Twilight Zone Tuesday – Nightmare As A Child

Nightmare As A Child

 


Season One – Episode 29: Nightmare As A Child

Helen Foley – Janice Rule
Markie – Terry Burnham
Peter Selden – Shepperd Strudwick
Narrator – Rod Serling


A very lovely lady is coming home from what looks like a long day at work. As she unlocks her apartment, however, she notices a little girl sitting on the stairs, staring at her.

Helen says hello to the little girl and asks if she’s new to the building or just visiting someone there. The little girl doesn’t answer. Miss Foley rambles on a bit, telling the little girl that she’s a schoolteacher. The little girl finally talks and tells Helen that she knows Helen is a teacher. She also goes one further on the creepy little kid scale and tells Helen that she knows all about her. And she is a bit creepy. Helen doesn’t think so though and invites her in for a cup of hot chocolate. She always makes a cup of hot chocolate when she comes home from work. The little girl says, “I know, but you don’t like marshmallows, do you?” Helen tells Creepy Little Girl that she’s right and Creepy Little Girl says that she doesn’t like them either.

They go into Miss Foley’s apartment, which is very nice looking, except that it looks like no one has stepped foot in the place. Ever. No, that’s not part of the show, just my commentary on their set design. Helen asks the Creepy Little Girl if they should tell her mother that she’s there so she won’t be worried. The little girl primly says that it won’t be necessary. I’ve noticed in shows with Creepy Little Kids that they always speak very formally and it’s basically a tell-tale sign that something’s off about them. I kind of wonder why that is? Maybe because kids sound very unnatural when speaking very formally?

SERLING:
Month of November, hot chocolate and a small cameo of a child’s face, imperfect only in it’s solemnity. And these are the improbable ingredients to a human emotion. An emotion, say, like fear. But in a moment this woman, Helen Foley, will realize fear. She will understand what are the properties of terror. A little girl will lead her by the hand and walk with her…into a nightmare.

I love you Rod but damn, I really want to correct your grammar sometimes. Oh well, on with the show. Helen brings Creepy Little Girl a cup of hot chocolate. Helen hopes it isn’t too rich but the little girl says it’s fine. Then she adds that she’s glad it isn’t too hot. She doesn’t very much like hot things. Helen says she understands and the little girl says of course you do, you got burnt once yourself. She even points out where the scar is. Then she asks Helen if she remembers. Helen snaps, “Of course!” and looks a little confused. Creepy Little Girl asks Helen how she got it. Helen then looks a little embarrassed ad says she actually doesn’t remember. Helen says something happened to her at a certain age but she doesn’t remember what it was and that there’s a lot of things she doesn’t remember from around then. Little Creepy Girl says she knows that. She knows all about you, remember Helen?  Helen says she remembers and finally looks like the kid is freaky, too. So this fgirl is either Helen (younger) or the world’s smallest stalker.

Creepy Little Girl asks if random people on the street look familiar at all to her. Helen says yes, sometimes. Why is she letting this freaky little girl interrogate her? I have to admit, though, the acting in this is phenomenal. There’s bee n a slow transition from adult to child in Helen and from child to adult in Creepy Little Girl. Helen very much looks like a child getting questioned by an adult. Her body language is perfect.

Ok, done fangirling. Creepy Little Girl asks if anyone Helen passed today looked familiar. Helen says, no. Creepy Little Girl looks amused and says, “Really?” Helen tells her that it’s not polite to contradict people. Helen, meet internet. You’re going to love it here. The Creepy Little Girl tells Helen that there was a man in a car that Helen saw. He looked familiar. Helen wanders to the window and remembers. Creepy Little Girl tells Helen there’s a reason she recognized him. Creepy Little Girl tells Helen there’s a reason he looked familiar and why he scares Helen and her. Now why would the Creepy Little Girl be afraid of him, hmm.

Helen finally asks the little girl’s name and wants to know where she came from. The little girl says she lives around there and she has a nickname. She tells Helen that her name is Markie but it’s not her real name. She yells at Helen, “Markie! Did you hear me?” Helen snaps back that yes, she heard. Helen tells her that it’s a nice name. Markie wants to know if that’s all Helen has to say about it. Helen wants to know what more Markie wants her to say. Markie says she just thought…And then she straightens up and asks if Helen’s warm. Helen says yes, it does feel a bit warm. Markie says that she feels perfectly comfortable.

Something loud clangs in the hallway and Markie freaks out. She yells that someone’s coming and runs to Helen. Helen tells her they aren’t the only people on that floor to calm her down. Markie says that whoever is coming through the lobby is coming to Helen’s apartment. Helen tries to convince her but Markie is totally freaking out and says she’ll come back later.

It looks like Markie was right because shortly after there’s a knock at the door and a man’s voice asking for Miss Helen Foley. Miss Foley asks who’s there and the man introduces himself as Peter Selden, an old friend of her mother’s. When Helen opens the door Creepy Peter stands there for a minute and then asks if Helen remembers him. She says he looks familiar but can’t really place him. Helen asks if he was…and he finishes for her. Yes, he was in front of the school, stopped at a red light. He thought she looked at him oddly. So, because she looked at you a little strange you tacked her down to her house. Yeah, that’s not creepy or stalkerish at all.

Tell me that’s not a creepy face. He walks in with a “Do you mind?” but he’s already in the door and halfway across the living room before he gives her a chance to answer. And apparently she’s too polite to boot his butt back out the door. There are times when the “impolite” thing to do is the safer thing to do, Helen. Peter says it’s been almost twenty years so he wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t remember him. Peter Selden says he worked for her mother. Helen’s polite smile fades a bit at that. He asks her again if she remembers him. Peter Selden,, ring any bells? He says that after the “tragedy” he’d heard that Helen was ill for a while. He wants to know if she ever remembered anything about that night. I’m assuming that the “tragedy” has something to do with her mother.

He seems way too interested in whether or not Helen remembers him or not . And if she remembers what happened. He tells her that she was in the room when “it” happened. She doesn’t know what he’s talking about at all and he looks very surprised by this. She says after “it” happened she had a shock and when she recovered she went to live with an aunt in Chicago. Selden says he was passing through on business, someone pointed her out and he thought he’d stop and say hi. Ok, so someone randomly pointed her out and you thought you’d say hi after twenty years? Riiiiight. Selden says he worked for her mother for almost a year, then he smiles his very creepy smile and says it’s been good to see her all grown up and just as beautiful as when she was a little girl. And then says he had a crush on her. Ew.

 

Selden says he lived in the same apartment building and heard her screaming that night. He was the one to find her mother. They finally get to what the tragedy is. Helen’s mother was murdered and they never caught the killer. Helen was in the room when it happened and witnessed the whole thing but blocked it all out. I know that’s a plot device used in movies a lot but I’m curious as to whether it’s actually possible to block something that completely. Helen says that as far as she knows the killer never was caught but she doesn’t know for sure. and Helen just starts spilling everything she does remember. She was asleep and heard her mother scream and then this…person. She doesn’t question at all why this guy would randomly show up and start ta;king about her mother’s murder? Okey dokey.

Then she pops back into hostess mode and asks Selden if he’s staying in town. He reminds her that he’s only passing through. She picks up Markie’s cup of cocoa and then asks Selden if he would like a cup of coffee or coca. Looking down she sees that Markie’s cup is still full, even after the multiple times it’s shown her taking a drink. Selden sees her staring at the cup and wants to know what’s wrong. Helen could swear Markie finished her cup and then starts to talk about Markie, calling her a “strange, little thing.”Selden asks who she’s talking about. SElden says he’d better be going. Yeah, because she’s the weird one.

As Helen walks Selden to the door she says she’ll have to learn that trick from Markie. To sit and sip but not actually drink anything. The name Markie gets Selden’s attention. Helen says the girl said her name was Markie and wouldn’t tell Helen her real name. Selden tells Helen that her nickname used to be Markie. Dun, dun, dunnn!

After this not-so-startling revelation, Helen hears a child’s voice singing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”. Selden obviously doesn’t hear it. Helen’s looking a little distracted so he asks her what wrong. She says nothing, it’s just a weird coincidence that she met this little girl named Markie and that was her nickname as well. She is starting to remember more now. She remembers being called Markie. He tells her that, in time, he’s sure she’ll get her entire memory back. He does not sound happy about that prospect.

 

Helen says that Markie is full of talents and Selden asks what she means. She’s surprised that he can’t hear her. After Markie stops singing Selden says he has a picture of Helen that her mother gave him. He pulls it out  and hands it to her. To nobody’s surprise, it looks just like Markie.

Then Selden tops his already high Creeper Status by saying that Helen was an exceptionally beautiful child ad she looks so much like her mother, especially now. She’s freaked out by the picture looking so much like her. I think I’d be more concerned with the guy carrying my childhood photograph for twenty years. I’m funny like that.

After Selden leaves Helen is lying down on the couch. It’s been a rough day for her. I hope he’s left anyways. Who knows, he’s probably lurking in her sofa cushions. The screen gets all wavery so I’m guessing we’re heading into Flashback Territory. Through Helen’s mind (quite literally) we see and hear her mother arguing with a man about something. She says if he doesn’t tell them then she will. He tells her they could both get into trouble but she doesn’t care. They start struggling and she slaps him. He shakes her around a bit and she runs into Markie’s room to get away. Good job. Lead the crazy guy right to your kid’s room. Then he hits her over the head with…I’m not sure. A vase maybe? It’s hard to tell. When she sees her mother get hit Flashback Child Helen screams. The man starts toward her with the vase raised but gets interrupted by people chattering in the hall, drawn by Helen’s screams.

Helen hears Markie singing again and goes to see where she is. She’s sitting on the steps again. Markie wants to know if the man left yet. Helen nods and says he left a while ago. She tells Markie that it’s late and Markie should go home, it’s past her bedtime. The little girl tells Helen that her mother won’t be worried. She doesn’t have a mother anymore. She sounds way too cheerful about it. Markie asks if Helen remembers about Markie and the nasty burn she got as a child. Helen grabs Markie’s arm and reveals a scar just like the one Helen has. I swear this kid makes killer faces. The look she gives Helen in this scene is priceless. She’s looking at her like, “Now do you get it?”

Helen starts freaking out on the girl asking who she is, where she came from, what she wants and she wants to know now! Markie, very patiently, looks Helen in the eye and asks if she has no clue at all. “And you were doing so well, Helen.” Markie says Helen was starting to remember things. It’s a little repetitive but i is kind of a cool back and forth. It’s like Helen is struggling with her consciousness personified to try and remember what Adult Helen clearly wants to forget.

Markie is getting frustrated and sassily goes and gets the photograph and says, “Familiar?” The little girl can do sass well. Helen says it’s supposed to be her but it’s not. It’s of Markie. Markie is getting very irritated now and starts saying, “Don’t you get it? I’m you, dumbass!” I may paraphrasing a bit. She certainly has that tone. The kid is really laying into her now, describing the night the murder took place. She says Helen screamed so loud. And stops. wen Helen turns to look at her she gasps. Selden is standing in her doorway. Told you. He was probably behind the curtains.

Like any good villain he wants to tell her all about his villainous deeds. He was in the bedroom and killed her mother. He says that he was embezzling and her mother wouldn’t cover for him and to top it all off, she was going to tell! It was her fault, really. We get the details, again, of what happened. She tries to make a run for it but he stops her. Then tells her that he’s been keeping tabs on her. Whoa. Shocker. Like any good stalker he knows what she’s been doing over the years. He’s been keeping tabs because he knew she’d start to remember someday. Um, ok?

He makes a grab for her but misses and she runs out the door. he teleports to the right of the stairs and grabs her. They thrash around a bit and then selden goes tumbling down the stairs.

Cops are around the body, taking pictures and speaking with the downstairs neighbors. A detective walks up to Helen’s door just as a doctor is coming out of it. The detective asks if she’ll be all right. The doctor kindly gave her a sedative and asks the detective if he has everything he needs. the detective says sure, everything is all tied up. The doctor says she was “fortunate and if she had been less fortunate she would have been a homicide victim.” They share a few deep thoughts about the child she’s been telling them about like “Weird, really weird” and “the human imagination is often weird”. i have to agree with the second statement.

Helen looks much happier. In the distance we can hear a little girl’s voice gleefully singing “Twinkle, Twinkle”. Helen looks outside but it’s a little brunette girl now. Helen says hello and tells the girl she has a lovely smile and to never lose it.

SERLING:
Miss Helen Foley, who has lived in night and who will wake up to morning. Miss Helen Foley, who took a dark spot from the tapestry of her life and rubbed it clean. Then stepped back a few paces and got a good look at the Twilight Zone.


That was a bit of a long one! As much as I riff on it here it’s actually one of my favorite episodes. Sometimes I just can’t help it because as much as I love it, there are a lot of parts that don’t make sense. Selden was so worried about her remembering that for twenty years he stalked her. Why wait twenty years? Because it’s not fair to murder her before she remembers? Plus, he’s mostly the one who keeps reminding her of everything so it’s his own fault she recognizes him. I also think we’re in the same apartment building as ‘The Big, Tall Wish”.


Join us again next week as I snark my way through next week’s episode: A Stop at Willoughby”

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