The Pleasure Dome

One Saturday evening around 9.30pm in the early summer of 1980 Susan and Robert, a couple in their forties, were watching an American soap opera called Knot’s Landing on TV at their semi-detached home in Whiston when they both saw bright blue light shine through the window.

The source of the light was something in next door’s back garden, and it was reflecting off trees and filtering through the hedges.

Robert went to the window and tried to see what it was. It was just out of sight, so he went into the kitchen and looked out the window – to see the upper part of what looked like a translucent dome lit up by the blue light he and his wife had seen seconds ago.

“Seen this?” he shouted to his wife. Susan was a big fan of Knot’s Landing and so she reluctantly left the living room and went to see what her husband was talking about.

“What is it?” she asked, thinning her eyes with puzzlement at the lit-up dome.

“I’m going to find out,” he said, and he went upstairs to the spare room, where he would have a clear view of the strange structure. When he got up there, Robert couldn’t believe his eyes.

In his neighbour’s back garden, he could see a dome, about twenty feet in diameter and about twelve feet in height. It was lit up by a blue diffused light, and silhouetted against this light, Robert could see about ten people – and they all looked naked.

They were jumping about in the dome as if they were on a trampoline, and some were holding hands as they jumped up and down, while others somersaulted.

“Sue! Come and have a look at this!” Robert yelled down the stairs, and he heard his wife swear. When she came upstairs, he pointed out the strange spectacle to her.

“Not one of them has a stitch of clothes on!” Robert told her.

“I can see that,” Susan told him, “but it is Saturday night. They’re probably all drunk.”

“That’s disgusting!” said Robert, “those fellahs are all kissing, and those two girls, look!”

“It’s like an orgy of some sort,” Susan said with a smile, and then she walked to

“Anyway, I’m going back downstairs to watch Knot’s Landing,” she told him, “leave them to it and come downstairs.”

“I’m calling the police,” Robert told her sternly. “Bloody disgusting.”

“Robert, they all look old enough to be consenting adults – you’d get done for wasting police time,” said Susan, halting at the doorway.

“Robert, get away from that window – they’ll think you’re a Peeping Tom.”

Robert returned a perplexed look at his wife. “Susan, can’t you see that this is indecent? There might be kids looking at this round here. I’m calling the police. Bloody perverts!”

“Robert, do what you want then – I’m going to watch Knot’s Landing!” Susan told him in a huff, piqued at what she saw has his puritanical overreaction to a group of young people having harmless fun.

She sat watching her soap opera with the volume turned up a bit, and Robert came rushing in and turned the TV’s volume down, which really annoyed Susan.

“You’re not going to believe this!” Robert said in an excited state. “You know who has just gone into that dome in the nude?”

“I’m not bleedin’ interested – turn that sound up!” Susan was inflamed at him having the audacity to mute her favourite show.

“Charlie from number 22!” Robert told her. “He stripped off in the garden then went into that thing and he’s cavorting round with two women young enough to be his daughters!”

“Robert, will you please just sit down and watch the telly!” Susan lunged to the TV set and turned the volume up.

Robert shook his head as he looked at his wife, and he turned and went into the hallway. He halted at the telephone on the half-moon table, and turned to close over the living room door.

Susan dashed into the hallway. She was fuming at the antics of her nosy husband.

“Robert, you can’t do anything about people having a good time in the privacy of their own homes – it’s perfectly legal – and yes, believe it or not, there are men who fancy other men and women who go with other women! We are in the 20th century now, you see? Times have moved on from the days of Oliver Cromwell!”

“Charlie is my age!” Robert growled, picking up the telephone handset.

“I think he’s actually older than me in fact – and he’s carrying on with two girls barely out of their teens! Doesn’t that strike you as morally wrong?”

“They are not children, Robert, they are over eighteen!” said Susan, and she tried to take the handset from him but he pushed her back, so she swore at him, went back into the living room, and slammed the door hard.

“Police please,” Robert told the emergency services operator.

“Hello? Yes, I want to report an orgy in progress, and it involves a man my age – I’m er, forty-three – and he’s with young girls.”

The living room door opened slowly, and Susan shook her head as she saw Robert making the report on the phone. He looked at her, then quickly averted his gaze as he gave the rest of the details.

“Yes, that’s Charlie’s surname,” he told the policewoman. “Yes, that’s his address – number 22. We’re at number 34. Yes, the girls look quite young. How young? I’m not sure, because of the lighting.”

“They’re over eighteen!” Susan shouted, then walked back into the living room.

“Yes, the tent shaped like a dome is in the garden of number 32,” Robert told the police dispatcher.

Then there was a pause, after which, Robert asked: “When will you be sending someone out? Oh okay. Thanks. Bye.”

He went sheepishly into the living room to be greeted by a stony-faced Susan. He told her what the policewoman said but she didn’t react.

She never once turned to face him. She looked at the television screen constantly, and never gave a word of reply, so he stormed out of the living room and went upstairs.

Before he even went into the spare room, he noticed the absence of that blue light from the dome, and he went to the window – and saw the dome had gone.

He opened the window to get a better look. Where the dome had stood in the garden next door, there was just a lawn.

Not a trace of the domed tent was visible to Robert, and he began to panic. The police would think he was a nut.

He rushed downstairs and again he turned down the volume of the television set, but this time Susan screamed at him, hurling insult after insult, and she even threatened to leave him.

“The dome has gone! It’s gone!” he told her, oblivious to her revilements.

Not long after, there was a heavy knocking at the door, and Robert answered it to see two policemen standing on his doorstep.

“You reported some orgy in a tent,” said one of the policemen, and when Robert told him that the dome was now gone, the constable informed him that he had called next door and the couple there had only just come home from a family visit and had no knowledge of any sexual high jinks going on in their back garden.

Robert called Susan to the door and she backed up his story, and the policemen left without saying a word.

On three more occasions, Robert and Susan saw the ‘Pleasure dome’ as Robert called it – in the back garden of the neighbours, always at night, and a friend of Robert saw it too.

That dome always vanished after about twenty minutes. It’s possible that the dome was some glimpse of a party of the future being held in that garden in Whiston, and perhaps the man Robert mistook for Charlie was actually Charlie’s grandson – which means the whole strange affair was down to a timeslip...

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