Short Story of the Day (flash fiction), Out of Hand by Neil Clark

A cleaner at the airport asked what I’d do if I had a time machine.

—-Neil Clark, from Out of Hand

Charles Umlauf
Spirit of Flight
Love Field
Dallas, Texas

I found this from a link from yesterday’s story. It’s very short – spare and efficient.

Read it here:

Out of Hand by Neil Clark

from Spelk

Neil Clark

When I was a little kid I saw a Twilight Zone episode – A Kind of a Stopwatch. This guy is given a magical stopwatch – when the watch stops, time stops. When he stops the watch, he stops the world (except him). This is a Twilight Zone – so things don’t end well. While time is stopped, he robs a bank and accidentally breaks the watch. He is trapped.

A famous episode and rightfully so. Complete fiction – of course. But it scared the crap out of me. I was petrified of the idea of somebody else stopping time and never starting it. I would compulsively wave my hand in front of my face to convince myself that time was still moving.

Unfortunately, it never stopped.

Short Story of the day – Button, Button by Richard Matheson

While she was stacking dishes, she turned abruptly, dried her hands, and took the package from the bottom cabinet. Opening it, she set the button unit on the table. She stared at it for a long time before taking the key from its envelope and removing the glass dome. She stared at the button. How ridiculous, she thought. All this furor over a meaningless button.

Reaching out, she pressed it down. For us, she thought angrily.

—-Richard Matheson, Button, Button

The button on the Maestro’s shirt – detail from “The Storm” a mural on Ace Parking Garage at 717 Leonard Street, Dallas, Texas

Sunday, I came out into the living room to eat some eggs that I had scrambled with a few beans and some sausage. The television was on and a series of old Twilight Zone episodes were playing from the Syfy channel. Right when I sat down I Sing the Body Electric – which was written by Ray Bradbury and adapted into a short story of the same name (I was familiar with it) was on.

(2 minute preview)

I love the old anthology television shows – Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits… especially Alfred Hitchcock Presents. First, it’s fun to spot famous actors – Twilight Zone was the Law and Order of its time. I Sing the Body Electric had Veronica Cartwright in it.

But what I really like are the stories. So many of these were written by famous and extremely skilled short story writers. I am amazed at the work.

Sure enough, the next episode was Mute, by Richard Matheson. He was an amazingly prolific pulpy writer and you have seen his work everywhere (probably best known for I Am Legend – made into several movies) – he wrote sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone alone.

I looked for a copy of the short story Mute online, but couldn’t find one. I did find another Richard Matheson story however:

Button, Button by Richard Matheson

This is a famous story – the basis for a shitty Cameron Diaz move called The Box.

It was also made into an episode of The Twilight Zone – this time the 80’s incarnation.


The ending of the television is very different than the short story – not sure which I like better… at any rate, Richard Matheson wasn’t happy the Twilight Zone Version and used a pseudonym as the author. So read the story and watch the show. Which one do you prefer?

Actually, in looking around, I found something that I really liked… probably the most realistic take on the story.

This is Funny or Die’s version, which is genius:




Short Story Day Twelve – Paladin of the Lost Hour

12. Paladin of the Lost Hour
Harlan Ellison

This is day Twelve of my Month of Short Stories – a story a day for June.

Some stories are hard to put in a category – Science Fiction? Fantasy? Speculative Fiction? – I have a category I like to use for stories like today’s – Crackerjack. It’s a bit longer than the ones I’ve been linking to this month – but please read it… it’s worth it.

Paladin of the Lost Hour has an interesting history. The text fiction was written simultaneously with a screenplay of the same name for the new (1985) version of The Twilight Zone. When the story editor and a producer saw the script they liked it but suggested a change for the ending (the penultimate scene, apparently). Ellison immediately rejected the idea and an argument resulted. After a few days of thinking about it, the author realized they were right and rewrote the ending. Now, he admits the change made the story much better. Now, the revised version is the preferred one, and the one that is in print.

I would like to find the original… but haven’t yet.

I’ve been a fan of Harlan Ellison for as long as I can remember. His short stories, screenplays (remember, he wrote The City on the Edge of Forever, the best Star Trek episode ever)… even his anthologies (I think the reading the Philip José Farmer tale, Riders of the Purple Wage, from Ellision’s groundbreaking original Dangerous Visions is one of the highlights of my life) embody a courage that is lacking in so much… and something I would like to emulate.

Courage… something so rare, difficult, and always ephemeral.

Like the wind crying endlessly through the universe, Time carries away the names and the deeds of conquerors and commoners alike. And all that we are, all that remains, is in the memories of those who cared we came this way for a brief moment.
—- Harlan Ellison, Paladin of the Lost Hour

Here is a youtube video of the Twilight Zone Episode. It’s one of Danny Kaye’s last performances. I’d recommend reading it first – there is an interesting mystery in the text that, obviously, has to be spelled out in the television performance.