“It was Saturday afternoon on Maple Street and the late sun retained some of the warmth of a persistent Indian summer” (136).
The scene is a panorama of a picturesque small-town in America. Lawns are being mowed, cars are being washed, kids are playing hopscotch –“4:40pm. Maple Street in its last calm and reflective moments –before the monsters came.”
Suddenly a flash of light explodes across the sky and blocks out the sun. Was it a meteor? Then the electricity goes out, and the neighbors on Maple Street begin to wonder what happened. A little boy named Tommy suggests it might be aliens from outer space. At first, he is brushed off, but soon people start growing suspicious. Perhaps one of their neighbors is truly an alien. They point the finger at one another, always suspicious, arguments break out, robbery and thieving begins to take hold.
Gradually, the neighborhood goes steadily more chaotic and paranoid until all hell breaks loose and this once safe paragon of American suburbia devolves into “an outdoor asylum for the insane.” Glass is broken, children are trampled, and all is bedlam. Violence ensues.
Then, from a nearby hill overlooking Maple Street, a cohort of aliens stands beside their spaceship and watch the madness unfold. The pattern is always the same: shut off the electronics for a few hours and watch the madness unfold. “They pick the most dangerous enemy they can find and it’s themselves. All we need to do is sit back –and watch.” The aliens make plans to take over the United States one Maple Street at a time.
The ending to Mr. Serling’s short story is considerably more violent than I remember the Twilight Zone episode being. Most of the houses are burned. Bodies are strewn about on sidewalks and draped over railings. And then all is still and silent, there is no more life. A new race of creatures moves into Maple Street from their perch on a nearby hill.
Serling, Rod. Stories From The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling Books: 1960 (republished in 1990 by the Serling family), Paperback Edition.