When I was six years old, my mother started going for chemotherapy treatments. My father would take me out for Saturday outings to the pictures. The Caprice was one of those grand old movie theatres that would no longer be economically feasible. It had marble-tiled floors in the foyer, red crushed velvet drapes covering the giant silver screen, and decorative faces from Greek mythology peering down from the balcony. There was enough room for three or four hundred souls to gather together in the dark.
One Saturday afternoon, we saw H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. I remember trembling in the dark with my ice cream bar melting in my hands. I remember covering my eyes and being overwhelmed by a sense of panic. Walking home, I kept looking up into the late afternoon sky. Walking through the door, I ran into my mother’s arms and she lifted me high up off of the ground.
In grade eight Social Studies class, they show us this grainy footage of the atomic bomb exploding over Nagasaki. Our teacher explained that for several days afterwards black rain fell from the sky. We talked about radiation poisoning and about the fact that we are the first generation in history to live with the anxiety of knowing that the world might come to an end at any point of time.
It was a time of dreams and plans. I had been pulling weeds in the neighbourhood and mowing lawns in an effort to save enough money to buy a Marshallâ?¢ tube amplifier for my electric guitar. I knew that Jenny and I were going to be married some day. I knew that I was going to be famous and that we were going to live in London and ride our motorcycles through Picadilly Square.
In grade ten English, I wrote a science fiction story based on a dream that I had about how the world will end. In the middle of the afternoon, the sky is black as a sheet of carbon paper. Meteors, radioactive blocks of ice the size of refrigerators, are pounding the surface of the planet. There are a few of us gathered in an old boarded-up movie theatre. There’s a hole in the roof and through it I can see this beautiful woman in a hot-air balloon rising up in the sky, always just missing the killing stones. She’s holding a baby in her arms. She smiles down at all of us. She tosses the baby into the air and catches it, over and over again. The baby is laughing and laughing, squealing with delight.
Mr. Ronson, my teacher, says I should probably stick to writing things that are more realistic.
Haskin, B. (Director) (1953). War of the Worlds [motion picture]. Paramount Pictures.