Satan Drives the Bus – Wyatt Blassingame

pulpfiction01Allen Sargent is taking a bus trip.  He is killing time by profiling the other passengers. There is the short bald guy with the cigar who must be a salesman; the poorly-dressed country woman who had probably been working in the fields since she was six; the hard-faced blonde lush who had called the driver “baby”; the hard-boiled gangster with the scar who seemed scared; and “on the back seat, a negro sat alone.”

Well, ya can’t accuse him of racial profiling. Sargent doesn’t even bother to come up with a story for him. He’s like Franklin in Peanuts — just the black guy.

There is also a priest, an old shaggy-haired hobo type, the driver and Sandra Bullock.  OK, just a pretty girl — which I gotta think is a rarity for bus travel — but I re-watched Speed just before reading this.  Sargent thinks, “With her to look at, this trip might not be so bad.”

As he is drooling over Sandra, the old man jumps up in the aisle and proclaims, “It’s death!  Death and sin!  They are riding with us, and they shall strike; they shall kill us all because someone here has sinned against man and God!”  Sargent sits him down and gallantly inserts himself in the seat beside Sandra.

The guy might have been crazy, but he was right — minutes later, the salesman lets out a scream and keels over dead.  The driver says he will stop in Perry Corners and alert the police.

The “negro” stands and flashes a gun.  He says, “I’m Pete Meadows.  They’re looking for me in Minneapolis for a couple of bank robberies.”  He clearly wants to avoid the cops, but he doesn’t seem to get the concept of laying low.  He might as well have shouted out his home address and Social Security Number while he was at it.

The old man shouts about sin and death again, and this time the country woman drops dead.

The driver begins going too fast.  When Meadows complains, the driver lets out a maniacal, “laughter from hell!”  When he turns, he is sporting the face of a cartoon devil — triangular face, V-shaped eyebrows, pointed ears — signifying true evil, the pit of Hell, vile pestilence; or deviled ham.

Meadows tries to shoot the driver, but he is the next to drop dead, clawing at his throat, tearing bloody flesh from his neck.  The driver next turns his attention to the hard-faced blonde. She begs for time to make a confession to the priest, and the driver generously gives her 2 minutes.  This guy must have had the buses running on time because he kills her 2 minutes later.  And then the scar-faced man.

But there is a nice twist, and the things turn out to have not been so supernatural after all.  A pretty good yarn.

I look forward to the sequel, Satan Pulls the Train.


  • First published in Ace Detective Magazine, October 1936.
  • Also that month: First commercial flight from US to Hawaii.
  • Pointless Duplication:  The bank robber was named Pete Meadows.  And the guy pretending to be a priest was also named Pete?  Why?

Ray Bradbury Theater – Mars is Heaven (S4E1)

rbtmarsisheaven01Hal Linden (Barney Miller), or is it Barney Miller (Hal Linden)? No, it’s Hal Linden (Barney Miller), is the captain of a ship heading to Mars.

Linden, playing Captain Black, disembarks along with crew-members Henley and Larson to explore Mars.  After a few seconds, they determine that the atmosphere is “thin for breathing, but there’s enough oxygen.”  Showing the same scientific acumen as the crew of Prometheus, they take off their helmets.

Mars isn’t quite what they expect.  Their landing area is the expected barren red landscape, but then they hear a rooster crowing.  They hear birds.  After a short walk, they see trees, grass, tennis courts.  They’re in Club Red; except without the red.

rbtmarsisheaven02One of the men suggests they somehow landed back on earth.  Captain Black assures him, “we traveled 300 million miles, tracked by telemetry every inch of the way.”  As usual, no one could be troubled to pick up an almanac when this story was filmed.  When Mars is on the other side of the sun, it is still never 300 million miles away.  Even the original short story didn’t use this stat.

One man finds his old tennis racket, one sees his grandfather.  Black sees his younger brother and goes with him back to his parent’s house.  He is reunited with his dead mother and dead father.  It is revealed that the house he has come back to actually burned to the ground years ago, killing his brother.

In the short story, one woman — whatever the Martian equivalent of a blonde is, maybe a redhead — almost gives away the game when she threatens to have her husband come outside and “beat them with all his fists.”  Although, really, she could have meant all two of them.

That night, Linden finally begins to question what they have found on Mars.  He wonders if maybe the Martians knew they were coming.  That they may have used their minds to create this world for the humans.  To put them off-guard, to separate them so they could be picked off by people they trusted.


For some reason, the astronauts wear ASA patches instead of NASA.

As Black leaves the room, an alien hand clasps his shoulder.  We then cut to caskets resting on the barren red Martian soil, 3 helmets atop them.

The idea of finding a replica on earth is old hat now, also having appeared on The Twilight Zone.  When it was published 1948, maybe it was new hat.  I guess the title Mars is Heaven isn’t really a spoiler since it is revealed to not be heaven.

In the story, the Martians inexplicably retain their human form even after the astronauts are dead, and give them a proper burial.  Equally inexplicably, in the episode, we see the coffins but they fade from the shot and disappear completely.


  • Pointless Duplication:  In the story, Black’s brother died 26 years ago.  He is now 26 years old.  The townspeople say the year is 1926.
  • The short story Mars is Heaven was included in The Martian Chronicles as The Third Expedition.
  • Coincidentally, director John Laing is also credited on an episode of The Hitchhiker which I just watched.  The first disk of that series was so awful, I couldn’t bring myself to write about it.  His episode was probably one of the better ones, though.
  • For some reason, Bradbury alone among sci-fi writers is given license to have breathable air on Mars and other basic scientific inaccuracies.

The Outer Limits – A Stitch in Time (S2E1)

olstitchintime01In 1966, an old man stumbles into a hotel room.  He crumples up some voyeuristic photos he has taken of young women on the street, jogging, etc.  In a dark corner is a woman with a gun.  As she is played by the frequently crazy Amanda Plummer, I don’t like his odds.

She clicks a lamp on and tells him — in a scathing indictment of our judicial system — that in 1994 he was executed for the willful murder of 8 women.  Then she does the right thing.  After shooting him in the melon, she opens up a portal and returns to the future.

Back in the present, FBI Agent Pratt (Michelle Forbes) is baffled by 17 deaths, all caused by the same gun since 1956.  Strangely, they have just found a set of 30-year old prints on a lamp that match Dr. Theresa Givens (Plummer), however, she was in kindergarten at the time of the murder.


If there is trouble on the set of American Horror Story, they’ve got it covered.

Pratt is at home when she gets the news.  We get a complete role reversal where, instead of the standard nagging TV wife, her boyfriend does not see how solving a murder might be more important than necking on the couch.

Pratt attends a lecture by Givens and interviews her afterwards in her office.  This tips off Givens so she goes back in time, cleans her prints of the lamp, and returns to the future.

Even with the fingerprint evidence erased from this timeline, there is further evidence implicating Givens.  A gun that was issued to Givens by the NSA in 1988 was used in the 17 murders which date to 32 years before the gun was manufactured.

Pratt hears on the news that Jerome Horowitz, a man she had sent away for 17 murders, including her best friend Allison, was just executed.  Givens hears the same report and uses the Wayback Machine to go back to 1980 and kill him.  It is interesting that she points out that she waited for the “just and legal” sentence to be carried out in the future before she kills him in the past.  She also gives him an awesome triple-tap.

olstitchintime05Back in the future, Pratt goes to see Givens again, but for the first time as far as she knows in this timeline.  Also, with Horowitz killed before he committed the murders, her friend Allison is still alive.  Givens slips up and admits her connection to the murders. She proudly shows her time machine to Pratt.  Sadly the time travel is giving her brain damage.

Givens travels back to when she was kidnapped and raped as a child 15 years earlier, the event that motivates her vengeance.  The man holds young Givens as a human shield and tells old Givens to drop her gun.  Unfortunately for him, Pratt followed Givens through the portal and uses her practice at killing two-headed freaks to drop him. Sadly, not before he got off a shot and killed older Givens.

Young Givens witnesses Pratt going back through the portal.  Once back in the present, all the equipment begins to disappear as Givens no longer had the motive to pursue her vengeance.

Back in the FBI office, she realizes the impact of that last execution — since it took away Given’s motivation for vengeance, it has undone all the other pre-murders so all the 80+ victims are dead again including her friend Allison.

Pratt finds present day, clearly less crazy Givens, who recognizes her as the one who saved her 15 years ago.  This Givens also created a time machine, but simply put it in storage after her funding was cut.  Pratt goes back to re-kill Horowitz (his 3rd death in the episode).

This was the one kill that would return Allison to the timeline, but I suspect we are meant to viscerally feel that Pratt will continue as a bad-ass killing all the others.  That is unlikely, though, as she saw the brain damage suffered by Givens for her repeated trips.

A great episode.


  • Guns don’t kill people; crazy physicists kill people.
  • Pointless Duplication: The 17 murders by the gun and the 17 murders by Horowitz seems to be a coincidence, but it is just bizarre the writer would use that confusing stat for two separate investigations.
  • Amanda Plummer won an Emmy for her role, which doesn’t seem right.  She’s a great character, but not much of an actress.
  • Hulu sucks.

Optical Illusion: Is this a Soda machine or a KY machine?