On a dark and stormy night, Truman Smith the Third is typing in his study at his home in the desert. Truman is wearing a blindfold, and yells that he's not going to type it. He says that he's destroying the manuscript, and argues with an unseen force. Truman's typewriter suddenly falls across the room from no visible source, and Truman says that his writing partner has done it for the last time. He stands up and yanks off the blindfold, and electricity smashes into the writer.
Mickey and Austin drive across the desert and Mickey breathlessly reads from one of Truman's science fiction novels. They pull up to Truman's house and Austin points out the lightning rods on the roof. He knocks at the door and the maid, Helga, answers it. Austin says that they came as fast as they could and she takes them in past a pile of sand on the floor. As they continue on, Austin points out that Truman asked to see him. Helga takes them to the dining room where Truman's wife Tish is drinking. She introduces herself and sits Austin down next to her. Austin points out that Truman said it was a matter of life and death. He demands an explanation, and a bandaged Truman comes in and tells everyone to sit down.
Truman says that he has something extraordinary to tell them and hopes that they can handle it. When Mickey tries to sit down next to him, Truman orders her to another chair. Tish tells Austin that it's an honorary chair for Truman's special friend. Truman finally says that he's written 400 s.f. novels and is the most prolific novelist in world history. He has encountered an intelligent alien being. Its spaceship crashed in the desert and the alien is highly-charged with electromagnetic energy. The alien, who Truman has named Pretzel 14, comes to the house at night and leaves the sand piles. Truman needs Austin's help to trap Pretzel because he's a danger to himself.
Austin gets up and prepares to leave. Truman asks where his scientific curiosity is, but admits that he doesn't have any physical proof of Pretzel's existence. The author says that no one has seen Pretzel, and the alien talks to him when he's blindfolded using Jack Benny's voice. Disgusted, Austin tells Mickey that they're leaving and ignores her objections. Truman begs Austin to stay, explaining that Pretzel tried to kill him. Austin advises him to call the police and goes.
As they go out past Helga watering the plants, Mickey suggests that Truman might be telling the truth. Austin admits that he believe sin aliens, but doesn't think that they came light years just to put sand in people's houses. As they get to the car and argue, Tish screams and the house lights go out. Electricity flares in the upstairs study window, and Austin and Mickey run back inside. Tish meets them and takes them to the dining room, where a ball of lightning is floating around the room as Truman hides beneath the table. It finally smashes out through the window and into the night.
Once he recovers, Truman begs Austin to help him. Helga fixes the fuses, and Austin tells Truman that he wants to know whatever he's holding back. Truman finally admits that all of his novels were transcriptions of what Pretzel told him. They were on the last chapter of the greatest s.f. novel to ever be written. Austin figures that what they saw was just lightning that came down through the lightning rods, but Mickey tells him that he's wrong. She points out that they were outside and didn't see any lightning, and Austin insists that there is a plausible explanation... but doesn't know what it is.
The next day, Mickey goes to Truman's study and looks around. Truman comes in carrying his typewriter and says that he's going to finish the novel ion his own. He insists that he doesn't need Pretzel, but then throws the typewriter out the patio and yells at Pretzel to finish it. Mickey figures that Pretzel must be like a brother to Truman, and Truman says that Pretzel once told him that he's the only friend the alien ever had. She offers to put the blindfold on and transcribe what Pretzel says, but Truman figures that she's trying to cut him out of the process. The writer rants about how in the last chapter, the evil alien kills the lead character and figures that Pretzel intends to kill him. He chases Mickey out of the study and slams the doors shut.
Mickey goes to the kitchen and Austin shows up wearing protective gear. He explains that he's been under the house examining the lightning rods, and warns that it's almost dark. Austin sets up thermal sensors around the house and insists that Pretzel the alien doesn't exist. Mickey asks him about what he said earlier about Santa Claus being a fraud, and he explains that he discovered at 6 that Santa wasn't real after he set a motion sensor trap. Austin insists that he then used his imagination in more productive ways, like building a castle in his head.
The thermal sensors go off in the furthest room but nothing moves, and Austin figures that it's a glitch. He goes to check it out and Mickey follows him. Tish is in a bikini, sunning on her bed. And asks Austin to put lotion on her skin. After a moment he obliges.
Mickey asks Helga what she thinks of Pretzel, and the maid has no idea what she's talking about.
Tish warns Austin that Pretzel doesn't reveal himself to those who are uncomfortable with his existence. She says that Pretzel is everything that Truman pretends to be, and hints that she's "experienced" the alien. Austin asks her why Pretzel wants to trap Truman, and Tish explains that the alien is trapped and can never go home. All the alien has is his stories, and Truman has taken them away from him. Austin wonders why she stays in the desert, and Tish dodges the question. She grabs Austin's lapel and pulls him in for a kiss, just as Mickey comes in and "accidentally" interrupts them.
The lights flare and go out, and they hear Truman scream. They run into the study and see the same lightning ball attacking Truman. As Austin gets Truman to cover, the lightning ball splits into three smaller balls which spin around each other and then disappear into a pile of sand. Austin, impressed, says that it wasn't lightning and realizes that Pretzel really exists.
Truman tells them that Pretzel has never acted crazy before. Austin asks him about the manuscript of the novel, and figures that Truman is still alive because Pretzel is afraid to hurt the manuscript. Tish asks Austin to take her away, and he tells Mickey to drive off and take the others with him. Meanwhile, he'll try to make contact. Mickey refuses to abandon him and Austin smiles briefly. Truman says that he's staying to finish the novel, and admits that he took Pretzel's greatest work away from him so he's going to give it back. Tish insists on leaving and takes Helga with her. A lightning storm starts outside and Truman figures that they'll finish the novel that night.
Later, Truman and Mickey wait in Truman's study. Truman says that Pretzel has been there since the Indians lived in the area, and never said whether he pretended to be a god. Austin wires up a chair next to the desk to a grounded line and tells Truman to get Pretzel to sit there. Truman tells him to leave the chair alone rather than hurt his friend, and Austin removes the cable as he tells Truman to hide behind the manuscript and give it to Pretzel if he wants it.
A drunken Tish comes in and says that she didn't want to abandon Truman. Helga comes up behind her and says that the road through the mountain was washed out by the storm. Truman looks out the window and says that he first saw Pretzel out in the desert searching for something. Tish is his fifth wife, who he met at a book signing. Tish passes out and Austin picks her up and takes her to her bedroom. Truman says that Pretzel will be there soon.
Austin goes to Tish's bedroom and puts her to bed. She kisses him, and Austin says that it feels nice but married. Tish laughs and passes out again... just as lightning hits a rod and the lights go out. Austin runs to the fuse box, checks it... and is shocked unconscious.
Mickey tells Truman to stay put and goes to check on Austin. She finds him unconscious on the kitchen floor. Meanwhile, Truman calls to Pretzel and goes out on the patio, saying that they can finish the book. Pretzel doesn't appear at first, but then there's a light flare. The writer puts on his sunglasses and tells Pretzel that he's beautiful.
When she can't wake Austin up, Mickey goes back to the study. Truman is on the patio, dead, with his manuscript nearby on his desk. Once Austin wakes up, he puts the body in the bathtub and pours in cold water to preserve the body. Mickey discovers that the phone lines are down, and Austin puts on rubber gloves and confirms that the fuse box is no longer charged. He says that they can use the manuscript as bait, and figures that Pretzel didn't take it because he would have set it on fire. Austin seals the patio doors so that Pretzel has to come in through the inside door, and tells Mickey that he'll wait and type whatever Pretzel says. Mickey offers to type instead while Austin monitors the equipment, and he reluctantly gives in.
Austin goes to the kitchen and talks to Mickey via the intercom, telling her to put the blindfold on when Pretzel approaches. While she wait, Mickey reads the manuscript and realizes that Pretzel is the Austin of his world. Austin tells her to read the last page, and it says that Pretzel is going to kill Truman and blow up the house. Meanwhile, Helga comes in to water the plants at 4 am, and says that she has to do something because Truman was so kind to her.
Mickey asks Austin if he put people in the castle he imagined. Austin tells her that there was no one in the castle, because afterward he laid siege to the castle with 100,000 barbarians and tore it apart after three years. He didn't put anyone in the castle because he didn't want them hurt.
The lights go out and Austin runs for the study. The doors slam shut before he can get in. Meanwhile, Mickey puts on the blindfold and hears something moving around the room. She calls to Austin through the door, saying that Pretzel is in the room. Mickey tells him not to break in, and figures that Pretzel knows the chair is a trap. She tries to talk to the alien, saying that she'll help him finish his story. When she gets no response, Mickey takes off the blindfold and asks Pretzel not to hurt her. As she does, the house lights come back up. Austin breaks in and says that she's fine, but admits that she doesn't see Pretzel.
As Austin checks the room, Mickey discovers that the piece of paper she put in the typewriter is a report. It says that there's a nickel-iron formation in the ground beneath the house. A lightning rod grounded in it could create a high-density plasma beam resulting in fire and other personal hazards. Austin figures that what they saw is ball lightning, and Mickey was talking to herself the entire time. Everything else Truman saw and heard was his imagination, and Mickey realizes that Truman was the one who had gone mad. That leaves Truman's murder, and Austin realizes who did it. He tells Mickey to get Helga and Tish, while he looks around and then puts on a slideshow with Pretzel as the guest of honor.
Once the three women gather, Austin comes in with a tripod and an electrical cable that he found in the garage. He explains that the cable is the murder weapon and ordinary house current killed Truman. Tish points out that she was asleep, but Austin notes that he has no idea if she really was or was faking. He tells Helga to water the plants, then puts Truman's sunglasses at the end of the tripod. Austin says that the killer took a photo of herself: when she touched the cable to Truman's head, it took a "photo" on his polarized sunglasses. It will take a high-intensity burst of light to project the image, so Austin has invited Pretzel. He says that Tish is the murderer, and Tish orders him out of the house.
Ignoring Tish, Austin brings in a cable and hooks it up to the tripod, and says that she murdered Truman because he wouldn't finish her book. He called Truman's publisher and confirmed that the royalties of all of Truman's books were tied up in alimony to his first four wives. The last book belonged to Tish, and Tish stayed in the house waiting for Truman to finish it so she could get custody of it in the divorce. When she realized that Truman would never finish it, Tish killed him to get it. A ghost writer can finish it, and Truman's death would boost sales. If the road hadn't been found out, Tish would have found another reason to stay.
The lights go out and Austin says that Pretzel is on his way. Ball lightning forms on the tripod and casts an image of Tish on the wall from the sunglasses. Tish says that she killed Truman because he was crazy.
Later, the authorities take away Tish and condemn the property. Austin tells Mickey that "Pretzel" always appeared right after Helga watered the plants. An ancient meteorite hit the site and the water leaked down the shock lines, setting off the accumulated charge in the nickel-iron. Austin tells Mickey that he found a slide of Tish while looking around, taped it to his flashlight, and shone it on the wall during his "slideshow" so she'd confess. He already knew that she was guilty because she faked passing out and he could tell from her breath when she kissed him.
Mickey tells Austin that she figured out why he set out to prove that Santa Claus didn't exist. She's realized that Austin was scared when he first met a department store Santa Claus, and he was out to get Santa ever since. Austin abruptly walks out the door and advises the invisible rabbit to watch his head.
Written by Gadfly on Jun 7, 2017