Saturday, March 24, 2012

What's in a Name?

The title of my blog, The Long Morrow, is borrowed from a Rod Serling-penned episode of The Twilight Zone (my favorite television show).

Originally aired in January of 1964, and inspired by The Gift of the Magi, Serling's story deals with a dedicated astronaut who embarks on a solitary 20-year journey through space to explore a foreign planet. To save him the ordeal of a round trip of forty years of loneliness, he is to be placed in suspended animation (a sort of hibernation sleep). He will have thoughts and vivid dreaming but no movement, thereby not needing a large spaceship.

Shortly before leaving Earth, he meets and becomes totally enchanted by a young female colleague. He is filled with remorse that he will not get to grow old with her as he will return still a young man and she will have aged 40 years. But the couple commit to each other that they will meet again upon his return.

His communication systems fail on route and he has only sporadic contact with Mission Control back on Earth. Yet forty years later, he does return from his completed mission. Tragically, the job he was sent to do was already accomplished using new satellite technology developed after he left, and thus he returns a forgotten pioneer and not a celebrated hero.

Shockingly, it is revealed upon his arrival that he voluntarily disabled the suspended animation system about six months into his journey so that he would be the same age as his love when he finally returned. He barely survives the trip by using emergency supplies.

Unbeknownst to him (and mirroring the O'Henry classic), during his absence his female colleague has placed herself in suspended animation on Earth so that she would stay young for his return in the hopes that they could live out their full lives together. She leaves instructions to be awoken upon his return.

In the tragic end, the aged astronaut meets his still-young love, and with heavy heart urges her to go live her new life without him.

As he leaves, his superior consoles him somewhat by saying, "Stansfield, you're really quite an incredible man. Maybe the one distinction of my entire life, that I knew you... that I knew a man who put such a premium, on love. Truly... quite a distinction, Stansfield."

We all face our long morrows.

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