Please help me identify this short story of speculative fiction about time travel (or maybe more accurately, time shifting) which I read some time in the late 1980s or early 1990s. I may have some of the details wrong but I'll try to summarize what I remember as well as I can.

The story was set in the present day and concerned a boy who somehow found himself living several minutes in the future. He arrived at school took his seat at his desk, but despite greeting them none of his classmates seemed to take any notice of him. When he raised his hand to answer a teacher's question, the teacher ignored him, even after he started frantically trying to get her attention. However, several minutes later his classmates said hello and the teacher acknowledged his raised hand, and then she became annoyed that he was continuing to wave it around and act as though he was trying to get her attention. The boy then realized what was happening: whatever actions he took did not have any effect on the rest of the world for several minutes; there was some sort of fixed time delay after which his motions and speech became visible. He became frightened, and left the school. He came to a road and speculated on the dangers of crossing it—that is, what would happen if he safely crossed it now when it seemed to be clear, but then a few minutes later a car appeared and struck his after-image?

That's all I can remember but hopefully it's enough for someone to go on.

  • 1
    I think I may remember this. Was there a part where he has to cross the street but is afraid that he'll be hit by a car he can't see? He avoids that by deducing how far ahead he is, and times the traffic lights to make sure he's crossing while they're all stopped.
    – John O
    Commented Aug 1, 2012 at 15:07
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    I think so, yes. Any idea where the story is from?
    – Psychonaut
    Commented Aug 1, 2012 at 20:08

2 Answers 2


Thanks to a lead by @john-o I've identified the real source of the story. The story appears not in Packard's The Cave of Time (Choose Your Own Adventure #1, published in 1979) but rather in its second sequel, Return to the Cave of Time (Choose Your Own Adventure #50, published in 1985). I don't have a copy so I can't check myself. However, online reviews and plot summaries make it clear that this is the time-shifting tale. For example, a review on Demian's Gamebook Page says, "Perhaps the highlight of Return to the Cave of Time is where the reader is placed in a time period 5 minutes ahead of everyone else. It proves to be interesting and very complicated to think about."

  • Ah. You had me going nuts there for awhile. Sorry I didn't quite get it right.
    – John O
    Commented Aug 8, 2012 at 13:38

If it is the book I'm thinking of, I would have read it in the early 80s, in grade school. Say, 1981 through 1983. It was one of those choose your own adventure books. And I'm pretty sure it's this one:


Not exactly a short story, but I know that there is a passage in there where the boy is shifted ahead by several minutes.

[edit] Since you've expanded the description, I am now 100% certain that my identification is correct. As confirmation, do you remember another passage in the far future, where the boy is automatically hooked up to some virtual environment where he gets to enjoy any pleasure he can think of, only to become disconnected when the steward of the system realizes that he'd be unhappy not being in the real world? I can think of a few others as well, but those seem so generic that I doubt they'd be helpful.

[edit] Not this book but a sequel, see Psychonaut's comment.

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    My copy of the book (ISBN 0-553-12790-X) does not contain any story arc where the reader is shifted ahead by several minutes. There's nothing about being in class and nothing about crossing a road. Is it possible that your identification is incorrect, or that later editions of the book included more story arcs?
    – Psychonaut
    Commented Aug 7, 2012 at 20:22
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    You're talking about something I would have read in second grade. And I'll be old enough to be a grandfather in a year or two. If I've mis-identified it, my apologies. But I clearly remember this.
    – John O
    Commented Aug 7, 2012 at 23:58

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