Bester, Alfred – “Of Time and Third Avenue” (1951)
Where “The Other Side” introduced this volume’s near-constant themes of the end of humanity, “Of Time and Third Avenue” introduces the diametrically-opposed optimistic idea that the future is something to look forward to – a message often delivered by means of a time traveller. Young couple Oliver and Jane head into a bar after stopping by a book store, where a strange man informs Oliver that while he thought he had just purchased the 1950 Almanac, it was actually the 1990 edition. Oliver is momentarily tempted by greed (the almanac offering him “Money in my pocket. The world in my pocket.”), but the man makes a persuasive offer: “We are forbidden to transfer anything that might divert existing phenomena streams, but at least I can give you one token of the future.” This token is a $100 bill from 1980, signed by Oliver Wilson Knight, Secretary of the Treasury. As an incredible reveal about your future career, this seems slightly… underwhelming?