The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Linguistics professor John Jones leads the detached, bookish life of a bachelor at St. Jude’s Seminary until an ancient and mysterious medallion comes into his possession. As he attempts to translate it, he is given the power to paralyze or destroy any living thing. When he points his finger, his subject suffers sudden pain and paralysis. When he points and speaks the word “zotz,” the subject is reduced to ashes.

As Jones gradually learns the extent of his power, he worries that it may be the last vestige of an archaic, malevolent, and pagan cult. He keeps his powers secret, but his behavior becomes increasingly inexplicable to his colleagues, especially after he meets Virginia Finster. She is the voluptuous assistant librarian, new to the college and an admirer of Jones’s work. When she admits that she took the job because it would let her meet Jones, he suspects that she is a minion of the Zotz cult sent to spy on him.

Although she is friendly, her extracurricular interest in voodoo and snake worship deepens Jones’s fears; furthermore, her offhand, innocent remarks seem to show that she knows Jones’s powers. His attempts to elude her fail when a rabid dog threatens the local children. Virginia tries to divert the dog’s attention, and Jones covertly uses Zotz to destroy it. Their heroics make headlines, but so do Jones’s generalized paranoia and Virginia’s unusual hobby. A spiteful matron alerts the Federal Bureau of...

(The entire section is 451 words.)