Generic Radio Workshop Script Library (BACK)

Series: Suspense
Show: Return to Dust
Date: Feb 01 1959

CAST:

The Suspense Team:
VOICE OF SUSPENSE
WILLIAM N. ROBSON, producer
ANNOUNCER
JOE
DAPHNE
2ND ANNOUNCER

The Players in Our Little Drama:
JAMES HOWARD, research fellow
MISS PRITCHART, secretary
DR. BADER, of the pathology department
DR. PASTEUR, the parakeet

MUSIC:

"SUSPENSE" THEME

VOICE:

SUSPENSE!

MUSIC:

ACCENT AND THEME ... CONTINUES IN BG

VOICE:

And the producer of Radio's Outstanding Theater of Thrills, the master of mystery and adventure, William N. Robson.

ROBSON:

Faithful listeners -- and who among you is not? -- will remember a strange and wonderful story we presented some time ago about a member of the Beat Generation called The Tennis Shoe. It was the first radio play by a young man of whom we have expected much, and we have not been disappointed. Herewith, another strange and wonderful story by twenty-six-year-old George Bamber. In years to come, we feel confident that we will be proud to recall that it was on "Suspense" that this brilliant writer was first heard. Listen-- Listen, then, as Richard Beals stars in "Return to Dust," which begins in just a moment.

ANNOUNCER:

Another visit with Joe and Daphne Forsythe!

JOE:

Okay, Daphne. The slides are all set. Turn off the lights.

DAPHNE:

There! Oh, Joe -- isn't that pretty? Where was that?

JOE:

That was Vail Pass on the Grand Divide. Remember how hard the wind blew?

DAPHNE:

I certainly do. And it was cold, too. Next time we go on a vacation, let's get an earlier start.

JOE:

Well, we saved money by waitin' till fall. Remember this one?

DAPHNE:

Oh, sure! That's Zion National Park. Oh, it was lovely.

JOE:

We sure had a lot of fun on that trip. Was worth the money.

DAPHNE:

It was a good investment, all right. Almost as good as Savings Bonds.

JOE:

There ya go again.

DAPHNE:

Well, I just can't get over how good a bargain they are. We women like bargains, ya know.

JOE:

Oh, I know. I know that. And four dollars back for every three invested is a pretty good bargain.

DAPHNE:

Right! Oh, was that where I fed the bear?

JOE:

Yeah, that's Yosemite. We were lucky the bears weren't already in hibernation.

DAPHNE:

How do they live when they hibernate?

JOE:

On fat they store up during the warm months.

DAPHNE:

Just like Savings Bonds!

JOE:

Huh?

DAPHNE:

Well, you buy a saving bond a month, right?

JOE:

Yeah?

DAPHNE:

And it's a great way to save, the way those bonds rack up interest, right?

JOE:

Right.

DAPHNE:

So we're just like the bears. We're storing up fat for our future use -- at interest rates that give us four dollars at maturity for every three invested.

JOE:

A very interesting idea.

DAPHNE:

You can learn a lot from nature.

JOE:

Yeah. Just imagine, Smokey the Bear sellin' Savings Bonds.

DAPHNE:

Oh, Joe! Show the slides.

VOICE:

And now--

MUSIC:

"SUSPENSE" THEME

VOICE:

"Return to Dust" -- starring Mr. Richard Beals -- a Tale Well-Calculated to Keep You in--

MUSIC:

"SUSPENSE" ACCENT

VOICE:

SUSPENSE!

MUSIC:

THEME OUT ... FUTURISTIC INTRO, THEN OUT UNDER FOLLOWING

JAMES:

(HIGH-PITCHED VOICE, LIKE A CHILD'S OR A WOMAN'S) Testing ... one, two, three. Testing ... testing.

Attention, Dr. Warren Bader, Department of Pathology, School of Medicine, State University. This is James Howard, Research Fellow in Pathology, speaking.

At the moment I am seated on the tape recorder that is recording this message to you. As a point of fact, by the yard stick on my desk, I stand exactly twelve inches and I am steadily decreasing in size.

[Ahhhhem. I am on top of my desk; I climbed up here before I should shrink to a point where I would be physically unable to get from the floor to the chair and thus to the desk top, and the telephone.

Ahh, it is a very strange experience to find one's desk an insurmountable object, like a mountain, to climb. However, the phone is by my side now and since it is my last contact with the outside world, it is imperative that I do not become separated from it.]

I calculate, if I continue to shrink at the present rate of speed, it is possible that I will become invisible to the human eye sometime before midnight.

I have been trying to reach you by phone since eight this morning. But you are not at home, and have not yet arrived at your office.

Since you are the only person with an adequate scientific background and technical knowledge to save me, it is imperative that my last whereabouts is known to you in the event I cannot contact you by phone. Thus, the precaution of this recording.

As you will have discovered by now, I have gone against your orders and pursued my theory of cancer cell growth by working in the lab at night after my regular duties.

[This is the same theory I proposed in publication December 1, 1957, and which you publicly ridiculed in the Scientific American Journal, September 3, 1958. Unfortunately, you were wrong, Dr. Bader.]

I have been trying to prove that the bio-chemical agent not only stops abnormal cell division, but reduces the existing cells in physical size until the neutralizer is induced. The fact that I have shrunk from five and one half feet to one foot should be proof beyond refutation, though my condition is the result of an accident.

While trying to introduce a more powerful catalyst in the laboratory last night, I inadvertently created an uncontrolled reaction which manifested itself as a white mist which filled the entire lab. The mist lasted no more than a few seconds and, as I observed no effects other than this, I continued working. When I got home, I descended into one of the deepest and blackest sleeps I have ever experienced. I awoke this morning to discover myself literally lost in a sea of blankets.

I had shrunk four feet, eight inches during the night. Naturally, my first reaction was one of panic, but I soon realized that my only salvation was to remain calm until I contacted you. You'll find a more complete report of my theory, and the experiments which I've conducted to prove it, in the uncompleted thesis here on my desk. This thesis, Dr. Bader, will open the door to a cure for man's worst disease -- cancer.

As for myself, you'll find detailed instructions on how to reverse the action which I've accidentally initiated. You'll find this on pages seventy-nine, eighty and eighty-one. No matter how small I shall become, even microscopic, you will be able to reverse the process if you follow the instructions on those pages.

SOUND:

[GIANT PAGES FLIPPED, WITH GRUNTS OF EFFORT FROM JAMES, IN AGREEMENT WITH ABOVE ... BOOK COVER CLOSES WITH A SWISH AND A THUD

JAMES:

(INTROSPECTIVE) To think that the cover of my thesis, the manuscript I used to carry easily in one hand, has become as difficult for me to move as the cover to my grave. (SHAKES HIMSELF OUT OF HIS REVERIE) Here now, no time for morbidity.]

JAMES:

Now, I had better place another telephone call to your office, Dr. Bader, while I'm still big enough to dial the phone.

SOUND:

FOOTSTEPS TO THE PHONE, ACROSS PAPERS ON TOP OF DESK

JAMES:

It is just possible that your "efficient" secretary forgot to tell you that I called. (WITH EFFORT) The phone has grown almost half as tall as I am. A strange sensation.

SOUND:

RECEIVER RATTLES IN CRADLE, DURING ABOVE ... CLATTERS TO DESK ... PHONE DIALED LOUDLY ... THE RELEASE SPIN IS NORMAL BUT THE WIND UP IS SLOW

JAMES:

(DIALING, WITH EFFORT) Who would think the ... tensor springs on these ... dials would be so strong? And who would think I would have to use both hands to ... dial a telephone. [Steady, James Howard; now is no time to misdial.]

SOUND:

FINAL SPIN ... PHONE RINGS NOISILY TWICE ... ANSWERED ... HEAVY FILTER AND ECHO EFFECT ON MISS PRITCHART'S VOICE, TO MAKE HER SOUND HUGE

MISS P:

Pathology, Dr. Bader's office. Miss Pritchart speaking.

JAMES:

(URGENT) Miss Pritchart, has Dr. Bader come in yet?

MISS P:

Whom shall I say is calling?

JAMES:

This is James Howard, Miss Pritchart. It's urgent.

MISS P:

It doesn't sound like you, Mr. Howard.

JAMES:

It - it - it's me, all right.

MISS P:

I'm sorry, Dr. Bader isn't in. [I have your number ...]

JAMES:

Are you sure?

MISS P:

Yes, I am sure. Dr. Bader is not, at this moment, in his office.

JAMES:

Now look, Miss Pritchart, don't pull that Dr. Bader-isn't-in stuff to me. You tell Dr. Bader I have to talk to him.

MISS P:

I'm sorry, Mr. Howard, Dr. Bader is not in.

JAMES:

Look, this is a matter of life and death!

MISS P:

[Mr. Howard ...

JAMES:

Tell him to answer his damn telephone.

MISS P:

Mr. Howard, I assure you Dr. Bader is not in his office. I will have him call you as soon as he comes in.] I'll tell him when he comes in. In the meantime, is there anything I can do?

JAMES:

(HELPLESS) There's nothing anyone can do but Dr. Bader. He's the only man in the world that can help me. [Do you understand that?]

MISS P:

Well, I'll tell him as soon as he comes in.

JAMES:

Yeah, you do that, Miss Pritchart.

SOUND:

FILTERED CLICK OF RECEIVER HUNG UP ON FAR END ... [THUMP AND CLATTER OF GIANT RECEIVER REPLACED IN CRADLE]

JAMES:

(PAUSE) Why, Dr. Bader? Why, of all days, did you have to pick today to change your routine? For the last twenty years you've been in your office from nine until twelve. Why [in hell] did you have to pick this morning to change?!

MUSIC:

FOR AN UNSETTLING FINISH ... WHICH SOUNDS EVEN MORE OMINOUSLY WHEN IT CUTS OFF ABRUPTLY WITHOUT RESOLVING

VOICE:

In a moment, we continue with the second act of--

MUSIC:

"SUSPENSE" ACCENT

VOICE:

SUSPENSE!

MUSIC:

OUT

2ND ANNOUNCER:

Hello, this is George Fenneman. You know, an Ohio congressman, born in Pennsylvania, picked out the name for a new western territory. His choice was "Wyoming." But, when the Senate talked it over, they almost changed it to "Cheyenne" -- then decided that was too hard to pronounce, and put their O.K. on the congressman's first selection. The name is originally Indian, probably Algonquin, roughly meaning "land surrounded by hills." It made the hit parade in a poem titled, "Gertrude of Wyoming," about an early Indian massacre in Wyoming Valley, Pennsylvania. That's where the congressman got the name.

VOICE:

And now--

MUSIC:

"SUSPENSE" ACCENT

VOICE:

Starring Mr. Richard Beals, Act Two of "Return to Dust."

MUSIC:

OUT ... THEN AN EERIE INTRO TO DENOTE PASSAGE OF TIME ... THEN OUT

JAMES:

(FILTER, MAKES VOICE SOUND EVEN TINIER) Yes, self-preservation is the most powerful instinct. It is now three-thirty in the afternoon and I have shrunk to the unbelievable height of six inches. And I am continuing to shrink, yet I am taking every precaution to guarantee that I stay alive.

But what have I got to live for? What am I? A thirty-two-year-old, old man that's losing his hair, walks with a stoop from years of hunching over microscopes. What have I got to show for it? A cheap furnished room, a meager position as a research fellow, which doesn't pay enough to live like other people. Not enough to have a wife or children. And no dignity certainly. All that I can call mine is in this room: a couple of suits; some socks with holes in 'em, piles of heavy books; the microscope on my desk; and a tape recorder to record my notes on. That's all that will be left of Mr. James Howard, research fellow.

SOUND:

GIANT PARAKEET CHATTERS NOISILY, FROM ABOVE

JAMES:

(AMUSED, TO PARAKEET) Oh, excuse me, Dr. Pasteur.

SOUND:

PARAKEET CHATTERS

JAMES:

(CORRECTS HIMSELF) And one green and gold parakeet with the name of Pasteur.

SOUND:

PARAKEET CHATTERS

JAMES:

(TO PARAKEET) To pose a hypothetical problem, Dr. Pasteur, who's going to change the water in your cage if I return to dust? Certainly not Dr. Bader. He might steal what little water you had, but he wouldn't change it.

SOUND:

PARAKEET CHATTERS

JAMES:

(TO HIMSELF) Who will? If I don't contact the doctor, it may be a week before the landlady comes up here to clean. He'd starve to death. I've got to open that cage and let him loose. But - how? (AN IDEA) The yard stick!

SOUND:

SCRAMBLES TO THE YARDSTICK

JAMES:

(WITH EFFORT) I can push the latch open with that--

SOUND:

BIG WOODEN YARD STICK KNOCKS AGAINST BIG METAL CAGE

JAMES:

Yes! Yes, I can just reach it. There!

SOUND:

CAGE DOOR SWINGS OPEN

JAMES:

(TO PARAKEET) You're free, Dr. Pasteur. You're free. The window is open across the room. There's a whole world [ahead of you.] Fly away and make a name for yourself.

SOUND:

PARAKEET CHATTERS, FLAPS WINGS

JAMES:

(TO HIMSELF) The whole world. I've got the whole world ahead of me, too, if I live. After I publish my thesis, I'll be famous. I'll have everything I ever dreamed of. But not unless Dr. Bader gets the instructions. So, we resume taping. But I can't reach the start button on the recorder. (CLIMBS, WITH EFFORT) These - these books, they're like a grand staircase to the tape deck.

SOUND:

CLAMBERING FOOTSTEPS ON BOOKS, THEN METAL

JAMES:

(TAKES A BREATH) And now to start the machine. (WITH EFFORT) I'm no longer big enough to push it. (AN IDEA) Kick it!

SOUND:

KICKS METAL

JAMES:

Ooh - ooh. That hurt. (ANOTHER IDEA) I've got it. Jump on it.

SOUND:

JUMPS ... BIG CLICK ... BIG WHIR OF MACHINE

JAMES:

There we go. (TO THE MACHINE) Dr. Bader? Dr. Bader, this is James Howard recording again. I have still not received your phone call, but I have not given up hope. [The call will come. I am convinced of that.] In the meanwhile, I have made the necessary precautions for isolating myself in the event that you do not call before tomorrow morning. I have made a ramp -- or the ruler -- to the stage of the microscope. Glued to the microscope is a transparent glass petri dish. As soon as it becomes apparent that I'm in danger of being lost from view on the desk, I will make my way to the petri dish.

(REALIZES) But what if you haven't called by that time? I could be lost in the petri dish. (THINKING) I could prepare a slide for myself. If I diminished to the size of a one-celled organism, I would have no difficulty in crawling under the cover glass and taking up a position directly under the lens. Perhaps I should prepare a slide now.

SOUND:

PHONE RINGS ... VERY LOUD

JAMES:

(JOY AND RELIEF) You've called, Dr. Bader. You've called at last.

SOUND:

FOOTSTEPS OF SIX-INCH MAN RUNNING ACROSS DESK ... RING! ... RECEIVER RATTLES IN CRADLE

JAMES:

(HORRIFIED) No! I - I can't lift it!

SOUND:

RING! ... RECEIVER RATTLES IN CRADLE

JAMES:

I'm too small. I can't lift it off the cradle.

SOUND:

RING!

JAMES:

Don't stop ringing, please! I'll lift it somehow. But how? A lever! Give me a lever and I can move the world.

SOUND:

RING!

JAMES:

A pencil! I can do it with a pencil. Don't hang up, Dr. Bader! I'm looking! I'm looking!

SOUND:

RING!

JAMES:

Please don't hang up, Dr. Bader! I'm coming, I'm coming!

SOUND:

RING! PENCIL JAMMED UNDER RECEIVER ... RECEIVER RATTLES IN CRADLE

JAMES:

(WITH EFFORT) Just don't stop ringing! Please don't stop ringing! Please!

SOUND:

RING!

JAMES:

(ALMOST HYSTERICAL) Just don't hang up, Dr. Bader! I've almost got it! Just a little more!

SOUND:

RECEIVER PUSHED OFF CRADLE ... CLATTERS AGAINST DESK ... FALLS OFF EDGE AND THUMPS ON FLOOR BELOW

JAMES:

(DESPAIR) Oh, no!

SOUND:

FILTER AND ECHO EFFECT ON THE VOICES OF MISS PRITCHART AND DR. BADER ... THEY SOUND SLIGHTLY OFF, LIKE ON A PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEM

MISS P:

(OFF) Hello?

JAMES:

(YELLS) Miss Pritchart?!

MISS P:

Mr. Howard?

JAMES:

Can you hear me?! Get Dr. Bader!

MISS P:

Hello?

JAMES:

Miss Pritchart, I'm on top of the desk! The phone fell on the floor!

MISS P:

(ANNOYED) Hello?

JAMES:

I'm only six inches tall! You've got to get me help!

MISS P:

Hello, are you there, Mr. Howard?

JAMES:

Yes, I'm here! I'm here!

DR. BADER:

(COMES ON THE LINE, CURT) Howard?

MISS P:

No, doctor, this is Miss Pritchart. I called Mr. Howard's room but he doesn't answer or something.

JAMES:

I'm here, Dr. Bader, I'm here!

DR. BADER:

What do you mean he doesn't answer?

MISS P:

Well, I rang and rang and then the phone just went dead. You can hear for yourself.

DR. BADER:

Went dead?

JAMES:

The phone didn't go dead, it fell on the floor!

DR. BADER:

Well, call him back in about an hour. See if he answers then.

JAMES:

Don't hang up, Miss Pritchart! I can't put my phone back on the hook!

MISS P:

Well, what if he doesn't answer then?

JAMES:

All you'll get is a busy signal!

DR. BADER:

What do you mean, what if he doesn't answer? He will.

MISS P:

When he called this morning, he sounded very strange.

JAMES:

Don't let him hang up, Miss Pritchart!

DR. BADER:

Howard's been very strange since the day he joined the department. If you can't get him today, I'll talk to him when I see him tomorrow.

JAMES:

No! No!

MISS P:

Yes, Dr. Bader.

JAMES:

No, no, no! Please don't hang up! I'm still here! Please don't hang up! Dr. Bader, pleeeeease!

MUSIC:

FOR A GRIM FINISH

VOICE:

In a moment, we continue with the third act of--

MUSIC:

"SUSPENSE" ACCENT

VOICE:

SUSPENSE!

MUSIC:

OUT

ANNOUNCER:

Although most men, by nature, don't feel in a combat mood much of the time, there are some who just can't get enough of a good fight, particularly if there's a good sound reason for it. In July 1900, when American fighting men were protecting the rights and liberty of their fellow countrymen during the Boxer Uprising, the battle was a furiously fought affair. Army private Robert H. Von Schlick, serving with Company C of the 9th United States Infantry Division, was in the thick of the fracas. Although he had been wounded previously while carrying a wounded comrade to a place of safety, he rejoined his command, which partly occupied an exposed position on a dike. Private Von Schlick remained there after his company had been withdrawn and, in spite of the hail of bullets around him, singlehandedly continued to fire into the enemy ranks. Oblivious to the fact that he was a conspicuous target, he refused to leave the fight until he was literally
shot off his position by the enemy. Private Robert Von Schlick earned the Medal of Honor for valiant devotion to duty, and added heroic background to the code of conduct of American fighting men.

VOICE:

And now--

MUSIC:

"SUSPENSE" ACCENT

VOICE:

Starring Mr. Richard Beals, Act Three of "Return to Dust."

MUSIC:

DELICATE INTRO ... CONTINUES IN BG, OUT AT [X]

JAMES:

(ECHO AND FILTER MAKE HIM SOUND EVEN TINIER) I almost gave up when you hung up, Dr. Bader, but then I remembered a simple law of mathematics. No matter how often you divide a thing, there's still something left. So I went ahead with the preparation for my survival. And a good thing, too. It's not yet six o'clock, and I am now only a half an inch tall. [X]

But everything is now arranged. In the center of the petri dish on the microscope stage is a prepared slide complete with slip cover and label. The only thing lacking is the specimen, and that is me. If I become so small that I am in danger of being lost in the petri dish, I will make my way to the exact center of the slide and take up a position there. You should be able to see me for some time to come because I focused the microscope. All you have to do, Dr. Bader, is look -- just look to see me.

My world is such a different place now. Books are as huge as buildings and pencils seem like telephone poles. I wonder what my world will look like if no one ever finds me.

Oh, yes, Dr. Bader, the slide under the microscope is labeled carefully. Of all the slides I've labeled in my lifetime, I hardly thought the last one might become my epitaph.

Specimen:

James Howard; Species: Homo Sapiens; Condition: Excellent.

SOUND:

FLUTTER OF HUGE PARAKEET WINGS PASSES CLOSE BY

JAMES:

(STARTLED, BUT AMUSED) Oh, Dr. Pasteur!

SOUND:

ANOTHER PASS

JAMES:

Haven't you flown the coop yet?

SOUND:

FLUTTERS AND LANDS ON DESK

JAMES:

Is your loyalty so great that you refuse to leave so long as the last particle of me remains? Or are you hungry?

SOUND:

PARAKEET CHATTERS LOUDLY

JAMES:

What an ugly monster you are [when viewed] from this perspective. Your feathers are like scales of armor, infested with lice, I see. And that beak!

SOUND:

PARAKEET MOVES IN, CHATTERS LOUDLY, FLAPS ITS WINGS, PECKS AT DESK

JAMES:

(SCARED) No! No, Dr. Pasteur! No! Stay away!

SOUND:

PARAKEET CHATTERS, THEN STOPS

JAMES:

(SLOWLY, TO HIMSELF) Wait. Wait. I must back up slowly. Don't run. Slow. Back between the books and the microphone. Slowly.

(RELIEVED) Now! I'm safe here ... until he loses interest. I should have let him starve to death in his cage.

I wonder if the tape's still recording? I can see the spools still turning, high above me, the clear plastic reflecting the last rays of the sun setting outside my window. But I can't see if there's tape.

(YELLS) Are you [still] there?! Am I recording, Dr. Bader?! This is James Howard! As soon as that bird loses interest, I'm gonna make a break for it!

I'll make the microscope, Dr. Bader, don't you worry! Treat that slide marked "James Howard" just like it was me! You understand? Even if you don't think I'm in it!

If you can't bring me back, publish my thesis for me! You hear me, Dr. Bader?! Publish my thesis! I can't die smaller than dust unknown! I have nothing left, Dr. Bader! Not even my body! Give me my thesis!

(REALIZES) You wouldn't dare publish it in your name, Dr. Bader, would you?! All you'd have to do is change the name on the title page! You wouldn't stoop that low, would you?! No, no! Give me my thesis, Dr. Bader! Give me that much! Do you hear me? [Am I recording?] Give me immortality, Dr. Bader! I want the world to know I lived! Publish the thesis in my name! Do you hear me, Dr. Bader?! Give me immort--

SOUND:

FLAPPING OF GIANT WINGS SNEAKS IN DURING ABOVE SPEECH ... PARAKEET DEVOURS JAMES INSTANTLY ... THEN FLUTTERS AWAY

MUSIC:

EERIE, WEIRD FUTURISTIC ELECTRONICA ... FOR A FINISH

VOICE:

SUSPENSE!

MUSIC:

"SUSPENSE" THEME

VOICE:

In which Richard Beals starred in William N. Robson's production of "Return to Dust," written by George Bamber. Supporting Richard Beals in "Return to Dust" were Paula Winslowe and Lawrence Dobkin. Sound patterns by Bill James and Tom Hanley. Listen-- Listen again next week when we return with Victor Jory in "Death Notice," another Tale Well-Calculated to Keep You in--

MUSIC:

ACCENT

VOICE:

SUSPENSE!

MUSIC:

FINAL THEME ... THEN OUT

ANNOUNCER:

This is the United States Armed Forces Radio and Television Service.

MUSIC:

CLOSING MARCH