The Fox and the Forest


Mexico in 1938.


William Travis / Roger Kristen - Refugee from a war-faring nation of the future.

Susan Travis / Ann Kristen - Wife of William / Roger. Rene - Susan's friend, who informs her of the time travel vacations.

Tom - Rene's husband.

Mr. Simms - Searcher sent to return the Travises / Kristens to the future.

Joe Melton - American film director, actually a Searcher in disguise. Unnamed Film Crew - Also turn out to be Searchers.

Manager - Runs the hotel where the film crew stays.

Priest - Blesses the hotel room after the disappearance of the film crew.

Charwoman - Cleans the hotel room after the mysterious disappearance.


William and Susan Travis, who use a time travel vacation to escape from the war-faring nation that forces them to make weapons.


Mr. Simms, a Searcher intent on bringing the Travises back to the future.


William kills Simms with a car.


Thinking themselves safe, the Travises discover Joe Melton and his film crew are also searchers; Melton and his crew take the Travises back to the future.


The main theme is the struggle for freedom in a fascist society. The time travel adds an exotic science fiction element to the story, but the flight from oppressive governments is a reality of modern life. Time is symbolic of the freedom that the Travises wish to live: for them, the time from which they originated is static, fixed by its very oppressiveness.


William and Susan Travis are vacationing in Mexico in October 1938, enjoying the local culture. Susan asks if they won't be found out. Bill tries to assure her, but she notices a man at a cafe they pass, a wide variety of liquor bottles arrayed on his table. Susan saw him earlier and believes he's from the Searchers, following them. William tries to keep her calm but Susan thinks of how it all started: her real name is Ann Kristen and her husband is Roger, from 2155 A.D., inhabitants of an Earth poisoned by war. When Ann's friend Rene mentioned a new travel service that allows people to go to different times for vacations, Ann saw the chance she and Roger had long hoped for, to escape their world and their jobs making bombs and disease weapons. The Kristens went to New York City in 1938 a month ago and on the third day fled to Mexico. Their first night in New York, however, they indulged themselves in all the luxurious drinks and smokes of the era, as the war economy of the Future made such things scarce. This kind of indulgence is what they noticed in the man watching them.

Finally, the stranger introduces himself to the Kristens, as he calls them, but William insists their name is Travis. The stranger says his name is Simms, asks about the apparently ailing Susan, and before they leave he says one word: "2155
A.D." At their hotel room, William is angered by the confrontation but believes they are being tested, that Simms is unsure if they have run away or will return to the future of their own will. Susan is concerned about being taken back but William assures her the Searchers won't use the Time Machine in public. Therefore, they'll always be in crowds and not give the Searchers a chance. The two go to bed, but soon receive a mysterious phone call: "The rabbits may hide in the forest... but a fox can always find them." That night, Susan dreams of 2155 and the diseases she had to cultivate for the war.

The next morning Susan sees an American film company outside. William determines they'll watch the film being made and in doing so fool Simms. They go to breakfast and are joined by the film crew, a group of eight people headed by Joe Melton. Melton complains about Mexico and welcomes the presence of more Americans in their group. Mr. Simms watches this and grows angry, but Melton invites him to join them. Simms tells William that he and Susan cannot escape, which seems to confuse Melton. Williams proposes to go back with Simms if his wife can stay here, away from the war. Susan protests but Simms agrees to this. They agree to meet in ten minutes. At nine-fifteen, Susan watches from the balcony as Simms is sitting in the plaza and is run over by William in a car. William speaks to the local authorities and assures them it was an accident. The car is in the repair shop but will be ready in the afternoon. Melton offers them a chance to watch preliminary shots being filmed. They do so, and in the afternoon William finds out the car will be ready at six.

Melton invites them for drinks with his group in their hotel room. As they enjoy themselves, Melton tells the story of a man and woman who flee from 2155, immediately alerting the Travises to the real identity of this film company. William fires his gun, wounding one man; but it's too late and the camera is unveiled as the time machine that returns them to the future. The manager of the hotel was banging on the room door after hearing the shots but breaks in too late; the people seem to have disappeared into thin air. Later, while a priest blesses the room, the charwoman asks what's to be done with the contents of the closet, which holds a cornucopia of liquors and smokes.

Cite this page:

Mescallado, Ray. "TheBestNotes on Illustrated Man".