Battleground (short story)
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|Published in||Night Shift|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
Renshaw is a professional hit-man, who returns from his assassination of a toy-maker to find a package delivered to his penthouse apartment. The package contains a G.I. Joe Vietnam Footlocker, sent to him by the mother of the toy-maker he had recently killed. When he opens the package, he finds that the toy soldiers are alive with working copies (albeit miniature) of weapons, jeeps, and helicopters. To Renshaw's surprise, the tiny soldiers begin to attack him. At one point, the toy soldiers even give Renshaw the chance to surrender on a small sheet of paper passed under a door. Renshaw eventually plots to destroy the soldiers with a Molotov cocktail constructed from a bottle of lighter fluid, but before the cocktail detonates, the entire apartment explodes, and kills him. At the very end of the story, a couple finds Renshaw's bloody T-shirt, and the other contents of the footlocker are revealed, including one made-to-scale thermonuclear weapon, which was what ultimately killed Renshaw.
Film and TV adaptations
"Battleground" was converted to a teleplay by Richard Christian Matheson for the television series Nightmares & Dreamscapes. Originally airing on Wednesday July 12, 2006, the episode was directed by Brian Henson and starred William Hurt as Renshaw the assassin. There is no dialogue in the entire episode.
The episode featured a longer ending than the short story, in which Renshaw is attacked again and makes it out of the penthouse for a final showdown in the elevator shaft with an angry plastic commando (played by an uncredited Bill Barretta). Renshaw defeats the final commando, only to find it has armed a thermonuclear weapon that then explodes and kills him.
At several points during the televised episode, the killer Zuni fetish doll from the "Amelia" segment of the 1975 television movie Trilogy of Terror can be spotted as part of Renshaw's trophy collection. This is an homage to Richard Matheson, the father of Richard Christian Matheson and the author of Trilogy of Terror. The episode also has a similar plot and structure to Richard Matheson's classic 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone, "The Invaders" which presents a similar sort of battle between a silent protagonist and miniature attackers.
In the short story, Renshaw's written response to the tiny plastic soldiers' demand for surrender is "NUTS", the response given by General Anthony McAuliffe to the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. His written response was changed to "SCREW YOU!" in the televised episode.
The story was also made into an animated short film, Srazhenie (Russian: Сражение - meaning "Battle"; see External Links below) by the Soviet Kievnauchfilm studio in 1986, directed by Mikhail Titov.