Carl blinked. He was not easily perturbed, but this was a bit much. He was sitting alone in a big white Buick Le Sabre, speeding down a rural freeway at ninety miles an hour. The speed was normal, but the car was a bit strange. Even worse was the seeming transformation that had occurred to his clothes and body. His skin was wrinkled, his muscles shrunken, and his back a bit hunched. He reached up to his head, and blinked again. He was almost bald.
If Carl had been an old man, none of this would have mattered a lot. Time does its work. All the more reason to do ours energetically, he reasoned. The problem was, Carl was a spry, twenty-three year old journalist who hoped to live a few years yet before the fire and ambitions of youth had passed.
The last thing he remembered was driving his BMW through teeming
Two hours later he arrived at the outskirts of a city. At a gas station he had his first real shock. He glanced in the mirror to see how he looked, and he hardly recognized himself. That was not Carl, that was—well, that was Carl. But fifty years older. This time, he blinked twice.
Carl hopped out of his vehicle and stumbled onto the pavement. His feeble legs trembled as he walked around in search of the office. Then came another shock. There was no office, no attendant, no person in sight. All purchases were presumably to be made electronically. After looking in vain for a place to swipe his credit card, he wearily sat down again on the imitation-leather seats of the Buick.
Not only was he fifty years older; apparently the fill-up station was as well. But how had it happened? He had been zooming through downtown on an assignment one moment, and he found himself zooming through
He reached into his pocket again, to see what was in there in place of the notebook. His old cell phone was gone, but he found in his hand a sleek little computer. It was ergonomically as well as aesthetically appealing. Figuring out how to use the thing wasn’t hard, but finding a way to make a phone call on it was difficult. Maybe phone numbers were obsolete.
Feeling strangely weary, Carl started the engine and drove through town, stopping finally at a hotel. He lay awake a long time that night in the $500 room, thinking.
To be continued...