For those who have read my column, you can bet that it’s probably going to be about sports or a certain musical artist. Well, this time, I am taking a different direction and will talk about weather. More accurately, I will talk about this blasted heat.
OK, OK, I’m not from Texas, but I’ve been here for more than 12 years (although it doesn’t seem like that long). My wife and I were talking last week during that ridiculous heat wave how no matter how long you’ve lived in Texas — or even if you’re a Texas native — you know the heat is coming, but you’re never truly prepared for it.
Now, I’ve been through some pretty brutal summers in my 12 years here, though I missed the last one that everyone talks about: 2011. I was deployed in Afghanistan at that time. It was hot there, but I must admit, I didn’t focus on the heat that summer.
A few years ago, in 2018, I remember several days in a row of real temperatures (less the heat index) being above 108 degrees. Not only was that miserable, but my car slugged along while I was delivering pizzas in the unrelenting heat. Last week, my car somewhat slugged along (albeit not nearly as badly) as I drove to and from work with temperatures soaring above 100. There’s something about heat and cars I own that they don’t agree with each other.
Today, while thinking about doing this column, I was thinking about the heat, and it reminded me of one of my favorite episodes from “The Twilight Zone,” made famous in the 1950s and 1960s by Rod Serling.
The episode to which I am referring is titled “The Midnight Sun,” which originally aired Nov. 17, 1961.
Before I recap the plot of this episode, I must issue a spoiler alert: The ending of the episode will be revealed.
Serling’s opening narration sets the scene as he says the characters introduced in the opening sequence have “been handed a death sentence.”
“One month ago, the Earth suddenly changed its elliptical orbit and in doing so began to follow a path, which gradually, moment by moment, day by day, took it closer to the sun,” Serling’s narration goes. “And all of man’s little devices to stir up the air are now no longer luxuries — they happen to be pitiful and panicky keys to survival.”
I read that last part and chuckle because though we have a good air conditioning unit, I feel like our “devices to stir up the air” are not luxuries in present day either.
In the episode, the temperature approaches 110 degrees and the sun hangs high over the sky at midnight, much as it does in Alaska during the summer (less the drastic heat).
The two main characters from the episode are an artist named Norma and her landlady named Mrs. Bronson. The two are the last from their apartment building in New York City.
The two try to support each other as their world crumbles. Power is intermittent, once busy streets are deserted and they are only allowed to use water for one hour of the day.
Norma and Mrs. Bronson become weaker and weaker as the temperature approaches 120 degrees. Mrs. Bronson asks Norma to paint “something cool” and tells her to stop painting the sun.
As Norma and Mrs. Bronson hunker down in the apartment, an armed looter enters the building and demands entrance to the apartment. Mrs. Bronson reluctantly lets the man in, who proceeds to drink their water. After drinking the water, he realizes their distress and begs forgiveness, saying the heat has made him delirious and tells of the death of his wife and newborn child. After granted forgiveness by Norma, the man leaves.
Norma tries to comfort Mrs. Bronson with her painting — a waterfall in a lush pond. Mrs. Bronson says she can feel the coolness before she suddenly dies. Norma screams and collapses as the thermometer shatters after reaching a temperature of 130, and the painting begins to melt.
Sometimes, I wonder if I’m about to see things spontaneously melt under the sweltering heat of the day. Are we in the Twilight Zone? I sure hope not, because if we were, there would be a weird twist, like it being a bad dream and we’re all running a fever from being sick because the Earth is actually moving away from the sun and we’re all instead freezing to death. Ooops, I gave it away. But you already knew I was going to.
Was Rod Serling seeing 60 years into the future when he wrote that episode? If he did, all I can say is ... *gulp*