I'm trying to find a SF short story that I read probably 20 years ago.

It features a couple who have time travelled back to the 20th century, pretending to be "tourists", to escape a totalitarian government in the future. They end up in South America, or perhaps Africa.

There was a particularly resonant line in the story that described the rise of the future dictatorship as being like "a great black ship, leaving the shore". The "tourists" from the future are pursued by agents of the dictatorship into the past.

Do any of you know of something like this ? :)

  • 1
    Was this the one where they were detected because the man didn't pull up his trousers when he sat down? Commented May 15, 2018 at 12:56
  • Yes I think it's that one. Do you know what it is called ? :)
    – UKied1954
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 13:48
  • I remember that one. Showed up in a Hitchcock anthology. They eventually go back because the man pursuing them convinces them they'll do more good in their own time.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 13:52
  • I think there's an incident where a boy gets run down in the streets by a car, that being part of how they get caught.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 14:00
  • Dupe of the unaccepted (but judged likely by the querent) answer at scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/155271/…
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 14:18

1 Answer 1


This is "The Fox and the Forest", by Ray Bradbury, also released as "To the Future". From this summary:

William and Susan Travis are vacationing in Mexico in October 1938, enjoying the local culture. Susan asks if they won't be found out. Bill tries to assure her, but she notices a man at a cafe they pass, a wide variety of liquor bottles arrayed on his table. Susan saw him earlier and believes he's from the Searchers, following them. William tries to keep her calm but Susan thinks of how it all started: her real name is Ann Kristen and her husband is Roger, from 2155 A.D., inhabitants of an Earth poisoned by war. When Ann's friend Rene mentioned a new travel service that allows people to go to different times for vacations, Ann saw the chance she and Roger had long hoped for, to escape their world and their jobs making bombs and disease weapons. The Kristens went to New York City in 1938 a month ago and on the third day fled to Mexico. Their first night in New York, however, they indulged themselves in all the luxurious drinks and smokes of the era, as the war economy of the Future made such things scarce. This kind of indulgence is what they noticed in the man watching them.


Melton invites them for drinks with his group in their hotel room. As they enjoy themselves, Melton tells the story of a man and woman who flee from 2155, immediately alerting the Travises to the real identity of this film company. William fires his gun, wounding one man; but it's too late and the camera is unveiled as the time machine that returns them to the future. The manager of the hotel was banging on the room door after hearing the shots but breaks in too late; the people seem to have disappeared into thin air. Later, while a priest blesses the room, the charwoman asks what's to be done with the contents of the closet, which holds a cornucopia of liquors and smokes.

I read this one as a child, in Alfred Hitchcock Presents Stories Not for the Nervous. After that, it was a matter of looking at the anthologies of Hitchcock that I'd read and looking at their story titles, doing a quick Google search on titles that seemed likely.

I found a copy online. The quote you remember:

A world that was like a great black ship pulling away from the shore of sanity and civilization, roaring its black horn in the night, taking two billion people with it, whether they wanted to go or not, to death, to fall over the edge of the earth and the sea into radioactive flame and madness.

And the detail Daniel Roseman recalled:

"Sorry." The stranger pulled up a chair. "Let us say I thought I knew you because you did not pull your trousers up. Everyone does. If they don't, the trousers bag quickly. I am a long way from home, Mr.-Travis, and in need of company. My name is Simms."

  • 2
    That's the first that came to mind, but I'm willing to be there's a few dozen lesser-known stories based on future people/beings escaping to a (perceived) more idyllic past. Heck, even SIlverberg (I think) wrote some novel in which a fellow ends up escaping from a near-future dystopia to 17th-century America Commented May 15, 2018 at 15:46
  • 2
    The same story was posted as the answer to this old question. The OP replied with a "Thank you" comment but I'm not sure it's explicit enough to close this question as a duplicate.
    – user14111
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 19:02
  • @user14111: Yeah. I posted as much in a comment to the question. I don't see an acceptance there.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 19:14
  • @FuzzyBoots maybe the other one should be closed as a dupe? What's the last activity on it? Commented Mar 27 at 19:09
  • @CristobolPolychronopolis: It is not confirmed, unfortunately.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Mar 27 at 19:14

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