I read this a long, long time ago (I guess maybe 15 years ago, but the book was definitely older than that, I would guess at least 30 years old by now, probably older) and am not sure if I got the details right. Also, the story might have been of German origin. I think it goes something like this:

A young man receives the ability to stop time around him exactly once, i.e. to live in that moment forever. (It might be a magic watch that grants him this power) He continues to live his life, always looking for the right moment (the right moment for him is the one of true happiness), but can never choose the right one. I think bad stuff keeps happening to him, preventing him from being totally happy. At last, he is a very old man and I think the ending is that he lies down next to train tracks, stares up at the night sky/stars, and feels truly happy having lived a long life and experiencing this peace at the end.

Does anyone know a story like this?

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    I recall a very similar story in which the man gets the watch from the Devil -- and never finds just the right time to use it until he's actually on the train to Hell, gambling and drinking and having a good time with no longer any need to think about consequences or what will happen next -- and then he uses the watch.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 14:24
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    In fact, this may have been made into a Twilight Zone episode and/or appeared in one of their collection books.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 14:38

1 Answer 1


In "That Hell-bound Train", Robert Bloch (1958) described a man who made just such a deal with the Devil: He received a watch that could stop time exactly once, which the man proposed to do at the happiest moment of his life. He could never decide on the right time until he was dead, and heading on the train to Hell. As he caroused for one last time with the other damned souls, he stopped time, and for all that anyone knows, he is carousing yet. The story rates its own Wikipedia article.

  • Looks like I remembered the ending wrong, but this does sound familiar; thank you.
    – sfiss
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 15:41

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