The Day AFTER the Day the Earth Stood Still
Rating: PG or K
Dedication: For T’Poptarts who made that nice alteration of Klaatu’s photo in one of the Triaxian Silk board threads. It was her work that gave me the idea for this story. And in memory of Michael Rennie, the British actor who played Klaatu and reminds me so much of my grandfather who immigrated to the U. S. in 1913.
Movie plot and main characters: PLEASE SEE THE MOVIE BEFORE YOU READ THE STORY. The story would be difficult to understand unless you are familiar with the characters in the movie. As a refresher, here is brief description of them. (Spoilers for the movie follow).
Klaatu (and summary of movie plot) – Earth’s first contact alien visitor, Klaatu, lands his ship in Washington, D.C. in 1951 and is wounded by a soldier when he steps out of it. His robot companion then melts the weapons present, including tanks. Klaatu is taken to Walter Reed Hospital, recovers, and escapes to live among Humans so he can get to know them before he gives his important message to the people of earth. He takes the name of Carpenter and moves into the boarding house where Helen, a WWII war widow and her young son Bobby live. Klaatu babysits Bobby and explores Washington with him. They visit Professor Barnhardt who is not home, so Klaatu leaves him a message by correcting a celestial mechanics problem on his blackboard, leaves his address at the boarding house. The professor has Klaatu visit his home, learns who he is and asks Klaatu to do a demonstration of his power to get the world’s attention. Klaatu stops all electrical technology on the planet for a half hour to make Humans know he is serious about meeting with the world’s leaders.
Helen learns who Klaatu really is when her son follows him and sees him entering the space ship to prepare the electrical stoppage one night. She tries to hide Klaatu until he can have a meeting with the world’s scientists at his ship. Helen’s fiancé, Tom, rats to the military about Klaatu so he can get some fame and impress Helen. Helen warns Klaatu and tries to help him get to his ship. He is killed on the way, but anticipating that, asks Helen to give a message to his robot. The robot puts Helen on the ship, retrieves Klaatu’s body and revives him. The meeting of scientists at the ship occurs when Klaatu lets Helen off the ship and gives his dire warning. The warning is that if Humans, who are on the brink of space travel, bring their aggressive behavior out into space, earth will be destroyed. He then leaves in his ship.
Gort – Klaatu’s robot
Mr. Harley – The representative of the President of the U.S. who has discussions with Klaatu at Walter Reed hospital. He is friendly, curious, but frustrates Klaatu with the excuses the world’s leaders are giving as to why they cannot all meet together to hear Klaatu’s message. This is the reason Klaatu escapes to learn about Humans on his own.
Helen Benson – The young widow who aids Klaatu, the only person other than Barnhardt who listens to the alien and despite a great deal of fear and skepticism at first, trusts him.
Bobby Benson – Helen’s son, about 10 to 12 years old. Klaatu ‘babysits’ the boy and explores Washington with him in his attempt to get to know Humanity.
Tom Stevens – Helen’s greedy fiance
Mrs. Crocket – The owner of the boarding house where Helen lives and where Klaatu becomes a tenant.
Mr. and Mrs. Barley – Other tenants at the boarding house.
Professor Barnhardt – The scientist Klaatu and Bobby visit so Klaatu can get him to arrange a meeting with the world’s scientists because the world’s leaders cannot get along well enough to meet in the same room. Barnhardt asks Klaatu to stage a demonstration to impress the people of earth enough so the meeting will take place – hence the electrical stoppage Klaatu arranges.
Hilda – Professor Barnhardt’s housekeeper.
The Day AFTER the Day the Earth Stood Still
Helen’s letter to her childhood friend
After meeting Klaatu, the last couple of few weeks have turned my life upside down. My relationships to people have changed because of the strange behavior of people that I thought I knew. Now I am questioning also, how I am raising my son. My eyes have been opened to, well, a large view of the universe.
So I am going over my life, by writing this to you, mostly things you already know. Bear with me! You know how I left our small town at age eighteen for the big exciting city. You helped me pack. There were plenty of jobs for women with the men all leaving for the army. I met Robert. I was taking his welding job and he was orienting me to it. When he came home after his basic military training, he looked so handsome in his uniform and we fell in love. We got married in a rush before he left for Europe.
We had such hopeful plans, like I told you, way back then. He would return after the war, take his job back, and I would stay home with our children. He did come back home once, a year into the war, haunted – he had seen so much death. We clung to each other over his brief leave, and Bobby was conceived. Robert never got to see Bobby. The war ripped my strong young husband out of my life – taught him to kill, which was not his wish or his nature. Then the war took his life, leaving me with a young son to raise alone.
When the war ended, our men came home and they gave my job back to a man. I was lucky to find this nice office job, even if the pay was not as good. After a few years, my life was settling into a good pattern. I felt content, moving forward. And I thought I had found another man who could be my partner in life, help me to raise Bobby. I thought Tom Stevens was a good man. Then Mr. Carpenter came into our lives, a new boarder at the time of a national crisis. A world crisis, actually. Just a quiet, nice, man who befriended Bobby and me and made possible some free time with Tom. But Mr. Carpenter was more than just a quiet, nice, man. And Bobby and I were drawn into the center of this international crisis.
I follow my instincts about people; they have been invariably right. People trust me. Mr. Carpenter, a stranger with a mission of vital importance to my world, trusted me. And I trusted him. It was easy to believe him, this soft spoken, gentle man. His words had the ring of truth and were backed up by that awesome world-wide electrical stoppage he made happen. You cannot be trapped in an elevator with a person for a half hour and not have a sense of his sincerity. He told me his life was in my hands. Mr. Carpenter was just one man, and all he wanted was to remain free until a meeting with some of our world’s top scientists. I am no traitor to my country…or my world. I was just helping an ambassador complete his mission. Did it matter that he was from another world rather than another country?
Then Tom betrayed him. Betrayed me, by not considering what I had to say. When Tom picked up that phone to call General Cutler, excited by the prospect of fame and riches, I knew I could never marry him. Not a man who put his own selfish advancement ahead of the safety of his world. So I warned Mr. Carpenter - Klaatu and then I saw them kill this forthright ambassador from another world. I held his head as he died. I could not be with my husband when he died at Anzio, but I could be there for Klaatu. There are no words to describe someone dying in your arms.
Nothing has frightened me more in my life than meeting Klaatu’s robot. I followed Klaatu’s instructions in utter terror, but I accomplished my task. That I became the only human to see the inside of Klaatu’s ship was pure happenstance. It was unbelievable, and I did not understand anything I saw. But it was quite beautiful in an alien way. Being so awed by it and the robot and Klaatu’s miraculously revival, I was not as observant as my interrogators would have liked. They have kept me for over a week, isolated in this small apartment, coming at me day and night with their questions, not letting me see Bobby. They hold out Bobby as a carrot before a donkey. What a cruel thing to do to a mother! From their comments I have deduced that they are questioning Bobby too.
But I do remember things that I told them about the ship, about my conversations with Klaatu after his revival. I did not have the presence of mind to ask Klaatu the things that the FBI and others wanted me to have asked. They seem to think that by repeating their questions I will suddenly come up with the answers. I can tell I am a disappointment to them, just a silly low ranking secretary, hardly worthy of being the only witness to wonders from another world.
I tried to tell them this - that Klaatu was trying to calm my fear in a gentle way, and explain his purpose, but they did not want to hear that. There was a kind of aura between Klaatu and me, a rapport enhanced when he was sitting close, like he was sending thoughts but not speaking out loud. He rarely touched me, a pat on the arm now and then. But it was almost electric, his touch. And I believed him.
We had some time inside the ship before the meeting. He showed me a tiny moving photo of his daughter. Then he heated food in some kind of instant bake oven and we shared it. He is a good man.
Have I fallen for an alien? One of such power as to be able to destroy my world? The psychologists are asking me these kinds of questions now that the military analysts and scientists have finished with me. They tell me it will be over soon and I can go home. That I can see Bobby. That I can see my parents and my friends. They have let me write to you and I am sure they are reading this.
Tom’s thoughts journalized, with a law suit in mind
When I got off the phone with General Cutler, I almost felt sorry for the alien. I could hear the sirens outside. Our military deploys quickly. It has only been six years since a major war and now with this police action in Korea we are a nation at the ready. We certainly don’t need any aliens checking us out. They will thank me, the government – Helen will see. I better call her now. She should be home by now.
She is not home, Mrs. Barley? She went out with Mr. Carpenter? Stop her! He is dangerous. He is that alien they have been looking for! ………. They left in a taxi? Now don’t panic, Mrs. Barley. Yes, just see to Bobby. And lock the door!
Dear heaven! I should have kept her here. Women! Soft touches for a good looking alien. He probably won’t hurt her. I think he likes her. Yes, I felt a little jealous. I can tell when another man is interested in my girl. And who wouldn’t be? She is such a looker. Please don’t hurt her Mr. Car… Katlu, or what ever your real name is!
Can’t get through to the general any more! Damn phone lines are jammed. The TV! Hey, that is the alien ship. People gathered there. Scientists? Why? A planned meeting with Katla…Klaatu? Where is he? Where is Helen?
Try a different channel. My favorite news caster is on. What! He was killed? And the robot broke into the jail and took his body away? The woman had run out of the taxi and lifted the dying alien’s head? Hey, that’s my Helen kneeling in the street on this newsreel! Then she disappeared, you say? What the hell? Where did you go Helen! Home, I hope. See what trouble you caused in warning him? At least you were not hurt. Oh, what a mess!
Now what. Cameras back to the ship. The ship is opening? The robot. And HIM. He is alive! And…Helen!?!. What the hell were you doing in that ship? Okay, you seem alright. Yes, walk down that ramp now, go stand with the others. You and me, we are going to be famous!
So you are leaving, you disruptive alien? Give your speech! Good. Blah, blah, blah. We have to clean up our act? How about you, coming here to terrorize us? You clean up YOUR act! Of course we had to defend ourselves, it’s your own fault you got shot. Well, good riddance!
What do you mean she is under quarantine and I can’t see her? What about her boy? Him too? Why? They are asking her about the ship? Well how long does that take, eh? What about me? I was the one who told you guys where he was. Isn’t there some kind of reward? You don’t know? Well what about these diamonds? See, here. Look. Hey! They are MY property now. You can’t take them! Let go of me! Come back here with them! You can’t just shove me into the street! Come back here, all of you!
Final phone call between Tom and Helen, recorded by the FBI on Helen’s end
“Tom, they wouldn’t let me call anyone, that’s why. They wouldn’t even let me see Bobby. But we have nothing to say to each other any more, anyway.”
“Bobby is not okay. He is in the next room crying. He thinks as a boy he is too old for that. But as his mother, I thoroughly understand his need to cry.”
“No, he did not hurt him. Bobby became very close to him. He keeps telling me about how Klaatu was going to show him a picture of a train which ran without a track. If Klaatu had not been shot…twice…maybe he would have been able to stay longer and tell us more about his world. About all those other worlds out there.”
“How can you say that! Maybe his people would help us. Improve our hospitals, show us how to use atomic energy better, help us build trains that run without tracks.”
“I know you were not the one who actually shot him! But you might as well have been. Yes, you must share the blame for that. Now both Bobby and I are wondering how Klaatu is doing on that long voyage home. Will he live? What will he report about how he was treated here and how will his people react to that? Do you even care about the consequences of this? How could you think only of yourself, your own gain, under the circumstances?”
“No, I do not want to see you. It is over, Tom. No. Good-bye.”
Mr. Harley’s report to President Truman in the Oval Office: recorded
I attended the scientist’s meeting at the ship, as you asked me to do, Sir. This time I did not talk with Klaatu personally. He left too abruptly and I got no sense as to when the next contact will be made. I know you are anxious for his people to send another of those gadgets which show all those civilized planets. It was a damn shame that one got broken when it was mistaken for a weapon. We were all in shock at Klaatu’s harsh words at the meeting. But this could be…the saving of our world rather than its destruction. Think of all the advanced technology we could get! The incredible medical techniques, the industrial advances. He will be back, THEY will be back, Sir, I am sure of it. All we have to do is wait.
One of Helen’s letters home
Dear Mon and Dad,
After all I told you in my last letter and the phone calls, this latest is simply intolerable! Today five people from an insane group calling themselves The Extraterrestrial Society came calling. Mrs. Crocket was beside herself as this has been about the tenth such group to try to interview me. I was polite. I let them in and offered them coffee. Mrs. Crocket provided a plate of fresh baked cookies which they gobbled up in five minutes and asked for more. Mrs. Crocket’s whole batch went to provide these people with refreshment.
Their questions got more and more personal. They wanted to know if I had been medically examined on the ship and did the alien make any unseemly advances toward me. When I said “Of course not, Klaatu was a perfect gentleman,” they acted as if they didn’t believe me. Then they proceeded to tell me, in disgusting detail, about their own experiences on alien spacecraft, how their private parts were examined. That is when I politely asked them to leave and ended up having to ask Mrs. Crocket and Mr. Barley to aid me in this.
What this all boils down to is that I am asking you if Bobby and I can come home for an extended stay. My former employer won’t even answer my phone calls. And now I have given up job hunting because no one will employ the infamous ‘Robot’s Babe’. Don’t pay any attention, you and Dad, to those awful newspaper drawings of a half naked women being carried into a spaceship in the arms of a giant metal man. No one was there when it happened and Gort wasn’t twenty feet tall, more like eight feet. And you know my hair is not blond. I never would dye it, how vulgar!
Now Mrs. Crocket has had enough of visitors and has asked me to leave. We will be coming on the late afternoon train next Friday, if that is alright. Let me know. We are staying with a friend. Here is a phone number where you can reach us…
From Professor Barnhardt’s personal notes on the alien visitor
It saddens me. The lost opportunity. Perhaps his shocking words will make us change, but I fear not. I will work with my peers to see that our world acts responsibly. But ours is only the small voice of reason in a wilderness of greed and fear.
Helen is a good house guest. Considerate and helpful to Hilda. I was quite impressed with Helen’s demeanor when we talked after the meeting at the ship. And the boy, so curious and entertaining for an old man. I had forgotten what it was like to be a boy.
The reporters are still stalking the boarding house, so it is a quiet refuge here for my guests. I can see Helen starting to relax. We sit over coffee and speculate about the fate of Klaatu and about the awesome knowledge that other worlds really do exist. That is profound knowledge. It changes our outlook fundamentally. But what will we do about it?
Tomorrow they will be leaving. I will miss them. I can see why Klaatu trusted her. She is the salt of the earth. I hope he is thinking of her when he makes his report to his people. I saw the way he looked at her, that farewell hand gesture…it was for her alone.
A letter from another world
“Helen, child, this letter was delivered today by a nice man in an expensive suit. Yes, he said he was from Washington. A capsule was dropped in the desert with a locator beacon set to our government’s most top secret frequency. This letter was among the things in the capsule. It has been opened. I guess the government had to examine it first. Here, sit in Daddy’s comfy chair while mother goes to make you some tea. Yes, take off your shoes. It must have been a hard day at work for you, but be grateful that at least you did find work in our small town. Bobby is up in his room doing his homework. Oh, the suits are still here, sitting across the street in a big black car.”
I am sorry to inform you that last night my husband, Klaatu, succumbed to the injuries he received on your world. We had been so hopeful, me and the children, that he would recover. But that was not to be. We accept this, as this was a risk of his profession. We do not hold your people responsible, for after all, it was we who initiated contact with an unstable species that harbored a great fear of the unknown. Yet Klaatu was fortunate to meet you, a person who exceeded her peers in maturity and compassion. And for that, we are grateful. My husband would not have made it home to say his good-byes if it were not for your actions. He held you in very high regard.
Because of people like you, we have hope that your world will survive. Although my husband had to give the hard line about our robotic police and their mission, he was not a strong proponent of the destruction of entire worlds. In fact, he was not an experienced first contact emissary, but a skilled negotiator in treaties dealing with technological exchange. He had been interested in the field reports on your world for years, and proposed to our planetary government that someone give your people a warning. As a world to make first contact with, your planet was low on the list, so the government told Klaatu “alright, if you are so concerned about the Humans, you do it.” The rest is as you experienced it.
As a first contact emissary, our government considers my husband a failure. When Klaatu returned, he was deeply admonished for making that first gesture with what appeared to be a weapon in his hand. Also, he was criticized for leaving your hospital and hiding among your people, thereby creating untoward suspicion and fright. Most of all, he was given a dressing down for running from your security forces, causing them to shoot him. So, his injuries are not being blamed entirely on your people. I just wanted you to know.
There is a movement on our world and other worlds that proposes deactivation of the robotic force. They are saying, and I am inclined to agree, that destruction of an entire planet is not logical, even if the people of that world have destroyed a planet and an entire civilization themselves. For this, we refer to our greatest philosopher, who taught us to have extreme reluctance in the taking of life.
I want you to know that my people have decided not to make further contact with your people at this time. A policy is being developed about the level of technology to be reached before alien contact is initiated. So it may be another hundred of your years before we do so again.
Another reason to let you alone, is the development of a new type of engine which will allow our ships to travel between worlds in a fraction of the time it takes us now with atomic power. This new engine would allow us to easily quell any disturbance your people would be able to initiate with the limited space travel you could achieve in the next few decades. It may be a couple of centuries before you could even leave your system. So, you are safe for now, except perhaps, from each other.
I have enclosed a photo of our family as we really appear. It is only for you who were so kind to Klaatu, though I am sure your government is keeping a copy of it in secret. You can see that although we are alien, we are real people - a loving family. I hope our appearance is not so strange to you, for in many ways we are much alike. In fact, there are some scientists who think that all humanoid life forms in this sector of the galaxy are related, our separate worlds having been seeded by some ancient space faring species. I personally have no opinion one way or the other.
Again I bow to you, for indeed we are sisters of a kind. We have both lost our mates to violence and yet retain compassion and wish for peace.
Live long and prosper, Helen of Earth,
“Helen, dear, the expensive suit is back. He wants to know if you are done with the letter, because it must be destroyed. He says you were only allowed to see it because Professor Barnhardt pleaded you be allowed to do so. Also, he has a nondisclosure paper you have to sign. I am so sorry, dear. When will these people leave you in peace?”
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