8

This is a SF short story (from the period between 1950s and 1970s) about a man who is able to travel back/forth in time by physically going down/up, for instance by climbing down stairs or by stepping on a chair.

This was due to a tear in the spacetime fabric.

Part of the story is composed of the humorously bureaucratic letters exchanged between the entity that created this universe and the entity who commissioned the work.

At the end of the story,

a bad guy tries to force the man to bring back from the American prehistory a valuable artifact (a decorated wood club), and the creator entity solves possible time paradoxes by removing the bad guy.

The story ends with a letter from the creator entity, explaining how it solved the problem, and reminding the commissioner entity that it was still awaiting to be paid.

2
  • 1
    Not the story you're looking for, but this mode of time travel is used in "The Rubber Bend" by Gene Wolfe.
    – tgdavies
    Commented Apr 30, 2023 at 10:08
  • 1
    Not the story you're looking for, but "Time at the Top" is about a time traveling elevator, so a similar equation of time with vertical distance. And in Zelazny's "Roadmarks," time is traversed on a physical road. Commented May 1, 2023 at 19:08

1 Answer 1

9

Are you remembering "The Impacted Man" by Robert Sheckley?

"The Impacted Man" was first published in Astounding Science Fiction Vol. L, No. 4 (December 1952) and included in the Sheckley's first short story collection, Untouched By Human Hands in 1954.

RE: a man who is able to travel back/forth in time by physically going down/up

The protagonist, Jack Masrin, is the titular impacted man, who travels through time when changing elevation in his brownstone. He first encounters this descending the stairs...

He reached the eighth step, and— He was standing on a grassy plain. The transition was as sudden as that. He gasped and blinked. The suitcase was still in his hand. But where was the brownstone? Where was Kay? Where, for that matter, was New York? In the distance was a small blue mountain. There was a clump of trees nearby. In front of the clump was a dozen or so men. Masrin was in a dreamlike state of shock. He observed, almost idly, that the men were short, swarthy, thickly muscled. They wore loin cloths, and carried beautifully carved and polished clubs.

RE: Part of the story is composed of the humorously bureaucratic letters exchanged between the entity that created this universe and the entity who commissioned the work.

The prose is interspersed with epistolary transmissions between Contractor Carienomen (whose team designed and built the metagalaxy) and Controller Miglese (who commissioned it).

RE: the ending

“Good boy!” Harf said. “Hand it here!” Masrin handed him the club. He went over to Kay and put his arm around her. It was a paradox now, as certainly as if he had killed his great- great-grandfather before he was born. “That’s a lovely thing,” Harf said, admiring the club under the light. “Consider your rent paid for the rest of the month—.” The club disappeared from his hand. Harf disappeared.

You can read "The Impacted Man" on the Internet Archive site.

1
  • 1
    Yes. Perfect. For reference, the title of the Italian translation of this story (as I firstly read it, many years ago) is "L'uomo impigliato" and can be found in the book "La decima vittima", Oscar Mondadori. Thank you very much!
    – Ouroboros
    Commented May 1, 2023 at 15:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.