Happy Ending (short story)
Though frequently anthologised, the story did not appear in a collection under the writer's own name until 2010, when it was included in Detour to Otherness, with 23 other stories written by Kuttner himself or in collaboration with his wife, Catherine Moore.
The narrative proceeds out-of-sequence. Described chronologically a man walks into a fortune telling booth where he meets a robot from his future. The robot tells him that his name is James Kelvin and that while unable to give Kelvin a horoscope, it could supply him a method at attaining health, fame and fortune. He receives a gadget with a button on it. Every time he presses the button, he temporarily enters the mind of someone in the future. After pushing the button, the robot warns him, "there is a danger, Tharn". Afterwards the name Tharn keeps taking over his thoughts.
Later that night, Tharn appeared to him. To escape, Kelvin pressed the button and landed in a stream. Unable to swim he frantically pressed the button again, which gave him the ability to breathe under water. To escape the stream, he pressed the button yet again and landed in New Orleans in a drunken state. To escape, he pressed the button again and transported into a lab. There he met a bald man with a red mustache. He began a scientific conversation with him on proteins and amino acids. He came up with a brilliant idea to cure Coryza that would make him millions of dollars. Tharn appears again, forcing Kelvin to press the button once again. He lands in a cornfield in Seattle. He decided to kill Tharn. Moments later Tharn appears and, when Kelvin pressed the button, he died. Kelvin pressed the button again and returned to the lab with the bald scientist who informed him that he was now a millionaire. Now that the button had completed its task, it no longer worked.
In a surprise ending Kelvin is revealed to be scientist Quarra Vee, Tharn's owner. The two are preparing to go into the past to find their runaway fortune-telling robot. Quarra Vee is transported into Chicago without his memory and walks into a fortune telling booth. The robot there tells him he is James Kelvin.
- Happy Ending title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- Detour to Otherness title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
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