Time Travel Tuesday: Pamela Sargent’s “If Ever I Should Leave You”

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It’s Tuesday, and that means it’s time for another Time Travel story…so let’s do it!

“If Ever I Should Leave You” is a story by Nebula Award winner Pamela Sargent that appeared in a compilation titled Worlds of If in 1974 before the author completely reworked it in 1984 for publication in another collection called Afterlives. Sargent, who has enjoyed a productive and long career in the science fiction genre, was awarded the Pilgrim Award for lifetime achievement in science fiction and fantasy scholarship in 2012.

As the story’s narrator somewhat casually reveals, at this point in the future the normal lifespan has reached three centuries, plenty of time to let everyone live out all their dreams by changing careers every twenty or thirty years as they become more and more bored with their current jobs. Science has found a way to keep the human body rejuvenating itself for that amount of time. But there is one catch: when the body suddenly loses that ability, aging comes rapidly and without warning. What seemed like an eternally-young body just weeks earlier, suddenly turns into a geriatric nightmare for its owner.

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Pamela Sargent

Yuri, our narrator’s partner has reached that stage of life, but he is working hard to limit the emotional impact his death will have on her. Yuri is using the Time Station to visit remote locales in the past where the couple can meet again after his death, thus easing his way out of her life rather than leaving it with the abruptness of his impending death. Even though she tries not to visit all the spots set-up for their meets too quickly, the narrator is down to her last set of time coordinates before she knows it. But then, just as despair is setting in, she herself begins to show all the signs of aging that marked Yuri’s rapid decline and death.

Determined to make the most of the time she has left, the narrator does the unthinkable by convincing an old friend who works at the Time Station to do something that is strictly forbidden: he arranges for her to visit a time she has already lived through. She just wants to see Yuri one more time as he was on the day they actually met.

But has she just made it impossible for her that meeting ever to happen? Or can she still do something to ensure that it happens just as she remembers it? She’ll know in four hours when she returns to the present…keep your fingers crossed.

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