Review for WITHIN HIS REACH from HorrorWorld
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WITHIN HIS REACH by Steve Gerlach; Tasmaniac Publications; 2010; 107 pgs.; $14.00
Whenever I’m presented a story in which the author proclaims he’s penned as a tribute to The Twilight Zone, I am positive of one thing before starting it… that it will inevitably contain a “gotcha” , or a “holy cow!” moment, at or near the end of the piece. This isn’t a negative for me, after all, who doesn’t fondly recall watching all of those twilight episodes and wondering how the screenwriter was going to place that ironic twist at the end of the tale. The only thing I am not certain of when reading an author’s homage to Rod Serling’s series, is whether the story can live up to the high standards Serling demanded for his scripts. Within His Reach is Steve Gerlach’s tribute to the man and his show, and I am pleased to report that Gerlach has done an outstanding job with this novella; it could have easily been the basis for a Twilight Zone script.
Gerlach gives us Arnold Enright, a man suffering badly from polio. It’s the early 1950’s, when drug stores still had fountains and pay phones. It was a time when people drove Oldsmobile Starfires and women usually wore dresses or skits. But unfortunately, it was also an era where polio was rampant, and the treatment for advanced cases was to place the patients in an iron lung. And that’s where we meet Arnold, during his sixth year occupying his metallic prison.
Saying that Arnold has it bad is a gross understatement. His pregnant wife left him only a short time after he was placed in the iron lung, and he has never seen his daughter. His wife had been kind enough to send him a few pictures over the years of his young girl, and he has them placed above his head so he can continually gaze at them and wonder how she turned out. Or if she even knows of him. Of course, Arnold has become bitter of his situation, and he cannot stop thinking the worst about his wife for leaving him and for never bringing his daughter to the hospital to see him. Even suicide is not an option to help him forget his problems as he has no control of his body from the neck down.
Then one day, Arnold learns from his doctor that there is a new medical procedure that may be able to help him. He quickly agrees, and the doctor performs the operation.
When Arnold wakes up from the procedure, he inexplicably finds himself on a park bench.
To his amazement, he’s breathing on his own, he can feel his body, and learns that he can walk again. He is jubilant to say the least, but confused as to why he’s on the bench. Things get even stranger though; he discovers that he is alone in the park, and there doesn’t seem to be anyone else he can see mulling around outside the park. When he strikes off to find others, he is at first startled to realize he’s in his hometown, but then soon becomes excited at the prospect of visiting his home and finally getting to meet his daughter. Now if this were an actual Twilight Zone story, this is where that eerie jingle would kick in and the camera would pan on Arnold’s face before we went to a commercial.
As you can guess, we learn quickly that things are not what they seem and Arnold makes one sad discovery after another. The oddest of them is a strange, low flying aircraft with uniformed men on a railing that slowly cruises over the town watching all that goes on below them. To write anymore about Arnold’s plight would be to give too much away, but I will say, that sometimes when wishes are granted, they don’t always turn out the way it’s expected.
Steve Gerlach has hit the ball out of the park with Within His Reach. He has done an outstanding job following the basic tenets of a Twilight Zone story by keeping the tale thought provoking, morally positive, entertaining, and downright spooky. Fans of Gerlach who are accustomed to his more extreme horror tales will be surprised, there’s not a bloody hammer to be found anywhere in this story, in fact, there’s not an ounce of gore or extreme violence to be found on any of the pages. Here’s hoping that he continues to write more work in this vein.
Within His Reach is another superb offering from Tasmaniac Publications. Their affordable trade paperback line of releases with their glossy and stunning covers, signed author sheets, interior artwork, and high quality paper, should be a model for all small presses. If you haven’t picked up a Tasmaniac book yet, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot, and Within His Reach would be a great way to introduce yourself to this publisher.
–T. T. Zuma