Once Upon A Time: No Time.

Time Selector
Time Selector (Photo credit: Telstar Logistics)

Once upon a time there was no time. Jack had fifty things to do, and fifty things he had to do yesterday. If Jack breathed too deeply, he could feel the panic riding him, holding him tight. At night Jack wore a mouth guard, a plastic insert like what boxers wear, to keep from breaking his teeth from clenching them too tightly. He was on his third mouth guard this month, having bitten through two of the thick plastic plates. At work Jack’s hands shook slightly if he didn’t keep them tight against his sides or force them to do the work on the desk.
If Jack had any time to think, he might have wondered how he had gotten to this point. He was the successful one in his family. Good college, good job. Decent salary, even with the recent cutbacks and raise freezes at the company. He didn’t even have time to be irritated that the CEO had gotten a raise last year that would have paid for the raises of all the other employees combined. Jack didn’t have time to think about the fact that he was doing the work of three employees because of layoffs. He just knew that he had no time.
A strange thing happened to Jack on the way back from the coffee station. He was reading one handed, carrying his cup of joe in the other hand. Not looking where he was going. Somebody deliberately tripped him. He felt a leg in front of him, and felt time slowing down. Even as he fell forward Jack looked to the right, staring straight at the guy who tripped him. The guy was a long-haired, hippie freak with a scraggly beard and a huge smile. In the slowed down time Jack watched as the guy waved to him.
Then Jack hit the floor. Coffee went everywhere. His head bounced against the linoleum floor. Jack saw stars and heard everything around him sound like it was underwater. He looked up and everyone was coming toward him in slow motion. Jack shook his head and everything sped up again.
Jack didn’t even have time to change his shirt. He had to reprint the paper he was working on, and just went about his day with a huge coffee stain on the front of his white shirt. Too late, he saw the CEO making the office rounds. The man did this once a month, and Jack wondered briefly if it was more like a victory lap than a walk through. As the CEO walked toward him, Jack realized he was stained and disheveled. He wished he had time to get a clean shirt out of his desk.
Time slowed down. Jack saw everyone around him slow to near stillness. He didn’t have time to think. He dashed into his cubicle, changed shirts, and was just straightening his tie when time got normal again. The CEO came by with a smile. Jack smiled back.
Later in the day, Jack wished he had time to finish his proposal before the meeting. Again time slowed down and Jack typed away happily for what seemed like two hours. As he was printing out the copies, time went normal again. Jack was a star at the meeting.
Over the next few weeks, Jack got caught up. It was stunning how much work he could get done now that he could wish for more time. At night Jack was feeling more rested and his mouth guard looked relatively intact. Even his hands shaking had gotten better.
Jack’s superiors noticed. Jack got called in for an impromptu meeting about putting Jack up a rung. The salary would have to be the same, for now, but the promotion came with a slightly bigger office and a nice long title. Jack shook hands all around and thanked them.
As he left, Jack wondered about the decision. It meant more work, not less. And Jack was not so naïve to think this would lead to anywhere but middle management. The upper administration was all brought in from the outside. He wished he had time to think about the decision. Time slowed down.
“Come with me,” Jack heard a voice behind him. It was a man in a suit, one of those all black suits that said power. The man wore a pair of dark sunglasses, making him more formidable. Jack followed without questioning him. The man led him along a hallway, and they entered an office that Jack had never seen before. It was a big office, with old mahogany furniture. Jack wondered how an office this size would fit into the building plan.
The man in black took off his sunglasses. Jack started back. The man’s eyes were like small flashlights, shining light out of them. “Sergeant Xipax, time police. You’ve been stealing time. What do you have to say for yourself?” Jack looked at him, bewildered. “Look, we’ve got full record of your time stream. Including multiple deductions from parallel streams. It’s all in the Akashic records. I’m just doing you a favor asking about any extenuating circumstances. You’re looking at a fine, probably five to ten years, and you honestly don’t have that kind of time to give up.”
Jack had no idea what was happening, but it sounded bad. He went back and talked about every time he’d felt time slow down. Sergeant Xipax listened to his whole story. The Sergeant was particularly interested in Jack’s description of the bearded guy. “We’re going to have someone come in, a sketch artist, to get a visual on this joker.” Said Sergeant Xipax. “As for you, it appears that you used the extra time for your firm. That means the firm benefited from the extra time, not you. I’ll bring it up with the Akashic Records Keepers, but it may be possible to distribute the fine throughout the firm. It’s happened before.”
Sergeant Xipax left and a small man came in. Jack described the scruffy man to him in as much detail as he could remember. When the man held up the finished sketch, Jack had a shock of recognition. The face under the beard staring at him was his!
Jack thought swiftly. If it was possible to steal time, then it was possible to steal time from others. The sketch artist asked if he was finished, and Jack shook his head no. He redid the picture, making the face under the beard his smiling CEO’s . Then Jack got up and walked out of the office.
All the work got done that day as well, but Jack didn’t try to slow time at all. He knew Sergeant Xipax would be watching. Jack thought about what it meant to spend all his time at work. If he was docked ten years, how much time did he have left? Sergeant Xipax didn’t think it was very long.
On the way home Jack stopped at the supermarket. As he sat in the checkout line, Jack looked at the faces in front of him. He’d tried to slow down time before, but in the line everyone’s time was slowing down. Jack wished that he had the extra time, and suddenly the line picked up. The checker was scanning at a terrific rate, and bags whizzed out the door. Jack felt all the extra time settle into him, like a warm down jacket.
Sergeant Xipax walked into the supermarket. Jack seemed to be the only person who could see him. Xipax wasn’t smiling. Jack reached out and borrowed some of Xipax’s time. He could feel Xipax slow down in surprise. Then Xipax slowed down to a crawl. “I’ll send it back to you,” Jack whispered as he passed the slow moving Xipax.
Jack never showed up for work again. He disappeared from the system. The Keepers of the Akashic Records could see where he was going, but not how he could be stopped. Lately his Record has been jumping back and forth in time. Jack’s time doesn’t flow like everyone else’s anymore.
Jack wasn’t a bad person to have his abilities. He only borrowed time that people didn’t want. Xipax got his time back, all two minutes and thirty-five seconds of it. Jack even paid back the debt he’d built up at work. Why not? Jack had all the dead-time of traffic jams, waiting for maintenance repair people, and sleepless nights. He had all the time in the world.
Given the powers of the Akashic Record Keepers, they could have disrupted his Record entirely. Why didn’t they stop him? Because now Jack has started giving out time. He gives an extra half-hour to young lovers on a first date. To mothers holding their newborn. And to couples saying goodbye. Jack knows as well as anyone what it’s like to not have enough time.

The Passage of Time
The Passage of Time (Photo credit: ToniVC)

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