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Key Plot Points

I am trying to identify a book of short stories. The points I remember are:

  1. A girl offers to show one of the characters what's in store at the end of the universe
  2. At the end of the book, that character claws out his own eyes and just keeps screaming "Oh GOD! Look at it. LOOK AT IT!"
  3. Earlier, there is a discussion about how the universe will snap back like a giant rubber band and she is here to prepare them for it.

Other Relevant Info and Chronology

The girl is featured on the cover, with her arms outspread. Not a lot to go on, but I read the story 15 years ago and can't remember any more.

  • Please don't re-post questions which are identical to older ones. I'm not sure if you're the same person who posted this question - if so, for future reference, it's better to edit your question to provide further details (this also bumps it back to the front page of the site) than to re-post it. – Rand al'Thor Sep 5 '16 at 13:34
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    Are the short stories related to each other? The way you describe it, it sounds more like a novel. – Organic Marble Sep 5 '16 at 15:52
3

The Jaunt - Steven King 1981 published in The Twilight Zone Magazine

collected in King's 1985 collection Skeleton Crew.

I believe this is the story in question although not every detail matches the authors description.

The telling signs to me are the description of the cover, and the explanation of the character scratching their eyes.

As his family prepares to be "Jaunted" to Mars, Mark entertains his two children by recounting the curious tale of the discovery and history of teleportation. He explains how the scientist who discovered the Jaunt quickly learned that it had a disturbing, inexplicable effect on the mice sent through the two Jaunt portals. The mice would either die instantly or behave erratically before dying moments later. The scientist eventually concluded that they could only survive the "Jaunt effect" while unconscious. That, the father explains, is why all people must undergo general anaesthesia before using the Jaunt.

Mark spares his children the gruesome semi-apocryphal account of the first human to be Jaunted awake, a condemned murderer offered a full pardon for agreeing to the experiment. The man came through and immediately suffered a massive heart attack, living just long enough to utter a single cryptic phrase: "It's eternity in there..."

Mark also doesn't mention that since the inception of the technology, roughly thirty people have Jaunted while conscious, voluntarily or otherwise. Each time, they either died instantly or emerged insane. One woman was even shoved alive into eternal limbo by her husband, stuck between two Jaunt portals. Even though his attorneys attempted to argue that he was not guilty on the grounds that his wife was technically still alive, the implications of that argument only served to secure and hasten his murder conviction and execution.

Mark then reveals the nature of why any conscious being goes insane or dies after being Jaunted. It is theorized that while physically the process occurs nearly instantaneously, to a conscious mind it lasts an eternity. One is simply left alone with their thoughts in an endless field of white for what is suggested to be possibly anywhere from hundreds to billions of years. However, the father is careful in his wording to keep from scaring his family.

After Mark finishes his story, the family is subjected to the sleeping gas and Jaunted to Mars. When Mark wakes, he is first aware of screaming. He finds his inquisitive son Ricky's hair suddenly lengthened and white with shock and cackling like a lunatic. Ricky held his breath while being administered the general anesthesia in order to experience the Jaunt while conscious, and has been rendered completely insane. Ricky confirms the terrible nature of the conscious Jaunt, shrieking "It's longer than you think, Dad! Longer than you think!" Ricky then claws his own eyes out as he is wheeled away from his horrified family by several Jaunt attendants.

Also I looked for a copy of the cover and found the following which alough not an exact to the description, again seemed very in line and strikingly memorable.

Cover of The Jaunt Book

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    The jaunt is a great story, but there's no girl offering to show the characters the end of the universe, nothing about the universe snapping back like a rubber band and at the end Ricky Oates doesn't say anything like "Oh God, look at it". Though admittedly Ricky does claw his own eyes out. – John Rennie Sep 5 '16 at 11:34
  • My guess is the person asking the question is getting details mixed up.. for example... outspread arms on the cover. pre04.deviantart.net/6aef/th/pre/i/2012/041/4/c/… – Bruce Sep 5 '16 at 11:39
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    Oedipus Rex sort of matches too, except for some details. – user14111 Sep 5 '16 at 12:51

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