If I Should Wake Before I Die

Episode #89
Aired 1949-02-27
Length: 28:07
Size: 6.43 MB
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CHAPPELL: Quiet, please.


CHAPPELL: Quiet, please.


ANNOUNCER: The American Broadcasting Company presents "Quiet, Please!" which is written and directed by Wyllis Cooper, and which features Ernest Chappell.

"Quiet, Please!" for today is called "If I Should Wake Before I Die."


ANDERSON: I'm a practical man.

I want you to understand that I am practical -- utterly practical.

That I believe nothing that cannot be proved beyond a shadow of a doubt.

I know that men live because the lives of many of them impinge on me who also live.

I believe that they die because I've seen them die.

Pure knowledge. I've devoted most of my forty-seven years to its pursuit.

The application of the knowledge I gain is of small moment to me.

I may say that it is of no moment whatever.

The experiment, the deduction, and proof of new natural laws is the, er, be-all and the end-all, as I believe the poets put it.

And their application is not my province.

Don here does not share my opinion. Don's interest is in the applications of the laws that I and others have discovered and proved.

DON: You don't care, Dr. Anderson, whether a million men and women die as the result of the "application" of your discoveries?

ANDERSON: It is a matter of no interest whatever to me, Don.

DON: I wonder if you really mean that.

ANDERSON: I mean it. Implicitly.

DON: Do you know what the world is doing with your discoveries?

ANDERSON: Obviously, I know something of what they're doing. But, I assure you, it does not interest me.

DON: It doesn't interest you that three men are circling this Earth in a satellite-rocket as a result of your researches?

ANDERSON: I am interested only in the data they may bring back from outer space. Data on which I may base further research.

DON: It doesn't interest you that those data may become the basis for the building of fortresses out there in space -- from which the Earth can be bombarded by some of the new weapons that have derived from your studies?

ANDERSON: I didn't invent the weapons, Don.

DON: Other men did, using your technical data.

ANDERSON: Well, that's their concern.

DON: But does it interest you that those three men may never come back to Earth? That they may be facing a horrible death out there, seven hundred miles away from this Earth? Alone, out there in the dark?

ANDERSON: I have no time to contemplate their troubles, Don.

DON: You sent them there.

ANDERSON: I did not.

DON: They wouldn't be there if it hadn't been for your formulas and your work.

ANDERSON: I tell you again that is their concern, not mine.

DON: Do you know who they are?

ANDERSON: Don, I'm very busy. Will you please go back to your office and let me finish my work?

DON: Ernst Masur and Dan Seymour--

ANDERSON: Please go away.

DON: And your brother.


ANDERSON: My brother?

DON: Your kid brother Edward.

ANDERSON: (SIGHS) Will you hand me that slide rule, please?

DON: Will you listen to me?

ANDERSON: Uh, the other one, please.

DON: Dr. Anderson, I tell ya that--


DON: I'll answer it.


DON: (ON THE PHONE) Yes? ... Oh, this is Don, Major. ... When? ... You sure? ... Yes, he's here. ... No, I don't think so. ... I'll tell him. ... Yeah. ... Thank you.


DON: Dr. Anderson ...?


DON: That was Major Hilton over at the center. They had another message from the satellite-rocket at 14:55. From your brother Edward.

ANDERSON: What did you say?

DON: From seven hundred miles out in space. From a rocket that's been circling the Earth for three months now. Alone, out there in the cold void with such a little hope of ever coming back to warmth, to light, and friends. From the dark and the cold--

ANDERSON: What are you talking about?

DON: Your brother Edward -- is dead. (PAUSE) Somewhere out there in space, he's dead, do you hear me? (PAUSE) He sent you a message. He died before he finished it. "Tell my brother," he said, "Tell my brother: if I should wake before I die ..." And he died before he finished it. Do you know what that means? Do you hear me? Your brother?

ANDERSON: Just - hand me that notebook there, will you? No, the one with the brown cover. Thanks.


ANDERSON: Knowledge is all.

The application of the knowledge is unimportant -- unless it leads to further knowledge.

I have no theories of Life or Death or of Creation.

Explanation, or the attempted explanation, is futile and unnecessary.

There are no secrets of life or death. They're chemical processes peculiar to man. They exist and that's all.

Perhaps someday, I, or one of my colleagues, will discover the principles of this - living and dying. But there's a long, long apprenticeship ahead of us before we can turn to that phase of science.

And, in the meantime, there are problems to be solved, answers to be proved.

And it's of no importance what - temporary use is made of the results of our researches.

This space rocket would have been useful no doubt in charting the effects of cosmic radiation. But it's gone. We must dismiss it as an expedient that failed.


Knowledge is the goal. All else is unimportant. Never forget that.

It's worth any price.

DON: Doesn't it depend just a little, Dr. Anderson, on WHO pays the price?


DON: The ones who die in the search?

ANDERSON: Well, as long as the important ones don't die, the price is reasonable.

DON: Who is to decide which are the "unimportant" ones?

ANDERSON: I am important.

DON: Yes, to yourself.

ANDERSON: To the world!

DON: The others are important to the world, too.

ANDERSON: Nonsense.

DON: There wouldn't be any world without them, Doctor.

ANDERSON: Well, in that sense, uh--

DON: People like your brother.

ANDERSON: He was dispensable to science.

DON: To you, personally?

ANDERSON: (AFTER A BEAT) Are you implying that I didn't love my brother?

DON: Am I?


DON: I wonder.

ANDERSON: Now, please don't try to involve me in an emotional experience, Don. I have work to do.

DON: It might do you some good, Dr. Anderson, if you DID get involved in an emotional experience. It might wake you up.

ANDERSON: I'm awake, thank you.

DON: No, you're not.

ANDERSON: (AFTER A BEAT) Kindly explain what you mean by that.

DON: No. I don't think I will, Doctor. I don't think I will.

ANDERSON: Well, I don't know what you mean.

DON: You know what you're doing.


DON: You know that the "application" of your research and experiment is producing the most frightful weapons the world has ever seen.

ANDERSON: That's not my fault. That's application again.

DON: Well, they wouldn't exist without what you know, what you proved.

ANDERSON: In that case-- I am only helping my country.

DON: That's what the others say.

ANDERSON: What others?

DON: The other scientists in other countries. They're "helping" their countries, too.

ANDERSON: Well, that's their privilege.

DON: You realize that you and the others are distilling destruction for the whole world, don't you?

ANDERSON: That's the fault of you young military men who are converting pure research into weapons for war.

DON: I grant that. But you are the ones that gave us that research. It's your dreams, not ours.

ANDERSON: I wish you'd stop talking of dreams.

DON: Well, I wish--

ANDERSON: You wish what?

DON: I remember - what your brother sent to you from way out there in space -- dying in a rocket ship, a spaceship, that grew out of your dreams.

ANDERSON: I've forgotten it.

DON: Why, Dr. Anderson, you must remember it.


DON: It's like that little prayer that kids say at bedtime. Only your brother changed it around a little. He knew what he was talking about. Do you remember it?

ANDERSON: Something sentimental. I remember. I used to say it when we were children at night. I know. "Now, I lay me down to sleep, uh-- If I should die before I wake--"

DON: That isn't what your brother said -- dying out there in the cold and the dark.


ANDERSON: I don't--

DON: I'd try to remember it if I were you, Doctor. Your brother said, "If I should WAKE before I DIE--"

ANDERSON: That doesn't make sense.

DON: Oh, yes, it does, Doctor. He was telling YOU to wake up before YOU died. Wake up, Doctor, before you die and the world dies with you.


ANDERSON: There is nothing I can do. I have committed myself to this and I've gone too far. The others -- Barschoft and Beveridge and Delaplaine -- they have gone too far, too. We cannot stop. It's no dream. No dream at all. It is pure science. What if they have perverted our dreams-- Not dreams. What if they HAVE perverted our studies, our equations, our living thoughts, to weapons of destruction? It was not our fault. I was not my brother's keeper!

DON: But he died -- far, far out there in the illimitable reaches of immeasurable cold, out where the cosmic dust lies in great cold clouds and there is no time--

ANDERSON: The alchemists tried for thousands of years to transmute base metals into precious ones. I only carried out their fumbling tasks.

DON: But you succeeded -- you and the others.

ANDERSON: I didn't pollute the waters of Bikini.

DON: No. You sat in a snug office, eight thousand miles away. And the reports of the awful upheaval of the sea came to you. And you read them and smiled. You leaned back in your chair and smiled. "They've proved what we knew could be proved," you said. You smiled.

ANDERSON: It was not my fault.

DON: You dreamed of destruction leaked from the floor of the sea and the waters were charged with death and you smiled in your dream.

ANDERSON: It was no dream.

DON: And your brother and two other men shook hands with you and stepped into the rocket shell that was to be their tomb -- and that tomb was the reality of your dream.


DON: And you dream now of more wonders upon the Earth, upon this Earth that one day you will destroy -- you, with your own hands.

ANDERSON: No, I say!

DON: Your dream grows brighter and greater until the whole universe is blotted out. And you stretch out your hands for reality. And there's only black!


WOMAN'S VOICE: Attention, please. Attention, please. In thirty seconds, Project Phaeton will be activated. In thirty seconds, Project Phaeton will be activated. Thirty seconds. (VOICE BEGINS COUNT DOWN "Twenty-nine seconds ... Twenty-eight seconds ..." ETC., UNDER THE FOLLOWING DIALOGUEsmiling face


DON: I tell you that--

ANDERSON: No, not now. Come over here to the window.

DON: No, I--

ANDERSON: You must! Bring your-- No, no, take those binoculars from the desk. Quick. Come on!

DON: Is this the end, then?

ANDERSON: This is Project Phaeton.

DON: What is it?

ANDERSON: Over here. Where you can see the whole-- Hurry.

WOMAN'S VOICE: ... Twenty-three seconds ...

DON: Well, what is it?

ANDERSON: We're going to reach the moon.

DON: What?

ANDERSON: Here. Watch the radar. No, the binoculars won't do you any good. Here.

WOMAN'S VOICE: ... Seventeen seconds ...


DON: This is the project I heard about, then?

ANDERSON: Where did you hear about it?

DON: There's been talk.

ANDERSON: Yeah? I'll have somebody's head for that. Watch.

WOMAN'S VOICE: ... Thirteen seconds ... Twelve seconds ...


DON: Is it just another radar contact?

ANDERSON: We're going to reach it. We've kept it a secret for so long, I-- Only ten seconds.

WOMAN'S VOICE: ... Nine seconds ...

DON: What are you going to do?

ANDERSON: The beam is on.

DON: What are you going to do?

ANDERSON: Going to reach the moon with a projectile. Atomic fission projectile. Watch.

WOMAN'S VOICE: ... Five seconds ...


DON: Oh, Dr. Anderson, no!

WOMAN'S VOICE: ... Three seconds ... Two seconds ...

ANDERSON: If we do this, we--

WOMAN'S VOICE: ... One second ... Time.

DON: (PAUSE) I didn't hear anything--



ANDERSON: They're on the way. It took a little time for the sound to reach us. Now, watch. Watch!

DON: (IN DISBELIEF) Two hundred and forty thousand miles.

ANDERSON: Watch. Watch the radar.

DON: What will happen?

ANDERSON: An explosion we can see with the radar, I hope. It's nearly there now. Another second or two.

DON: (SADLY) The dream goes on.

ANDERSON: Look! Don, look!

DON: I pray the Lord my soul to take.


ANDERSON: One does not always accurately foresee the results of a projected experiment.

Yeah, that, however, is the purpose of experiments -- to prove or disprove a theory, a scientific conception.

If it were possible to conduct all one's experiments personally, the margin of error would naturally be reduced to the minimum. But when a large number of other individuals enter into the operation, error and the possibility of error is naturally multiplied.

Yeah, that's an interesting thought. I must make a note of it.

(MAKING A NOTE) "In what ratio does probable error increase with the addition of new minds to a particular project?" I must deduce a formula.

At the moment, I do not know exactly what went wrong. It's within the realm of possibility that I might have made a slight miscalculation myself. Although, naturally, I doubt that.

It's possible that fissionable material reacts with greater celerity where atmosphere, as we know it, is lacking. It is possible that there were, on the moon, certain elements unknown to us -- elements that do not show up in spectrometric analysis, elements which are purely amenable to chain reaction of unprecedented violence.

It's mildly shocking to realize the extent of the damage done by Project Phaeton. However, I'm reminded of the theory of the philosopher Berkeley, that one must doubt everything outside the circle of one's own consciousness.

Certainly, I have the evidence of my own consciousness.

The image of the moon instantaneously disappeared on the radar screen at the precise second when my calculations showed that the projectile had reached the moon's surface.

And, although, this is the time of the full moon, for three nights now in succession, it has not appeared in its customary place in the firmament.

Therefore, I am led to an ineluctable conclusion which is corroborated by other hearsay evidence.

It is a fact, and I state it positively, that the moon has been utterly destroyed as a result of Project Phaeton.


DON: Never again the sweet moonlight of the lovers. Never more the harvest moon, rising above the hills on an October night--


ANDERSON: But science is vindicated. Science has done it. Pure science went into the calculations, the great thinking machines ground and chattered, and the data poured out, the data that I alone knew would come. Equations no human mind could imagine. Beautiful, pure mathematical thoughts far beyond the conception--

DON: Far beyond the conception of the ones who died.

ANDERSON: Calculations of mass and energy and the cosmic movements of all the planets. Allowances for the gravitation of stars forty light-years away. Corrections for the rotation of the Earth, the absolute cold of two hundred and forty thousand miles of space -- pinpointed on the great crater of Copernicus.

DON: That man has gazed on and pondered since the world began -- and that no man shall ever see again.

ANDERSON: The hand of man has reached out into space and found a target. Pure, pure thought -- that sought out the farthest reaches of the mind, that devised the weapon.

DON: And in every harbor of the world, the tides rushed out, and the very floor of the sea was plain to human eyes for one last look. And far out, on the breast of the ocean, great tidal waves that overtook and destroyed everything that floated.

ANDERSON: Man has at last conquered space!

DON: And thousands dead for miles inland from the shore when the waters returned. And the moon--

ANDERSON: I did not know we would destroy the moon, I tell you! I thought there would be a small explosion that we could see.

DON: And man has destroyed what God hath wrought. (DARK IRONY) You've dreamed well, my doctor, my scientist, my brother.

ANDERSON: (FLATLY) It was an experiment.

DON: (MORE IRONY) And well done. Well completed.

ANDERSON: Well, lives are the price of progress.

DON: So they are, so they are.

ANDERSON: There will be no more wars, Don. Don't you understand that? We have proved that modern war is so destructive that no nation can afford to fight them. That's no dream.

DON: Yes, yes, you HAVE proved that. You have destroyed one world. Very pretty demonstration.

ANDERSON: It was no world. It was the moon, the dead moon.

DON: Dead? Yes. Gone? Yes. But perhaps it WAS a world, Dr. Anderson.

ANDERSON: Nonsense.

DON: Vegetation on the moon. You knew that. Radar proved it long ago. Way back in 1948.


DON: Why could there not have been people?

ANDERSON: It couldn't be proved.

DON: It will never be proved now. There's only -- dust. And our own world. Can - can you think of what has happened on our own world and - and look any man in the eye?

ANDERSON: I - didn't intend that.

DON: But you accomplished it.

ANDERSON: I know it but--

DON: You have other experiments in mind, I assume?

ANDERSON: Well... Not immediately, of course.

DON: Of course.

ANDERSON: May not for years.

DON: Of course not.

ANDERSON: We have to go on.

DON: Do you? Do you know the end of it all?

ANDERSON: We can't stop now. We started this thing and - there's no turning back.

DON: The point of no return.

ANDERSON: Exactly. We have accomplished a thing that human minds could never imagine. We have--

DON: You have dreamed, and you go on dreaming, of destruction.

ANDERSON: No, no. We'll take care next time.

DON: You will?

ANDERSON: Of course we will. This is a - an unfortunate accident.

DON: An accident? Ten million people killed on this continent alone. Cities destroyed that can never be rebuilt. The very moon -- the ageless satellite of the Earth -- blown to dust! Haven't you dreamed enough?

ANDERSON: It is not a dream.

DON: You will not wake before you die? Before WE die?

ANDERSON: What can I do?

DON: You can stop it.

ANDERSON: Don, it can't be stopped.

DON: It must be stopped. Man wasn't put on Earth to die by his own hand, to be murdered by his fellow men.

ANDERSON: But - what can I do?

DON: Stop!

ANDERSON: We can't stop. We've started a chain reaction among peoples. You know what chain reactions are. You know what follows. You know that a simple fuse lit by a tiny match can set off an explosion that--

DON: That will destroy the world.

ANDERSON: There is nothing to be done.

DON: Nothing?

ANDERSON: Barschoft and Beveridge and Delaplaine and I -- I say it in all humility -- we know all there is to know about these cosmic forces. We know more than any other four men in the world. We--

DON: Do you four know how to stop this - this "progress"?

ANDERSON: I know. I think they know.

DON: But you won't stop?


DON: Well, if you four could agree to put aside all this--

ANDERSON: We can't. There is no hope.

DON: We must go on to destruction?

ANDERSON: We must go on.

DON: How do you know ya must go on?


DON: HOW do you know?

ANDERSON: I have been told.

DON: By the others?


DON: They'll go on if you give up?

ANDERSON: They will. I know.

DON: What if they died?

ANDERSON: Why, they are the directing brains of all the research in their countries.

DON: And?

ANDERSON: If they died, their programs'd be set back so far-- They won't die.

DON: They have died.


ANDERSON: What did you say?

DON: I said, they HAVE died.

ANDERSON: It's impossible.

DON: They did.

ANDERSON: How do you know they died? When?

DON: They died on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean.


DON: When everybody else died on the Atlantic Ocean.

ANDERSON: In the tidal wave?

DON: Yes. You disposed of them very neatly.


DON: You killed them, just as you killed all those others.

ANDERSON: They're dead?

DON: My business to know about that, Dr. Anderson.

ANDERSON: Barschoft and Beveridge and Delaplaine?

DON: You have no rivals now, Dr. Anderson.

ANDERSON: Why, that's right. We're in front of the world!

DON: What's left of it.

ANDERSON: There's nobody to carry on their work.

DON: Are you sure?

ANDERSON: Well, I know. But now--

DON: Yes? Now?

ANDERSON: What were they coming here for?

DON: I didn't say they were coming here.

ANDERSON: They were, though. I know they were. But what--? Why were they coming here?

DON: Don't you know, Dr. Anderson?

ANDERSON: (THINKS HE KNOWS) To kill me! To murder me! Why, of course! They knew me. They heard about Project Phaeton! They knew if they murdered me, that would stop all our developments here. And they would ally themselves against us and, without the weapons that I could devise, they would-- Why, they'd win the war!

DON: What war, Dr. Anderson?

ANDERSON: What--? What war--? Why, they'd DECLARE war on us. No, they wouldn't declare war on us. They'd just-- Why, they'd just - destroy us overnight.

DON: No!


DON: No. They weren't coming here to kill you.

ANDERSON: I know they were.

DON: No.

ANDERSON: What, then?

DON: They were coming here to make a deal with you.


DON: Yes. They were afraid.


DON: Of the thing that killed them.

ANDERSON: A tidal wave? But that--

DON: They didn't know what it was to be but they-- Well, maybe they were afraid of it, maybe they were afraid of what you'd do next.

ANDERSON: Well, they'd better be afraid.

DON: Oh, they're not any more. They're dead.

ANDERSON: Oh, yes, that's right. Well...

DON: Remember what your brother said?

ANDERSON: My--? Yes, I remember. But what?

DON: Why, they awoke before they died, Dr. Anderson.

ANDERSON: It didn't do them any good.

DON: No, it didn't, did it?

ANDERSON: No, it certainly didn't.

DON: Because YOU didn't awake.


DON: Now, you're the only one left. You know all the secrets. You know more than any other man in the whole world.

ANDERSON: I do -- don't I?

DON: It's in your power now to go ahead and do things that the others can't duplicate. That they can't even come near.

ANDERSON: It's my patriotic duty.

DON: Is it?

ANDERSON: I've got to. Why, Don, if I could tell you some of the things I've - I've already planned-- Some of the most amazing things. Why, I tell you, your mind couldn't even begin to comprehend what I can do.

DON: And not worry about competition.

ANDERSON: That's right!

DON: But there may not be any place left for you to do these "wonderful" things, Doctor.

ANDERSON: Why not?

DON: Why, there might not be any world left, don't you see?

ANDERSON: But I can't just sit here--

DON: No, of course not.

ANDERSON: I can't stagnate.

DON: I agree.

ANDERSON: I spent my whole life studying, learning. Thinking and studying again. I've gone farther into nuclear fission than any other man in history. I know more than even THEY knew. Do you mean that I should give this all up and just sit here?

DON: Not at all, Doctor.

ANDERSON: Listen to me, I'll show you. There's one little thing. One simple little operation, one-- Why, it's as simple as turning a switch the wrong way.

DON: Yes?

ANDERSON: It would neutralize every single atom of fissionable material in the world today.

DON: Really?

ANDERSON: I mean it. It would neutralize every stockpile in the world and it would be a hundred years before anybody could repair even one little bomb. Do you realize that?

DON: There's only one catch in it.


DON: You. If you were still around, you and only you in all the world could-- Well, shall I say, "un-neutralize" it.

ANDERSON: That's right!

DON: Yes.

ANDERSON: And you want me to give it all up?

DON: Yes!

ANDERSON: I can't do it, Don. I've explained that to you. There's - There's nobody left to carry on but me.

DON: Nobody but you.

ANDERSON: That's right.

DON: Dr. Anderson, do you want to die?


DON: I say, do you want to die?

ANDERSON: Die? Why, I-- I've never particularly thought about - dying, Don, do you know that?

DON: Not personally, you mean.

ANDERSON: Well, that's right. It's curious.

DON: But you don't mind bringing death to a great many other people, do you? Do you?!


DON: To our brother Edward?

ANDERSON: I didn't--

DON: I'm your brother, too, Sam. I'll die, too, and everybody else'll die and YOU'LL die by your hand, if you don't give it up!

ANDERSON: I'll die? I-- But I can't do it, I tell ya.

DON: You're still dreaming, Sam!

ANDERSON: I tell you, I'm NOT dreaming!

DON: It isn't too late to wake up, Sam!

ANDERSON: I'm NOT dreaming!

DON: Yes, you are, Sam! And it's TIME TO WAKE UP!

ANDERSON: I tell you--!



ANNOUNCER: The title of today's "Quiet, Please!" story is "If I Should Wake Before I Die," written and directed by Wyllis Cooper. The man who spoke to you was Ernest Chappell.

CHAPPELL: And my brother Don was played by Don Briggs. As usual, music for "Quiet, Please!" is played by Albert Buhrmann. Now, for a word about next week, if he can get through the door, here is our writer-producer, Wyllis Cooper.

COOPER: Thank you for listening to "Quiet, Please!" Next week, I have a story for you about "The Man Who Knew Everything."

CHAPPELL: And so, until next week at this same time, I am quietly yours, Ernest Chappell.


ANNOUNCER: This is ABC, the American Broadcasting Company.