The Man from When by Dannie Plachta

Mr. Smith was about to mix a moderately rationed Martini for himself when a thunderous explosion quaked through his house, upsetting the open bottle of  Vermouth. After applying a steadying hand to the gin bottle, and while the ice cubes still tinkled maniacally in their shuddering bowl, he sprinted outside. An incandescent glare a hundred yards from the house destroyed the purple sunset he had been admiring not five minutes earlier. “Oh, my God!” he said, and ran back in to phone the state police.

As Smith was procuring a heady draught of gin directly from the bottle, he was further alarmed by a steadily gushing hiss from beyond his open front door. When the sound persisted for a full minute, he went cautiously to the porch to find an intense mist rising from the area of the fiery thing he had viewed moments earlier. Somewhat awed, and thoroughly scared, he watched and waited for about five minutes. Just as he was about to go inside for another belt of gin, a man walked out of the fog and said,

“Good evening.”

“Good evening,” said Mr. Smith. “Are you the police?”

“Oh, no,” answered the stranger. “I’m from that,” he said, pointing a finger into the mist. “My cooling equipment finally kicked into high.”

“You’re a spaceman,” Smith decided.

“I only came a few hundred miles,” shrugged the stranger modestly. “Mostly, I’m a time traveler.” He paused to light a dark cheroot. “The one and only time traveler,” he added, with a touch of pride in his voice.

“The real McCoy, eh? Well, come on in and have a drink. Vermouth’s all gone, but I saved the gin.”

“Be glad to,” said the stranger, as they walked in together.

“Past or future?” wondered Smith, handing the bottle to his guest.

“From the future,” replied the time traveler after a satisfying pause. “Hits the spot,” he smiled, returning the bottle.

“Well,” said Smith, sitting down and making himself comfortable, “I guess you’ll want to tell me all about it.”

“Yes, thank you, I would.”

“Feel free,” said Smith, passing the bottle.

“Well, I had my final calculations, with the usual plus or minus. . . .” He paused for another sip of gin. “And of course it was the minus that had me a little worried.”

“But you took the chance,” interjected Smith.

“Naturally. And as it happened, there was some minus. Just enough to destroy the world.”

“That is too bad,” Smith commented, reaching for the bottle.

“Yes. You see, there was such an expenditure of energy that it completely wiped out the Earth of my time. The force blasted me all the way through space to this spot. By the way, I am sorry if I disturbed you.”

“It was nothing, nothing at all. Forget it.”

“Well, in any event, I took the chance and I’m not sorry. A calculated risk, but I proved my point. In spite of everything, I still think it was worth it. What do you think?”

“Well, as you said, you took the chance; you proved your point. I suppose it was worth it.” Smith took a final drink, saving a few glimmering drops for his guest. “By the way, how far from the future did you travel?”

The time traveler grabbed the gin bottle and consulted his watch. “Eighteen minutes,” he replied.

“It wasn’t worth it,” said Smith.


If you enjoyed this Man from When story, you can read on A Short Story from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, The Night I Met Einstein by Jerome Weidman, The Egg by Andy Weir, and the beautiful short story called The Four Wives.