM. The headache starts up again at the base of Chuck’s skull, twisting red fibers down his spine.

Not now. God damn it, not tonight. The kids are doing homework or in bed. Helen just cut the label on a bottle of Scots whisky that was almost as old as he was.

The Leonid meteors were supposed to fall tonight, or the Perseids, or some -id or other. He was lucky he could remember she’d asked him to come watch them on the lanai, let alone what month it was for meteors. There were stories to get out, checks to collect…

But Poverty hasn’t been Chuck’s real motor for a little while. Chuck knows what his real motor is, and keeps it finely tuned and oiled. He learned that motor from the ground up.

It was never the money, the girl to impress, the mouths to feed. Chuck came to wind that motor out, to push the red, and if he went down in flames it would be at speeds no other human being was capable of the bare-wires courage to even attempt…

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