I read a story some years ago (probably about 35) in an monthly sci-fi anthology...

It's set in a prison. The main character is a psychopath who has sessions with a psychiatrist - in these sessions he always blames a person in his earlier life for his condition: uncle, father, mother, sibling... each time returning to his cell - time travelling to his earlier life and killing that person...

Example: He blames his father for leading him into bad ways - goes back in time and kills his father. Next session he blames his mother (and the fact that he grew up with no father in his life) - goes back in time and kills his mother. Next session he blames a carer (and the fact that he grew up an orphan) etc...

The story had a very clever dénouement, which is hidden in a spoiler section below.

I would love to read this again - any ideas?

Edited to add: I hope I have explained the format sufficiently - the point is, the psychiatrist helps him to identify where he began to go off the rails and who in his life was responsible. Later when he is alone in his cell he goes back in time (the mechanism for this is not explained - it's as if he can will himself to go to that time) and kills the person identified as responsible.

When he attends his next session: his reality, his history, is different so another person has to be identified as the cause of his problems... the story has a Groundhog Day feel to it...

The final paragraph, the end of the story, has him

sitting once again in front of the Psychiatrist and as if it is suddenly dawning on him he looks up slowly, 'realising' that all his problems started when he first came to see this psychiatrist! Thus leaving the reader in no doubt who will die when he later travels back in time to just before his first session with the psychiatrist...

  • 13
    I wonder if The Butterfly Effect was based off this story.
    – phantom42
    Dec 12, 2012 at 15:43
  • 3
    Sounds like Quantum Leap meets The Sopranos.
    – Kyle Jones
    Dec 13, 2012 at 3:05
  • 13
    I had never read this, but from your description, it sounds like a really awesome story. I'm eager to hear the answer. Is some kind of paradox made when he kills the <final culprit>?
    – Saturn
    Dec 14, 2012 at 4:14
  • 1
    Not a match for your story, but The Flash (vol 3) #8 has a similar story of a villain altering his personal history by time traveling and killing people.
    – user1027
    Jan 15, 2013 at 5:12
  • 1
    I read this many years ago. I think it was republished in an anthology taken from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It's really familiar, and I know I've read it a couple of times, but I never really cared for it, so I never bothered remembering it. Sorry I can't help more :(
    – Broklynite
    Sep 6, 2014 at 12:01

4 Answers 4


Maybe it's Ticking Clock with Cuba Gooding Jr and Neal Mcdonough. A boy grows up to be a sociopath and uses time travel to go back and punish mom, dad, etc to fix his childhood. In this movie the killer is free.

If you're thinking of the one in which the orphan boy shows a secret box full of dissected animals, this is it.

  • 1
    I can't quite vote you up, because they're asking for a short story, not a film, but this might be a good lead if it's based on this story, so no downvote.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Mar 27, 2017 at 4:19
  • This is the closest anyone has come to identifying my story. Yes, the short short story was about 35 years ago but, although I wouldn't go so far as to say this film is based on the story, I'm pretty sure the writer was inspired by it!
    – Ric Millen
    Apr 25, 2017 at 12:06


One of the very best of the series. Convicted criminal Jack Warden is banished to outlying asteroid, where he lives alone on barren plain (Death Valley) in a rickety corrugated shack (not a wise choice of hot weather building materials). Needless to say, he's going slowly nutzoid. Supply ship commander (Dehner) takes pity and smuggles a female android to him for company.

Outstanding script treats Warden's predicament in unusually intelligent, thoughtful manner, providing at the same time some insight into ordinary human frailties. Android gimmick supplements theme rather than defining it. Solid performances, especially Warden's depiction of a man at the end of his rope, (note presence of uncredited Ted Cassidy as crewman, practicing the obnoxious personality that would later flower as Ted Baxter on "Mary Tyler Moore Show"). Good location sites help create sense of desperate isolation. The shot of the shack pictured against the infernally barren landscape is enough to send you running for the nearest city. Ending is powerfully done with an emotional impact that will likely stay with you.

In my book, this is one of the entries that established the series' reputation and its now classic status.

  • 1
    How does this match the question being asked? I couldn't see anything about a mental patient using time travel to kill people from his past?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Nov 7, 2015 at 12:09
  • 2
    You couldn't include the title (the answer) in your answer? You have to click through? And you don't even link to the main page with the plot, you linked to reviews. Weird. Nov 7, 2015 at 14:58

you are referring to one of these films, plot sounds similar 12 Monkeys (1995) Terry Gilliam’s film about time travel as preventative medicine against a world-wide plague is also the basis for the 12 Monkeys series on our sister channel, Syfy. Bruce Willis stars as James Cole, a prisoner from 2027 sent back to 1996 (present day when the film was released) to stop the spread of a plague that will decimate the human race. He convinces Dr. Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) that he’s on a mission from the future, and she joins him in following clues leading to the “Army of the Twelve Monkeys,” thought to be the organization responsible for killing over 90% of the world’s population. Featuring a showy performance by Brad Pitt shot before he became a megasuperstar.

La Jetée (1962) If you’ve been to film school, you’ve seen this short French film. (If you’ve been to film school and they didn’t show you this film, you need to get your tuition back). While not true horror, La Jetée was the inspiration for Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, of which it shares all of the pertinent plot points. A prisoner from a decimated future is sent to the past in an attempt to alter the time line and save the planet. He meets a woman, falls in love, but holds onto the nightmare images of a terrible childhood incident. Told almost entirely in still images and voiceover narration, La Jetée is bedrock Film 101 material.

The Jacket (2005) Is it or isn’t it time travel? Adrian Brody stars as a (possibly wrongly) convicted murderer sentenced to a mental facility. Unorthodox treatments, including experimental drugs and long stretches locked in a morgue drawer while wearing a straitjacket, unlock Brody’s time traveling abilities. Or do they? The topnotch cast include Keira Knightley, Kris Kristofferson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kelly Lynch and the late Brad Renfro.

then there's the obvious The Butterfly Effect 1, 2, and 3 movies


Well, not sure this is the one you looking for but there is a movie , If this is what you were looking for then it's based on the book.

Haven't read the book but it does not look like having any time traveling on it. Specially if you look at its publishing date (1915). The movie, on the other hand, has some time travel.

  • 1
    Can't you just check if the movie was made into a book? Just a google search can make your answer that much better...
    – AJL
    Sep 30, 2015 at 0:25

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