Perfect timing for this…"HAPPY FIFTY YEARS, DR. C! Yes, we know you screwed up that fateful day, Wednesday September 12th '62, but we love you just the way you are!" Okay, movin' on. Dan, it's gonna be one long chapter, this one.
It's Only a Movie
"Charlotte, where are we going?" Jeffrey asked, chuckling unsurely, as Charlotte pulled him into the taxi.
"Philadelphia, please. By the Capital Cinema." Charlotte called to the cabby.
"Sure thing, miss." The engine revved and drove down alongside the Delaware River.
"Charlotte, what's this all about?" Jeffrey asked again, watching the sun set over the low hills.
"Well, I thought we'd have a grand finale for our trip."
"And I take it as we're watching a film."
An hour later, the taxi stopped along a sidewalk in Philadelphia, and Charlotte paid and tipped the cabby. Inside, two tickets were bought, and the two recipients found consecutive chairs in the theater room.
"The Fly, hm?" Jeffrey repeated the title. "Science fiction, I take it."
"Yep. You've done this, right?" Charlotte asked once they got settled. "'Cause I heard you say you went to America when you were a kid."
"Mm, yes. I forget what the film was though."
"I might remember. When I was a kid, you could get into the theater for a dime and get popcorn and/or licorice for an extra fifteen cents. There'd be broadcasts of news, much like television, about the war like USO shows, battlefields, war efforts for home, and lots more."
"I know, right?"
The lights began to dim, and the giant screen lit up with the logo and traditional fanfare of Twentieth Century Fox. On came a suspenseful music score with the introducing credits.
"Vincent Price. Cool. Gabby and I have always liked him."
The scene began with a subtle nocturnal back alley between a factory and a mansion where a night watchman began his duties. A whirring of a machine sounded quietly. Two sights caught his attention: a woman running away from the machine, a hydraulic press, and a man's head trapped under it, blood spilling from the sides.
A good deal of the viewers cringed at the gory sight, a lot of them hoping not to lose their lunch in their plush seats.
Francois DeLambre received two phone calls.
"Francois," The woman, his sister-in-law Helene started to say shakily. "I've killed Andre…Please help me. Call the police an-come quickly. I-I-I j-just-" She hung up, beginning to cry.
The other came from the watchman, who shared what he witnessed. "Something terrible has happened." He blurted in a strong French accent. "A man is dead. His head is under the press. And I saw a woman running-running away. I looked. I think it was Madame DeLambre."
Francois phoned for a known inspector and the police. "...Set to 50 tons; impact: zero." He read the press' gauge at the factory, the inspector at his side. "That's level with the bed...She didn't know how to operate the press." The body was identified as Andre's. Mortified and heartbroken, He expressed his feelings and wondered why Helene would do such a thing. "That's the stroke count." He later noted. "Whoever did this to Andre…it reads 'two.' They did it twice!"
At the DeLambre home, Francois and the inspector questioned Helene and her thoughts toward her husband's murder. What happened was quite clear but why was still a mystery. As she and the inspector conversed, her attention turned to a fly buzzing around, completely captivating her. After leaving her, the inspector was led by Francois to Andre's laboratory under the house. The once grand lab was now a great mess like a tornado had come through and destroyed it. With nothing else to say other than what Andre did for their company DeLambre-Frere, the inspector proposed the only cause of Helene's actions was insanity. Francois informed the inspector of Andre and Helene's feelings about the sacredness of life, how "they would never harm anything, not even a fly."
A few chuckles at the sadistic humor came from random spots throughout the audience. "Nice." Charlotte whispered.
In her room, Helene rested while a nurse hired by the inspector looked after her. Helene did show well significant signs of insanity with her comments about the world around her. Again, a fly caught her attention, and she screamed and ran out of bed in a relapse when the nurse swatted the insect to its death.
Aiyiyiy. Jeffrey and Charlotte thought in unison along with surrounding viewers.
Francois and the inspector, shortly after Helene's relapse, had a light debate about Helene's proposed insanity. Francois, after the mystery began, was looking after Philippe who was unaware of his father's death and was told he was away. During dinner, the boy asked, "Do flies live a long time?...Because I saw that fly that Mummy was looking for again…Its head is white instead of black and it has a funny sort of leg. It was on your desk this morning." He said afterwards that the day his dad left was when his mom started looking for it. "I had caught it," He continued. "But Mummy made me let it go. But then later she wanted me to find it again. She changed her mind; you know how women are."
"Smart boy." Jeffrey chuckled. "Sexist but smart."
Francois later on that evening visited Helene. She proposed the same question her son did earlier. He announced that the fly she searched for had dwelled in his study room. Anxious, she looked up. "You know now." She said.
When being asked what this mess was all about, Helene claimed that Andre wouldn't want her to tell. Knowing enough and having enough, Francois leads her into telling her story, lying that he has the fly. She agrees to under the condition that he destroys it afterwards and confesses that she was pretending to be insane for the sake of Philippe.
"This is not a confession." She warned as soon as the inspector arrived. "Although I killed my husband, I am not a murderess. I simply carried out his last wish."
A few months earlier on, as she narrated, the DeLambres were a happy family. Andre brought Helene down into the then-nearly perfect laboratory, more than anxious to show her something. She wandered around the complex and clean apparatus.
"Fascinating." Jeffrey whispered.
"A completely new line of research." He announced.
"Let me guess…" Helene said. "The permanent battery." Andre shook his head. "Not the portable reactor?"
"I'll show you…Helene, you're the first to see a miracle." He placed a pretty ceramic ashtray inside a glass chamber and quickly walked to an engine, turning knobs and flipping switches. A timer was set for fifteen seconds as he ran back to his wife, handing her a pair of sunglass-like goggles. "Now watch the box."
"If I could only get notes." Jeffrey huffed quietly.
"Paper? I brought my notebook." Charlotte offered, searching for and picking up a pen from her purse.
"Thank you." He courteously flipped past the filled pages to the first clean one he saw. Watching carefully and glancing between the screen and paper, he wrote furiously.
The whirring of the engine sped up. A ding sounded off. The countdown had begun. Three sets of neon lights connected to a generator flashed. A light blue grew from above the dish and filled the chamber and eventually the room, a mechanical roar raging from under the chamber. The couple removed their goggles and looked at the chamber.
"It's gone." Helene gawked. Andre opened up a sliding wall to the other half of the lab where a similar chamber stood. And there inside was the same dish. "It's the same one. Have you turned magician?"
"In a way." Andre replied. "For a split second, an infinite small part of a second, this was disintegrated. For one little moment, it no longer existed, only atoms travelling through space at the speed of light. Then here a moment later, it reintegrated into the shape of an ashtray." Helene refused to believe it.
"Doesn't sound possible, does it? But it is true. Take television, now what happens? A stream of electrons, sound and picture impulses are transmitted through wires in the air. A TV camera is the disintegrator; your set unscrambles or reintegrates electrons back into pictures and sounds.
"It's no trick?" She stood puzzled.
"No." The search of a new world seemed to be born until Helene pointed out a flaw on the ashtray. Disturbed, Andre dived back deep into his work, reviewing and rewriting notes, laws, and formulas all inside the impenetrable bubble called focus. After modifications, he mastered to perfectly transport a newspaper but failed to do so with the family cat, all the feline atoms lost forever.
All the while during the setups and testing, Jeff had already written through three pages and had almost run Charlotte's pen dry.
Finally, a few weeks later, Andre's contraption proved successful and complete. Thus he and Helene celebrated with dinner, a site at the ballet, and reintegrated champagne. The world seems at its best again.
Andre pursues his works again and leaves a note not to disturb him. Philippe attempts to show his mother a fly with a white head and leg. Reminded of his father's disapproval, he releases the fly from an empty matchbox.
Along with the note, Helene notices her husband's odd behaviors about having nothing to do with the world outside his lab. She called for him only to receive a piece of paper slid from under the door. The note read:
"Helene, I've had some trouble…"
"Trouble?" Helene repeated. "Andre, what's the matter? Answer me."
"I'm counting on you not to lose your nerve; for only you can help me. I've had a serious accident. But I'm not in danger at the moment although it's a matter of life or death…It's no good calling to me or saying anything. I can't answer; I can't speak. You've got to do exactly and very carefully what I tell you. Knock three times to show you understand and agree then fetch me a bowl of milk laced with rum."
Stuffing the note in her dress pocket, Helene hurried up the stairs to the kitchen and prepared her husband's beverage. Apparently her clumsiness caught the attention of the family housekeeper, Emma, and left her puzzled, grumbling as she cleaned up the mess made in the kitchen.
"That is one awesome maid." Charlotte whispered, slightly pointing at the screen.
Another note was found once she returned. "When you knock, I'll open the door. Walk over to my desk and put the milk on it. Then go into the other lab and try to find a fly. You will easily recognize it; its head is white…" The memory of her son with that captured insect terrorized her. "Don't hurt it; just give it to me. Before you come in you must promise to obey me implicitly. Don't look at me. Talking is useless; I cannot answer. Knock three times to show I have your promise. My life is in your hands."
Note number two stuffed in her pocket, Helene signaled with the three knocks. She stepped inside and followed Andre's wishes, setting the milk on the desk and going into the other lab. Andre seemed the same only with a black cloth over his head. He served himself his drink, lifting the cloth and making an odd slurping sound.
"Notice." Jeffrey pointed out. "His left hand is hidden in his pocket."
Doing what she could for help, Helene developed a Twenty-Questions-like method of communication: knocking once for 'yes' and twice for 'no.' She confessed that Philippe caught a fly similar to the one desired but made him let it go. In surprise, Andre accidently withdrew the hand from his lab coat pocket.
"Oh, god, Jeff." Charlotte muttered. "Good eye. And perfect timing too.
Terrified, Helene screamed and ran out of the lab to the refuge of the staircase, weeping over her husband's misfortune. Another note was typed out as she recovered herself. "Come back in morning. Will type explanation. Need you fresh and strong tomorrow. Poor darling. Sorry."
"I'm alright now, darling." She said shaking but confidently. "Don't worry. I'll find that fly." Wishing her husband a good-night, she retired to her room. She woke up the next morning feeling fresh, tired but fresh, only to remember Andre's predicament. Bringing down his breakfast tray, Helene received another note.
"Remember the ashtray experiment? I've had a similar accident. I transmitted myself successfully yesterday morning. But in a second experiment, a fly which I did not notice was in the disintegrator with me. When we reintegrated again, our atoms were mixed. And now my only hope is to find the fly. I've got to go through the machine once more and then pray that our atoms untangle.
"If you can't find it, I'll have to destroy myself."
Helene offered to call Andre's fellow scientists for help which Andre profusely protested against. She then asks for the help of Emma and Philippe. Near twilight, they managed to find it in the parlor only for it to escape through the window and out of the garden. "I don't know what's gotten into this house." Emma commented, frustrated.
A few people of the audience chuckled again at the wisecracker maid.
Depressed and down in the dumps, Helene gives a negative status report but tries to express hope. Andre served himself dinner mostly under the refuge of the black material, using the fly arm only when needed. Helene was dismissed again into the other lab and received another note.
"If you had caught the fly, you would not be reading this. I know you will never catch it now; it's hopeless. There are things man should never experiment with. Now I must destroy everything, all evidence, even myself. No one must ever know what I discovered; it's too dangerous. I've thought of a way; it's not easy, but I need your help."
Mustered, afraid, but determined, she ran into the first lab. "You can still reason, Andre! You've no right to destroy yourself; you mustn't think about it! You've still got your intelligence; you're still a man with a soul. You've no right to destroy yourself!"
Little did anyone in that theater know that those words would never impact until later on.
Andre began to type another message, this one being unclear but understandable. "Can't wait. Can't think easy since morning. Brain says strange things now. Feel my will going. Already strain very difficult think straight." During this, the fly arm strangely rose up against the human arm into a fight for Andre's will.
After being deprived of more time to find the fly and calling for help, Helene proposed transportation through the machine in the hopes the results will turn out similar to the ashtray experiment. Despite showing the logic for the need of the fly on the lab's chalkboard, Andre followed through. The disintegration and reintegration performed perfectly, Andre still in one piece.
"It has worked, hasn't it?" Helene asked, full of anticipation and glee. "Oh, and you'll be alright now! I know it worked!"
She tore off the black cloth to reveal something expected yet not.
Andre's head was gone, and in its place…
The head of a fly.
Jeffrey and Charlotte sat bewildered, somewhat wide-eyed and wide-mouthed, in silence at the far beyond terrifying site just revealed as Helene screamed. As the camera's angle surreally turned into the scaled vision of a fly. They weren't children to cover their eyes with their hands; they could only stare. The teleportation chambers were destroyed, blueprints and other apparatus were
Out of shock and fear, Helene passed out. Andre scooped up his wife and carried her to a small simple bed next to the desk. His tenderly stroking her face soon succumbed to the fly-will-controlled mad subhuman-like destruction of his laboratory. The teleportation chambers, supporting apparatus and blue prints were destroyed either by severe blows with an axe or other past inventions or burnt into ashes. Regaining his human will, he retained the black cloth to his head. He turned to the chalkboard and began to write, even as his fly's will interfered.
"No use now." He wrote. "Help me but don't come near me." His penmanship became sloppier as his new conquering will attacked more. "Kill fly, please. Love you."
"Sad." Charlotte whispered. "Sweet but sad."
"Very sad." Jeffrey agreed, thinking also about the loss of a great laboratory.
Andre led Helene to the factory through another staircase down the same alley. There he turned on the hydraulic press, the machine whirring to life, pulled a throttle, turned a knob or two, and pointed at a red button to Helene. During what seemed to be the last of his human will, he signaled her to press that button. Seeing the intimidating press come down, down to kill her husband, she rushed to her husband's side. It was shown that Andre's fly will had conquered once and for all as he tried to pull her in, making her scream.
She turned her face away as the significant BOOM! pronounced Andre dead. Mortified, Helene couldn't help but notice that the fly arm, the one remaining sign of this great accident, had yet to been crushed. Remembering and obeying her husband's last wish, she lifted the press again and let it down to destroy the fly arm. Her story ended with another BOOM!
Before the somewhat baffled inspector could leave, an overwhelmed Helene questioned whether it was wrong to destroy the thing—a fly-headed human—or not. He replied assuredly that she wasn't wrong. The inspector refused to believe a word of the story, rubbing it off as science fiction. Yet Francois stood up for what Helene had narrated and served a rebuttal. Nonetheless, the inspector, still convinced Helene is insane, was ready to take off to arrest Helene for the charge of murder.
"But, Inspector," Francois again protested. "It might be the truth…there must be something we can do to prove."
"There is." The inspector said subtly. "Show me the fly."
Defeated, Francois sulked on a garden bench, a distant clock tower banging, unaware of a high-pitched voice crying, "Help me! Help me!" The inspector arrived with policemen and paramedics and informed Helene of her warrant for arrest. Confused, she reminded him of what he told her, and Francois confessed that he had lied to her about having a fly, that he had never seen it. During the process of taking her away, Philippe arrives to see his mother only to be told no.
In the attempt to distract his nephew, Francois has a light chat with Philippe. The boy announced boringly that he saw the fly again. The conversation carried on when—
"You saw the fly?" Francois asked anxiously, grabbing the child's shoulders. "Where?"
"It's in a web." Philippe replied. "The spider's gonna get it by the bench in the garden." Francois rushed up the staircase and dragged the inspector outside to the garden.
"Help me! Please help me!" The same high-pitched voice cried from a frightened pale white face attached to a fly's body, Andre's now-small arm protruding on the left. The spider drew in closer, ready to devour its prey; the pleas grew louder.
No one knows how many intrigued, petrified faces filled the theater, how many tightly squeezed hands, how many quick deep breaths.
As the spider prepared to bite the human-headed fly, the inspector grabbed a rock and crushed the arachnid and insect.
Overwhelmed and shaking, the inspector sat down on the bench. "I didn't believe it, but you saw it." He said quickly. "You saw it, didn't you?"
"Yes." Francois replied with a mutual but calmer tone. "I-I saw it. I thought she was…"
"As God is my witness, I saw the thing. It's unbelievable; I shall never forget that scream as long as I live." Francois straightened up and looked at the inspector.
"You've committed murder just as much as Helene did. You killed a fly with a human head; she killed a human with a fly head. If she murdered, so did you."
"I know." They conversed and theorized about what could've happened. "Yes, it could've been suicide." The inspector finally agreed.
Shortly afterwards, Helene, Philippe and Francois returned to their daily lives. Philippe, now knowing his father was dead, asked his uncle for an answer.
"Well, Philippe," He began, sitting down. "He died because of his work. He was like, like an explorer in the wild country where no one had ever been before. He was searching for the truth; he almost found a great truth, but for one instant he was careless."
"That's what killed him?" Philippe asked, intrigued by what he heard.
"Searching for the truth is the most important work in the whole world…and the most dangerous."
"I'd like that. I'd like to be an explorer like him. Will you help me, Uncle Francois?"
"You're a dear one, Francois." Helene said tenderly. "So kind and thoughtful. Thank you."
"Here I am." Philippe announced, ready for a trip with his now surrogate father.
"Well, come along, you two. I'll see you off." Helene said as the fanfare ended the film.
The audience began evacuating towards the exits. Jeffrey stood up slowly as if he had been sitting there for years and decided to stand up again.
"Wow." Charlotte gasped, filled with mixed emotions. She looked at Jeffrey. Are you okay?" She asked, lightly shaking his arm. "Jeff?"
"Oh, err, of course." Jeffrey responded, smiling and coming out of his slight daze. He took Charlotte's hand and followed the last of the audience.
"How did you like it?" She asked.
"Oh, very much, indeed. The story itself was extraordinary, but the disintegrator-reintegrator device really puzzled me. Do you remember me telling you my idea for the—ahem!" He bent down by her ear. "…survival of humanity?" She nodded her head. "I need more options of performing that successfully. What do you think of teleportation?"
"As long as it's possible." She smiled.
"And as long as it...works." He added hesitantly.
"What?" Charlotte received a blank somewhat embarrassed glance from her date, and he quickly turned his eyes toward his shoes. She bit her lip in slight frustration, until the taxi arrived. What is he so worried about? She thought. Jeffrey courteously opened the door for her and slid in after she did.
A few minutes later, her head lifted, and she took his hand and looked him in the eyes.
"Jeff, just like all those other monster stories, it's only a movie. A mere piece of someone's imagination pulled together and put onto a roll of film." He smiled; she was right after all.
"You're absolutely right, Charlotte." He took her other hand. "And thank you."
"For what? Tonight?"
"Well, not only that, but for an idea."
"My pleasure, Dr. Hawkinson," He smiled.
"Oh, not yet. Not for about a year." He paused. "Of course, nothing like Dr. DeLambre's freak accident could really happen. Please, we're in reality."
"True. What could happen?"
The taxi pulled up to the hotel. Jeffrey and Charlotte quietly hurried through the foyer and up the staircase as to not wake the others up.
"Good night, Charlotte."
"Good night, Jeff." Before they could separate, he leaned over and kissed her cheek.
"Pleasant dreams, my dear." He whispered before he walked down the hall to retire in his room.
Slightly stunned, Charlotte walked to her room, occasionally touching that cheek as if it had been slapped. A sci-fi thriller…finding another concept for a friend's experiment…being kissed…Gosh, Charlotte thought, crawling into bed. What a great way to end a vacation.
Thought it'd be cool if Jeff he saw what he was parodied after. Crazy, huh? XD Still, I recommend the film. Rent it on Amazon, iTunes, whatever's available.
I just thought I'd say this. I'm sorry, gang. When I started I thought I'd have this finished (if not almost) by now. But life got in the way with depression, a really big day of my life to prepare for, busy school year, and getting prescription medication that has the side effect of lack of motivation. Thanks for bearing with me. You all rock!