NFORTUNATELY for Ruth Beckett, she was "with child" when those days arrived, foreshadowed by apocalyptic dreams of unremitting nightmare. She was with child and there would be no place to bear that child save in an alley heaped with filth and prowled by feral dogs. She had no father for her child. His charred body long since had been eaten by the rats she must hunt or barter for to feed her daughter and herself.
The sabbath day on which Ruth Beckett fled what was left of her Sheffield, England, home was not the seventh day of tradition. It was the eighth day of holocaust, the day nuclear winter, in a shroud sewn to the atmosphere by billions of tons of smoke and dust, descended to darken the Earth at noon, freezing it into famine, feudalism and despair. World War III was over. The only peace on Earth lay beyond the grave, yet England had escaped the worst.
The peril, in Sagan's view, which still is hotly contested by Edward Teller, "father of the hydrogen bomb," lies not in the heat of a fireball, but in the deadly cold of winter in July. Accordingly, WTBS will follow "Threads" on Monday, and on Jan. 24 and Jan. 27, with an hour-long documentary titled "On the 8th Day," in which Sagan and several other scientists, Soviet and American, attempt to corroborate the theory that a nuclear exchange between the superpowers will plunge the entire world into months of freezing darkness, killing most plant life and threatening mankind with the same sort of extinction that caught up with the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago, probably when an asteroid strike did the same thing to the Earth a nuclear war would do.