I never saw even one episode of The Twilight Zone during its first three years in Prime Time. The show was on at ten o'clock, and that number was bigger than my age. Too late even for a Friday night. But by the time I finally did see those shows, in syndication during the later Sixties, I already knew the stories.
This memory is crystal clear yet warmly blurred by age: Saturday mornings, sitting wide-eyed on the front steps of my parents' house, listening to the neighborhood Big Kids describe last night's Twilight Zone episode to us Little Kids.
Even mangling by 12-year olds couldn't weaken the delicious, scary power of those stories. I began to write my own stories.
At the University of Colorado in Boulder, in the fall of 1969, I skipped a class to attend a Rod Serling lecture. But I got sidetracked on the way to the event, and missed it. My hero, my muse, for God's Sake! I had blown my chance to check out the coolest man in the world, and I moped around the Student Union. Then—I came across a table where he sat, talking to students.
He was small and ruddy, almost like an escapee from his own Twilight Zone. Fascinating. Scary. Riveting. That brow, that smile, that voice! I listened for an enraptured half hour and can't remember one word that he said. Okay, maybe something about no TZ revivals in the works.
I shook his hand and didn't wash mine for days afterward.
In February 1982, my short story "Top of the Stairs" appeared in Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Magazine. I wish Rod had seen that, because he's the reason that I write fiction.
by Stephen Schlich, August 1999
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