"Thank you for coming down Dr. Jensen."
"It's my pleasure, Dr. Hornbluth, but I'm a bit confused as to why you asked for me--I'm not a specialist in mental health."
"This is ah, an unusual case. You've been a great help on some previous rather mysterious aliments, so I thought it would best to consult you on this one as well."
"What's specifically wrong with this one?"
"He is a John Doe. He's lucid, but not able to tell us his name."
"Does he have amnesia?"
"Not according to him. He claims to be from the future."
"A time traveler?"
"Not exactly. I mean I'm not quite sure how to explain it--wait, you'd accept that as a valid explanation?"
"I suppose it's hypothetically possible, but it's more likely that he's profoundly delusional."
"Yes. Well I thought that too, but well..." chuckled Dr. Hornbluth, "you'll see."
"I'll do what I can. You know, you do seem to get more than your fair share of the odd ones, don't you?"
"Quite. Right this way please, watch your step. Here he is."
"Good morning!" said Dr. Jensen.
"Is it really?" asked John Doe.
"Don't you think so? Look out the window--it's a bright sunny day. A day full of promise. What do you think of that?"
"That's really what you see?"
"Yes, yes I do. What do you see?"
"Uhgggghhh," sighed John. "What small minds you creatures have."
"Oh?" asked Dr. Jensen. "Are we creatures to you?"
"Progenitors. I'm really amazed we came from you at all. Apparently most of your population doesn't even believe in evolution. How we ever got past all that is beyond me."
"Well, I do. I'm a doctor. But what do you mean by 'progenitor'?"
"I'm among your descendants. Probably not you specifically, but who knows. A lot of time has passed."
"How did you get here?" asked Dr. Hornbluth.
"I've told you before, you small little person, I was transported here."
"Transported? What do you mean by that?"
"Gnnuufff," John grunted, "Do have to explain everything? Why won't you just let me go. If I have to be subjected to this hideous planet, I'd like to be subjected to it somewhere other than this chemical smelling facility."
"I'm sorry your surroundings are not up to your standards," said Dr. Jensen, "but we can't release you without knowing who you are. Do you have name?"
"Not one that is valid in this era. I have a designation. It's meaningless to you and your primitive systems of taxation."
"I don't know where you get the idea about taxes, but we're a hospital, and while we would be pleased if you could pay your bill promptly, it's not our primary concern."
"You think I'm deluded, perhaps potentially psychotic, but I'm not. Frustrated, annoyed, and angry, sure, but very much sane."
"That's good to hear, but I can't make that assessment on your word alone."
"I can only tell you the truth, I've tried to tell this yahoo, and it's not a story you'd be willing to accept."
"Dr. Hornbluth is not a yahoo, at least not that I'm aware--"
"Sorry doctor," said Dr. Jensen, "but I have seen some rather strange things in my time here, so why don't you try telling your full story to me."
"I'm a mass murderer," said John.
"Oh," said Dr. Jensen.
"Are you refusing to tell us your identity for fear you'll be caught?" asked Dr. Hornbluth.
"You're not listening. I have been caught. I'm being punished, by being transported back to the dawn of civilization."
"It's hardly the dawn of civilization--"
"It is from where I am. Now shut up."
"Yes, Dr. Hornbluth, maybe it's best to just let him get it out."
"Anyway. I'm serving my sentence here, for as long as this body holds out."
"I told you. I was transported here."
"Now what do you mean by that? I don't understand."
"This isn't a word for it in your primitive clickity-clack thing you call language. Ghughhh. I was in my real body, I was transported, and now I'm here, existing inside this flabby fellow. What a horrible disgusting body. I really don't know how you all just do jump off the nearest cliff. All the cleaning, eating, eliminating, and sleeping. Gack."
"Well. So you traveled back through time, to inhabit an existing body? Is that correct?"
"Not really. 'Time' implies one dimension. It doesn't work like that. 'Travel' implies a journey of some sort--also not correct. There was nothing between me in real life and me being here. Honestly, it can't be explained in your words or your mathematics. The terminology doesn't exist yet."
"I see. And you find some discomfort with, your body?"
"Would you be comfortable in the body of an amoeba?"
"I don't think amoebas are capable of feeling much," muttered Dr. Hornbluth.
"No, I don't think so. But are you indeed inhabiting a body that was here before you came into it?"
"Yes. That's true."
"So you are a person that has an identity then."
"I'm not that person."
"Yes, but the body has an identity. If we can figure that out, we can probably sort you out so you can get out of this hospital. Your body had a life of its own before you, so you could share that. You might have friends and family and a job but--"
"Did you not hear me when I said I was a mass murderer? You still think I'm just delusional--"
"Why would you tell us that though? If you truly were, you would probably hide the fact, and just go with the cover of being an amnesiac."
"Because I can tell right from wrong. That's why I stood trial and was convicted. I wasn't insane when I did it."
"Why did you do it?"
"Circumstances. I did it for what you would call 'money', although we have a much more elaborate system of commerce. Close enough though."
"And what, you feel guilt now?"
"The sentence outweighs the crime. It wasn't just."
"We don't have any proof of what you did. We have no reason to punish you."
"You don't understand...just being here, existing here, trapped in this body, is my punishment. The only way to escape this is to sever me from it, and that's not possible once transport is complete."
"But it is possible?"
"No, but--oh. Oooooh."
"What? Is there a way?"
"Yes. Yes there is. It's a longshot though. Do you have access to a television transmitter?"
"Uh, no, not really."
"High powered radio?"
"What do you have in mind?"
"If I sent a signal...here let me write it down."
"Take my pen--"
"Yes, thank you. Here, see this? Send it out at thirty megahertz and repeat it as long as you can and--"
"What just happened doctor?" asked Dr. Hornbluth.
"He's gone completely limp. Unconscious. No wait, he's coming around--"
"Where am I?" asked John.
"You're in the hospital," said Dr. Hornbluth.
"Do you remember your name?" asked Dr. Jensen.
"David. I'm David Smith. What happened? How did I end up here?"
"You uh, had amnesia. Dr. Hornbluth will give you a thorough examination to make sure you're all right."
"May I talk to you in private, Dr. Jensen?"
"Yes of course...let's just step out for a moment, please excuse us David."
"You don't actually think that this series of numbers actually have anything to do with what just happened?"
"I don't really know. I don't know what to think."
"You know what this is though, don't you? It's pi. It's just pi. It's effectively nonsense."
"Dr. Hornbluth, pi is never nonsense. In fact, it's often quite tasty."
"Ughh, Dr. Jensen, please--"
"Look, if he's fine, and he knows who he is, we can't keep him here. Maybe he was delusional, or maybe, somehow, he was telling the truth. And who knows, maybe someday, when I'm feeling in a peculiar mood, I'll hire a radio station to send out a signal at thirty megahertz for awhile. I look forward to our next encounter, Dr. Hornbluth. Always a pleasure."
You may also like this story about the case of the pregnant woman (more Jensen and Hornbluth--because occasionally I feel lazy about writing exposition...)