By Wayland Young

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The Choice by Wayland Young1

Before Williams went into the future he bought a camera and a tape-recording machine and learned shorthand. That night, when all was ready, we made coffee and put out brandy and glasses against his return.
“Good-by,” I said. “Don’t stay too long.”
“I won’t,” he answered.
I watched him carefully, and he hardly flickered. He must have made a perfect landing on the very second he had taken off from. He seemed not a day older; we had expected he might spend several years away.
“Well,” he said, “let’s have some coffee.”
I poured it out, hardly able to contain my impatience. As I gave it to him I said again, “Well?”
“Well, the thing is, I can’t remember.”
“Can’t remember? Not a thing?”
He thought for a moment and answered sadly, “Not a thing.”
“But your notes? The camera? The recording-machine?”
The notebook was empty, the indicator on the camera rested at 1 where we had set it, and the tape was not even loaded into the recording-machine.
“But good heavens,” I protested, “why? How did it happen? Can you remember nothing at all?”
“I can remember only one thing.”
“What was that?”
““I was shown everything, and I was given the choice whether I should remember it or not after I got back.”
“And you chose not to? But what an extraordinary thing to . . .”
“Isn’t it?” he said. “One can’t help wondering why.”

The Choice by Wayland Young

  1. How long did Williams’ friend have to wait before Williams returned?

  1. What did Williams remember from his trip?

  1. How did Williams feel about his choice?

  1. Why do you suppose Williams made the choice he did?

  1. Why do you think the camera, notebook, and recorder weren’t used?

  1. What does this story seem to say about the future?

1 From Variations Literature Program: Shadowbox Anthology. Harcourt, Brace, & Jovanovich, 1976.

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