Generic Radio Workshop Script Library (BACK)

Series: X Minus One
Show: Protection
Date: Mar 20 1957

CAST:
ANNOUNCER
BOB, cynical and smart
CHARLIE, breezy and sneezy
DERG, enthusiastic and eager-to-please

SOUND:

HIGH-PITCHED ELECTRONIC HUM ... JOINED BY ELECTRONIC BEEPING IN AGREEMENT WITH COUNTDOWN

ANNOUNCER:

Countdown for blast-off. X minus five, four, three, two. X minus one. Fire.

SOUND:

A MOMENT'S SILENCE ... THEN ROCKET SHIP BLASTS OFF

MUSIC:

BUILDS VERTIGINOUSLY TO A CLIMAX ... THEN IN BG

ANNOUNCER:

From the far horizons of the unknown come tales of new dimensions in time and space. These are stories of the future, adventures in which you'll live in a million could-be years on a thousand maybe worlds. The National Broadcasting Company, in cooperation with Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine, presents -- (HEAVY ECHO) X Minus One!

MUSIC:

TO A CLIMAX ... THEN OUT

ANNOUNCER:

Tonight, "Protection" by Robert Sheckley.

MUSIC:

FOR AN INTRODUCTION ... THEN IN BG, OUT AT [X]

BOB:

(NARRATES) There will be an airplane crash in Burma next week, but it shouldn't affect me here in New York. And the feegs certainly can't harm me -- not with all my closet doors closed. No, the big problem is lesnerizing. I must not lesnerize. Absolutely not. As you can imagine, that hampers me. And to top it all, I think I'm catching a very nasty cold.

The whole thing, including the cold, started on the evening of November seventh. I was walking down Broadway on my way to Baker's Cafeteria with Charlie Lester. He's in one of my physics classes and we were both feeling pretty lightheaded. [X]

SOUND:

CITY TRAFFIC BACKGROUND ... PLUS BOB & CHARLIE'S FOOTSTEPS

CHARLIE:

Boy, I've had tough exams in my day but that was a-- (SNEEZES) Ah - ah - ah-choo!

BOB:

Ha! You got a cold?

CHARLIE:

(SNIFFS) No, no, I haven't got a cold. My eyes just water, my nose runs, and I sneeze because I'm essentially a masochist. Actually, it is psychosomatic -- I hate my mother and my father. Of course I've got a cold! What do you think I-- (SNEEZES) Ah - ah - ah-choo!

BOB:

Well, look, look, don't give it to me. I've got a heavy date with a Barnard junior this weekend.

CHARLIE:

My boy, there is no such thing as a heavy date with a Barnard junior.

BOB:

Ha ha. Never mind. Just don't blow any germs my way.

CHARLIE:

Well, as a matter of fact, I'll leave you completely. I have to go over to South Hall to pick up some books. So long. (SNEEZES) Ah - ah - ah-choo!

MUSIC:

BIG GOOFY ACCENT ... THEN IN BG, OUT AT [X]

BOB:

(NARRATES) At the moment Charlie left me, I had in my pocket five coins, three keys, and a book of matches. Now, just to complete the picture, let me add that the wind was coming from the northwest at five miles per hour, Venus was in the ascendancy and the moon decidedly gibbous. You can draw your own conclusions from this. [X]

SOUND:

CITY TRAFFIC BACKGROUND

BOB:

(NARRATES) I reached the corner of One Hundred and Fourteenth Street and began to cross.

DERG:

(LOUD WHISPER) The truck! Watch out for the truck! Watch out!

SOUND:

RUMBLE! OF ONCOMING TRUCK, UNDER FOLLOWING--

BOB:

Huh? What truck? Who--? What? There's no truck on the street. What? Ooooh!

SOUND:

SQUEAL! OF TRUCK'S BRAKES ... THEN TRUCK DRIVES OFF

BOB:

(SIGHS) Oh! Oh, well, thanks, friend. If you hadn't warned me, I'd have-- Hey. Hey, where are ya? Who said that to me? Where are ya?

DERG:

(LOUD WHISPER) Can you still hear me?

BOB:

Well, sure I can. Where are ya? There isn't anybody here. Where are you?

DERG:

(LOUD WHISPER, GRASPING FOR THE RIGHT WORD) Gronish. Is that the referent? Refraction index. Creature of insubstantiality. The Shadow knows. Did I pick the right one?

BOB:

You're - you're invisible?

DERG:

(LOUD WHISPER) That's it, that's it, that's it! I knew the concept was somewhere in you.

BOB:

(STAMMERS) Well, what are you?

DERG:

(LOUD WHISPER) A validusian derg.

BOB:

A vali--? A what?

DERG:

(LOUD WHISPER) I-- Would you mind opening your larynx a little wider please? You see, I am using your sub-vocalizations to communicate. Now, breathe deeply.

BOB:

(BREATHES DEEPLY, IN AND OUT)

DERG:

(LOUD WHISPER) That's it.

BOB:

(BREATHES DEEPLY, IN AND OUT)

DERG:

(LOUD WHISPER) That's it. (SIGHS, NO LONGER A WHISPER) That's better! Well! Let's see now. I am the Spirit of Christmas Past. The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The Bride of Frankenstein. The--

BOB: Now, wait a minute, hold on. What are you trying to tell me -- that you're a ghost or a creature from another planet?

DERG:

Same thing, obviously.

BOB:

(IRONIC) Oh, well, that makes it all perfectly clear. Any fool can see that a disembodied voice must belong to someone from another planet.

DERG:

Exactly! I'm invisible on Earth, but my superior senses spotted approaching danger and warned you of it.

BOB:

Well, thanks. (CHUCKLES) Thanks, anyway, about that. Well, what are you? One of those strange voices that warns Aunt Minnie to stay out of the elevator -- which then crashes to the basement?

DERG:

Something like that.

BOB:

Uh huh. Well, goodbye.

DERG:

What's the matter?

BOB:

Well, not a thing, except that I seem to be standing in the middle of One Hundred and Fourteenth Street talking to an invisible alien from the farthest reaches of outer space. I suppose only I can hear you?

DERG:

Well, naturally.

BOB:

Oh, great. Well, you know where this sort of thing will land me.

DERG:

The concept you are sub-vocalizing is not entirely clear.

BOB:

Now, look, please. Go back to one of my childhood traumas where you came from and let me alone. Uh, thanks for the warning about the truck. Good night.

DERG:

Where are you going?

BOB:

I am going to a saloon down the street, much frequented by Columbia students.

DERG:

Won't you talk with me?

BOB:

(LOW) Look, please, will you cut it out? There are two girls watching me now.

DERG:

But you must talk to me. The real sub-vocal contact is very rare and astonishingly difficult. Sometimes I can get across a warning just before a dangerous moment. But then the connection fades.

BOB:

Well, you mean that is the explanation of premonitions of danger?

DERG:

That's right. Conditions might not be right for this kind of contact for another hundred years!

BOB:

Look, this is very interesting stuff -- for Professor Rhine at North Carolina, not for the physics department at Columbia. I have heard statistics about the overcrowding of mental hospitals -- and I am not interested in contributing to that condition. (LOW) Besides, there's a cop looking at me.

DERG:

I appreciate your social situation, but this contact with me is in your own best interests. I want to protect you from the myriad dangers of human existence.

BOB:

(LOW) Get lost.

DERG:

Well, I can't force you. I'll just have to offer my services elsewhere. Goodbye, friend.

BOB:

Goodbye.

DERG:

Oh -- just one last thing. Stay off subways tomorrow between noon and one-fifteen P.M., hmmm?

BOB:

Why?

DERG:

Someone will be killed at Columbus Circle -- pushed in front of a train by shopping crowds. You, if you're there. Goodbye.

BOB:

No, wait. Someone will be killed there tomorrow? Are you sure?

DERG:

Of course.

BOB:

It'll be in the newspapers?

DERG:

Huh. I should imagine so.

BOB:

(SLOWLY) And you know all sorts of stuff like that?

DERG:

I can perceive all the dangers that radiate toward you and extend into time. My one desire was to protect you from them.

BOB:

Oh. Well, uh-- Look, will you wait till tomorrow evening? Those two girls are giggling now.

DERG:

(HOPEFUL) You will let me be your protector?

BOB:

I'll tell you tomorrow after I read the late papers.

MUSIC:

ACCENT ... THEN IN BG, OUT AT [X]

BOB:

(NARRATES) The item was there, all right. I read it in my furnished room at One Hundred and Thirteenth Street. Man pushed by the crowd, lost his balance, fell in front of an oncoming train. Well, this gave me a lot to think about while I waited for my invisible protector to show up. By the time he contacted me, I didn't know that I liked the whole idea. [X]

DERG:

Don't you trust me?

BOB:

I just want to lead a normal life.

DERG:

If you lead any life at all. That truck last night--?

BOB:

That was a freak, a once-in-a-lifetime hazard.

DERG:

It only takes once in a lifetime to die. There was the subway, too.

BOB:

Oh, well, that doesn't count. I hadn't planned on riding it today.

DERG:

But you had no reason not to ride it -- that's the important thing! Just as you have no reason not to take a shower in the next hour.

BOB:

(BEAT) Why shouldn't I?

DERG:

A Miss Flynn, who lives down the hall, is now taking her shower and will leave a melting bar of pink soap on the pink tile of the bathroom floor. You would have slipped on it and suffered a sprained wrist.

BOB:

Um-- Not fatal, huh?

DERG:

No. Hardly in the same class with, let us say, a heavy flower-pot pushed from a rooftop by a certain unstable old gentleman.

BOB:

Well, uh-- When is that gonna happen?

DERG:

I thought you weren't interested.

BOB:

I am very interested. When? Where?

DERG:

Will you let me continue to protect you?

BOB:

Well, now, just tell me one thing. What's in this for you?

DERG:

Satisfaction! For a validusian derg, the greatest thrill possible is to help another creature evade danger.

BOB:

But isn't there something else you want out of this? Some trifle like my soul, or rulership of the Earth?

DERG:

Nothing. To accept payment for protection would ruin the emotional experience. All I want out of life -- all any derg wants -- is to protect someone from the dangers he cannot see, but which we can see all too well. (BEAT) We don't even expect gratitude.

BOB:

Hmm. What about the flowerpot?

DERG:

It'll be dropped at the corner of Tenth Street and McAdams Boulevard at ten-thirty tomorrow morning.

BOB:

Uh, Tenth and McAdams? Where's that?

DERG:

In Jersey City.

BOB:

(EXASPERATED) Well, now, I've never been to Jersey City in my life! Why warn me about that?

DERG:

I don't know where you will or won't go. I merely perceive dangers to you wherever they may occur.

BOB:

What should I do now?

DERG:

Anything you wish. Just - lead your normal life.

MUSIC:

BRIDGE ... FOR LEADING A NORMAL LIFE ... THEN IN BG, OUT AT [X]

BOB:

(NARRATES) It started out well enough. I attended classes at Columbia, did homework, saw movies, went on dates, played table tennis and chess, all as before. At no time did I let on that I was under the protection of a validusian derg. (CHUCKLES) Even Charlie didn't notice it. Though he had a pretty good excuse. [X]

CHARLIE:

Boy, are you lucky! I got stuck in that elevator for four hours. Say, how come you walked? I never saw you volunteer to walk five flights before.

BOB:

(AMUSED) Oh ho, well-- A little bird told me.

CHARLIE:

Boy, I wish I-- (SNEEZES) Ah - ah - ah-choo! (SNIFFS, EXHALES) I wish I had a little bird like that.

BOB:

Why don't you do something for that cold?

CHARLIE:

Oh, why should I? What's it ever done for me?

MUSIC:

BIG GOOFY ACCENT ... THEN A COMIC WHIRLWIND IN BG, FADES OUT AT [X]

BOB:

(NARRATES) Not even the derg had warned me about Charlie's bad jokes in time. But he did his best -- and once or twice a day, he'd come around and report.

DERG:

Loose grating on West End Avenue between Sixty-Sixth and Sixty-Seventh Streets. Don't walk on it.

BOB:

(NARRATES) Of course I wouldn't. Once I got used to it, it gave me quite a feeling of security. But the derg soon became overzealous on my behalf. He began finding more and more dangers.

DERG:

Look out for an overhanging sign on the Hotel Nationale!

BOB:

Where? Forty-Eighth Street?

DERG:

Mexico City.

MUSIC:

UP FOR AN ACCENT

DERG:

Don't go to the hockey game tonight!

BOB:

Where?

DERG:

Toronto.

MUSIC:

UP FOR AN ACCENT

DERG:

Look out for the Elm Street bus!

BOB:

Philadelphia?

DERG:

Omaha.

MUSIC:

UP FOR AN ACCENT

DERG:

Don't go surf riding today!

BOB:

Surf riding? Where?

DERG:

Papeete.

BOB:

Now, just wait a minute! [X] Do you plan on reporting every potential danger on Earth?!

DERG:

Oh, these are only a few -- only a very few -- that you may be affected by.

BOB:

In Mexico City and Papeete? Why not confine yourself to the local picture? Greater New York, let's say.

DERG:

Locale means nothing to me. (REVERENT) I must protect you from everything!

MUSIC:

SYMPATHETIC ... THEN IN BG, OUT AT [X]

BOB:

(NARRATES) Well, it was rather touching, in a way. And there was nothing I could do about it. I simply had to discard from his reports the various dangers in places like Hoboken, Thailand, Kansas City, Angkor Wat, Sarasota and Paris. I concentrated pretty much on Manhattan. He did save me from a pretty nasty holdup on Cathedral Parkway and a four-alarm fire. But he kept stepping up the pace.

DERG:

Tainted food in Baker's Cafeteria. Don't eat there tonight. ---- Amsterdam Bus Three-Twelve has bad brakes. Don't ride it. ---- Mellen's Tailor Shop has a leaking gas line. Explosion due. Have your clothes dry-cleaned elsewhere. ---- Rabid mongrel on prowl between Riverside Drive and Central Park West. Take a taxi!

BOB:

(NARRATES) Soon I was spending most of my time not doing things, and avoiding places. Danger seemed to be lurking behind every lamp post, waiting for me. I rather suspected the derg of padding his report. [X]

DERG:

(OFFENDED) All my reports are perfectly genuine. If you don't believe me, try turning on your lights in the psychology class tomorrow.

BOB:

Why?

DERG:

(SMUG) Defective wiring.

BOB:

Look, I don't doubt your warnings. I just don't think life was this dangerous before you came along.

DERG:

Well, of course it wasn't. Surely you know that if you accept protection, you must accept the drawbacks of protection as well.

BOB:

Drawbacks like what?

DERG:

Protection begets the need of further protection. That is a universal constant. Before you met me, you were like everyone else and you ran into such risks as the situation offered. But with my coming, your immediate environment has changed, and your position in it has changed, too.

BOB:

Why?

DERG:

Because it has me in it. It is well known that the avoidance of one danger opens the path to others.

BOB:

(UPSET) Are you trying to tell me that my risks have increased because of your help?!

DERG:

It was unavoidable.

BOB:

Why, you miserable extraterrestrial con man--!

DERG:

Now, look--

BOB:

All right, all right. Thanks for everything. (CHUCKLES DARKLY) I'll see you on Mars or wherever you hang out.

DERG:

You - don't want any further protection?

BOB:

You guessed it. Don't slam the door on your way out.

DERG:

But what's wrong? Your risks have increased -- but my capacity for detection is more than ample to cope with it. I'm happy to cope with it! So it still represents a net gain in protection for you.

BOB:

Yeah, I know what happens next. My risks just keep on increasing, don't they?

DERG:

Not at all. As far as accidents are concerned, you have reached the quantitative limit.

BOB:

What does that mean?

DERG:

It means that there will be no further increase in the number of accidents you must avoid.

BOB:

Look, if you leave me alone, my original environment will return, won't it? And, with it, my original risks?

DERG:

Eventually. If you survive.

BOB:

Fine! I'll take that chance.

DERG:

You cannot afford to send me away. Tomorrow--

BOB:

No, no, no! No! Don't tell me. I'll avoid the accidents on my own.

DERG:

(QUIETLY) I wasn't thinking of accidents.

BOB:

What then?

DERG:

I - I hardly know how to tell you. A gamper is after you.

BOB:

Oh, a gam-- A what? Now, what kind of a gag is this?

DERG:

A gamper is a creature from my environment. I suppose he was attracted by your increased potentiality for avoiding risk, due to my protection.

BOB:

Now, look, you can take your gamper and--

DERG:

If he comes, try driving him off with mistletoe. Uh, iron is often effective, if bonded to copper. Also--

BOB:

Will you get out of here?!

DERG:

Are you sure?

BOB:

Beat it! Blow! Scram! Get out! Go on!

DERG:

(MOVING OFF) All right. All right. Goodbye. Goodbye.

BOB:

(BEAT, SOFTLY) Are you gone? (BEAT, NERVOUS) Are you really gone? (SIGHS, TO HIMSELF) Good riddance.

SOUND:

OMINOUS HUMMING FADES IN DURING ABOVE ... GROWS LOUDER ... LIKE AN EVIL VACUUM CLEANER MOVING IN FOR THE KILL ... IN BG

BOB:

Wait. What's that? (NO ANSWER) Derg, is that you? (NO ANSWER) Hey, your motor's running. (BEAT) Derg? (PANICS) What is it?! What is that?! What is that?! Oh, it's the gamper! Derg, get me out of this! Derg! Derg, get me out! Derg! Come back! Derg!

DERG:

Did you call? Oh! The gamper. Uh, mistletoe, mistletoe! Wave it at the gamper.

BOB:

Where in blazes am I gonna get mistletoe?

DERG:

Iron and copper then!

BOB:

Copper, copper. Oh, I've got a paperweight on my desk.

DERG:

The chair leg is iron! Touch it with the copper! Quick!

SOUND:

CLANK! OF IRON AND COPPER ... OMINOUS HUMMING FADES OUT

DERG:

(PAUSE) You see? You need my protection. The gamper almost got you.

BOB:

(BREATHLESS) Yes. Yes, it sure did.

DERG:

(SIGHS) You'll need some things. Uh, wolfbane, amarinth, garlic, graveyard mold--

BOB:

(STAMMERS) But the gamper is gone.

DERG:

Yes, yes. However, the grailers remain. And you'll need safeguards against the leeps, the feegs, and the melgerizer. I'll give you a list.

MUSIC:

QUIRKY BRIDGE

BOB:

(NARRATES) He gave me a list and I went shopping. I ran into Charlie at the supermarket.

SOUND:

SUPERMARKET BACKGROUND

CHARLIE:

Hey, Bob! Where you been?

BOB:

(A NERVOUS WRECK, TO HIMSELF) "Wolfbane, amarinth, garlic--" Garlic? They must have garlic.

CHARLIE:

Well, sure, they got garlic over here-- (SNEEZES) Ah - ah - ah-choo! (SNIFFLES, EXHALES) Well, I guess you know what I came in for.

BOB:

Uh, tissues?

CHARLIE:

What else?

BOB:

(CHUCKLES) Yeah. Well, let me see, uh, "graveyard mold." Graveyard mold? Do you think they'd have it here?

CHARLIE:

Hey, boy, what's the matter with you? You look white as a ghost.

BOB:

I'm white as a gamper. Or a grailer. Or a leep or a feeg.

CHARLIE:

Well, what is that -- jive talk?

BOB:

Please, please, Charlie, don't bother me. I'm busy!

CHARLIE:

All right-- (SNEEZES) Ah - ah - ah-choo!

BOB:

(THOUGHTFUL) Who has the nearest graveyard that would be moldy this time of year?

MUSIC:

SOMBER ... THEN IN BG, OUT AT [X]

BOB:

(NARRATES) It was a game between these extraterrestrials, and I was in it. Some of them wanted to kill me; some, to protect me. None of them cared for me, not even the derg. And the situation was all my fault. At the beginning, I had had the accumulated wisdom of the human race at my disposal, that tremendous and distinctive hatred of witches and ghosts, the irrational fear of alien life. For my adventure has been played out a thousand times, and the story is told again and again -- how a man dabbles in strange arts and summons up a spirit. By so doing, he attracts attention to himself -- the worst thing of all. So I was welded inseparably to the derg and the derg to me. Until yesterday, that is. Charlie came to my room to visit. [X]

SOUND:

DOOR CLOSES

CHARLIE:

Hey, boy, how you been? Haven't see you in class for a while-- (SNEEZES) Ah - ah - ah-choo! (SNIFFLES, EXHALES) Do you mind if I hang up my coat--?

BOB:

(NERVOUS) No, no, no. No, no, no. No, don't. No. Don't open the closet door.

CHARLIE:

Well, what's the matter? What's in there?

BOB:

Nothing. Nothing. Only that's the only way to hold off the feegs, by keeping closet doors closed.

CHARLIE:

The--?

BOB:

The leeps are more menacing, but the eye of a toad seems to stop them. And, uh, the melgerizer is dangerous only in the full of the Moon.

CHARLIE:

Only in the--? Uh huh. (SMACKS LIPS) Well, Bob, it's been grand. Bye.

MUSIC:

BRIDGE

DERG:

(SOLEMN) You are in danger.

BOB:

(NERVOUS) What? Who? What, again? What is it this time?

DERG:

It is the thrang who pursues us.

BOB:

Us?

DERG:

Yes. Yes, myself as well as you, for even a derg must run from risk and danger.

BOB:

Well, is this thrang particularly dangerous?

DERG:

(A SHUDDER-SIGH) Very.

BOB:

Well, what do I do? Snakeskin over the door? A pentagon? Burn incense? Anything?

DERG:

None of these. The thrang must be dealt with negatively, by the avoidance of certain actions.

BOB:

(RESIGNED) All right, all right. What shouldn't I do?

DERG:

You must not lesnerize.

BOB:

I must-- Lesnerize? What's that?

DERG:

Well, surely you know. It's a simple, everyday human action.

BOB:

Well, I probably know it under a different name. Explain.

SOUND:

WEIRD HUM ... FADES IN, GROWS LOUDER, IN BG

DERG:

Very well. To lesnerize is to--

BOB:

(BEAT) What?

DERG:

(TENSE) It is here! The thrang! The thrang is here!

BOB:

(PANICS) Derg! Derg! Where are you? What should I do?

DERG:

(IN HORROR) It has me!

BOB:

What should I do?!

DERG:

(YELLS) It has me! I'm going! The thrang! Don't lesnerize! Don't lesnerize! Don't lesnerize! (DROWNED OUT BY HUM--)

SOUND:

WEIRD HUM REACHES A CRESCENDO, THEN RAPIDLY FADES OUT

MUSIC:

UNEASY ... THEN IN BG

BOB:

(NARRATES) So I'm sitting tight now. There'll be an airplane crash in Burma next week, but it shouldn't affect me here in New York. And the feegs certainly can't harm me. No. Not with all my closet doors closed. No, the problem is lesnerizing. I must not lesnerize. Absolutely not. If I can keep from lesnerizing, everything will pass and the chase will move elsewhere. It must! All I have to do is wait them out.

Trouble is, I don't have any idea what lesnerizing might be. A common human action, the derg said. Well, at the moment, I'm avoiding as many actions as possible. I've caught up on some back sleep and nothing's happened. So that's not lesnerizing. I went out and bought food, cooked it, and ate it. That wasn't lesnerizing. I'm telling you the story. And that isn't lesnerizing. (CHUCKLES) I'll get out of this yet. I will get out of it!

I'm gonna catch a nap now. I think I've caught Charlie's cold. (STARTS TO SNEEZE) I think I'm gonna hafta-- Ah - ah - ah--

SOUND:

LONG PAUSE

ANNOUNCER:

You have been listening to "Protection," by Robert Sheckley, on "X Minus One."

MUSIC:

FOR A BIG FINISH

ANNOUNCER:

"X Minus One" is presented by the National Broadcasting Company in cooperation with Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine which this month features "Survival Kit" by Frederik Pohl, the story of Mooney, a smart but luckless man who had to scrounge while his friend Harse always made out well, just because he owned - a survival kit. Galaxy Magazine, on your newsstand today.

MUSIC:

CLOSING THEME SNEAKS IN UNDER FOLLOWING--

ANNOUNCER:

Tonight, "X Minus One" has brought you "Protection," a story from the pages of Galaxy written by Robert Sheckley and adapted for radio by Ernest Kinoy. Featured in our cast were William Redfield as Bob -- of the final and fatal sneeze, Elliott Reid as his breezy pal Charlie, and William Keene as the foreseeing derg. Your announcer, Fred Collins. "X Minus One" was directed by Kenneth MacGregor and is an NBC Radio Network production.

MUSIC:

TO A FINISH ... NBC CHIMES