A three-man spaceship is lost and low on fuel. The crewmen, Captain James Webber, Peter Kirby, and Kurt Meyers, strap in to land. The asteroid’s atmosphere, gravity, and temperature are all Earth-normal. The younger Kirby prepares to go outside, pointing out that whatever the risks, they’re out of options. They open the hatch and discover that despite the fact they’re 665 million miles from Earth, they have set down in a farmyard.
The men spot a dog nearby and Kirby calls it over. However, the dog doesn’t move and the men continue on. The farm has a primitive vehicle that Meyers recognizes as a 20th century tractor from 200 years ago. Kirby wonders if they have traveled back in time, but Meyers points out that there are two suns in the sky. Captain Webber finds a farmer standing nearby, leaning on a pitchfork. They reach out to the farmer, who doesn’t respond to them. They assume he’s in a trance and run down the road. They spot a fisherman on the shore and Kirby approaches him, but the man doesn’t respond. When Kirby touches him, he falls over.
The three men hear the sound of a band playing and go to investigate. They find a marching band, frozen, and music being piped in on loudspeakers. A banner welcomes Mayor Finch, who is standing frozen on a balcony while frozen townspeople look up at him. Meyers suggests that it’s an illusion, but Captain Webber points out that they’re seeing scenes of 20th century Earth. They wonder if their personal time has sped up or the inhabitants have slowed down. Kirby finds a clock but discovers that it has no hands on it. Captain Webber orders them to separate to search the area and return in one hour.
Captain Webber enters a bar and finds a tableau of four men playing poker. One player has four aces and a joker, and a huge stack of chips.
Meyers goes to a hotel and enters one of the rooms. An older man and a younger woman are frozen in mid-dance as a trio of violinists serenades them.
Kirby finds a beauty pageant where a homely woman is crowned queen. He compliments her but gets no response, and yells at everyone asking what’s wrong. Once he runs off, an older audience member turns and smiles.
The three men reunite and walk down a quiet suburban street. Meyers admits that he would like it there if he thought it was real. The men spot a house with a man sitting on the porch reading a newspaper, the man from the beauty pageant. They go up to him and are surprised when he lowers the paper and greets them. He introduces himself as Jeremy Wickwire and assures them that there’s nothing to be afraid of. He invites them into the house and explains that they built it for a Mr. Jacobson. However, Jacobson changed his mind and is now in the medieval section slaying a dragon. Wickwire explains that there are many historical sections, but the 20th century section is the most popular. Captain Webber explains that they’re from Earth and ran into a meteor shower six months ago. They have no way to go back.
Wickwire asks if Earth ever had the atomic war, and Meyers informs him that the nuclear war began in 1985, and most of Earth’s surface was destroyed. He offers to make them food, but Kirby demands to know where they are. Wickwire tells them that they’re in a cemetery and goes to get them lunch and drinks. When he returns, he proposes a toast to everlasting, eternal peace.
The three men drink with him and then ask for help. Wickwire first asks what their dearest wish would be and where would they rather be. Kirby says that he wants to be on the ship heading for Earth and going to home. The others agree, and Wickwire then asks when they left Earth. When they confirm that it’s 2185, Wickwire tells them that he thought they were from Happy Glades, the world’s greatest mortuary. The management came up with a scheme for those who could afford it, to recreate the conditions under which the dear departed were most happy. If the deceased wanted to be mayor, they would create a tableau where he was mayor. Captain Webber is skeptical, but Wickwire insists that it’s true. When Webber wonders why the mortuary company didn’t pick a place on Earth, Wickwire explains that the company promised eternal peace and they couldn’t find it on Earth. Kirby asks who Wickwire is, and he explains that he’s the caretaker. The mortuary began in 1973 and Webber points out that would make him over 200 years old. Wickwire explains that he’s merely a scientific device, and will shut down once they leave.
Kirby snaps at Wickwire, frustrated, and the three men start to weaken. Wickwire explains that they won’t be leaving, but they will be going on. They realize that their drinks were poisoned. As they collapse, Wickwire explains that he’s administered the eternifying fluid and there is no antidote. When Meyers asks why, Wickwire says that they are there and they are men, and while there are men there can be no peace.
Later, Wickwire boards the spaceship and dusts off the three crewmen… frozen at their posts and seemingly on their way back home, just as they wished.
Written by Gadfly on Sep 20, 2015