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The Slow Path

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Guinan: I'll see you in 500 years, Picard.
Picard: And I'll see you... in a few minutes.

A mild tragedy for a time traveler, particularly applicable to the longer-lived variety.

A sort of breakdown of Meanwhile, in the Future…, The Slow Path is what a character travels down when they use time travel to experience much more time than the other characters in the story.

This typically takes one of two forms:

  1. A character uses time travel to Opt Out from the story at large, returning when they are good and ready or, alternatively, if they blunder their way back to the present.
  2. A character time-travels to the past, or is sent to the past via time travel, but is unable to time-travel back to the present by any means, so they are forced to live in real-time from the past to the present (i.e. "go the long way"). If a Human Popsicle or a longer-lived/immortal being is not involved, this can be particularly tragic, with the character forced to burn up a sizable chunk of their prime years; worse, they might have gone so far back into the past that they won't survive the "return trip" at all.

If a time traveler gets stuck experiencing this trope for a very long time from the relative view of another time traveler, and yet does not act or behave any differently, this can be considered a case of Out of Time, Out of Mind. It's possible he may Go Mad from the Isolation, which is bad, unless he also grows Bored with Insanity.

The question of why the slow-pathed hero doesn't show up in their own previous adventures to lend a hand is generally addressed by the dangers of the Temporal Paradox, depending on which flavor of Timey Wimey Balls are in play that week (after all, they know all their previous adventures are going to turn out all right as they are). Alternately, they may have been someone who was believed to be another character all along, and was simply waiting for the proper time to reveal themselves.

Of course, if a spaceship is available, traveling forward in time is easy. Just accelerate to as close to the speed of light as its engines can manage, and the slow path gets a good bit faster. Oddly enough, despite Time Dilation being commonly seen in sci-fi stories, it's almost never used to escape from time travel mishaps.

Common M.O. for The Constant. See also Trapped in the Past and Write Back to the Future.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Dinosaur King, Rex uses the time machine to go home to the future. Suddenly, the ship comes back. Zoe and Max wonder if he stopped his journey or was gone for a long time just to return to the day he left.
  • Doraemon: Great Adventure in the Antarctic Kachi Kochi: This is how Mofusuke, a bipedal alien elephant who can remain in hibernation as soon as it's frozen, rendezvous with Nobita and the other heroes in the future - by sealing itself in ice into a state of Deep Sleep, and awaken 100,000 years later.
  • Martian Successor Nadesico: Akito disappears during a battle with the Jovians, but then the Nadesico gets a call from him - turns out he'd reappeared on the Moon a few weeks earlier.
    • And later we learn that a jump back several years is how Ai grows up to be Inez Fressange.
  • In the manga of Sailor Moon, Sailor Pluto dies in the "future" to save Chibiusa. She reveals herself to Chibiusa in the next arc in the present day, having explained she was reincarnated backwards in time to a point before Sailor Moon's adventures began. She laid low until after the Senshi went forward in time, saw her death, and returned. This also explains how the Time Gate still has a Guardian while Setsuna is with the rest of the Senshi. Presumably she'll wait until her previous self dies and then take over her old duties at the Time Gate. The anime of Sailor Moon does something different.
  • During the second season of GaoGaiGar, ChoRyuJin pushes a massive asteroid back through a portal, and is believed lost. A few days episodes later, Mamoru's class takes a field trip to look for ancient fossils, and to their great surprise, digs him up. It turned out that he ended up millions of years in the past; the asteroid caused the dinosaurs to go extinct.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya:
    • After Mikuru lost her time-machine while on a trip to the past with Kyon, Yuki time-freezes them sleeping in her guest-bedroom, so they wouldn't age while the time was passing by. Kyon is somewhat unnerved to learn that Yuki has known who he is long before he actually met her.
    • During the repeating summer vacation, Nagato reveals that she remembers every loop, accounting for something like 595 years.
      • In some ways, the viewers of the anime themselves.note  If you didn't realize from, for example, reading spoilers, that only the first and last of the 8 episodes were truly different (the differences between the intermediate episodes are pretty much in the details, like the kinds of swimsuits they wear, or the pattern on the girls' yukatas, or how Haruhi writes and marks through items on her list), you'd have been stuck watching through the same things 7 times in a row.
  • The ending of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time has Chiaki return to his time in the future, promising to wait for Matoko, who can no longer time-travel. "I'll be right there. I'll run there."
  • In Higurashi: When They Cry, Furude Rika mentions "we were getting tired of waiting" when Keiichi moves to Hinamizawa. You'd be tired of waiting too, if you had spent a hundred years in a (sort of) "Groundhog Day" Loop.
  • An example in reverse order found in one of Yuichi Hasegawa's short manga. A boy "traveled" from ancient Greece using a cold sleep capsule. His intention is to enjoy the future a little then travel back to his time with his already-available time machine, which cannot go to the future since "the future does not yet exist." The boy is actually Perseus - sent to the present by Zeus (who is actually a genius inventor). His adventure in the story is eventually passed down as the legend of Perseus.
  • A coffee grinder bought in a disappearing antiques store or the Lucifer Hawk that runs it sends Yuki Saiko of Silent Möbius thirty years into the past, where she meets a young man named Tohru and they fall in love. When she gets back to her own time, they meet again and it turns out he's her landlord.
  • In Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, it turns out that Garterbelt used to be a career criminal. When he died, God revived him as an immortal and sent him back to the age of the dinosaurs to witness the entire evolution of mankind first-hand.
  • Like many time travel tropes, this pops up in Steins;Gate at one point. After it's revealed that John Titor is actually a pseudonym used by Suzuha, who actually is a time traveler from the year 2036, she goes back in time again, to 1975, to try to retrieve an IBN 5100. However, that particular time machine can only travel back in time, not forward, so said computer would simply have to be guarded for some 35 years until it is to be used.
  • In Rave Master, Sieg Hart gets Trapped in the Past and chooses to starve to death protecting Resha's grave, leaving his skeleton to magically protect her secrets for 50 years until Elie was ready to learn the truth about her memories while she and Haru can return to the future.
  • In Fairy Tail, the immortal Zeref sends Natsu, Gajeel, Wendy, Sting, and Rogue 400 years from the past to the present age with plenty of Ether-nano where they may gain the proper strength to kill Acnologia, while he stays behind and waits all those years keeping Acnologia at bay. He was more or less fine for the first 300 years or so until he accidentally killed the immortal girl he fell in love with (sort of), leading him down the path that turns him into the series' Big Bad.
  • In the original version of Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko, Yohko is sent back to year -50,000 when she fought an Eldritch Abomination created by the Old-Timers in year 2999. She mods life support in her ship and sleeps until the early 2000s, to let her posse rescue her. The ship actually has a few Early Bird Cameos as background conspiracy.
  • Willem Kmetsch of WorldEnd: What Do You Do at the End of the World? Are You Busy? Will You Save Us? was Taken for Granite while most of humanity went extinct, and was only found and eventually revived 500 years later. He would later have a reunion with his comrade Suowong, who spent those same 500 years rebuilding civilization with the survivors, having become effectively immortal through magically removing his heart. As an expected twist, Willem is supposed to be the older between the two friends, yet he still looks like a teenager, while Suowong is now an old man.
  • In One Piece, it’s revealed that Kin'emon, Momonosuke and the other samurai the Straw Hats meet are actually from the past. Kin'emon explains that they used to be the vassals of the Daimyo, Kozuki Oden, who is also Momo's real Father, until he was murdered by the Shogun of Wano Country who allied himself with the pirate Kaido. After killing Oden, Kaido and his crew raided his castle in order to kill Oden's famly and vassals. Oden's wife, Kozuki Toki, used her time Devil Fruit to send Momonosuke along with Kin'emon and two others forward 20 years in time in order to save them before she was killed by Kaido. However, Momo's younger sister, Hiyori, along with the other vassals were not sent in time and were forced to stayed behind. They managed to survive the raid and would go on to live their lives in the intervening years, reaching the present storyline the old fashioned way.
  • Dr. STONE uses the And I Must Scream method but in a downplayed way. After a mysterious ray petrified everyone on the planet, Senku uses his analytical mind to count every second he was petrified just to prepare for the moment he wakes up (which turns out to be in the hundreds of billions) while Taiju uses his love for Yuzuriha to stay conscious. Nearly four thousand years pass by in this manner as they are de-petrified by nitric acid. When Senku reawakens some others, for them they were just recently petrified. Downplayed in the manner that neither Senku or Taiju seem troubled by the millennia they spent awake, instead being perfectly sound.

    Comic Books 
  • Atomic Robo: Dr. Dinosaur's time device ends up transporting Robo to 1870. To "get back" to the present, he (or rather, his head) has to be put in a box that ends up stuck in Tesladyne's deep storage. In the present day, Lang and Bernard go through said storage and find the box, allowing them to revive him. The implications this has for the timeline are lampshaded and discussed, such as pointing out that if Robo ever went through his father's old stuff he'd have found his own severed head.
  • The Books of Magic: In Neil Gaiman's original miniseries, the Well-Intentioned Extremist Mr. E takes the protagonist to the end of time, so he can kill him without interference. Death stops him, and forces him to take The Slow Path back — with the implication that he will create a Stable Time Loop by teaching his younger self to time-walk.
  • DC One Million: In The DCU Crisis Crossover, various Justice League members exchange places with their successors in the 853rd century. The Martian Manhunter and the Resurrection Man are already there. (As is Vandal Savage, who keeps coming up in this trope.) And Platinum of the Metal Men. She keeps the bodies of her former team, lost one by one.
  • Deadpool: In the Deadpool/GLI Summer Fun Special, Squirrel Girl gets lost in time travel and ends up in 2099, with a version of her boyfriend who avoided becoming Darker and Edgier (literally). She decides it's not so bad, until fellow Great Lakes Initiative member Mr Immortal shows up to tell her how the present's going. She wonders how he traveled there, then remembers how. For those who don't know, Mr Immortal's power is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Disney Adventures: In one issue, Kid Gravity is stranded in the time of the dinosaurs by his evil rival, only for Gravity to suddenly return in another another time machine. He explains to his rival that he wrote himself a note to the future telling his future self to send another time machine to the past for him to return home. How he wrote that note, had it undiscovered for millions of years, identified the exact day he was trapped on, etc, isn't... exactly explained.
  • ElfQuest: The immortal elf Rayek kidnaps the family of Cutter, chief of the mortal Wolfriders, and takes them roughly ten thousand years into the future. His plan is to save the ancestors of the elves during their initial time travel mishap (which sent them back into the past). However, this would prevent the Wolfriders from ever existing. Cutter has no idea when his (immortal) lifemate Leetah and their (mortal) children will ever appear again, and he knows that he will die after roughly six thousand years. The first five centuries are torment for him and his tribe, and they eventually decide to have themselves wrapped in a time-freezing cocoon. The immortal characters (including the troll king, whose daughter was also kidnapped) live the years out, as do a select few Wolfriders in the Sun Village who dislike tampering with nature and who simply choose to live a normal life. The plot resumes ten thousand years later, when Cutter's lifemate and children finally see him again — after what, for them, has only been a few hours. Later chapters show that Cutter's time without his family severely traumatized him — he could simply not stop counting.
  • Flight (2004): One issue had a story abut a girl who found a box, invented by a Chinese man, which basically stopped aging and the need for bodily functions as long as one was inside. Then her brothers die. She crawls inside the box, falls asleep, and wakes up in the future, where she has a good life and falls in love. Turns out she never woke up, and the world ended above her.
  • Gargoyles: In one comic, Angela, Broadway, and Brooklyn are hanging around when all of a sudden, the time-travelling Phoenix appears out of nowhere and swallows Brooklyn up. Angela and Broadway have only 40 seconds to ponder that they've lost him forever when he returns, 40 years older with a wife, pet, and two children. We see the first place the Phoenix took him, and the rest of his journey would have been the subject of a story arc called Time-Dancer.
  • I Killed Adolf Hitler: Both the main characters walk the past: he returns to the present from his botched assassination of the Fuhrer, she slow-goes to the future where the time machine is usable again to return back to the present.
  • Infinity Countdown: In the prologue, Adam Warlock meets with Rama-Tut (Kang the Conqueror's past self), who informs Adam of a vague yet sinister threat he needs to avoid, and offers a way for him to get to 2018 without being noticed. He stabs Adam in the back and has him entombed, in such a way Adam's healing abilities will not wake him up until then.
  • Justice League of America: In one particular JLA story, Plastic Man is blown to bits in the past and the rest of the heroes manage to return to the present. Plastic Man was forced to spend the three thousand years in between attempting to reconstruct himself. He remains conscious the whole time, and the experience somehow actually makes him LESS crazy. The arc also features the Green Lantern Kyle Rayner getting killed in the past, but "living" through the centuries as a ring-generated "ghost"... until the day he's discovered by the replacement League.
  • Justice Society of America: During a fight over a Time Machine in 1947, the villain Per Degaton was split in two. The "chronal duplicate" got the machine and went off to a career as a Conqueror from the Future stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop, while the original stayed behind and had to wait to catch up with the machine when it arrived in the 1980s. When it finally did arrive, it didn't go well for him. Depending on the telling, he either got disintegrated by coming into contact with his past self or was Driven to Suicide when the man he fatally shot in 1947 stumbled out of the machine and exposed his killer with his dying breath.
    • Happens in Per Degaton's first appearance in All-Star Comics #35. Per Degaton has changed history causing modern technology to vanish from 1947, except for technology that Degaton has shielded. Green Lantern goes to find his Time Machine but is knocked out by Degaton, who then sets the Time Machine to travel 10,000 years into the future and destroy itself, meaning no-one will be able to restore history. However in the fight Green Lantern's head shifted the lever, meaning he only travels 10 years into the future. He arrives in a Bad Future, where the world is under the control of Degaton, and encounters the Justice Society, who are the only part of the world not under Degaton's control and had given up Green Lantern for dead.
  • Lanfeust: In the Recycled In Space sequel Lanfeust Des Étoiles, the hero spends some time in the distant past before being able to come back to the present only to discover that the return trip overshot very slightly his point of origin and that he's now 15 years in the future. His wife Cixi, who remained in the present, aged accordingly.
  • Midnighter: In the first story arc, the hero uses this by saving a man's life during World War 2 and asking for, in return, him to deliver a message to the Big Bad in the future.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers (Boom! Studios): A variation occurs in one issue. Lord Zedd's Monster of the Week is a trap that sends the Zords with the rangers inside them through a time portal to the prehistoric era, where Zedd assumes they'll be lost forever; Billy, however, eventually manages to use the Zords to reopen a portal, but there's one problem - they can't take the Zords with them. Once they get back, the exact instant they left, the problem becomes far worse, as the monster is still there, and still at giant size, and without the Zords, they have no idea how to stop it. Until, that is, Zordon contacts them and tells them the Zords were built to last. Indeed, they're still where they left them, buried under several million years desert sand, and they still respond to their summons and work perfectly. They easily defeat the creature.
  • PS238: Zodon's attempt at time travel left him stranded in the ice ages, so he froze himself in a glacier and set his chair's beacon to activate roughly around the time he left.
  • Star Wars: Alan Moore wrote a few comics for the Star Wars Expanded Universe. One of them is "Tilotny Throws a Shape", in which Leia, forced to land on a barren world and pursued by stormtroopers, comes across some ungodly ancient powerful beings. One kills Leia and the stormtroopers, and another resurrects them — Leia just fine where and when she was, letting her escape... the stormtroopers eight thousand years in the past. Leia comes across their desiccated bones, near where the ship landed long after their deaths.
  • Superman: Happens to Superman in the story Time and Time Again where he keeps getting sent throughout different points in time. Through the arc, there are moments where it shows what everyone in Metropolis is doing, showing how little time is passing for them. By the time he finally returns home in the then-present day 1991, Lois remarks that just a couple hours have passed, while an exhausted Superman has been gone for nearly five months. This trope is also directly referenced at one point in the arc, when Superman is currently trapped in the 1940's and wonders if the only thing for him to do is take the slow path all the way back to the present.
  • Thorgal: In the story Master of the Mountains, a time-warping ring is used to deposit two characters in the past. One uses the ring to get back, the other has to take The Slow Path. This is done twice, once by a would-be Chess Master in a ploy to end up with power and the girl, and once by the girl to counter the Chess Master's ploy and kill him.
  • Transformers:
    • The Transformers: Robots in Disguise:
      • Kup was already one of the oldest Cybertronians alive, but thanks to time-travel and alternate universe shenanigans, he's now older than the Universe itself, thanks to having been deposited back at the beginning of time and having to wait to catch up to the present.
      • The finale of Optimus Prime reveals Shockwave survived the end of Dark Cybertron, and wound up at the beginning of Cybertronian civilisation over twelve million years ago. He then spent the next twelve million years taking the long way back, while experimenting on Cybertronian civilisation on the way.
    • In The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, Tailgate also winds up on the Lost Light for a similar reason — he fell into a cave on his way to boarding the original Ark, and his internal chronometer is damaged, with him passing in and out of consciousness. He eventually ends up on the Lost Light, and is told that he's late for the launch of the Ark — four million years late.
  • X-Men:
    • Bishop was stuck in the past during the team's mission to stop Legion. He therefore lived through the years as the Age of Apocalypse storyline unfolded until its "present day." While the entire AoA timeline was wiped out at the end of the event, Bishop's memories of his life there were inherited by his mainstream continuity self. Somehow.
    • In the X-Men: Messiah Complex storyline, Hope and Cable jump across numerous time periods to keep ahead of their pursuer, Bishop. In one future timeline, Cable accidentally jumps two years into the future but leaves Hope and Bishop behind.
    • One arc sees the team accidentally deposited to the past, and stuck on the home planet of the Skrulls - just hours before Galactus was fated to destroy it. The team manages to escape, but they don't have any way to return to their present (and at the current moment in X-history in the time they were in, it would have been only shortly after both the New Mutants were formed and Rogue first joined the team). Kitty uses the stolen spacecraft they escaped in to take a slower path back to Earth, while using a stasis field to keep them frozen until they arrive at the moment they left.

    Fan Works 
  • Hearts of Ice has Akane trapped in a dimension where time passes much faster than in Ranma's universe. By the time she gets home, she is seven years older than Ranma.
  • The Doctor Who fanfic The Slow Path, or Two and a Half Centuries in Two and a Half Days. has the Doctor take the slow path with Reinette.
  • Kyon has to take The Slow Path for an evening in Kyon: Big Damn Hero, at one point. Later, he travels several days back in time and spends them to develop a plan to rescue Sasaki.
  • Child of the Storm has the periodically mentioned In-Universe Memetic Badass the Lady Knight (she taught Sif and Fandral among many, many others), who was both lost in time, taking the slow path until she jumped forward by a century or two, totally without warning.
  • The Lucky Ones has the Bone-Eaters' Well shut down and Kagome become immortal in the process of destroying the Shikon Jewel, leaving her and Inuyasha to live out the five hundred years between then and her home.
  • In the Kingdom Hearts story Marionette Roxas ends up having to spend quite a few chapters at the end taking The Slow Path after being transported back to the past. Of course it's all just a very long dream... or was it?
  • In the Harry Potter fic "Breaking the Window," Hermione forms a relationship with a version of Bellatrix Black from thirty years in the past, as they communicate through a ‘fairy window’ in a lake in the Forbidden Forest. Bellatrix often passes items on to Hermione by hiding them in different places around the lake in her time, protected by relevant enchantments, so that Hermione can retrieve them in her present still in perfect condition.
  • Queen of All Oni: This seems to be how Karasu is destined to return to his own time, due to having used his only return potion to banish Drago. The epilogue shows him finding an isolated spot of wilderness to spend the remaining years hiding out in, so that he doesn't interfere with anything.
  • In Harmony Theory, some characters find themselves in the distant future. Most of their friends are long gone except for Spike, who is now a fully grown dragon.
  • This is the premise of A Long Journey Home, where Jasmine Potter is forced to do this by a Stable Time Loop. Most of the story is recounting tales of what she experienced along the way, as Wadjet of Egypt, and Muirgen the teacher of Myrddin/Merlin, and various other famous historical figures.
  • In the Worm fanfic Recoil, Taylor Hebert is sent back twenty-two years from the aftermath of a disastrous Endbringer battle. That takes place in the first chapter. The rest of the story is about what happens next.
  • The Miraculous Ladybug fanfic Causality has Marinette being sent twenty years back in time by an akuma called Rewind, while her earrings are left behind. She's forced to survive by going to an orphanage under the false name Nathalie, before being adopted by the Sancouer family. Since she knows that in her present Nathalie Sancouer will be Gabriel Agreste's assistant and Adrien's caretaker, she spends the next twenty years planning to live that life - including stealing the birthday present Marinette gave Adrien - in hopes of stopping herself being sent back, only to realise she caused it to begin with. After she explains all this to Adrien/Chat Noir, she puts the earrings back in and goes on to defeat Rewind, only to lose Adrien in the same way - until he turns up a few weeks later, twenty years older, under the name Felix Astruc.
  • In Equestria: Across the Multiverse, the group encounters two of the worlds created via Starlight's time travel revenge plot from the Season 5 finale. It turns out that due to her methods (always remaining in the past while sending Twilight back to the future), each timeline she created possesses a temporal duplicate of her who was left stranded in the past with no way home due to Twilight having the time travel spell and there being no Cutie Map in the past. As a result, when the jaunters interact with the present time of those worlds, that Starlight has had to spend the last 20 years returning to the present the long way and hasn't aged well due to stress. Thankfully, spending 20 years witnessing the world being ruined by her petty revenge caused them to undergo a Heel Realization and seek to atone for their mistakes.
  • The titular Whispering Abyss of Whispers of the Abyss has an extreme case of Year Outside, Hour Inside. Towards the end, Riptide the Wartortle agrees to wait while the rest of the team go through the abyss... For 800 years.
  • Hellsister Trilogy: After the events of Kara of Rokyn, the Legion of Super-Heroes believe Wildfire has been killed in action and go back to the 30th century. Nonetheless, Wildfire did not die. His energy body became stuck in an antimatter star, and he remained there for one thousand years until one Legionnaire passed by that star, giving Wildfire an opportunity to hitch a ride.
  • The Andromeda fic For Just A Day has Dylan end up in the past before the Fall. He attempts to search for the rest of his crew, but none apear to have travelled with him. Trance does come, eventually.
  • In the Better Bones AU, Hollyleaf gets transported back in time a hundred years and never is able to get back to the present. She is instead being trapped in the tunnels for the whole time when Sol takes over her body, until she manages to take her body back and rejoin the modern-day Clans.
  • In Ashes of the Past, during the events of Jewel of Life, Brock manages to impress the Heatran of one of the henchmen, who decides to join his team. After the crew get back to the present, the Heatran emerges from the ground, having hibernated during the hundreds of years between the events of the movie and current events.
  • With This Ring: After being flung through the Sheeda's time pool, the Renegade isn't certain whether he and Artemis have gone to the past or the future, but if it's the past, he figures they can build a stasis module of some kind and hibernate until they get back to their own time. It turns out to be the far future — though they still spend a very long time there, implied to be possibly centuries, before they're able to acquire a means of travelling back.

    Film — Animation 
  • The Guardians of the Lost Code: The kid heroes after completing the first part of their mission, receive instructions to go to Ancient Egypt at 1345 BC, however Freddy mistakenly dials 1345 AD on their time portal, and end up in the middle of the desert with their objective buried under meters of sand; When they finally make it, they are greeted by the god Anubis who is particularly annoyed at having to wait for them for nearly 3000 years. Also, after meeting the emperor Puji as a toddler he shows up as an old man in the final battle.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Avengers: Endgame: After finally defeating Thanos, Captain America volunteers to return the time-displaced Infinity Stones, as well as the copy of Mjölnir that Thor borrowed, to their appropriate places in the timeline. However, he does not return to the present at the moment when he is expected to. Cue Bucky, Sam, and Bruce noticing a scrawny old man sitting on a nearby bench, who turns out to be Steve Rogers as a centenarian. Steve admitted to Sam that, after returning the various items to their proper places, he decided to "try some of that life" Tony had told him to get, so he travelled back to 1949 to marry Peggy Carter and grow old with her, returning to 2023 only after she passed away in 2016.
  • Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey ends with the duo leaving and returning in their time machine, before explaining to the audience that they just slipped away for a year and a half to get married, have a honeymoon and actually learn to play the guitar! This breaks the San Dimas Time previously established, however (unless you believe, like many fans, that Rufus was lying about how Time Travel works).
  • Back to the Future:
    • In the first film, Marty pops in from the future and the 1955 Doc helps him get back, knowing he won't see Marty again for decades, and it'll be even longer before they can discuss what happened. Just before Marty goes back to 1985, Doc tells him how hard it'll be to wait 30 years to talk about the excitement of building a working time machine.
    • In Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III, Doc, stranded in 1885, sends the broken time machine to himself and Marty in 1955 by sealing it in a cave and letting time pass so they can repair it. He also gave a letter to Western Union with instructions to hold it and not to deliver it to Marty until a few seconds after Doc was sent back.
    • Also a case with Einstein the dog in the first film when Doc puts him in the DeLorean traveling one minute into the future. Doc and Marty wait a minute for him to arrive.
  • In Traumschiff Surprise Periode 1, the character Spucky ends up taking the slow path after the time traveling couch the heroes travel on needs to lose weight. Spucky's Galapagos Turtle DNA (as well as some "not cheap" treatments) keep him looking exactly the same when the heroes arrive back in the future. Spucky does make the most of the time to glam up the earth, however.
  • Jumanji: Once the game ends time resets to just before Alan and Sarah started playing in 1969. The two of them have to relive the next 26 years until they catch up to 1995, when the bulk of the movie took place. Despite Sarah's initial belief that their memories would fade it turns out they remember Judy and Peter and are able to stop their parents from getting into a fatal car accident.
  • The movie Primer is about a box that lets you take the slow path backwards: if you want to travel back in time six hours, you have to spend six hours inside the box. On top of that, leaving the box early has some deadly side effects (if for no other reason than what would happen if halves of one's body are moving opposite directions in time). The box also works forwards, but that's not quite as useful. Also, if you don't send a person to get out the first time, the object will likely take the slow path back and forth several thousand times. The gunk that built up from bacteria taking that path was the first clue of time travel.
  • At the end of Frequency, after an entire film of Write Back to the Future, Frank takes The Slow Path to rescue John from the Nightingale Killer.
  • In Hot Tub Time Machine, Lou stays behind in the past because his life in the original time line sucked. He uses the opportunity to make better decisions, and uses his knowledge of the future to become very rich. It's played with, though, because his physical age remains the same—his mind from the present had traveled back to inhabit his younger self.
  • In OOO, Den-O, All Riders: Let's Go Kamen Riders, one of two Street Urchins who end up travelling 40 years into the past finds himself stuck there. In the end, he turns out not only to have been instrumental to helping the Kamen Riders make their Bad Future better, he also happens to be his best friend's Disappeared Dad.
  • In Rebirth of Mothra 3, Mothra Leo goes back to the Mesozoic to kill a younger King Ghidorah, but is too injured to go back under his own power. Instead, a group of prehistoric Mothra larvae cocoon him, and he sleeps for 66 million years, coming back in an armored form powerful enough to kill the adult King Ghidorah that regenerated from a severed tail in the present.
  • Anastasia: Once Upon a Time opens with Anastasia Romanova travelling to 1980s America via a portal, but after she returns to her time of origin to save her family, the film concludes with Anastasia's 1980s friend Megan learning that her new neighbor is the now-elderly Anastasia, who was able to get her family to safety and is now a grandmother herself.
  • In the ending sequence of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Logan may be the only one with a Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory, but having interacted with Future Logan in the 1970s, Charles immediately understands what has happened when Logan wakes up disoriented in the altered future.
  • A plot point in Interstellar, Cooper and Brand survey a planet that experiences extreme time dilation, seven years Earth time for every hour on the surface. When an accident occurs on the mission causing them to be delayed in returning to the Endurance, they find that Romilly, whom they left behind, waited twenty-two years for them to return, while they were only on the planet for a little over an hour.
  • Terminator Genisys:
    • This is used to explain Arnie's aged appearance in this film. Sarah and Kyle use a time machine to travel from 1984 to 2017, but the T-800 accompanying them can't go with them due to damage it sustained in a fight with a T-1000 (as only living tissue can pass through the portal, and the flesh over Pops' hand had been melted off). Instead, he stays behind and waits for them to emerge in 2017, spending the years gathering weapons and intel to use against SKYNET. Unfortunately this takes a toll on him, as despite being a cyborg his flesh still decays normally and his mechanical components start to break down.
    • Officer O'Brien's life was saved by the heroes in 1984, and he's very happy to see them again and helps them in 2017.
  • The Time Machine (2002): Hartdegen isn't the only character to travel eight hundred thousand years into the future; Vox the library AI did as well.
    "Yes, I remember you: 'Time travel - Practical applications.'"
  • Tenet: A rare reversed application of the trope: While it is said that the movie doesn't involve Time Travel, effectively the mechanics of reversed time do enable people to go back in time, which various character do quite frequently and also do so for several years... the difference to "conventional" time travel being that they essentially have to take The Slow Path to get to their destination. Basically like Primer.
  • In Stargate: Continuum, Mitchell goes back in time in order to stop Ba'al from sabotaging the Stargate Program. However, he accidentally arrives several years too early, and is forced to wait until Ba'al's attack takes place. He also can't get back, so he ends up living out the rest of his life in the early 20th century.

  • In book 9 of The Pendragon Adventure, Bobby (the Traveler from Second Earth, or present-day Earth) decides to seal off a flume and stay on the territory of Ibara. While Bobby's acolyte Mark is on First Earth (Earth in 1937). Nevva Winter takes Mark's acolyte ring and she gives it to Alexander Naymeer, a boy dying from influenza. Naymeer is miraculously healed by Winter, and he eventually becomes the "new Traveler" for Second Earth (and founder of the cult of Ravinia) as an old man.
  • In Tim Powers' book The Anubis Gates, Brendan Doyle severely injures the ka Dr. Romany while both are back in time, to the point where the villain can't follow him through a time portal. In the "present" of the story, Brendan realizes the "beggar's luck" he's seen before is Dr. Romany, after a century of desiccation, and after wondering how the ka returned to this time, whispers in horror, "Jesus, you must have simply lived your way back here!"
  • In Brian Caswell's novel Dreamslip, the two main characters can stay indefinitely in whatever time they visit, returning to the present at the exact moment they left and not being a minute older. If they die in another time, however...
  • In Jago, there's a scene where the heroine gets unstuck in time and finds herself playing the part of the cryptic ghostly presence at a séance in the 1920s. At the end of the book, after she's returned to her own time, she meets a very old woman: the last surviving participant in the séance, who in the intervening decades has extracted enough useful information from their confusing conversation at the séance to be able to track her down and ask her for a proper explanation of what it was all about.
  • Terry Pratchett:
    • Johnny and the Bomb, the hero and his friends travel back to World War II, then one of them ends up returning to the present via The Slow Path because of a Grandfather Paradox, after which he seeks out the hero in the present, having spent the intervening half-century using his knowledge of fast food (!) and future events to become the world's richest man.
    • Discworld:
      • In Eric, the protagonist wishes that he could live for ever. This is then interpreted as living the slow path from the Creation until the end of the world.
      • In The Last Continent, the Wizards of Unseen University end up stranded thousands of years in the past. While there, they encounter the creator of Fourecks, the titular continent. The Creator humors the Wizards' casual bickering just long enough to paint them into a cave wall, where, in the present day near the end of the story, Rincewind manages to free them.
      • The golem Anghammarad from Going Postal plans to wait for the cycle of history to repeat itself, at which point it'll deliver a message it had failed to deliver many thousands of years ago. As a golem, as long as he gets repaired occasionally, he could last until the end of time, and the subsequent re-beginning.
  • Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony reverses this. At the end of the book, Artemis and Holly return from the title's lost continent, having jumped forward in time three years. Butler, Artemis's family, and the entire rest of the world took the usual path through those years. Conveniently, it seems likely that Artemis picked up a talent on the trip that will obviate the need to explain this to his parents. Even more conveniently, the skipped years make Artemis the same biological age as the love interest the book had set up for him... Except that the sixth book completely ignores this possibility, in order to Ship Tease something completely different.
  • In Vernor Vinge's Marooned in Realtime, The Slow Path is the murder weapon; just as everyone is about to make the big leap, Marta's time-stasis device is disabled, forcing her to live out her lifespan on an abandoned planet. When everyone else wakes up thousands of years later, she is long dead. Possibly the only murder mystery ever written in which the cause of death is "old age".
  • In The Dark is Rising, Hawkin takes The Slow Path and becomes the Walker.
  • Marvin in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe ends up being "thirty-seven times older than the universe itself," due to various incidents involving messing about with time travel. One can only assume he took a lot of Slow Paths at some point. In one instance, he waits 576 billion years on the planet Frogstar B after the rest of the crew get teleported away. He doesn't enjoy it much:
    Marvin: The first ten million years were the worst, and the second ten million years, they were the worst too. The third ten million I didn't enjoy at all. After that I went into a bit of a decline.
    • Interestingly, 576 billion years is only 37 times the age of the universe under old estimates of the age of the universe (around 15 billion years). Under more recent estimates of the age of the universe (around 13.7 billion), Marvin turns out to be around... *sigh* 42 times the age of the universe.
    • The conclusion to Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency ends on a similar note, in that an alien ghost who's already waited for untold billions of years for life to evolve, attain intelligence, and invent time travel, winds up stranded in the ancient past it'd been trying to change, and has to take the Slow Path all over again.
  • In the short story "I Borrow Dave's Time Machine" by S. N. Dyer, the protagonist goes back in time and commissions several new works of art from various old masters—then leaves them hidden in the past and retrieves them when he returns to the present. Had he just brought them back with him, they would have been dismissed as fakes because the paint would have been fresh.
  • Gareth Brown's The Book of Doors has this happen to the protagonist Cassie Andrews. One of the main antagonists uses the eponymous book to open a door ten years back in time, and tosses Cassie through it. Although she desperately attempts to find the Book of Doors, ultimately Cassie accepts that the only way to return to that moment is through that trope, and she ends up spending the subsequent decade with the unassuming old man who gave her the Book in the book's opening.
  • In Spider Robinson's Callahan's Crosstime Saloon there is a character who is referred to as a time traveler though really he just spent over a decade in a Banana Republic prison cell and finds it hard to adjust to the world when he gets out. He missed out on ten years of human development and social upheaval languishing in a jail cell. He may have taken the slow path, of one year per year time dilation, but he still effectively jumped, culturally speaking, from 1963 to 1973.
  • The protagonists of Rainbow Mars by Larry Niven travel back in time hundreds of years using instantaneous time travel but lose access to it for the return trip. Instead, they use a stasis device on their rocket ship to return to their own time, popping into reality here and there to inadvertently spawn ancient legends, including that of Baba Yaga.
  • In Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead, Ender leaves his sister to take the Slow Path while he flies off to another star system to make up for his prior mistakes. He knows she will probably die before he can get back. At the end of the book, she does the same, so they've both aged roughly the same amount when they meet again in Xenocide.
  • Thursday Next: The ChronoGuard from Jasper Fforde's novels can end up with chronological ages of several centuries and actual ages in the mid-twenties because of all the time-travel whackery they get up to. This makes life very hard for their families, who are busy taking The Slow Path and having grandchildren who end up being older than their grandfather.
  • In The Time Traveler's Wife the time traveler initially meets his future wife when she is just a little girl, and she has to take the slow path to get to his normal time line, and then for even longer until he matures into the man she fell in love with. Played with, in that Henry sometimes finds himself having to live through days or weeks in the past, while only a few minutes or hours has passed when he returns.
  • Apparently, this is what happened to Aunt Grace of In the Keep of Time after she fell asleep in the Tower as a child and was so difficult to rouse "because the people wanted her to stay." She lost the memories of her life before then, because that part of her stayed behind to grow up and become Vianah. One can hope the same thing happened to the part of Ollie that was Mae, so that Muckle-mooth Meg didn't have her only child taken from her by the Elliots.
  • The mentioned use of Time Dilation to mitigate the time travel problems was actually used in one Perry Rhodan arc. Stranded time travellers decided to put the 50000 years they were off their original timeline to a good use and built the largest Terran ship ever. After finishing (which took some centuries, forcing the crew to become brains in jars), they used Time Dilation to get back to their old time. In the end, they missed by some decades, and due to misunderstandings (and madness from being reduced to jars) actually turned against humanity.
  • In the third The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel book, Scatty and Joan think they have been sent back in time by Dee, and that, being immortal, they will have to take a very long slow path back to the others. However (more spoilers), it turns out that they are in fact in another world that only resembles prehistoric Earth.
    • Another example would be Marethyu who is none other than Josh himself. Turns out that when Sophie and Josh go back in time so that they can be there on Danu Talis and have the duel of the twins that everyone remembers them being there for so that the timeline of the series makes any sort of sense at all, Sophie leaves and heads back to the future, but Josh stays behind to sink the island and effectively destroy the world, getting the infamous hook that he becomes known for as "The Hook-Handed Man", and then must live through all the long years in order to do the various things that will/have happen/ed such as giving Nicholas the Codex to begin with. He also says in a throwaway line that he has lived through the equivalent of MILLIONS of normal years by the time the present day rolls around. Making him a certifiable Time Abyss as well.
  • In Robert Charles Wilson's Spin, the Earth has been trapped in fast time. Our near-future heroes decide to use slow time to find a solution, by sending a colony ship to Mars, outside the time-effect. A week after launch, the distant descendants of the colonists return to Earth...
  • The Time Turners in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban are only ever used in the story to take people back in time - first Hermione so she can take multiple classes simultaneously all year, then Hermione and Harry to rescue Buckbeak and Sirius. In all cases, they took the slow path back to the present (although it was only a matter of hours in each case).
  • In Harry Harrison's The Technicolor Time Machine, the plot follows a film crew who use a Mad Scientist's time machine to film a movie about Vikings for cheap. They use The Slow Path approach several times, such as leaving a script writer on an uninhabited island in the past for several months (his time), which for them took several seconds. They also end up sending a Viking named Ottar to Vinland by ship in order to film him getting there, while all they have to do is use the time machine. They also end up accidentally leaving their star actress behind when jumping forward by a year. They find her again as Ottar's wife and the mother of his child.
  • Shows up in the final Time Scout book. It's a very risky maneuver; time gates aren't permanent. No matter how stable, any gate risks going unstable and disappearing.
    • Not quite as risky as all that, actually. They move the slow way between two different gates, that open into different times and places, with a gap of a couple of years between them. So while 3 or so years pass for them the slow way, if they get to the second gate in less time than the time gap, they are guaranteed it will still be there, because it was there when they left Lala-land, and they could theoretically go back soon after the time they left (the tactic is still fairly risky for other reasons though - in-universe it is impossible to be in two places at the same time. If any of the party had been through the second gate at any time in the past, they would have vanished and died as soon as they overlapped themselves.)
  • In Joe Haldeman's The Forever War, Marygay Potter knows Bill Mandella won't be back from his last mission for centuries (if ever). She uses a relativistic spaceship to speed down the Slow Path.
  • While other characters in Manifold: Space travel into the far future through relativistic effects, Nemoto persists in real time through combination of advanced medical treatments and sheer force of will, building up influence and manipulating humanity from the shadows.
  • Ian Watson's 1979 short story The Very Slow Time Machine is, as the title suggests, very much an example of this trope, featuring a time-traveller who appears to be travelling backwards into the past at the rate of one hour per hour.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's The Door into Summer starts with the hero (broke, drunk, and angry) deciding to use cold sleep to see his ex worn by several decades of The Slow Path. The plot revolves around the implications of combining reliable cold sleep, slow path and Time Travel with unpredictable direction. Among other things the hero does meet his ex-love: destitute, "overfed, and under exercised" and too senile to realize that to boot; but he has more interesting things to do rather than savor his victory.
  • In the end of One Hundred Years Ahead by Kir Bulychev (as well as its TV adaptation Guest from the Future) before returning to the future, the heroine tells her 20th century friends what will happen with them. The final words are:
    Alice: And if you don't believe me, see for yourself when you get there.
    Fima: How can we get there, if we are not allowed [to use the Time Machine]?
    Sadovskiy: On our own, year after year — and we'll be there!
  • Hyperion: The Consul's tale recalls his grandfather as a young man going on frequent spaceship voyages and returning to a planet many years in the future, having only aged slightly due to relativistic time dilation. Early on, he falls in love with a girl, but each time he returns to the world, he's the same age and she has aged over a decade. Their romance spreads across her whole life, while it's only a short duration for him.
  • There is an old sci-fi novel (can't remember the name) about an expedition to one of the Magellanic Clouds on a ship using an Anti Matter drive to accelerate to a high percentage of the speed of light. One of the astronauts says goodbye to his girlfriend, knowing he'll never see her again and leaves. Unwilling to live without him, and told that regular Human Popsicle method won't allow her to survive for millennia, she volunteers for an experimental procedure involving being placed in a coma. Thousands of years later, the ship returns with only one crewmember aboard (not her boyfriend), who is already dead from life support failure. The medical technology of the future revives him, and he accidentally helps them find the girl's pod. They then travel back to the Magellanic Cloud (using FTL technology this time) and rescue her boyfriend, who was placed in stasis by the Big Bad.
  • Stephen King's short story "The Jaunt" features a family waiting to be instantaneously teleported from Earth to Mars, in a process that first requires them to be gassed unconscious. The father tells his two children a bowdlerized version of how the technique came to be discovered and why the gas is needed, skipping over the gruesome semi-apocryphal account of the first man to make the trip awake. Unfortunately, the son hears enough to be curious about what the trip is like, so he holds his breath when the gas is administered. The father wakes up on the other end to witness his cackling white-haired son clawing his own eyes out: The physical trip is indeed instantaneous, but the mental journey... well... "It's longer than you think, Dad! Longer than you think!!"
    • His novel 11/22/63 has English teacher Jake Epping travel back in time through the use of a wormhole in his friend Al's diner. Al, who has extensively experimented with the wormhole and has recently been diagnosed with lung cancer, asks Jake to go back and prevent John F Kennedy's assassination. The issue is that the wormhole has strict rules: it always leads to the same place and date (Lisbon Falls, Maine, on September 9, 1958 11:58 AM), history actively resists attempts to change things, going back through the wormhole always returns you two minutes after you left, and going through again resets all the previous changes you made. As a result, Jake must carefully wait and plan for dealing with Lee Harvey Oswald while living life in the mid-20th century. By the end, after suffering from countless injuries and misfortunes, including losing his girlfriend Sadie and discovering that saving Kennedy has resulted in a serious Bad Future, Jake goes back to reset everything. He contemplates just driving back to the town where he met Sadie and spending the rest of his life there, but decides against it and returns to the present. The only change from his journey down the Slow Path is that he just aged a few years in the course of a few minutes.
  • In We Can't Rewind, the characters discover near the end that there's a way to visit the past. You just have to be living in a nation called Merciar on an alternate Earth in a parallel Bizarro Universe in which time flows backward, which is on the other side of a huge naturally generated inter-dimensional portal in The Bermuda Triangle; and you have to have access to some of Merciar's advanced inter-dimensional portal-opening technology. Then you have to live for however long into the past from the present your intended destination is.
  • In The World at the End of Time, unlike the two other protagonists Viktor Sorricaine and Reesa McGann, Wan-To travels through the slow path watching the almost entire history of the Universe unfold in front of its sensors.
  • In the Red Dwarf novels, Holly goes through this in the same manner as his TV series counterpart. During the second book, when Lister is marooned on Garbage World and Red Dwarf itself is forced to escape a black hole, a time dilation effect occurs where the ship has relatively been travelling for a few hours, but Lister has been stuck there for thirty-six years. Presumably, after his death and resurrection, his time on Backwards Earth counts as this as well, since in both books that came after, The Cat is the same age as him once again.
  • The Dark Artifices: In the third book, when Annabel and Ash go to Thule, they also time travel to three years in the past. From their perspective, they end up spending five years in that universe before meeting Emma and Julian again, as the latter are transported to two years into the future instead. Ash eventually returns to the main universe at the same point he departed (well, to be more precise, a few days afterward), having grown up from being a kid into a teenager in the interim.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The final episode of Lucifer (2016) is arguably an example of this trope, as Rory returns to her own time directly while everyone else gets to that point via living their lives. However, the fact that she also experienced all the time in question except for the months before her birth, because she grew up in it might disqualify it.
  • 12 Monkeys: Cassandra Railly lives the two years between her initial encounter with Cole in 2013 and his re-appearance in 2015 naturally, while for Cole the transition is instantaneous owing to time travel. Cassandra is understandably bothered by this, since things haven't gone well for her in the past two years.
  • The 100: While the rest of the survivors are put on ice after the Valley is nuked, Harper and Monty stay awake to monitor conditions on the ground and wake them up when it’s safe again, in presumably ten years. Unfortunately, the prediction is way off; the valley won’t become livable again within many human lifetimes. Monty and Harper have a child, raise him to adulthood (before he goes on ice as well, to spare him from living his whole life in isolation), grow old, and finally die of natural causes decades before the first people wake up. Naturally, the awoken survivors are quite shocked and saddened by this.
  • The episode of Adam Ruins Everything spoofing The Magic School Bus has the cast time travel from King Tut's entombment in 1323 BC to his rediscovery in AD 1922. The Arnold expy misses the bus and gets stuck in the tomb for all that time. When he finally meets back up with the others, he's not physically aged, although certainly mentally shaken and filled with scarab beetles.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: At the start of Season 5, most of the team except for Fitz are pulled through a Monolith and end up 74 years in the future. With the help of Enoch, the alien responsible for this in the first place, Fitz puts himself in suspended animation in order to eventually rejoin them. The alien himself, being a Time Abyss, spends the whole time awake, guarding Fitz's suspended body and continuing to aid him when he wakes up.
    • The timeline where they wait the entire 74 years is eventually averted, but Enoch ends up having to take another slow path in the new one, as he travels along with the rest of the group back to 1931, and ends up getting left behind when their ship gets involuntarily taken to 1955 - where they leave him behind again until 1973. Then after a quick stop in 1982, Mack and Deke accidentally get left behind and have to wait 20 months to rejoin everyone else.
  • Alcatraz was built around this trope. Every prisoner in Alcatraz and some of its staff disappeared in 1963 and reappeared in 2011 without having aged a day, while one of the guards, Emerson Hauser, took The Slow Path, rising through the ranks of law enforcement to become a senior FBI agent.
  • Heroes:
    • "Six Months Ago": Hiro jumps back six months, then spends most of them trying to get Charlie out of harm's way. One bonus of this extra time is that he improves his English dramatically in what is, to the rest of the heroes, a very short period. Another is that he and Charlie fell in love, but then, maybe that's not such a big bonus considering what happened to her.
    • And then Charlie herself takes The Slow Path, when Samuel and Arnold hide her in the 1940's to keep her away from Hiro. He runs into her again in the present, where she's an elderly grandmother. Hiro decides not to intervene when he meets her granddaughter.
    • Kensei/Adam also experiences this as it seems his healing ability allowed him the immortality to wait hundreds of years for his revenge on Hiro.
    • "Bloodlines" (from the webcomic tie-in) reveals that Arnold, the elderly time-traveler from the Sullivan Bros Carnival, was actually 15 years younger than Samuel. Then on a mission back to 1961, he got Easy Amnesia and ended up taking The Slow Path back to the present.
  • Heroes Reborn: Part of Noah Bennett and his allies' plan to thwart Erica Kravid involves Hiro sending the newborn Nathan/Tommy and Malina back 15 years. He gets stuck there and has to wait it out.
  • When the others are blasted into the future in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1981), Marvin has to take the slow path and wait billions of years to meet up with them. He spends the last several thousand years parking cars at the site where the Restaurant At the End of the Universe was eventually built.
  • On Legends of Tomorrow:
    • Ray, Kendra, and Sarah are left behind in the 1950s, and assume that they are stuck there for good. Sarah rejoins the League of Assassins, while Ray becomes a professor, and begins dating Kendra. They are stuck there for 2 years before Rip and the rest of the team get to them. In Season 2, the Waverider is left at the bottom of the Atlantic for 74 years, before a historian named Nate Haywood and Mayor Oliver Queen board the timeship in 2016 and find Mick Rory aboard in stasis. Only moments have passed for Mick. Apparently, the timeship is none the worse for wear after spending so much time underwater and being hit by a nuclear-tipped torpedo.
    • Both the Big Bad of Season 1, Vandal Savage, and one of the Legion of Doom in Season 2, Damian Darhk, are immortals, and so meet the time travelling Legends at different times in their long lives, between which decades pass for them, while it's only been a matter of weeks at most for the good guys. Averted in Season 2, where Damian Darhk begins travelling in time as well, due to his alliance with the Reverse Flash.
    • The episode "Compromised" gives us Todd/Obsidian, one of Amaya's teammates from the Justice Society of America. Amaya stows away on the Legend's Time Machine, the Waverider, in 1942, and a few weeks later (for her), runs into Obsidian in 1987, who he hasn't seen her in over forty years.
    • While most of the Season 5 "encores" are encountered in their own time period, having been resurrected shortly after their deaths, Ghengis Khan emerges in 1997, with the explanation that he's been digging his way out of his tomb since 1227.
  • A less tragic version in the Season 2 finale of The Librarians 2014, where the Time Machine that sent Flynn and Eve into Shakespeare's time breaks after the jump, and Jenkins informs the others that it's impossible for them to return, even using another time machine, as each time machine works differently. After the Big Bad is defeated by exorcising him from Shakespeare's body, Shakespeare needs to return to his own time. The space/time continuum obligingly creates a temporal rift for him, but Flynn and Eve aren't able to use it. Instead, they use the last of the Bard's magic to have the two of them turned into statues and placed in a locked room in the Library. A clue is then left that will only appear at the appropriate time that will allow Jenkins to open the room and break the "curse", turning the statues back to normal.
  • Lost:
    • As of Season 5, most of the characters of are back in 1977. Some of them got stuck in 1974 and simply had to build lives for themselves in that time period while waiting for Locke and the O6 to return. Though the neat thing is, the people who got off the island take three years to make it back, so that by the time everyone meets up again, they've all experienced the same amount of time.
    • Locke meets a young Charles Widmore on the island in 1954, then again in Tunisia in 2007. Widmore introduces himself, tells Locke that they met 50 years ago and asks how long it's been for him. "Four days".
      • In the same conversation, Widmore mentions to Locke that the Oceanic 6 has been off the island for 3 years, whereas Locke went through the portal off the island in early 2005, a few days after the Oceanic 6 left the island, thus causing the O6 have taken the slow path when they see Locke again.
  • The Magicians: Eliot and Quentin end up traveling back in time to solve the Mosaic in order to get one of the 7 keys. They both live long lives and die decades before the events of the main plot happen. In the present, Margo ends up traveling back to the moment before they travel in time and gives them the key.
  • Once Upon a Time: Characters brought to Storybrooke by Regina's Dark Curse are stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop and don't age. (Regina is the only one aware of the loop, and she's just as trapped as everyone else.) Characters who came to the same world by means other than Regina's magic, like Emma, or who were born there, like Henry, age normally. The loop is finally ended after 28 years when Emma comes to Storybrooke and chooses to stay.
  • The Orville: In "Mad Idolatry", Isaac chooses to go down to a time-accelerated planet in order to convince the locals to abandon their Kelly-worshiping religion. Being an artificial being, he comes back 700 years later (from his viewpoint) no worse for wear.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In ''Vanishing Act", a man repeatedly goes to sleep and wake up ten years in the future. Once she figures out what is going on, his lover spends the rest of her life trying to figure out how to save him.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • Holly, the ship's computer, waits for three million years while Lister is in stasis (and the Cat's ancestors are evolving into humanoids).
    • In "Rimmerworld," Rimmer flees the ship when it is invaded, and lands on an uninhabited planet. He accidentally creates an army of clones of himself, who lock him in a dungeon for nearly 600 years. For the rest of the crew, this is only a day or two due to a time dilation effect.
    • In the pilot for a proposed U.S. version of the series (which was not greenlighted), Kryten's detached head is fully conscious, sitting on a shelf in the repair shop, for the entire time that Lister is in stasis.
      Lister: You've been stuck here for three million years? What have you been doing?
      Kryten: I've been reading that fire exit sign over there. It's given me a lot of solace over the years.
  • Sanctuary (2007): Helen Magnus goes back in time 113 years to kill Adam Worth. Since she has no way to get back home again, she hides out for the next hundred and thirteen years, and uses the time to plan what she wants to do to deal with the crisis that was happening when she left. Will is distinctly unamused when she goes missing for what seems to him to be hours, only for her to show up in her bedroom at the Sanctuary and inform him that it had been more like a hundred and thirteen years for her. And despite being almost twice as old as she was at the start of the series, she looks no different. But then, she was already well over a century old to begin with and still appeared to be only middle-aged.
  • Smallville: In "Homecoming", Clark Kent is visited by a time traveling Brainiac 5. Clark steals his Legion Ring and tries to use it to prevent his father's death, but accidentally travels a few years in the future instead. After an adventure where he assists his future self Superman, he runs into a slightly annoyed Brainiac 5, who waited all this time.
  • Stargate-verse:
    • Stargate SG-1:
      • The episode "1969" has 2 examples.
      • When SG-1 are sent back to 1969, they meet a young Lieutenant Hammond, who helps them thanks to a note from his future self. He then has to take the long way to see them again as a General. It's also stated that his encounter with them was what led to the older him giving them the information they would need to get back, before they left. He could have even stopped them from going, but knew it would have created a paradox.
      • Then at the end of the episode when trying to get home they accidentally go too far into the future. An elderly woman greets them in a clearly deserted SGC. Sam recognizes her as Cassandra - a young preteen in their time. She knew they were coming and was waiting for them to return them to the proper time. Meaning at some point Sam told her when she would need to be there and gave her the necessary technology, and she took the slow path to do so.
      • In the episode "Window of Opportunity" Jack and Teal'c spend a sizable amount of time living through the same day over and over, instantly traveling back in time to the beginning of the day each time, and use the months of time they live through to take the opportunity to learn juggling, pottery, and also how the time machine works.
      • "Moebius": A Zero Point Module takes the slow path from Ancient Egypt, due to some monkeying with the Timey-Wimey Ball by the team. That ZPM ends up in Atlantis's Season 2 premiere.
      • "Unending": SG-1 is trapped within a time-stop field on the Odyssey for fifty years. When they finally work out a solution, Teal'c volunteers to be excluded from the time-reversal effect, so that he can deliver a plan to save the ship. Fortunately, as a Jaffa, his lifespan is exceptionally long, though he is still visibly older by the end of it.
    • Stargate Atlantis:
      • "Before I Sleep" — An alternate Dr. Weir has spent ten thousand years in stasis after saving Atlantis from flooding. She's still an aged old woman by the time she's discovered, as the stasis couldn't perfectly preserve her.
      • In the Season 4 finale "The Last Man", a solar flare sends Sheppard 48,000 years in the future. To return to his present, Sheppard spends somewhere around 700 years in stasis to catch a solar flare that sends him back to 12 days after he disappeared.
  • Star Trek:
    • Invoked and Played for Laughs in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Tomorrow is Yesterday". After Kirk is caught inside a US Air Force base in the 1960s, the soldier interrogating him tells Kirk that he's "going to lock you up for two hundred years!" Kirk ruefully mutters that "that ought to be just about right".note 
    • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation: episode "Time's Arrow", Data's head spends several hundred years in a cave in California. In a classic Stable Time Loop, it's the discovery of his head that bootstraps the adventure. There's also Guinan (whose species lives a long time) first meeting the crew 500 years in the past. Just before the crew returns to their present time, they note that Guinan won't see the crew again for 500 years, but the crew will see her in a few minutes on the Enterprise.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • In "The Visitor", Benjamin Sisko is sent blinking in and out of time, staying for only a few moments, and leaving for years at a time. He keeps reappearing near Jake at farther and farther times apart, as Jake spends his entire life obsessively trying to stabilize his father, lest he be lost in subspace forever. Despite being the one afflicted with temporal instability, Sisko takes the experience in stride, and is far more saddened by his son's suffering. Ultimately, Jake becomes a decrepit old man before he has the chance to undo the whole ordeal. The episode is one of the most loved episodes in all of Star Trek.
      • "Children Of Time" has the crew of the Defiant encountering a planet inhabited by their own descendants, as an upcoming accident will cause the ship to crash-land there 200 years in the past. The original crew is obviously long-dead, save for the long-lived Odo, who doesn't look much different after two centuries, and he's very happy to see his friends again. The Dax symbiote is also still around, with current host Yedrin Dax addressing Sisko as a close friend just as Jadzia did.
    • In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "E Squared", the Enterprise is sent one hundred years back in time while attempting to travel through a Xindi subspace tunnel. As a result, it lays low for the next century, becoming a generational ship, all so that it can stop the accident from happening in the first place. Its existence is hinted several times prior to that episode, when the Xindi claim to have seen other Earth ships in the area.
    • Star Trek: Picard: Season 2 begins with a mysterious new Borg Queen arriving in the Alpha Quadrant. After ten episodes of time travel shenanigans, the Borg Queen turns out to be Dr. Jurati, who was assimilated in 2024 and who is only just reconnecting with her own timeline after 400 years.
    • Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: In "Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow", Sera, a Romulan intelligence officer, came back in time from an unknown date of origin intending to interfere with the Eugenics Wars in the 1990s by assassinating Khan Noonien-Singh and thereby prevent the Federation from forming. Problem was, everybody and their mother apparently had a similar idea, which ended up delaying Khan's childhood to the 2020s. Thus Sera was forced to live on Earth as a Deep Cover Agent for the intervening thirty years.
  • Uchu Sentai Kyuranger: First invoked when the spaceship Orion's mission to 300 years in the past fails, resulting in its wreckage having been left to rot for just that long by the time our heroes find it in the present. After its eponym, the warrior Orion, is prematurely killed, Shou stays behind to spread the legend of the Kyurangers in his stead to ensure a Close-Enough Timeline, cyrogenically freezing himself once his work is done. Champ also stays behind to search for Doctor Anton and, being an unaging robot, lives through the whole time.
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles:
    • In one episode, a terminator is sent back in time to stockpile raw materials for terminator manufacturing. It does so by stealing a large amount of coltan and storing it in the fallout shelter of an abandoned military base that will be turned into a factory by Skynet. It then goes into standby mode, presumably to wait until Skynet builds the factory and discovers it.
    • Cromartie, the most persistent of the enemy Terminators in the series, ended up undergoing an unusual variant of this in the pilot episode. While his head gets transplanted from 1999 to 2007 along with the heroes, his body remains behind. They later recombine, so like Data, just one part of the body takes the slow path.
    • The Slow Path is used by another Terminator as well. In the episode Self Made Man, a terminator with orders to kill the governor of California in a certain time and place is sent back several decades too far, apparently just by accident, all the way to the 1920s or something. Not only that, but his electric time travel bubble kills the person who was going to build the building where the assassination was supposed to happen, so to fulfill his mission and avoid a paradox, he creates a construction company from the ground up, builds the building himself, and when it's finished, entombs himself into the wall of the correct room to wait 80 years for the governor to come to him. They really are implacable.
  • The Twilight Zone (2002): In "Memphis", Ray Ellison somehow gets sent back in time to around the time Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. He attempts to prevent it, but gets sidetracked helping a woman named Adelaide Tyler and her young son, Lucas. He eventually saves Lucas from getting hit by a car and is sent back to the present. He is disappointed that he failed to save King, but discovers that his doctor is the grown up version of Lucas. Lucas remembers him and is very happy to see him again, even giving him surgery to remove a tumor for free.

    Doctor Who 
Doctor Who is the Trope Namer. As you might expect, it's done this a lot, especially in the revival series.
  • In "The Invasion", the Brigadier has lived through four years of normal Earth-time while the Doctor and Jamie only spent a few weeks.
  • This happens to Jackie and Mickey a mere four episodes into the new series. The 9th Doctor intends to bring Rose home 12 hours after she left, and accidentally returns her 12 months later. Everyone who had to live through that year the long way thought she had been kidnapped or killed. Needless to say, no one involved was happy about the results. Particularly bad for Mickey, as everyone thought he killed Rose, Jackie in particular leading the charge against him, turning him into a social pariah.
  • In "The Girl in the Fireplace", the Doctor keeps zipping through Madame de Pompadour's life while she grows up normally. He can't control when he appears, which is very much Played for Drama. She gets to name the trope. At the end, it appears that the Doctor will have to live through several thousand years of Earth history to get back to the TARDIS and his companions, but it turns out she had already established a way out for him.
  • "Gridlock" takes place 24 years after "New Earth" for Novice Hame, but considerably less time than that for the Doctor. She lampshades it, remarking that he hasn't aged at all.
  • In "Blink", several characters are attacked by Weeping Angels, who send them back in time to take the Slow Path back, and eat the days they would have had. One of them, a 2007 cop, is sent back in time to 1969, only to be reunited with the episode's heroine on his deathbed, roughly an hour after they first met.
    "It was raining when we met."
    "It's the same rain."
  • And let's not even get started on Captain Jack Harkness, who has already had to live through more than a century after arriving in 1869 to get to the 2000s, the setting of Torchwood and the third series of Doctor Who, in the hopes of seeing the Doctor again. In the Torchwood episode "Exit Wounds", Jack spends eighteen and a half centuries buried alive/dead/alive again below what becomes Cardiff.
  • In "The Eleventh Hour", the Doctor promises a young Amelia Pond that he'll be back in five minutes. However, as the TARDIS engines are malfunctioning he is a bit off. Twelve years off, to be exact. And at the end of the episode, he accidentally leaves for another two years. Amelia's storyline can also be applicable to the first interpretation of the trope, as it seems she is taking an extended vacation the night before her wedding.
  • Lampshaded in "Vincent and the Doctor", when the Doctor asks if time always moves "really slowly" and "in the right order" as he waits for Vincent van Gogh to complete a painting.
  • And in "The Big Bang", this happens twice: Amy is kept in suspended animation inside the Pandorica from 102 AD to 1996, while Rory stands guard outside, becoming "The Lone Centurion" of legend. Interestingly, this means that relatively, Rory is actually twice as old as the Doctor. He's able to keep the memories of it tucked away neatly most of the time, though, as it happened to an Auton replica of him that got merged with his normal self when time was healed again.
    • A much shorter version also occurs in that episode, as the Doctor jumps back in time twelve minutes, apparently dying in front of himself, Amy and Rory. In actuality, he uses those 12 minutes to rewire the Pandorica to fly into the exploding TARDIS to reboot the universe, while the Dalek is busy chasing around Amy, Rory, and his past self.
  • In the 2010 Christmas special "A Christmas Carol", the Doctor attempts to change the ways of a cold-hearted tyrant Kazran (in order to convince him to help save a crashing starliner where Amy and Rory were honeymooning) by visiting Kazran as a child. During their first visit, they encountered Abigail, a beautiful woman who was forced to live in suspended animation to avoid dying of a mysterious disease. Over the next few years, the Doctor would visit Kazran every Christmas Eve, and they would bring Abigail out of her cold sleep to celebrate the holiday with them. So while the Doctor time-traveled from one Christmas Eve to the next and Abigail slept from one Christmas Eve to the next, Kazran ended up taking the slower path.
    • And used to set up the romantic relationship between Kazran and Abigail. The first two Christmas Eves, Kazran is played by Laurence Belcher (fourteen at the time of filming, but looked rather younger). Then, on the third Christmas Eve he's played by Danny Horn (twenty-one years old at the time). One of the first things Abigail says to him is "You've grown."
  • In "The Doctor's Wife", one of the things House does to Mind Rape Amy on the TARDIS is to make her believe this happened to Rory. At random intervals, Amy is separated from Rory by a sliding steel wall. She finds him a minute or two later, while much more time has passed for him. The first time, it's a few hours, and he's mildly annoyed. The second time, it's several decades and he's a seething mad, wizened old man. The final time, he's a withered skeleton surrounded by messages saying "HATE AMY" written in what looks like blood. Of course, it's all an illusion and present Rory comes round the corner just a moment later.
  • In "The Girl Who Waited", Amy is separated from the Doctor and Rory and is stuck in a faster time stream. A few seconds for them is a week for her. When Rory manages to find her, 36 years have passed and Amy is not happy.
  • Weaponised by the Doctor in "The Bells of Saint John". He jumps forward to the morning so that the people searching for him have been at it all night and are less effective.
  • Invoked and exploited multiple times in "The Day of the Doctor". Elizabeth I leaves standing orders to summon the Doctor if certain conditions are met, which takes several centuries. The Zygons use stasis cubes to hide in suspended animation inside paintings until Earth is advanced enough to be worth conquering. The War Doctor programs his sonic screwdriver to solve a complex problem and the Eleventh Doctor's centuries older screwdriver has the solution. The Doctors have the First Doctor start calculating the solution to save Gallifrey so it will be solved by the time of the Twelfth Doctor.
  • "The Time of the Doctor" has the Eleventh Doctor spending 900-plus years on Trenzalore, whereas for Clara the episode takes place over the span of two hours. The first few centuries he at least had the excuse of not having the TARDIS, but the rest of the time he apparently didn't even touch it because he had to guard the crack in time and the town of Christmas. In a twist on the Mayfly/December relationship, the mortal (Clara) sees the near immortal (the Doctor) die of old age by the end of it. Don't worry, he regenerates.
  • All other examples pale in comparison to what the Doctor goes through as he attempts to escape his confession dial in the episode "Heaven Sent", in which he spends four-and-a-half-billion years reliving the same few days over and overnote , gradually punching his way through an impenetrable diamond-like wall, all the time grieving the death of his beloved companion.
    • And that was outdone in the very next episode when it's revealed that Ashildr/Me, thanks to the Doctor saving her life with technology that also immortalized her, survived from the days of the Vikings to the end of the universe apparently without travelling in time.
  • As Series 10 begins, starting sometime in the 20th century the Doctor has spent decades at St. Luke's University as a professor, all to hold to a vow to protect the mysterious Vault (and its prisoner) beneath it. While he occasionally makes quick trips elsewhere in the TARDIS, especially after he meets Bill Potts and makes her his companion in The Present Day, he is plagued by wanderlust and loneliness.
  • Bill gets caught in this in "World Enough and Time". After landing on a spaceship, she's shot in the chest by a panicked crewmember and carted off to the medical area further down the Mile-Long Ship. As she's being carried away, the Doctor plants a psychic message in her mind telling her to wait for him. Unfortunately, it turns out the command area of the ship is caught on the edge of a black hole and the resulting Time Dilation means that Bill has to wait a decade while only ten minutes pass for the Doctor. By the time he finally catches up to Bill she's been fully converted to a Cyberman.
  • "Spyfall": In the second part, the Doctor, stranded in 1943 Paris while trying to get back to the 21st century, leaves the Master being held at gunpoint after framing the German officer he's been disguised as for being a double agent, and steals his TARDIS. The Master then bursts in on the companions in 2020 at the climax, ranting about how unpleasant the last 77 years have been.
  • Doctor Who has played with this quite a bit in the Expanded Universe:
    • The BBC Eighth Doctor Adventures had a whole multi-novel arc following the fall-out of The Ancestor Cell. At the end of that book, the amnesiac Doctor is dropped off around 1890, and then meets up with his companion Fitz on February 8 2001, almost instantly for the companion. The intervening period for the Doctor is covered in five complete novels, from The Burning to Father Time, the century-plus "exile" giving the Doctor's damaged TARDIS time to regenerate itself after taking so much damage.
    • Later retellings of "Planet of the Spiders" in the Doctor Who New Adventures claim that the Third Doctor actually spent ten years in agony on the floor of the TARDIS before returning to UNIT to regenerate.
    • In The Crystal Bucephalus, the Fifth Doctor spends three years as a restaurateur after being abandoned on a random planet in a different era (he's looking to get picked up by time-travelling restaurant critics from the title time-travelling restaurant).
    • In The Stone Rose, the Doctor reveals at the end that he'd taken three years off in the middle of the story to study sculpture under Michelangelo in order to produce the title statue.
    • In the animated story "The Infinite Quest", the Doctor spends three years on a prison planet raising a robot bird before he arrives just in time to rescue Martha, who took the TARDIS.
    • The parody episode "The Curse of Fatal Death" has a slight variation where the Master falls into a sewer which takes him three hundred and twelve years to crawl out of, before using his TARDIS to return to just a few moments after he fell in. Three times. He keeps tally after each incident, and is very tired and put out after nine hundred and thirty six years of sewer climbing, with only dung slugs for food and occasional company (although he is restored to full youth by the next part of the story).
    • In the Ninth Doctor short story which would be adapted into "Blink", the TARDIS "burps" and leaves him behind in the 1980s. He says he could just wait 20 years to meet up with it, but would prefer not to.
  • Big Finish Doctor Who:
    • In "The Kingmaker", Peri and Erimem, having been ditched thanks to a navigational error, have to spend two years with Richard III while waiting for the Doctor to arrive.
    • In "Project: Lazarus", the Doctor tells a newly turned vampire that he'll be back really soon with a cure. Months later, he tries to find her just minutes after he left her behind, but the TARDIS suggests that he seeks her out at a different point in her relative time instead. The Doctor decides to trust the TARDIS and meets the girl again... only to find that she's had six months of utter misery and has been mentally broken by the vampire who turned her. She calls him out on it, really hard.
    • In "Seasons of Fear" this happens to Sebastian Grayle, who has to wait 750 years to give his Masters the Nimons a chance to invade again, while the Doctor just travels to the next location where the right stellar alignment for Grayle to contact them will take place. In the intervening time Who Wants to Live Forever? goes into effect for Grayle, making him go From Nobody to Nightmare.
    • In "Orbis", the Eighth Doctor spends five hundred years on the titular planet, cut off from the TARDIS and gradually losing his memory of his life before Orbis, before Lucie and the Headhunter come for him.
    • And in "Doing Time", a story in "The Demons of Red Lodge", averting an explosion inside a slow time field takes the Doctor several years, but it looks like only minutes to everybody else.
    • In "Second Chances", while travelling with the Doctor Zoe visited a space station a few decades in her future, and failed to save its crew from disaster. She's now aged to the point where that event is in her present, and wants to have another try.
    • In "The Other Side" from the Ninth Doctor Chronicles, the Doctor and Rose are sent back in time on two separate occasions by the villains. Rose learns that the Doctor was sent back to a time 28 years before her, and he takes the slow path to meet up with her again. She also believes he may have worn the same clothes the entire time.

  • Implied for the people the Volunteers leave behind in Queen's song '39: the travellers are "older but a year" due to the effects of Time Dilation, but when they return, the people left behind are old or dead and have left their descendants behind.

    Video Games 
  • Chrono Trigger: One of the sidequests involves restoring a forest from what was once a barren desert. Since the process would take hundreds of years, the group's Robot Buddy stays behind to work while they time travel into the future, to pick him up. From this point on, on the overworld map, you will see an image of him working on the fields every time you go back to the medieval era, even if Robo is back in your party, because you're using the future Robo instead. But that's a Temporal Paradox for another day.
    • An even more dramatic example in another side quest involves a solar-powered artifact that needs millions of years of sunlight to recharge. Needless to say, with a time machine, you can actually make use of it - the party drops it off in a cave in the year 65,000,000 B.C. and returns for it in 2300 A.D. (taking a few detours along the way to stop a selfish jerk from stealing it). And no, it really doesn't make much sense that after soaking up energy for 65 million years, those last couple thousand years are decisive in regard to it having enough power to be useful.
  • Dark Chronicle depends heavily on people taking The Slow Path from the Present to 100 years into the future. As you create villages and populate them with people from the starting city, these villages have become high-tech laboratories, temples, great forests, or industrial sites by the time you return to Monica's time.
    • However, a much more explicit case is with the Elder Tree Jurak and the Sage Crest. The former starts out as some tree saplings, and becomes a monumental tree. Crest is actually a very young girl that Max and Monica meet during the present, but which becomes the greatest Sage in the world (and, although 100 years passed for Crest, the Sage still remembers Max and Monica, for whom there was a difference of only a few minutes).
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: After three heroes banished Alduin to the future at the Throat of the World, Alduin's former lieutenant Paarthurnax, knowing where Alduin would be back but not when, decided to wait at the Throat of the World until Alduin finally returned- which turned out to be the beginning of the game. Dragons are immortal, so it wasn't much of a problem for him.
  • A semi-recurring element of The Legend of Zelda:
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Link has to spend seven years sleeping in the Sacred Realm so that he will be old enough to properly wield the Master Sword. He returns to the Bad Future Hyrule after only a moment from his perspective, yet every other character lived as normal through that period.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, has a door in the Sealed Grounds that Link is not allowed to open. Late in the game, we discover that after Zelda took the Gate of Time in Lanayru to the Era of the Goddess, she was encapsulated in a crystal sleep behind that door, using her power as the Reincarnation of the Goddess Hylia in order to keep the seal on the Demon King Demise. She's still there in the present day, when his Imprisoned form is starting to wake up in spite of the efforts. Impa also traveled to the past with Zelda and remained there to watch over the Sealed Grounds; the ending of the game reveals that she became The Old One.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild begins with Link waking up in the Shrine of Resurrection after a century. Upon reemerging in Hyrule, he finds that the few Long-Lived characters he knew before are still around. The three Sheikah individuals who helped him and Zelda research the ancient technology are still there to help him fight Ganon. The Koroks are once again happy to see "Mr. Hero." And the older Zora either resent his failure to defeat Ganon the first time around or are delighted to see him alive and well once again.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom: This happens to Zelda, who at the beginning of the game is sent back in time to Hyrule's founding. The exact time is not stated, but it's significantly more than 10,000 years. She manages to survive to the present by swallowing a Zonai secret stone, which transforms her into the Light Dragon, making her immortal but completely destroying her mind in the process. She is eventually restored to humanity and sanity after Ganondorf is killed, but, mercifully, does not retain memories of her millenia as the Light Dragon. The destroyed Master Sword is also sent back in time and spends that time recovering in the Light Dragon's grasp.
  • In Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space: Chariots of the Dogs, the eponymous duo are left stranded back in Episode 102: Situation: Comedy by their own past selves and are forced to re-live the past year-and-a-half off-camera.
  • In Wild ARMs 3, the protagonists manage to use a very powerful magic to send Asgard, the persistent robot hundreds of years into the past. All's right? Well, there's a curiously humanoid shaped rock formation in one of the first dungeons in the game, and sure enough Asgard bursts out of it when the party has to re-visit it later. It turns out that Asgard knew that the only way to go back to present is to take the slow path, imprisoning himself in a rock formation where he will emerge during the right time.
    • Interestingly, he goes back talking in Hulk Speak but comes back as eloquent and intelligent.
    • This is because Asgard is programmed with a learning AI. The more he experiences (fighting experience in particular), the more intelligent he becomes.
  • Something similar to this happens where Arche is concerned in Tales of Phantasia. One the game ends and it's time for everyone to return to their proper place in time, she doesn't say her permanent goodbye to either Chester, Cless and Mint, each born a hundred years after her birth (hundred and one in Mint's case), or to Suzu, born about a one hundred and forty years after her, since she's a long lived Half-Elf and will live long enough to see them again. Klarth isn't so lucky, and bids a more permanent farewell. The problem here is that she and Chester had a short-lived romantic relation, and there's no telling if Arche will still be young after a hundred years.
    • It's confirmed in spin off Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon, where you meet her in the original game's present and fight her as your first boss. She's matured a bit, but only looks to be in about her 20s or 30s.
    • What's the longevity of most relationships? What's the likelihood that a rather libidinous young half-elf won't find someone(s) else in the intervening century? Carrying a torch for someone who doesn't even exist yet for a hundred years would require either exceptional stubborn dedication or True Love.
  • In Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, Ray actually turns out to be another version of Missile, who was killed in a different timeline, as Sissel refused to help him prevent his and Kamila's deaths. As a result, Missile goes back in time using his ghost tricks on Yomiel's corpse and takes the slow path, waiting for ten years for the night he died to convince Sissel to help him, sparking the game's events.
    Ray/Missile-Prime: "Ten years is a long time for a dog."
  • Day of the Tentacle. Objects can frequently be flushed through time directly and immediately by the Chron-O-John, but living organic matter needs an alternate transport; thus, a hamster travels the slow path as a Hamster Popsicle. Some objects can change form with slow pathing, too - a bottle of wine left in a time capsule for four hundred years isn't going to be much like wine by the time it reaches the other end, and a sweater left in a tumble dryer fed with a mountain of quarters will have somewhat dramatically shrunk.
  • Dr. Diggins takes this route in Fossil Fighters after being sent back to the Jurassic era. Fortunately he finds a crashed dinaurian starship and uses the stone-sleep process to wait out the 150 million years until he gets revived.
  • In Portal 2, Wheatley is active for the 99999 (or some other undefined, large number) days that Chell is in stasis and GLaDOS is dead.
  • Portal Reloaded: The AI notes in the first chamber that you can wait 20 years until the door opens, or you can travel into the future instantly through the green portal. If you don't cross the portal immediately, he insists you do it because otherwise you'll die from thirst before 20 years pass.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), E-123 Omega takes a Chaos Emerald and enters standby mode to help Shadow when he was trapped in the future.
  • Final Fantasy IV has Rydia grow from a little girl to a young woman when she is swallowed by Leviathan and taken to the Land of Summoned Monsters. According to her, time flows differently there.
  • Happens near the end of Bioshock Infinite, after Elizabeth is captured by Songbird, Booker jumps through a dimensional tear after her, and ends up in an alternate future where he meets an elderly Elizabeth who futilely waited for him to rescue her, and as such, suffered decades of torture and brainwashing until she gave up hope. The elderly Elizabeth then gives Booker instructions on how to stop Songbird and sends him back to the present.
  • Given the heavy time travel element of Final Fantasy XIII-2, it's inevitable that this happens. Specifically though, Serah and Noel meet up with Hope several times, with Hope having taken the slow path while Serah and Noel hop forwards in time.
  • In the second The Journeyman Project game, the rogue agent uses this method to smuggle Time Travel technology out of the TSA to her alien contacts. Specifically, she hides the plans and the components in specific historical objects before they become historical, while the aliens then purchase or steal them in the future.
  • Singularity has the main character, Nate Renko, jumping back and forth between 1955 and 2010, encountering the same characters in each era. These characters will comment on how similar he looks in the intervening 55 years even though to him it was a mere moment and Barisov comments that he's been waiting half a century for the moment to reunite with Renko.
  • Fallout 4 has your character going through cryogenic stasis for 200 years before waking up in a world After the End and seeking to find their missing baby son Shaun. It turns out that Shaun was stolen from Vault 111 sixty years before your character escapes the Vault, and has become an old man during that time — as well as the leader of the Institute.
    • Not to mention your robot butler Codsworth, who not only survived the initial nuclear holocaust, but has also spent the past two centuries trying (and failing, of course) to keep the household maintained in order. He can hardly believe his processors when he sees you. Also the Vault-Tec salesman from the prologue survived the Great War too, and now lives as a ghoul in Goodneighbour. He's not happy about how he's had to live through 200 years of nightmarish post-apocalyptic survival and discrimination, but he still wears the same suit as the day you met. And of course, there's Billy, a child ghoul who has been hiding in a fridge since the bombs dropped. For two hundred years. Stuck in a fridge. For. Two. Hundred. Years. And the Cabot family, who have been alive since the 1800s at least and are still doing just fine in the 2200s.
  • Slight variant version in League of Legends, since it involves dying and coming back rather than conventional time travel. The civilization of Shurima fell aeons before the game's main setting point due to the scheming of Xerath, and the emperor Azir was killed in the process. When he is brought back to life by accident in the main setting point, he is as fresh as ever and is ready to remake Shurima's great reputation once again. The other Shuriman Ascended haven't had such an easy time of it - Nasus has become a solitary, somewhat tragic figure and Renekton has spent millennia sealed in a tomb with Xerath, which caused him to lose all grasp of reason and been twisted to side with Xerath instead (Xerath has been corrupting Renekton all these years and as a result has been having a great time, although it did cause him to lose all restraint on his ambition as well).
  • Several characters from the Dark War in BlazBlue are around in the main time period of the series, even though this was a hundred years later. Some of them (like Terumi) were spirits, and so didn't age, and some (like Hakumen) came via the Boundary, in which time does not flow (although given what what Hakumen is, he probably could have gone the slow path without issue). However, Valkenhayn R. Hellsing and Jubei reached the main time point simply by waiting - Valkenhayn occupied himself by becoming a steward to the Alucard family, and Jubei by helping take care of Ragna and his siblings when they were children. However, they are the only members of the Six Heroes to have really aged as a result, with Valkenhayn becoming a grey-haired old man (who still kicks ass) and Jubei becoming grizzled and withdrawn.
  • Quantum Break:
    • Early on, Paul travels through a time machine and winds up at the End of Time before using another machine to go to seventeen years in the past, living through all those years again. He takes advantage of his future knowledge to accumulate a lot of money quickly and found Monarch Solutions with the eventual aim of stopping the End of Time.
    • More tragically, Beth. She and Jack attempt to go six years back to retrieve the CFR, but Amaral sabotages the machine for Beth's transit, sending her to the End to convince her that time can't be changed. She manages to chase down Paul and also land seventeen years in the past, but since she went back with a specific goal and the time machine breaks after she exits it, she's forced to wait eleven years for Jack to show up. The stress of it almost breaks her.
  • Kingdom Hearts: In Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] it was revealed that "Ansem" went back in time and convinced his teenage self to seek out other worlds, which would begin a Stable Time Loop. What Kingdom Hearts III added onto this is that after that Ansem actually waited out decades in hiding from that point until the time of the first game, instead of time traveling back to that point the quick way.
  • Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time starts off by following on from the true ending of Warped, in which Uka Uka, Neo Cortex and N. Tropy were flung into another dimension, millions of years ago after the Time Twister broke down, with the scientists de-aging into babies. In the meantime, the scientists have spent 22 years growing back into their adult bodies while trying to find a way to escape, which Uka Uka finally does by exhausting his powers.
  • A botched summoning in Breath of Fire IV caused the god-like Yorae Dragon to split into two pieces, not just by space, but by time as well. One half is Fou-lu, founder/first Emperor of The Empire. Fou-lu puts himself to sleep until his other half shows himself, which is protagonist Ryu, literally Born as an Adult centuries later.
  • Fate/Grand Order:
    • In the Indian Lostbelt, the heroes send Ganesha and Lakshmibai to the beginning of God Arjuna's reign so they can set up a way to defeat him. As Servants don't age, they wait in an isolated cube until they reach the present. Unfortunately, Ganesha had to stay awake to maintain the cube. She spends centuries playing video games, but starts to Go Mad from the Isolation and lose her memories. Fortunately, when they reach the present, meeting the heroes restores her sanity and memories.
    • In the British Lostbelt, Mash Kyrielight gets stranded 2400 years in the past. After an adventure, she gets back to the present by putting herself in suspended animation (and to avoid any potential Time Paradox from being in the same time as her past self in the present) until the others discover and revive her.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • In Season 3, Church gets sent back over a thousand years by an explosion that destroys the present. He asks the nearby AI to build him a teleporter or time machine (or both). It'll take about 1,000 years. Church stands there, and basically does three things: grow a beard (somehow), formulate a plan to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, and listen to awful knock-knock jokes. Keep in mind that, by this point in the story, Church is a ghost (really an AI) inhabiting a robot body, so he's effectively immortal. Additionally, this entire scenario may have never happened at all, considering later revelations implying that Gamma could've just made Church think this was happening instead.
    • In Singularity, this becomes Played Straight, Invoked, and Defied.
      • In their efforts to fix the timeline, Caboose, Lopez, and Huggins all individually decide to start from the beginning of the Blood Gulch Chronicles and work their way forward to undo Genkin's paradoxes. But later on, when Huggins and Caboose meet up, they devise a plan for Huggins to scout out the timeline and tell everything to Caboose so everyone can avoid the hassle of reliving their entire lives.
      • When Lopez falls into a black hole because of the Labyrinth, he ends up at the beginning of the universe. Since he's a robot, he's able to just wait until he reaches the present to reunite with the others.
  • RWBY: Season 9 reveals Jaune Arc was accidentally sent to the past in the world of Ever After. After an adventure with Alyx and Lewis, he stayed and defended the world as the Rusted Knight. By the time he meets the others in the present, he has become a ruggedly handsome adult, though his experience has taken a bit of a toll on his sanity and he is now shell shocked.

  • 8-Bit Theater's White Mage accidentally takes away Sarda the Sage's chance to become the creator of the universe, and then traps him there at the beginning of time where he is forced to wait for the universe to evolve intelligent life. (The only thing Sarda could do in all that time was grow his iconic mustache, and that only took him two weeks.)
  • In Bob and George, George is sent back several months in a time machine suit to fix some plot holes in the previous storylines. He does so, but the suit breaks, so he spends the time until time catches up with him on the beach in Acapulco.
  • In Two Evil Scientists, Mega Man is sent back to the Space Colony ARK fifty years in the past, and ends up waiting 100+ years to the time of Mega Man X.
  • In the aptly named Stickman and Cube arc "The Slow Path," everyone but Stickman and Cube are forced to take The Slow Path when Stickman and Cube travel into the future. The wait severely flusters the Author, who has to somehow keep the readers occupied until they return.
  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, the time-traveling would-be saboteur of Dr. McNinja's clone army is forced to take the slow path back to the present after his temporal stabilizer is damaged in an explosion. Thus becoming Chuck Goodrich, and explaining why the hell he wanted all those space suits put in houses. Beyond general insanity, anyway.
  • Quite a bunch of people in Homestuck, as most of them were born on April 13th, 2009. The two most triumphant examples are Becquerel (413 Million years) and the bunny from Con Air (who took the slow path 'twice'. This results in the bunny being more than 38 years old, even though the movie Con Air was released only 12 years prior to the start of the comic).
    • Parodied with Biscuits, the dumbest member of The Felt. This idiot thinks that his oven has the power to transport him into the future equal to the time he sets the oven timer. It works at one second per second. Which means he just hides in a broken oven until the timer buzzes. Later comics show it does have a special power: it's Bigger on the Inside. Still does nothing related to time travel though.
  • In Wapsi Square, Shelly spends roughly 80,000 years trapped in an alternate dimension where time flows differently.
  • minus. does this so that two characters can be Put on a Bus. One of the red-haired twins asks minus to send her back in time so that she can undo something she just did... unfortunately for her, minus misinterprets her requests and sends her back to what appears to be Victorian England. Her twin sister freaks out and frantically asks minus what happened to her... only for the first twin to show up as an old woman. minus sends the other sister back so the two can live their lives together.
  • xkcd:
    • In #209, Beret Guy goes to "explore the future" with a kayak, as the kayak travels through time "just like everything else".note 
    • Referenced in #63, proving that The Slow Path can be made into the most annoying form of time travel.
    • In #1617, the Beret Guy seems to mistake a time capsule for a time machine; the only traveling he does is the slow variety.
    • In #2459, a comic has March 2020 lasting the entire 15 months of the pandemic until the arrival of vaccinations (making the point that all of the world feels like it's been on hold). Thus, the alt-text punchline, "I've traveled here from March 2020 to give you this vaccine!"
  • The Lich from Baskets of Guts has sealed himself in a crypt and left it only three hundred years later. The outside world has changed a lot.
  • Played for laughs in Learning with Manga! FGO, where the residents of Chaldea attempt to solve the problem of Gudako by using a Rayshift machine to send her 20,000 years into the past. They rejoice at their success... as Gudako walks into frame, now wearing ragged clothes and holding a stone axe. When asked how she managed to survive for millennia, she simply announces "Humanity can survive any hurdle that they encounter! The future is ours to claim!"

    Web Original 
  • The Trinton Chronicles has Dan, who froze himself in time after a big battle, waiting until someone rescued him from the temporal hibernation. It took roughly 80+ years before it happened too.
  • In Dave You Fool's SCP-001 proposal, O5-11 sends himself back in time 15,000 years every time he fails to kill UBU, taking a massive toll on his sanity.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama:
    • "Roswell that Ends Well": In a direct parody of the TNG episode, Bender's head is dropped in the New Mexico desert in the 1940s, and has to be recovered a thousand years later. Not only does Bender not mind being buried in the dirt for a millennium, he actually complains upon being rescued that his peace and quiet are being disturbed.
    • Bender's Big Score: Bender repeatedly and happily volunteers to go back in time, steal precious historical treasures, and then wait in a cavern under Planet Express headquarters until a few seconds after leaving. (This is because the method of time travel he's using only works one way, so The Slow Path is pretty much the only way to get back. When Fry uses it, he has to re-freeze himself for the return trip.) And then at the end of the film, Bender "wakes up" all of the Bender duplicates and has them exit the basement before they were logically supposed to, thus creating a hole in the universe, and setting the stage for the next film.
    • At the end of "Simpsorama", a crossover episode of The Simpsons, the Planet Express crew's mission to the past is over and the rest of them are sucked back into the future through a singularity in Bender's chest. Bender himself gets back to the future by shutting himself off for 1000 years. Since this episode aired, he has made multiple non-speaking cameos in the Simpsons' house's basement (or floating in the hallway when the house is flooded).
  • Xiaolin Showdown:
    • Omi has to freeze himself for 1500 years with the Orb of Tornami, because Jack Spicer forgot to mention that his time machine didn't have a means to return him from the past. He gets woken up at the right time because he froze himself under some boulders where he'd knew the Big Bad would be raising a fortress out of the ground there.
    • He does this again to recover the Sands of Time from his future self. Spot the flaw in this plan. If Omi spends all of his time frozen, he can't give himself the Sands of Time because his old self wouldn't exist. Old Clay even lampshades that Omi really didn't understand time travel. Additionally, Omi's absence caused a Bad Future where Jack has taken over the world .
    • Another episode uses it on a smaller scale, almost as a throwaway gag. Evil Teen Genius Ditz Jack Spicer uses the Sands of Time to disappear into the future—then returns a few seconds later in a Hawaiian shirt (but otherwise unchanged), explaining that he took a year off to come up with an Evil Plan.
  • Justice League:
    • "The Savage Time":
      • The League travels back to World War II in order to stop Vandal Savage from conquering the world, and Wonder Woman fights alongside special agent Steve Trevor while there. Once the League returns to their own time, Wonder Woman encounters Trevor again — this time as an old man in a retirement home.
      • Hawkgirl meets and fights alongside the Blackhawk Squadron. Later, in the JLU episode "I am Legion," the last surviving member of the group calls the Justice League for help. He remembers her, of course.
        "We met a while back, Ma'am. Longer for me than for you."
    • "Hereafter": Superman is teleported several thousand years into the future, where he finds Vandal Savage, who has spent the entire time on Earth alone, living with the guilt of having wiped out the human race. For an additional sting, Vandal himself is personally well-versed in time travel science (cf. "The Savage Time"), but his time machine's design prevents one from travelling to an era where one already exists — which for the immortal Savage is basically all of history, which is why in "The Savage Time" he merely sent information to his past self.
      Superman: How did you get here?
      Savage: The old-fashioned way. I'm immortal.
  • The Smurfs: The episode that introduces the Smurflings starts with Nat, Snappy, and Slouchy as adult Smurfs until they chase Nat's butterflies into Father Time's special grandfather clock, which de-ages them about fifty years. Father Time has no idea how to reverse the process (he can't cause time to go forward in the same way he can make it go backward), so the three just have to grow up the usual way.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: In one episode, Jade is taken back in time, then Jackie and the bad guys follow. Jade and Jackie make it back to their own time, but the baddies end up going even further back, and have to return by The Slow Path... only to be back to their young selves by the next episode through Shendu's magic.
  • Metalocalypse: In the first season finale, Dethklok is excited by their idea for a new piece of merchandise, "Time Travel Face Bags" that let the wearer travel forward in time "at the speed of regular time". With bags on their heads.
  • Danny Phantom: A technological variant. Jazz needs to send a message to Danny Phantom who is trapped in the future of the Ghost Zone. She attaches a message to a tracking device that will find him and throws it into the Ghost Zone. 10 years later, the device activates when it detects Danny and brings the message to him.
  • Dave the Barbarian: The cast are turned into babies. Because Candy doesn't know how to make them normal, she does the next best thing, and wait for them to grow back.
  • Drawn Together: In one episode, Captain Hero does the Superman time-rewind trick to the beginning of time and then... waits. Although he does make use of the ensuing millennia to screw with evolution and create Boob People.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Aang was a Human Popsicle for a hundred years (making him chronologically 112), while his friend Bumi aged normally and is now the Cool Old Guy king of the city of Omashu.
  • Generator Rex: An And I Must Scream version is used. Van Kleiss was sent back in time by Breach and an episode focuses on how he got back to the present. While it looks like he's getting in a time machine during his travels between the various eras it's later revealed that it's not a time machine but a stasis chamber and the And I Must Scream part comes when it's revealed that he was AWARE of each passing second during the thousands of years of waiting. All while being chased by Breach, who had been turned into a mysterious energy force.
  • Darkwing Duck: This is played for laughs. After seeing a piece of amber containing himself, DW decides to get answers and so goes back in time with Quackerjack's Timetop, to the time of the Dinosaurs. They find a society of dinosaurs who are intelligent... but all carrying an Idiot Ball. After much hijinks, one of the dinosaur scientists accidentally activates the Timetop and sends Launchpad and Gosalyn back to the present. Darkwing is stuck in the past, until a Dino-scientist knocks him in sap (he was making pancakes), becoming the amber fossil he'd seen at the beginning. Next we see a passage of time montage, with DW frozen with his eyes open. After realizing the origin of the fossil, Launchpad and Gosalyn crack open DW's amber tomb. Darkwing just shivers and says "Does anyone know what eon it is?"
  • Family Guy: In one episode, Stewie and Brian travel back in time to prevent Bertram from killing Leonardo Da Vinci and causing a Time Paradox. Despite defeating Bertram, they fail to save Leonardo, so Stewie (who has Leonardo's DNA) decides to stay behind and take his place while Brian returns home. He then receives a letter from Stewie saying that after he had impregnated Leonardo's girlfriend (with a syringe), he placed himself in cryogenic stasis under the house where Brian finds him.
  • Avengers Assemble: In the Kang two-parter, Thor misses the time portal when the other Avengers follow Kang's ship to the 30th century. When they arrive, they find a white-bearded Thor leading the resistance.
  • Beast Machines: According to Waspinator, after he left prehistoric Earth, it "took forever" to reach Cybertron, implying he's been flying through deep space under his own power for thousands of years.
  • Young Justice: Referenced when Impulse/Bart Allen is sitting in his broken time machine.
    Beast Boy: Maybe he's traveling forward one second at a time?
  • Elena of Avalor: There is a forty-one-year timeskip between the show's backstory and beginning. Isabel, Abuelo, and Abuela haven't aged the day since Alacazar magically turned them into an indestructible painting to protect them from Shuriki. Meanwhile, Elena is trapped inside of an amulet and fully aware of her surroundings during this time (although she doesn't age) and life goes on for Esteban, who becomes Shuriki's Number Two and grows into a middle-aged man by the time his family returns. Esteban is noticeably envious of the fact that his cousins are still youthful and that he's almost as old as his grandparents. Another episode has Elena meet her childhood friend, who is a middle aged woman who got married, then became widowed, all while Elena was in the Amulet.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: "Timetagger" uses this concept in both directions. A hero from the future with time-travel powers got stuck in the past after Cat Noir accidentally broke her miraculous. She hides herself in a stele from ancient Egypt for 5000 years to be rescued in the present by Ladybug and Cat Noir. At this time she also informs her present self of the future, though that's only a wait of a few years.
  • Ben 10: Alien Force: In one episode, Ben, Gwen, and Kevin end up meeting a man named Professor Paradox who is trying to stop a time creature currently going on a rampage in an abandoned military base. The same base where 50 years ago, Paradox performed an experiment that went awry and gave him his Time Master powers. It's later revealed that the accident was actually caused by Paradox's assistant, Hugo, and that Hugo was turned into the time creature by the same accident and sent to the present. After travelling to the past and saving Hugo from being turned into the time monster, Paradox takes the gang and returns to the present, leaving Hugo behind. When they arrive wondering whatever happened to him, Hugo, now an old man, reveals he's standing behind them, and responds that he lived his life.


Video Example(s):


Sera's motive against Khan

"Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow". Sera, revealed to be a time-traveling Romulan, explains that she wants to kill the young Khan Noonien Singh because a computer simulation suggested it as a possible way to keep the United Federation of Planets from forming. Except she originally came to Earth sometime before 1992 when, according to previous canon, the Eugenics Wars were supposed to have happened, and the Temporal Cold War intervened and tied the whole timeline in knots, so she's been here decades longer than planned and has a few screws loose.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / MotiveRant

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