|Genre(s)||Horror, Science fiction, Short story|
|Published in||The Twilight Zone Magazine (1st release),|
|Media type||Print (Magazine, Hardback & Paperback)|
The story takes place early in the 24th century, when the technology for teleportation, referred to as "Jaunting", is commonplace, allowing for instantaneous transportation across enormous distances, even to other planets in the Solar System.
In the future, humans have developed a form of instantaneous teleportation called "the Jaunt", enabling colonization of the Solar System. Mark Oates and his family are transferred from their home in Schenectady to a new posting on the Mars colony of Whitehead City with Texaco Water. As his family prepares to be "jaunted" from the Port Authority Terminal in New York City, Mark entertains his two children by recounting a semi-apocryphal tale of the discovery and history of teleportation.
He explains how in 1987 an eccentric scientist, Victor Carune, accidentally discovered the Jaunt after years of research when he accidentally teleported two of his own fingers. Although the Jaunt functioned perfectly when he tested inorganic objects, Carune discovered a side-effect on the mice sent through his two Jaunt portals. The mice would either die instantly or behave erratically before dying moments later. He eventually discovered that they could only survive the "Jaunt effect" while unconscious. Mark explains that this is why all people must undergo general anaesthesia before using the Jaunt.
Mark spares his children a gruesome account of the first human to be Jaunted awake, a condemned death-row murderer named Rudy Foggia, who had been promised a full pardon upon taking part in the experiment. After 13 other inmates were Jaunted under the effects of anesthesia, Foggia died of a massive heart attack after emerging, living just long enough to utter the cryptic phrase, "It's eternity in there."
Mark also omits mention that since its invention, 30 people have jaunted while conscious, voluntarily or otherwise. Each time, they either died instantly or emerged insane. One man even shoved his wife between two jaunt portals, causing her to be trapped in a limbo state. The man was swiftly charged with murder, despite his lawyers arguing that his wife was technically still alive. The true nature of his crime only hastened his conviction and execution.
He elaborates that it's theorized that while physically jaunting 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. This impossibly long absence of external stimuli causes the brain to either shut down completely or function erratically, causing death and insanity. However, he is careful in wording this so as to not scare his family.
After Mark finishes his story, the family is subjected to sleeping gas and jaunted to Mars. When Mark awakens, the first thing he hears is his wife screaming. His adventurous son, Ricky, deliberately held his breath while being administered the anesthetic to experience the Jaunt while conscious, and has been rendered completely insane. Ricky shrieks, "It's longer than you think, Dad! Longer than you think!" before clawing his eyes out as he is wheeled away from his horrified family by several attendants.