Friday, November 21, 2008

Thoughts from the Bottom

As I reflect on the year, it seems to me a cascade of small epiphanies, giving way to bigger ones, each one more horrific than the last, as we try to grasp the size of the thing.

I've been beating myself up for continually going back in too soon, but it's not just me. Nobody saw this coming. Everybody's beating up on themselves for not seeing how big it was. We still don't know how big it is.

I'm reminded of a short story I read as a kid about a young couple who found a great apartment in a nice building for half the normal rent. It had a creepy janitor, but everything else was just what they wanted.

They moved in and everything was fine for several weeks, except sometimes at night, they could feel and hear a low, rumbling hum and vibration that seemed to come from everywhere in the building. They went out in the hall and downstairs, but they could still hear and feel it. It seemed to come from the walls and the floors themselves. Once, they went down in the basement and discovered some huge, shiny metal engines that seemed to be attached to the building itself.

They went back to their rooms and went to bed.

The next morning, the man said to his wife: "I think that this building is some kind of spaceship."

She looked at him and said, "The whole building?"


They didn't talk anymore about it, but one night, when they were in bed, the hum and vibration started up again, but this time it was louder than ever before and the floor and the walls were shaking.

The young couple woke up in alarm and decided that they should get out of the building as soon as possible. They ran downstairs and out into the street. But the vibration and hum was still there. It was coming from the sidewalks and the other buildings.

The man looked at his wife and said, "My God! It's the whole block!"

That story was written in the fifties. We're way past the whole block stage, now. Yahweh, himself, may have to underwrite this deal. God help us.

1 comment:

Larry Blumen said...

The story is "Shipshape Home" by Richard Matheson, first published in the July, 1952, issue of Galaxy magazine.

I retold the story from memory, but then decided to find it - in an anthology at Amazon - to see if I had rendered it accurately.

The main thing I got wrong is that the woman, not the man, was the one who suspected that something was wrong, although it was the man who first surmised that the building was a spaceship.

Matheson also gave the punchline, at the end, to the woman. And the creepy janitor had a third eye in the back of his head. Hindsight, apparently, was advantageous to his kind.