Another modern adaptation of the Twilight Zone classic: Escape Clause.
Narrator: You are about to enter another dimension, one of contradictions, indictions, and meta-fictions. A world where the grass isn’t always greener, as the old adage goes, and the road to hell is paved with caveats.
We open on William, a lonely man, a widower, who is in the early throes of a mid-life crisis. In another life, he may sate his yearning with a Mercedes and a summer fling… But this is, the Twilight Zone.
Focus on William sitting alone in his house at night. The doorbell rings – a salesman. William, desperate for human contact, immediately answers.
The man at the door seems frayed, but alert, eager to meet a quota. He claims to be God and offers William the deal of a lifetime – immortality. William, skeptical but intrigued, haggles with the man for a bit. He’s curious to know the cost, the catch, the caveat. “Nothing,” God replies. “Despite what every philosopher and novelist will tell you, it’s a gift to live forever, not a curse.”
William is amused at this point, thinking it all a prank. But to God’s delight, he agrees to the deal, assuming he has nothing to lose. They shake on it – no contract, no red tape – and voilà, God rushes off into the darkness, cheering and skipping giddily down the road. William chuckles to himself and turns in for the night.
The next day, William decides to test his supposed gift, and quickly realizes it’s legitimate. He can’t die. He can’t even be injured. Brief montage of him trying to harm himself (burning, cutting, shooting, jumping off a building). He doesn’t bleed, he doesn’t break, he doesn’t pass out. He even tries drowning (he’s seen Unbreakable after all), but even that doesn’t kill him. He truly is immortal.
However, unlike previous iterations of this story, he hasn’t forfeited his soul. So, with a generous spirit and a newfound appreciation of life, he decides to use his gift in service of others. There’s another montage as he becomes a national celebrity – the new Messiah. He does talk show appearances, live demonstrations, hospital visits, charity auctions… he even starts his own TV show. And viewers the world over are inspired by his example, ushering in a new era of philanthropy and global optimism.
But the hype and the rush are short-lived. In the name of eminent domain and ‘obstruction of mankind’s greatest biological discovery’, William is subjected to intense government testing and experimentation. At first he’s willing – if his DNA can lead to a cure for mortality, he’s happy to oblige. But the tests become excessive, invasive, and all-consuming. Even though he’s not harmed by them, he has less and less time for his show and his media appearances, and his personal life is nonexistent.
So, in desperation, he disappears and lives off the grid. Which, given his celebrity status, proves difficult (almost everyone recognizes him). But eventually, he finds solace in a small rural town. He spends his days trying to process the last few months, specifically his late wife’s death (we get a little more backstory on her – she was killed in a car accident the day before God showed up at his door, so he never had time to properly grieve).
In one last montage, we see him selling himself as a human punching bag – getting paid so that people in town can unleash their pent-up rage by ‘killing’ him as brutally as possible, a la Westworld. Physically, he never sustains any damage. Psychologically, he dreads his existence – immortality seems to be a curse after all – but he can’t do anything about it.
Suddenly, he has an epiphany. He realizes that the man at his door was not God, but rather, another poor soul desperate to rid himself of the gift. Realizing that he’s found a way out, he starts going door to door, claiming to be God and offering immortality to whoever will accept it.
We end with a scene that’s a beat-for-beat recreation of the intro, except now William is the salesman. Having found a willing victim, he shakes their hand and runs away happily. In his excitement, he trips and cuts himself – he’s delighted to see blood, and sits on the sidewalk contentedly, relieved to be mortal once again.
Narrator: For those who are worried, rest assured, William goes on living for another thirty, forty years. He chalks up this whole story to a bad dream, an exaggerated metaphor for his mid-life crisis, and pretends as if it never happened.
Perhaps the next recipient will last longer and find purpose in eternity. Or perhaps the cycle will continue indefinitely, an endless cosmic chain leading nowhere, being built one link at a time… You can never know for certain in… The Twilight Zone