- Rod Serling: "You're looking at Act 1, Scene 1 of a nightmare. One not restricted to witching hours or dark, windswept nights. Professor Walter Jameson, popular beyond words, who talks of the past as if it were the present, who conjures up the dead as if they were alive. In the view of this man, Professor Samuel Kittridge, Walter Jameson has access to knowledge that couldn't come out of a volume of history, but rather from a book on black magic, which is to say that this nightmare begins at noon.
Air date: March 18, 1960
Walter Jameson is a well-spoken college history professor, he's popular, and is engaged to his colleague Sam Kittridge's beautiful daughter Susanna. He's also been gifted with an eternally youthful face. A little too youthful for Sam's liking, as Walter seemingly hasn't aged a day in the twelve years that they've known each other. During one of his lectures, Walter reads from the diary of Major Hugh Skelton, who served in the Union forces and participated in the burning of Atlanta.
He invites Walter over for dinner one evening. After sending Susanna away to study, Sam asks Walter how old he is, to which he answers forty four. Sam points out he'd said he was thirty nine around 1947, which would make him fifty one. Walter asks if that makes him too old for Susanna, but Sam says that he had all his hair and teeth in 1947, but twelve years have turned him into an old man, while Walter looks the same as ever. Sam then pulls out a photo album with Civil War-era photographs taken by Matthew Brady. In the photo is Hugh Skelton, who looks exactly like Walter, complete with the same ring and same mole on the side of his face.
Walter confesses that it's indeed him in the picture. Sam asks him how old he really is, to which Walter responds that he's old enough to have known Plato personally, making him over two thousand. Sam pleads with Walter to tell him the secret to eternal life, but Walter says he can't since he doesn't know it himself. He recounts his early life, where he was afraid of death and wanted to learn more than a man could in his short time on Earth. He went talking to priests and philosophers, and eventually met an alchemist that promised to fulfill his wish for a price. He paid the man all his money and submitted to his experiments, then woke up alone many weeks later. He thought he'd been conned, but then saw people aging and dying around him while he remained young.
When he asks Sam if he'd want to be immortal, Sam admits he's afraid of death and would rather live forever, but Walter says Sam's a fool and admits he still wants to die, but he's a coward and has never been close enough to death to finally die. Sam thanks him for providing some enlightenment on eternal life, that an immortal man doesn't necessarily grow wiser but just keeps on living. When Sam asks if he's been married several times, Walter admits he has and realizes Sam is asking about Susanna. Walter tried to resign after he saw Susanna was falling in love with him, but after Sam convinced him to stay, he fell for her as well. Sam objects and says he can't let Walter marry her. Just at that moment, Susanna walks in and Walter asks her to elope with him that night. Sam threatens to tell her the truth, but Walter says nobody will believe him.
Later, as Walter returns home to prepare for their departure, an old woman is there waiting for him, one who had been secretly stalking him during his earlier trip to the Kittridge residence. She calls him Tom Bowen and reveals herself as Laurette, one of his previous wives. She'd heard about his engagement and had to confirm it in person, finding he hasn't aged a day. She decides she can't let him marry Susanna and then leave her the same way he left her many years earlier. As such, she takes the gun from Walter's desk and shoots him.
After hearing the gunshot, Sam arrives at Walter's house, where he finds Walter sitting in the darkness. Sam offers to get him help, but Walter says it doesn't matter. As Sam turns on the light and reaches for a phone to call a doctor, he sees Walter has begun rapidly aging. He remarks "nothing lasts forever" before collapsing on the floor. As Susanna arrives and calls for them, Sam shuts off the lights and closes the doors before urging her to go home. She barges in and the two find Walter's clothes covered in dust. Sam leads her out and closes the door, knowing what's happened to Walter.
- Rod Serling: "Last stop on a long journey, as yet another human being returns to the vast nothingness that is the beginning and into the dust that is always the end."
- An Aesop: Sam invokes this when he thanks Walter for essentially teaching him an important lesson that living forever isn't all it's cracked up to be.
- The Ageless: Walter can't age, but he can still die from trauma, which he does after being shot.
- Alchemy Is Magic: Walter became immortal after submitting to the experiments of an alchemist 2,000 years earlier.
- Artistic License History:
- September 11, 1864 was a Sunday, not a Tuesday.
- The September fire written of by "Hugh Skelton" was actually set by order of John Bell Hood, commanding general of the Confederate Army of Tennessee, in order to destroy all military assets which could be of use to the Union Army prior to his force's evacuation of the city. Sherman's fire was set in the early morning hours of 15 November 1864, prior to his army setting off on its famous March to the Sea.
- Been There, Shaped History: As Hugh Skelton, Walter took part in the Civil War.
- Bittersweet Ending: Yes, Walter is dead and turned to dust, and Susanne has lost her fiancé. But at least someday, she'll find someone special to marry and grow old with. She won't suffer the same fate as Laurette or any of Walter's previous wives.
- Born Lucky: Walter, though from his perspective it's more like Born Unlucky.Sam: You mean to say you've survived over two thousand years without an accident, without being wounded?Walter:' Some people are lucky that way. They go through life without ever breaking a bone or seeing the inside of a hospital.
- Cassandra Truth: After Walter asks Susanna to elope, Sam threatens to tell her the truth, but Walter states that neither she nor anyone will believe him. He even adds "you won't even believe it yourself tomorrow morning."
- Death Seeker: Walter wants to die, and has been close several times, but never close enough. He admits that he has a pistol in his desk and takes it out every night, but he doesn't have the strength to pull the trigger. Thankfully for him, Laurette does it for him.
- Empty Piles of Clothing: Sam and Susanna find this is all that's left of Walter, his body having been reduced to dust.
- Exposition of Immortality: Most of the episode is Walter explaining the truth about his immortality.
- I Have Many Names: He's gone by Hugh Skelton, Tom Bowen, and Walter Jameson, along with countless other names across two millennia.
- Intergenerational Friendship: Walter and Sam, though it turns out Walter is the eldest of the two.
- Love Makes You Stupid: Walter realizes it's wrong of him to marry Susanna, and he even tried to dissuade her on several occasions, but after he started falling for her as well, he decided none of it mattered.
- MayflyDecember Friendship: Walter has made friends with Sam (and hundreds of other people offscreen) but his own immortality means he outlives everyone he knows — until his wife undoes it, anyway.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Walter tried to resign six months earlier when he knew Susanna was falling for him, but Sam talked him into staying, resulting in this entire situation and Walter's eventual death.
- No Immortal Inertia: After being shot, Walter ages rapidly until his body turns to dust.
- Really 700 Years Old: Walter is more than 2,000 years old. He tells Sam that he is old enough to have known Plato personally.
- You Wouldn't Believe Me If I Told You: Walter says this word for word when Sam asks how old he is.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: Walter certainly doesn't.