Trying to find this story, I think it was part of a multi-story sci-fi book. People keep telling me it is "The pendulum" or "The time machine" but I am pretty sure it isn't.

Nutshell plot, scientists creates time machine, gets the worlds greatest scientists to get in it for maiden voyage, it blows up. The bring the scientist to trial, find him guilty, build a giant clock from the remaining part of his time machine and stick him in a large glass pendulum. Time passes, eventually they have a robot feeding him, eventually aliens make it to earth where they find him in the pendulum and think he is the king (or something like that).

Any ideas?

1 Answer 1


This (very) short story is Ray Bradbury's "The Pendulum", originally published in 1939.

You can read the full text online here

Day after day the robots still came, worked, unabated by the visitation of the black horde. They came every week, brot food, tinkered, checked, oiled, cleaned. Up and down, back and forth—THE PENDULUM!

... a thousand years must have passed before the sky again showed life over the dead Earth. A silvery bullet of space dropped from the clouds, steaming, and hovered over the dead city where now only a few solitary robots performed their tasks. In the gathering dusk the lites of the metropolis glimmered on. Other automatons appeared on the rampways like spiders on twisting webs, scurrying about, checking, oiling, working in their crisp mechanical manner.

And the creatures in the alien projectile found the time mechanism, the pendulum swinging up and down, back and forth, up and down. The robots still cared for it, oiled it, tinkering.

A thousand years this pendulum had swung. Made of glass the round disk at the bottom was, but now when food was lowered by the robots through the tube it lay untouched. Later, when the vacuum tube came down and cleaned out the cell it took that very food with it.

Back and forth—up and down.

The visitors saw something inside the pendulum. Pressed closely to the glass side of the cell was the face of a whitened skull—a skeleton visage that stared out over the city with empty sockets and an enigmatical smile wreathing its lipless teeth.

  • That was it. For some reason I kept looking up "The Pendulum" and this was not coming up. Thanks for the help!
    – Bob
    Feb 4, 2015 at 18:36
  • 4
    @Bob - Don't forget to mark this as accepted :-)
    – Valorum
    Feb 4, 2015 at 19:06
  • Thanks for the link. The foreword to that 1939 fanzine is timeless, some things never change.
    – Abulafia
    Feb 5, 2015 at 10:20

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