Time out of Joint

(550 words)

It is raining, it’s nine o’clock in the morning, and I’ve taken all the vases off the shelves and the pictures off the walls, just like that nice Mr Hughes at UTC asked me to.
I do like the rain, I like to stand in it and close my eyes, feel it on my face and on my bare hands and arms. I’d been doing that at eight thirty whilst my tea was brewing when I heard the phone ring.
“Good morning, is that Mr. Gordon Smith?”
“Yes, who’s calling?”
“It’s Roger Hughes, I’m calling from Universal Time Control.”
“Well, it’s all rather hush-hush, but people think time’s a simple matter, running in one direction at an even pace.”
“Er, well, doesn’t it?”
“Actually, no! It’s more a case of millions of ‘time bubbles,’ ‘temporal capsules,’ as we, er, boffins call them. Sometimes they can go out of sync.”
I really wanted to go and stand in the rain again.
“So, your ‘bubble’ is running about eight minutes fast. You think it’s eight thirty but it’s actually eight twenty-two!”
“Oh, well, how would I know?”
“Well, you’d only notice it if you physically crossed into a normal bubble, then suddenly, you’d find your watch would be eight minutes faster than everyone else’s.”
“How big are these bubbles then?”
“Ah, well, that depends. Some are tiny, some are enormous, and they fluctuate in size too! Anyway, we can reset you at nine-fifteen, the real nine-fifteen! There might be a bit of vibration so to be on the safe side, just make sure pictures, vases etc. are secure, there’s a good fellow.”
It is raining again and the sun’s playing hide and seek. There’s a beautiful rainbow and I’m sitting under a patio umbrella, thinking about time. Just to check, not that I disbelieved Mr. Hughes you understand, but just, you know, to be sure, I’d put the television on. If that was being broadcast from a different ‘bubble’ then surely it couldn’t pass into mine twenty minutes early?
Well, the local station announced nine o’clock when my watch said nine, then I looked at the BBC and that said the same. Well, just as I was thinking the whole thing was an elaborate practical joke, I realised that it would be nine o’clock elsewhere from my perspective. It was only from Mr Hughes’ point of view – wherever on Earth or off it that was – that you’d know I was out of sync. So, until I was ‘reset,’ I was effectively eight minutes in the future.
It is raining and I’m dancing in it!
Well, bang on quarter past nine the whole house had quivered, very briefly, like a stiff jelly given a quick flick. I’d looked at my watch and, blow me, it had jumped back eight minutes. This time stuff was bloomin’ confusing!
So, everything was back to normal. With just one exception. Immediately after I’d been ‘reset,’ I’d made a quick phone call to my sister in Sydney with some info gleaned from the internet in the meanwhile. She’d just had time to put everything she could muster on a horse that couldn’t lose. Running in the 8.15 evening race at Canterbury Park, its name, believe it or not, was Timedancer!

Featured in the book and audiobook, To Cut a Short Story Short, vol. II: 88 Little Stories

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4 thoughts on “Time out of Joint

    1. Hello Nadine,
      Sorry, I realised I forgot to respond to your comment, so a belated ‘thank you’!
      I’ve spent nearly three years writing flash fiction, so find it easier now. I’ve got pretty good at editing and have been amazed how much can be cut out without losing much at all, although I normally publish a modified version of my first drafts on my blog. Sometimes I don’t need many words to tell the story though, as was the case here, so the final piece is still pretty short. But overall ‘longer stories’ is gradually gaining on ‘300-600-word stories’!

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