As a family prepares to be "Jaunted" to Mars in the 24th century, the father entertains his two children by recounting the curious tale of the discovery and history of this crude form of teleportation. He explains how the scientist who serendipitously discovered it quickly learned that it had a disturbing, inexplicable effect on the mice he "sent through"--eventually concluding that they could only survive the "Jaunt effect" while unconscious. That, the father explains, is why all people must undergo general anaesthesia before using the Jaunt.
The father spares his children the gruesome semi-apocryphal account of the first human to be Jaunted awake, a condemned murderer offered a full pardon for agreeing to the experiment. The man "came through" and immediately suffered a massive heart attack, living just long enough to utter a single cryptic phrase:
- It's eternity in there...
The father also doesn't mention that since that time, roughly thirty people have, voluntarily or otherwise, jaunted while conscious; they either died instantly or emerged insane. One woman was even shoved alive into eternal limbo by her murderous husband, stuck between two jaunt portals. The man was convicted of murder; though his attorneys attempted to argue that he was not guilty on the grounds that his wife was not technically dead, the implications of the same argument served to secure and hasten his execution.
After the father finishes his story, the family is subjected to the sleeping gas and Jaunted to Mars. When the father wakes, he finds that his inquisitive son held his breath in order to experience the Jaunt while conscious, and has been rendered completely insane. Hair white with shock, corneas yellowed with age, clawing out his own eyes, the boy reveals the terrible nature of the Jaunt: "Longer than you think, Dad! It's longer than you think!" While physically the process occurs nearly instantaneously, to the conscious mind it lasts an eternity and beyond.