The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

During a village cricket match, in which Great Wymering’s team is a player short, a strange person appears as if from nowhere. At first, the newcomer emits a strange whirring sound and cannot control his speech or his movements, but he recovers and is recruited by Gregg, the Great Wymering captain, as a substitute for the missing man. Unfortunately, after hitting several balls out of sight, the stranger loses control of himself again and runs away at great speed. Tales of his subsequent bizarre behavior soon begin to circulate in the village.

The local general practitioner, Doctor Allingham, proposes that the stranger must be an escaped lunatic. The more imaginative Gregg observes that the stranger is as much machine as human and guesses that he has been displaced from the future because the mechanical part of him is malfunctioning. Gregg suggests that the stresses and strains of contemporary civilization already have brought human beings so close to breakdown that some form of mechanical regulation will soon become necessary. Evidence to support this hypothesis is provided by discovery of the stranger’s lost wig and hat, neither of which is of contemporary origin.

The stranger is found, in control of himself once again but in deep distress, by another of the cricketers, bank clerk Arthur Withers. The stranger shows Withers the “clock” fitted to the back of his skull, which allows people like him to perceive and move within many...

(The entire section is 490 words.)