There’s an old Twilight Zone episode called “Time Enough At Last” that made such an impression on me when I first saw it in my early teens on English TV in the late 1960s that it has never left me. It spoke, still speaks, to some of my fears and weaknesses.
It’s the story of a lone survivor in the ruins of a devastated city who is about to commit suicide rather than live on in the ashes of his world. Then he sees before him the ruins of a Public Library and hope returns. He’s no longer alone. He has books, Lots and lots of books and time enough at last to read them. But this is The Twilight Zone. Happy endings aren’t allowed. So just as he settles on the rubble-strewn steps to read, he drops his glasses. They smash and he is no longer able to see.
I’m sure there was some kind of anti-lone moral at the end but I was too lost in the horror of the man’s situation to take that in. In my teens, I was even more of a loner than I am now. Books were my refuge. Time was the enemy. What could be more horrible than to have time enough at last and then not to be able to read?
Well, I’m in my sixties now and I know there are many, many worse things than that.
Nevertheless, the idea haunts me.
I’m at a point in my life where I finally have time enough at last to read all those books I’ve been looking forward to and all the ones I don’t know about yet but will fall in love with anyway..
There are days when I feel one or two steps away from finding myself sitting in the ruins of my world, like the man in the Twilight Zone episode. Like the man on the Library steps, I have a small library of books to fall back upon. Books that I’ve been collecting for years. Books that I’ve kept in storage while I lived abroad and am only now unpacking. Books that it turns out my eyesight is no longer good enough to allow me to read.
If I was in a Twilight Zone episode the next steps would be:
EXTREME CLOSE UP ON FACE OF SILENTLY SCREAMING BESPECTACLED MAN.
FADE TO BLACK.
Fortunately for me, the world hasn’t ended, it’s progressed. I have audiobooks available to me and ebooks that I read using a ridiculously large font. But I still yearn for the feel of books in my hands.
One of my reading challenges this year is to re-read the City Watch Discworld books. I tried reading the paperback version of “Guards! Guards!” that I read the first time but the ink was a little fainter, the pages were a little darker than they used to be. My eyes refused to cooperate so I bought the ebook version.. I have hardback versions of the later books. They’re still of a size and a quality that I can read. I went looking for more and found a new set of hardback editions, not as big as the original Hardback but bigger than the paperback. I^ve bought “Men At Arms” in this format to see if it works.
Here’s hoping I really do have time enough at last and neither the apocalypse of my eyesight leave me alone and silently screaming.
Ia that too much to ask?