Type ShortStory
Date 1950-10
Pages 6
Tags twist ending, science fiction, male protagonist

Later Than You Think

An archaeologist and a spaceman discuss a recent finding: intelligent life had arisen on Earth before, reaching for space before finally destroying themselves.

"They had spaceships?"

"It’s barely possible. I rather hope they did, since it would mean the chance of a survival elsewhere, though the negative results of your expedition rather lessen that." He went on, "The cache was laid down when they were first attempting space flight, just after their discovery of atomic power, in the first flush of their youth. It was probably created in a kind of exuberant fancifulness, with no serious belief that it would ever serve the purpose for which it was intended." He looked at the Explorer strangely. "If I am not mistaken, we have laid down similar caches."

The obvious twist is that the speakers aren't human--they live under the sea, which is hinted at throughout. The extra twist is that the extinct species isn't human either--it's rats.

Name Role
Fritz Leiber Author


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