William H. Johnson, "Temptation of Christ" (c. 1945
William H. Johnson, Temptation of Christ (c. 1945)
Can a Game Be Literature?

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One

From the lagoon to the inland jungle to the deep volcanic caves, the entire island lay in silence. Not a bird flew, not a coconut fell, not a cloud drifted overhead. Everywhere there was stillness.

In the clearing, gathered at a crude plank table, seven anxious faces huddled around a radio.

"Owe!," cried Mary Ann in frustration. "Professor! Can't you do anything?"

Indeed, something was terribly wrong with their receiver. It was impossible to find a signal. All parts of the dial were empty, as though, over the entire face of the earth, not a solitary transmitter remained. Worse: every channel, every point of every band, screamed with unearthly static, as if each frequency were being bombarded with billions of random electrons bursting at once from every horizon. Not even the comforting whine of short-wave interference could reassure them that anywhere anything remained alive.

"O! That static!," cried Ginger. "It's like six billion ghosts crying out all at once!"

"O dear, but this is dreadful, dreadful," cried Mrs. Howell, wringing her gloved hands and turning toward her husband.

"Yes, I say there young man," added Mr. Howell authoritatively, rapping his walking-stick smartly on the table. "You're the expert in these matters. Now couldn't you simply...er..." (rap rap) ."..do something?"

A chorus of anxious voices agreed with him.

The Professor looked very agitated. Intently, he twirled his dials and re-checked his circuits, with the expert precision of a doctor in his examining room.

"I tell you all that I've done everything I can," he said, throwing his hands up in disgust. "There's nothing wrong with it. The problem is not in the radio."

Seven ashen-colored faces looked to each other in dismay.

"Wuh -- not in the radio? But h-how can that be Professor? W-we're getting nothing at all?" The Skipper's weather-hewn face was heavy with the weight of responsibility.

"Yes." The Professor spoke gravely, looking from each pair of eyes into the next. "I'm afraid that is exactly right. We're getting nothing at all, because there is nothing at all for us to get."

For a few moments the castaways' silence matched the gloomy calm around them. Then Mary Ann's soft doe eyes filled with tears. The Skipper held his captain's hat in his hands.

"Owe!," Mary Ann cried, and ran away into the jungle.

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