When the clock stopped _ Shorter version

Background: Writer’s group assignment: Title as given. Words required 700. Words used 693. This is a Sci-Fi tale and there are other versions of differing lengths and slightly different content.     A longer version is also available on this site.        

The man and the woman wearing the strange headgear in the plate glass cubicle in the middle of the laboratory sat motionless in their luxuary recliners. All around them flickering screens and instruments made it obvious that something remarkable was happening.

In the very centre of the enclosure blue sparks played on the surface of the large metal sphere on top of a giant computer and it emitted a steady thrumming sound. The room was filled with an eerie orange glow and on the wall in front of the recliners were three digital clocks labelled ‘PRESENT TIME’, ‘FUTURE TIME’ and ‘TIME GAP’. The dates and times on the first two readouts were not the same and the ‘GAP’ clock showed 3 weeks.

Outside the cubicle the chief scientist was explaining to the press about time travel. “The future is really only a continuance of the present” he was saying. “At any moment in time we can predict the future based on probability theory. Millions of variables come into play though and trying to look even a few weeks ahead with accuracy is virtually impossible. If we use our modern supercomputers to predict the future only a second or two ahead of real time however, the variables disappear and we are bound to get it right. At a point where the accuracy becomes 100%, the material of spacetime softens and the people attached to the equipment are literally absorbed into that future. They are not just predicting the future any more. They become part of it. The danger is that once in that state they could manipulate and change the way the world will be for others following after. Now initially we could only go a couple of seconds forward in spacetime so not much harm could come of it. Then we discovered that as we pass into the near future we can use the same technology again and move into the future of the future. This can be done incrementally and that’s what the people inside this room are experimenting with right now, or should I say, right then. We don’t know how they could unwittingly or otherwise impact on what is to come so the cubicle doors lock automatically until the clocks all show present time again and no time gap is indicated. As you will observe our temponaughts have already tunnelled three weeks ahead although the gap has not increased for a while.  Their bodies are still in their chairs but they are also simultaneously in the future and that’s where their life forces are. The laws of science make it impossible for the same individual to function cognitively in two time zones simultaneously. When they return to our time they will reconsolidate.”

Ahead of the timel gap the two temponaughts had suspended their burrowing into the future to investigate the world they found themselves in. In that reality the PRESENT and FUTURE clocks showed the same time because they were there and the GAP clock showed perfect synchronisation. That meant that the doors of the room were unlocked and they could leave whenever they wished.

“Okay Orillia.” There was excitement in Gordon’s voice. “Let’s go out and see what has altered”

“I’m with you Gordon”. The brilliant young French scientist was not going to be left behind.

There was nobody outside the room so clearly their colleagues had not maintained their vigil indefinitely. Outside the ‘Hermanus Spacetime Research Centre’ they started to look for changes. A building on the beach had been instantly plastered and completed and a few other indicators confirmed that they had indeed travelled forward through time.

But Gordon and Orillia never knew what hit them. The driver of the overloaded minibus lost control of his vehicle and swerved off the road. In a moment, the two scientists were just road kill. They never had a chance.

Back in the present the future clock did not restart and the time gap stuck at 3 weeks. It would be 21 days before they would read of the tragic accident in the newspapers and they knew it was not going to be easy to explain the duplicate bodies to the authorities.