Billy Clawson peered dimly around as he swept the floors of the Physics Department at Stanford University. He was a 200-pound shrimp, barely five feet three inches tall, bloated of gut, with a withered arm from a botched polio shot and a touch of cerebral ataxia that left him with poor coordination and poor balance. In 2035 he was 40 years old.

     He lifted a wastebasket and dumped it into his wheeled trash bin, ran the dry mop over the classroom floor, lifted junk with a dustpan. He finished in the room and snapped the light off, but then Dr. Rundle was in the doorway. “Oh, Billy, could you give me a hand over in the psychotemporal projection lab?”

      “Okay,” said Billy, looking away to hide his walleye.

     “This will only take a minute and you’ll be right back.” Dr. Rundle unlocked a door into a lab that wasn’t on Billy’s cleanup schedule. “This ain’t one a my rooms,” Billy said. “If you want something cleaned up, you got to file a request form before I can do it.”

     “No, no, I don’t want you to clean anything. I want you to help me in calibrating a piece of scientific equipment,” Dr. Rundle said, pushing Billy toward what looked like a dentist’s chair. “You know I’ve always thought of you as more than just a janitor around here. You’re one of the staff.”

     Billy looked at him. Dr. Rundle had never spoken to him before, although they’d passed in the halls a thousand times.

     “We’re on the verge of a breakthrough here,” Dr. Rundle said, “and I’d like you to help us. You’ve heard about our time-travel project?”

     “Yeah, I heard something.” There were always rumors around the campus.

     Dr. Rundle was excited. “We’ve made the breakthrough. We can send people back in time, but until now it’s been random–we didn’t know when or where they’d wind up, and the science results have been less than useful.

     “We can’t send back physical objects, can’t send cameras or tape recorders back. All we can do is send back the awareness of today’s researcher. Contact on the quantum level with awareness-states of defined charges in previous eras.”

     Billy stared at him.

     “Our subjects have gone back and they find themselves in a tribe at unknown location, unknown time, unknown language. The useful results have been few. But I think I’ve made a breakthrough here. I think I can send somebody back on a brief enough pulse to land somewhere in the modern era, where the traveler will be able to report the exact minute and day and year and location where they landed. Once we have a reference jump, we should be able to hit any era in the last 30,000 years, and that’s what we’re really after.

     “And I’d like to send you back to, say, exactly 100 years before you were born. It’ll only take a minute, and it will be a big verification for us. I’ll be able to present the results to the meeting of the American Academy of the Physical Sciences tomorrow if it pans out. What is your birthday and place of birth?”

     “Uh, February 6, 1995,” Billy said. “I was born in Baltimore, but then my Mom moved here because–“

     “Yes, yes,” Dr. Rundle said, leaning over his computer console, “just climb into the chair, please. Do you know the time of birth?”

     “It was 4:45 in the morning,” Billy said as he eased into the chair. “My mom worked all evening and then the labor pains started when she got home from her job cleaning the bar, and…”

     “Yeah, okay, let’s just pull this headset down over…breathe this sedative,” sprrt, “okay, here you go…” Dr. Rundle pulled a lever and a huge lightning bolt seemed to hit Billy, coruscating over his entire skin surface. Billy’s perception narrowed down to an onrushing white tunnel in the middle of a great darkness, and he approached closer and closer to the brightness at the end of the tunnel.

     Billy slid back through time in a warm amniotic dream and then he was forced through a red tunnel into the cold open air and he screamed, and all his memory was left behind. He was expelled into a shocking new world of vivid color and chaotic motion and intense skin sensation and loud noise, and he screamed.

     He was a newborn baby. He no longer knew he was Billy. His consciousness had been projected back into the past, but his brain and memory were far in the future, and he had no way to access those memories. All he had was the moment-to moment experiences of his host.

     It was like a continuous dream. The world was vibrant with color and smell and sound. He was uncritical, memoryless, and he began absorbing it all with gusto. Soon he learned that he was Georgie.

     Georgie was walking and talking by the time he was 7 months old, and was a positive bother before that because he was an incessant crawler. He was always wriggling down the stairs and into the turbulent tavern on the street floor of the house, where Georgie’s intrusion always meant a lot of attention and fun until Mom took him back upstairs. The bar patrons gave him bits of food and candy. Maybe that was one of the reasons he grew so big, so fast. He was tottering out into the streets and playing in the horseshit and dodging the hooves of the horses when he was 2, despite his mother’s attempts to control him. By the time he was 4, he was playing in the streets with the 6-year-olds and dominating them. He was big and fast and mean, and he was quick-witted and cute and could get away with anything. He exploited it to the hilt. He listened to the rough talk of the longshoremen and waterfront bums who drank at the saloon. By the age of five he knew more curse words than most 20-year-olds, and he started chewing tobacco when he was 7.

     When he wasn’t in the saloon, he was out on the neighborhood streets. He got into fights, he threw rocks at passing horse-drawn buggies, he hung around the shipyards and docks and got into every kind of mischief possible.

     On June 13, 1902, when George was 7, his parents placed him into St. Mary’s Industrial School in Baltimore, an orphanage and reform school. He was listed as “incorrigible.”

      At St. Mary’s, Brother Matthias encouraged George to play baseball. It was Georgie’s first spring-training season. When Brother Matthias hit a fungo 350 feet (using a mushball, of course, a 1903 baseball), George decided that the sight of the ball soaring that majestic distance into the air was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

     He was the best of all the kids. When he was 9 he played with the 12 year olds. When he was 12 he played with the 16 year olds. He became their star catcher, even though he was left-handed. One day he laughed out loud at a mistake the pitcher made, and so Brother Matthias chewed him out in front of the team after the game. “You think pitching is so easy, George? Okay, you’re pitching tomorrow’s game.”

     Georgie spent an uneasy night worrying, but then after throwing one pitch he discovered that pitching a baseball was the most natural thing he’d ever done. The St. Mary’s Reformatory team went on to win the championship, and Georgie saw his name in the newspapers for the first time.

     The day after Georgie turned 18, Brother Matthias introduced him to the owner of the Baltimore Redbirds in the American Association, and Georgie signed a professional contract. He did O.K. in the minor leagues as a pitcher and was brought up to the Boston Red Sox in September of 1914 when they had the pennant in hand and wanted to take a look at rookies.

     The next season he was invited to spring training with the Red Sox. He was amazed at the food players were served, as much as they wanted. Even the veterans on the club were awed when they saw him chomp down a breakfast omelet made with 18 eggs and three big slices of ham, along with six pieces of buttered toast.

     He was selected to join the club, and when the team returned to Boston to begin the 1915 season, George was overwhelmed by the size of the city. The first day in the hotel in Boston, George spent the whole morning riding up and down in the elevator–he’d never seen one before. He was so entranced by it that he almost cut his head off trying to look at the mechanism while it operated. His teammates laughed at him. “This guy is really a babe in the woods,” they said, and the nickname stuck.

     His skills were dominant in the major leagues and he became known as one of the top pitchers. He finished the season with 18 wins and only 8 losses. The next year, he won 23 games and led the league in shutouts and earned run average, and the Red Sox went to the World Series, where George set records for shutout innings pitched.

     He was still a demanding thug, of course. George was a singularly self-absorbed guy, a stranger to his teammates. Other people were just obstacles and impediments to him. He knocked aside opponents with ease on the way to toward the rewards of money, booze, food and women.

     George had always been a pretty good hitter, for a pitcher, and in 1918 the team manager started putting him into right field on the days when he wasn’t pitching. He hit 11 home runs that year while winning 13 games as a pitcher, and the next year he pitched only half a schedule. This time he hit 29 home runs, setting an awesome new record–nobody had ever hit 20 before, let alone nearly 30.

     In 1920 he was sold to the New York Yankees. He set aside pitching forever. Babe Ruth became the biggest slugger the game had ever seen. At the celebration party after the Yankees won the American League pennant, he drank quarts and quarts of beer, and kept yelling “I can outhit, outpitch, outdrink, outsmoke, outeat and outfuck any man who ever lived.” And he could prove it.

     He caroused through the league until he was 40 years old and his reflexes faded. He spent another ten years carousing, smoking and drinking and wenching. Then his raspy throat got worse and worse, and it turned out to be throat cancer, and he died in 1948 at age 53.

     And then Billy woke up in the time travel chair at Stanford.

     He opened his eyes. He heard a wall clock ticking and papers rustling. He was in some kind of dentist’s chair. At first he still thought he was Babe Ruth and he kept clearing his throat and breathing hard. He stared around the lab in fright. He sat up and saw a man writing at a desk. “I, uh…”

     The man turned around, and Babe saw that it was Dr. Rundle, who said “Ah, Billy, you’re back. Good. Now all I need to know is the date and place of birth of your, um, time traveling vehicle, and you can go home for the rest of the day.”

     And Babe tried to explain. “Yeah, wow, I was dying of cancer, and now here I am–what the heck is going on?”

     Dr. Rundle was accustomed to that, of course. Every subject woke up immediately after dying. “Forget all that. What I need to know is the exact date of birth of the person you wound up in, and the time of day and the geographical location.”

     The Billy memories began to come back, and Babe stood up and looked down at himself. His body was lumpy and grotesque and 40 years old, but he was glad he wasn’t really dead.

     He looked at his clothing, looked around the room. It had been 53 years since he’d sat down in the chair, and it was hard to recall if things were the same. He looked at the clock on the wall and was shocked to discover that only one hour had passed.

     The impact of time traveling this way is extreme in the first few minutes after the traveler returns, when he is absolutely certain he has just died. Only slowly does the subject realize who he really is, what has really happened. This is the time when the subject is supposed to write down or dictate as much as possible before the memory starts to fade. But Billy was just a test subject, not one of Dr. Rundle’s fellow researchers. “Well? Do you remember your target’s birthdate?”

     “Yes, it was February 6, 1895, in Baltimore.”

     “So my projection system has turned out to be very accurate. Very good, Billy, you can take the rest of the day off.”

     “And you know what, Doc, this guy you sent me into was some remarkable athlete. Did you ever hear of a guy named–“

     “I’m sure I never heard of him, Billy.” Dr. Rundle stared at the computer screen and compared Billy’s information to the parameters Rundle had set up before the time-shoot. “I’ve brought a lot of time travelers back, and many were convinced they’ve lived some theatrically important life. But that’s not what we’re after. We’re after the roots of mankind’s history.”

     “But this guy was really something special. He–“

     “I don’t care how remarkable you think this man was, Billy, he’s been gone for a hundred years. When you were experiencing 1940, did you hear anybody talk about the best-known athletes of 1820?”

     “Who cares about them, I was the best known athlete of the 1920s!”

     Rundle shrugged. “You’ve proven my point. That’s all over now. Face it, you’re Billy Clawson, janitor. Go. Go home, Billy.”

     Billy considered it, fuming. He calmed down. “Why didn’t you tell me what was going to happen? You sent me back completely unprepared.”

     “No preparation could have helped. You arrive memoryless.”

     “But why send me? Why not one of your researchers?”

     “Frankly, the risks are too great. I have already seen several fine men nearly destroyed by the ugly, brutal lives they were forced to live. In your case, I figured it wouldn’t be too much different from your actual life.”

     Billy took the bus home, as usual, but he was dazed and disoriented. He’d never heard of Babe Ruth until today. He’d never held a baseball in his hand in his life. He was barely aware of the existence of the game. It was a fact of the earth, yes, he knew there was such a thing as the game of baseball, but he’d grown up in a hospital, a place where they kept birth defects alive, a place where walking was the apex of sport.

     The memories were so vivid, so acute, and they made his real life as Billy Clawson seem so irrelevant. He’d never had a drink of alcohol in his life, but when he got off the bus he stopped at the corner liquor store and bought a quart of bourbon, which the Babe used to polish off in one night, and Billy tried to do it, too. But he passed out rapidly and overslept the next day, missing work for the first time in his life. He slept late into the morning, awakening repeatedly after erotic dreams, then falling asleep back into the dreams.

      Except he didn’t miss work, as it turned out. Around 10:30 he was roused from his bed by a knock at the door.

      Nobody ever knocked at Billy’s door. He wondered who it could be, and he stumbled around the apartment pulling on clothing and when he opened the door, Dr. Rundle was there. “Billy, I was hoping to find you here! I know I said some bad things yesterday and I’m sorry, but I was so overwhelmed by your successful jump I wasn’t really listening. It’s entirely likely your host could have been a successful athlete. The important thing is that I need to send you back to that exact moment to make sure I have a repeatable calibration. So please come to work now. I’ll give you a ride.”

      Billy stared at him. He didn’t relish the idea of dying of throat cancer again. But the idea of being a young stupendo-man again was tempting. Besides, it was for the cause of Science and the University and History and everything. Billy Clawson was a virgin, even though he was 40, and a Babe memory came back to him. The time when he told the teammates to count the cigar butts.

      His roommate, centerfielder Bob Meusel, was half asleep one night when Babe came in with a girl, went into his own suite and made love to her in his usual noisy fashion. “Babe was the noisiest fucker in North America,” Meusel said. Afterwards the Babe came out to the living room of the suite, lit a cigar, and sat in a chair by the window smoking it contemplatively. When he finished the cigar he went back into the bedroom and did it again. And then came out and smoked another cigar. Over and over.

      In the morning Meusel asked, “How many times did you lay that girl last night?” Ruth glanced at the ashtray, and so did Meusel. There were seven butts in the tray. “Count the cigars,” said the Babe.

      Billy, remembering, continued to stare at Dr. Rundle. “Well, okay,” he said.

      At the lab, Dr. Rundle said, “This time I want to send two of you at once, you to our established base time of 1895, and our explorer to a time a fixed multiple of your trip in both years and miles. I want to see if it will work. We’re aiming at Mohenjo-Daro in India in 2500 BC”

      They had two chairs now, and another guy was waiting nervously in one of them. Billy felt a bit superior–he wasn’t nervous when he made his first trip. Then again, Billy hadn’t known what he was in for–this new volunteer was fully prepped. He was going to Mohenjo-Daro to attempt to time-ride a court scribe and thus bring home the knowledge to translate the surviving scripts.

      “This is why we need you, Billy,” Doctor Rundle said. “The last time we aimed at Mohenjo-Daro, the volunteer was born into a slave family in the Kingdom of Gleesh. Where on the globe is Gleesh? Why, Gleesh was at the center of the universe, and the king was The Great God Gleesh and the dazzling imperial city the most important core of Gleesh. At least, that’s what the volunteer heard; all he ever saw was the pig farm where he lived until he was 7, and then he fell in the pig pen and the pigs ate him. He could speak and translate the rural language, but it had no correlation with any known language and the details of the culture the volunteer described didn’t match any known previous civilization.

      “Even if the host lived to be an adult we usually get little information. A time-jumper might spend 30 years in a life and never know if it was south or north of the equator, New World or Old World, Egyptian or Chinese, Iron Age or Neolithic. Village life was essentially the same world-wide, and although the reports of the scientific time-jumpers have been interesting, they were not that useful. If only we could ride a host who was a scribe of the court!”

      So blam back Billy went, sliding down the auroral vortex to the beckoning radiance, ejecting wet and screaming into a cold strange new universe, memoryless, overwhelmed with sensory input, into a brain that had not yet grown its language circuits. Again he left behind his 2035 consciousness. He grew up as Babe Ruth, with no sense of deja vu, no sense of presage; he simply lived for the moment, slugging the home runs, screwing the flappers, drinking the booze, smoking the cigars, living life to the hilt, enjoying the same intoxicating success. He was utterly and only Babe Ruth.

      Simply growing up with healthy arms, legs, eyes and reflexes would have been enough for Billy. But he’d left his Billy memories a century in the future; all he knew was what Babe knew. It wasn’t as though he were a separate personality riding unseen inside Babe; he WAS the Babe, with no memory of other existence or knowledge of the future. He couldn’t make decisions that the Babe didn’t make.

      He smoked and drank and fucked and then wheezed his last desperate breaths in 1948 again, and then woke in 2035, disoriented as if waking from a dream of falling.

      Billy heard the clock ticking, and opened his eyes and looked around. He was alone in the psychotemporal transfer room. The other chair was empty. He stood up, careened dizzily, and pushed open a door. He saw an open door down the hall and a sussurus of voices, and he tottered toward the sound. He plunged into a room of people and saw Dr. Rundle, who stopped talking and then said, “Ah, it is our prize traveler Billy Clawson!” and the room burst into applause.

      “It worked, it worked,” Dr. Rundle said. “Now we can know the date and location of each time jumper! Dr. Jones traveled back to exactly the time and place we wanted!” He turned and gestured to somebody, who took Billy by the arm. “Now please go home.” The guy escorted Billy to the bus stop, and Billy rode home again at an unusual time of day for him, dazed by the roaring Babe Ruth memories.

      After the Yankees clinched the 1928 pennant with a win in Detroit, Babe rented some hotel rooms and threw a party. At one point Babe climbed on a chair, a beer in one hand and a sandwich in the other, and shouted, “Any girl who doesn’t want to fuck can leave now.” And very few of them left.

      His appetite was enormous. One night in 1919 a reporter noted that for dinner the Babe he had an entire chicken, potatoes, spinach, corn, peas, beans, bread, butter, pie, ice cream and four cups of coffee. Ty Cobb once said, “I’ve seen him at midnight, propped up in bed, order six club sandwiches, a platter of pig’s knuckles and a pitcher of beer. He’d down all that while smoking a big black cigar.”

      In a St. Louis whorehouse the Babe announced to was going to go to bed with every girl in the house during the night. And he did.

      Babe’s penis wasn’t extraordinary in size. What was extraordinary was his ability to keep doing it all the time. He was continually with women, morning and night. He was very noisy in bed, visceral grunts and whoops accompanying his erotic exertions. “He was the noisiest fucker in North America,” one friend recalled.

      With these memories reverberating in his brain, Billy almost missed his bus stop. When he got home he saw the half-full bottle of whisky left over from last night, and he began drinking it the way the Babe would.

      The next day was Saturday, and at noon there was a knock at his door. It was Dr. Rundle again. “After you went home we tried it again with Dr. Smith, but without you in the circuit, he landed at random. We tried using Dr. Jones as a simultaneous calibrator, but his trip to 25000BC was just too large to be useful as a unit of measure. Your 140-year trip is highly useful, and we’d like you to make another trip today. We’re aiming for the caves of Lescoux, France, 25,000 years ago.”

      It became a daily thing for Billy. He’d go to the university in the morning and hit 714 home runs, have sex with 4,328 different women, and do it again in the afternoon, and then go home. Each time he woke after dying, he was just as surprised, but it is harder and harder for him to reconcile himself with being this crippled shrimp.

      Billy went through the Babe’s life again. And again. And again. And more and more as Billy he was seeing himself through Ruthian eyes, seeing all his personal flaws and inadequacies. He hadn’t been that unhappy with his life, but now it seemed so tiny and dreary.

      Billy Clawson was a dim bulb in his own body, but Babe was very canny. Sure, he didn’t have much schooling, but he had the genius that the world pays off on. Other people saw a babe in the woods–but Babe got everything he wanted, when he wanted it.

      Babe could be world-famous and yet still have his privacy, because in those long ago days there wasn’t any media intruding on him. There weren’t any radio broadcasts when he started. Oh, sure, the newspaper boys were onto him, but they weren’t about to report his alcoholism and sexual promiscuity. He was legendary enough on the ball field. In the off season he could go to Hollywood and make movies and screw starlets, and again the scribes looked the other way. The world was one vast playground for The Babe, and that’s why Billy kept going back to re-live his life.

      It was a completely primitive era, of course, but the Babe didn’t know that–it was as modern as could be, as far as he was concerned. Movies and telephones and radio and airplanes and horseless carriages–how modern could you get? And Billy, with his memory left parked in 2035, had no recollection of the ultra-wired, interactive, nanotech and biotech era he was born into.

      In 2035, Billy was letting the Babe Ruth aspect of his personality come to the fore, but it was having a negative effect on his life, because while the Babe was over six feet tall and good-looking in a coarse way, Billy was an ugly shrimp. Billy began to smoke cigars, because that’s what the Babe did, but in 2035 cigars were not popular. Barely legal.

      Then, on a crisp September morning, Billy arrived at the University and went to the psychotemporal displacement department as usual, eager to hit home runs and fuck prodigiously again, only to be stopped by a strange guard. “Sorry, the University has shut down this department and Dr. Rundle is under investigation,” the guard told him. Billy went to the Human Resource department to find out what was going on, and discoverd that he had been fired, and nobody would say a word about anything.

      He went home and spent the day examining his life. He’d spent 40 years as Billy Clawson, and, over the last three months, 9,593 years as Babe Ruth. He stared shapeless mutant in the mirror and wept.

      That afternoon he encountered his neighbor Joe in the hallway outside his apartment. Joe had only one arm and worked as a toll-booth attendant on the Golden Gate Bridge on the night shift. Billy knew that Joe was a sports fan. “Hey, Joe,” he said, “did you ever hear of an old-time baseball player named Babe Ruth?”

      “Nope,” Joe said, “but we could look him up on the Net.” A few minutes later he said, “Yeah, here he is. Oh, he was one a them pre-millennium players. I guess they were okay in their day, but things are so different today. We pretty much consider that the modern game didn’t start until 2001. The most home runs he ever hit in a year was 60. I guess they thought that was a lot in the old days.”

      “They hit more now?”

      “Hell yeah. Today we got the best players, it’s a lot better game than they had back then.”

      “Is there still a New York Yankees team?”

      “Sure. In fact, they’re in town this weekend to play the A’s.”

      Billy had never been to a baseball game, but now he asked Joe “Are you going to go to the game?”

      “I wasn’t planning on it…why? You want to go? I thought you hated sports.”

      They took the BART subway to the Oakland Coliseum. Joe filled Billy’s ear about the big rules changes that had changed baseball from a dying, ho-hum sport into the best game on Earth, how the league changed dramatically in the 21st century. Designated offense and designated defense, for instance. Managers no longer had to worry about their #1 slugger running into a fence or diving and breaking their arm any more.

      Everything seemed familiar enough to Billy’s Babe memories as they bought tickets and went through the turnstiles, but he was shocked when he saw the field. “But…this is a football field,” he said to Joe.

      “This is high degree baseball–they can play it in football stadiums. It’s still 90 feet from base to base, but the angles are 120 degrees instead of 90 degrees at first and third, and 60 degrees at 2nd and home.” A long, narrow playing field. The infielders wore shin guards and chest protectors and face masks, and the pitcher threw from behind a deflector cage. The fielders did not come to bat–the offensive and defensive teams were completely specialized, just like football.

      They were late and the game was already under way. Joe pointed out a big young guy in the batter’s box. It was early in September and the Athletics had a chance to get into the playoffs, and this kid was a big reason why. “He’s only the third rookie in history to hit 70 home runs in a season, and there are still 30 games left–he might set a new rookie record.”

      Billy Clawson watched the game but couldn’t see it the way Babe Ruth saw it–the colors were dimmer, the sounds and smells more faded. Babe Ruth had the world’s best sensorium, and only now did Billy realize just how dull his own senses were. Even when the Babe was old and dying of cancer he could still see the spin on the ball coming to the plate. When he was a player he could see the spin from his outfield position and know whether the pitch was a fastball or a curve, and thus be able to know what direction the ball was likely to go if the batter hit it. Billy’s ears couldn’t hear the nuances of the crack of the bat hitting the ball–more information that was invisible to Billy. Even the Babe’s sense of smell had helped him…coming to the plate the wind would bring him a whiff of the pitcher and he’d know the pitcher was scared, or tired, or over-amped.

      Billy looked at the field and saw nothing of the old game that he recognized, nothing the Babe recognized, either. The batter swung and hit a foul that carried to the section where Billy and Joe were sitting. The ball rattled around and stopped at Billy’s feet. Billy grabbed it. The ball didn’t have stitches, wasn’t made of leather–it was bright orange, plastic, dimpled like a golf ball.

      Billy held the ball up and Joe clapped him on the back. “Way to go!”

      To Billy it was all incomprehensible, but to the Babe Ruth it was an outrage. The A’s beat the Yanks 28-27 in extra innings and Joe babbled about the game all during the train ride back to the apartment building. But Billy was quiet. He kept looking at the bright orange plastic baseball and wondering how it would look if he were looking through Babe Ruth’s eyes.

      That night he went to a bar, the first time Billy had ever done such a thing, had a few drinks, and tried to pick up a girl. and was told off very nastily. He tried to outdrink somebody, but he couldn’t. He challenged another man to a fight, but when he tried to move, tried to use the Babe’s legendary agility, it wasn’t there, and he stumbled and fell, and the bouncer carried him out to the street while the patrons all laughed.

      He took the bus to Golden Gate Park and walked a couple of despondent miles to the bridge, walked halfway across, and then jumped over the side, plummeting through the fog until he hit the water with a tremendous impact. He kicked and struggled for a few moments in the icy water, and then Billy Clawson faded away….

      And then he woke. He heard a clock ticking. He tried to turn his head but couldn’t. He opened his eyes and saw that he was not in Dr. Rundle’s office. He heard a woman apparently talking on the phone. “Yes, the time-jump people were kind enough to bring a unit here to the hospital and we gave poor little Matty a trip. It’s the only kind of experience he’s ever going to have, so we gave him the life of that Billy Clawson guy who made so many hundreds of jumps in the research days back in 2035…”

      Billy explored his memories. First 53 years of Billy, check. Then 9,535 years of Babe Ruth. And now….the 17 years of Matoya Scherfnagle, 18, who has been quadriplegic since a diving accident when he was 8.

      The woman–Billy now realized it was Matoya’s mother–continued after a pause. “Yes, Dr. Rundle himself helped us. It seemed like quite a good deal–Matty gets all those previous trips for the price of a single jump.”

      Billy yelled “Kill me! Kill me!” but the respirator tubes in his throat made it impossible, and in any event the mouth and tongue muscles were too atrophied to form language.

Originally appeared in
Swagazine, 1997