Ever since Gavin has been a baby, he has seen the same woman appear at various moments of his life. She appears to speak, but there is no sound.
When Gavin was playing at his friend Toby's house, Gavin saw the woman outside and asked Toby who she was. Toby didn't bother to look, and said she was the gardener.
However, when Gavin went to school for the first time, he saw her there and realised she was a teacher. The other teacher, Mrs Grillo, frightened Gavin, but the silent one seemed nice. When Gavin needed to use the bathroom, he asked the nice teacher, and she didn't say no, so he left. He got lost and needed to be taken back to class. The school told his parents, and his Mum suggested that maybe he had an imaginary friend.
When Gavin goes to university, he falls in love with a deaf girl named Irene Gilbey. He decides to approach her, and as he does, he expects to see the woman there, since she has been there at all the pivotal moments of his life. Sure enough, he sees her nearby.
Gavin approaches Irene, but is so nervous that he can only make a couple of dumb comments, including, "I've always wanted to learn to lip-read".
For the next three years, Gavin and Irene are good friends. She doesn't know he is in love with her, and he doesn't know she's having an affair, first with Mr Frisby, then with Toby. Gavin learns to lip read from Irene.
One evening, Gavin is sitting in his flat, and suddenly the woman appears. Now that he can lip-read, he can understand what she is saying. She seems to be talking about his suicide, and how this is the last night of his life. She then suddenly notices that he can see her and is appalled.
Gavin and the woman, whose name is Bernice Summerfield, talk, with him reading her lips and her reading off cards he holds up. She tells him that she's from the 27th century, and that Gavin's well-preserved body has lasted until now. She is using something called a Quantum Imager to see into her past, which is Gavin's life. She is giving a lecture on the 20th century, using his life as a guide.
Gavin learns that if he doesn't commit suicide this night, it will create a time paradox. He jumps off a bridge into a mud bank.
To his surprise, he wakes up six centuries later. Benny's people think the mud was some kind of stasis gel that preserved Gavin's body alive, though they only just discovered that he is still alive. His body had been on display for centuries.
After passing out for a week, Gavin wakes up, happy to be in "the future". He stays at the Braxiatel Collection as a visiting expert on the 20th century and becomes good friends with Benny.
- Bernice Summerfield
- Irving Braxiatel
- Gavin Oliver Scott
- Toby Wilton
- Mrs Grillo
- Mr Frisby
- Irene Gilbey
- Gavin's favourite television programme is Blake's 7. Benny acquires two episodes of the series on VHS for him.
- Gavin mentions Dostoyevski and Tolstoy.
- Toby has a very large Scalextrix set.
- This story is told by Gavin, interspersed with portions of Benny's lecture.
- This was later one of the eight stories collected in Treasury.
to be added