Nick of Time is a creepy episode of the TV show, The Twilight Zone. It tells the story of a young couple who come across a machine called The Magic Seer that seems to be able to tell the future. The episode was written by Richard Matheson, but he never turned it into a short story.
A young newlywed couple named Don and Pat are on their honeymoon. They are driving through a small town when their car breaks down. They bring it to a mechanic to get it fixed. He tells them it will take 3 or 4 hours, so they decide to have lunch at a nearby Cafe while they wait.
When they sit down at a booth, they see a fortune-telling machine on the table. It’s called a Mystic Seer. For a penny, it will answer a yes or no question.
Don decides to try it out and drops a penny in the coin slot.
“Will I get a promotion?” he asks.
He pulls the lever and a little printed card comes out.
Answer: It has been decided in your favor.
When Don calls his office, he discovers that the Magic Seer was right. The secretary tells him that he’s been promoted.
Delighted by the good news, Don decides to ask the Mystic Seer more questions.
“Is it really going to be four hours before we get out of here?”
Answer: You may never know.
“You mean something will happen to us?”
Answer: If you move too soon.
“You mean we’re supposed to stay here?”
Answer: That makes a lot of sense.
“Should we stay here until 2:30?”
Answer: Try again.
“Should we stay here until 3:00?”
Answer: There’s no doubt about it.
“If we leave before 3:00 will something bad happen to us?”
Answer: Don’t risk it.
Pat thinks that Don is becoming obsessed with the fortune teller’s answers. He is afraid to leave the cafe. Around 2:55, she finally convinces him to go for a walk with her.
However, while they are crossing the street, Don and Pat accidentally step out in front of a car and are almost run over.
Don looks at the clock. It’s exactly 3:00 PM. He insists on going back to the cafe.
“You don’t really believe that thing can tell the future, do you?” Pat asks.
“It told ours, didn’t it?” Don replies.
They sit down at the booth and Don asks the Magic Seer more questions.
“Did you know the car was going to hit us?”
Answer: What do you think?
“Are we going to be safe now?”
Answer: Your chances are good.
“Will it still take 4 hours before the car is ready?”
Answer: It has already been taken care of.
As if on cue, the mechanic walks into the cafe and tells them that the car is fixed.
Pat is fed up. She wants to prove that it was just a conicidence so she starts asking the Magic Seer questions.
“Will I ever get married?”
Answer: The answer to that is obvious.
“It’s not possible for a machine to tell the future, is it?”
Answer: That’s up to you to find out.
“You’re just a stupid piece off junk, aren’t you?”
Answer: It all depends on your point of view.
Pat can’t take it anymore.
“Are you just going to sit here and let that thing run your life?” she cries. “It made you call the office. It made you stay here instead of leaving. It made you afraid to walk down the street. You need to decide your own life!”
Finally, Don comes to his senses.
“You’re right,” he says. “Let’s get out of here. We’ll go wherever we want to go and do whatever we want to do.”
As Don and Pat are leaving, an old couple walks into the diner. They seem terribly tired and worn. There is a look of desperation about them. The man and woman sit down at the booth and start asking the Magic Seer questions.
“Can we leave town today?”
“Will we ever be able to leave?”
“Is there any way out of here?”
“Any way at all?”