SFcrowsnest

Time Out: a short story, by at least a year either way, by: GF Willmetts.

Ever since and probably before, Man has had problems with working out the time on this little planet we call Earth. Every nation had their own attempts at it from time to time. We can’t avoid talking about time in all aspects of what we do, hence its importance in getting it right. Things came to a head when it was found that there was no such thing as a 24 hour day. Quarter of an hour less in fact and an extra day leapt in to make things right. Balance the books. We like keeping accurate time. It took forever and a day to get the right time.

It’s also the one thing in the world everyone agreed to. That an international time-line changing the hours to match days and night across the world. Even enemy states keep to it. The most commonsense decision in the world. We are people of time. We understand it. That is, until some post-graduates did some calculations based off gravity recently and realised time was out or rather the figures weren’t matching anymore. Nothing to do with the 23 3/4 hour day but the number of years past. We were out by a year. This wasn’t this year but really last year.

Throughout the world, scientists did the sums. There was no mistake, we really were out by a year. We were all a year older than we thought we were. There were other ramifications as well. Government terms that were set for limited term now had a year cut off of them. The screams from the White House were audible and said it was a prank to oust him from the presidency. The complications to this meant less time to do another presidential election. No one believed it could be done so quickly. The rest of the world decided to watch what America would decide before making their own decisions. Even so, it meant in some countries those who were under-age, could now go out and have a drink, despite the explanations that physical ages hadn’t actually changed. No one was going to change the clocks yet but you could spot the rising anarchy that the governments weren’t going to consider doing any changes.

For the rest of us, it only meant we were a year older. The world still clicked on pretty much as before. The under-aged did take it on themselves to declare they were a year older and meant they could go out drinking but that was a minor gripe compared to the legal age for marriage and driving. Some pensioners thought they’d been done out of a year’s worth of pension as they hadn’t lived the extra year, that was quickly beaten out of court. We were all in the same boat when it came to age. The world just ticked on. People were just interested in whether they aged a year than what was really going on. More so when the press found other things to focus on.

For us scientists, we decided to keep a watch on this gravity flux and try to work out what caused it when there was another jump. In less than half a year it happened again. We recalculated and found we’d lost five years relatively speaking. That meant whatever was causing it had been blocked or we were facing the cause again. Letting that particular cat out of the bag would cause even bigger problems. Do we really want to send out youths back to school for another five years schooling?

That meant we have to take another serious look at gravity waves. Were we in the trough or crest of a gravity wave? It was also a toss-up whether we were in the path of a pulsar or a singularity…that’s a black hole to you folk. Something of that order that would be big enough or deep enough to mess with gravity. We were practically discounting singularities because we were expecting to be see matter being drawn into one before it caught up with the Earth. There was the possibility of a wormhole popping in and out as well. As they are like singularities, who knew what affect they might have on gravity? Thank whatever deity that Einstein had factored gravity into space-time. This time we kept it as secret as a CERN briefing.

About the only thing it could be safely agreed on was gravity was the culprit and that was our three candidates in a bag. The fact that it was only there periodically meant either we weren’t in contact or it had moved away. We ended up doing a massive sift through any recorded astronomical data to see if we could find out the times it had happened in the past. Knowing when it started or even within our orbit path would reveal how long it had been going on and at what times of the year. If it was a continual flux back and forth then it was something we would have to live with but we would have to be careful with our space launches in case it sucked them in. You know, just in case.

About the only thing we didn’t blame was dark matter or even dark energy. As no one has, laughingly, seen or recorded it that didn’t seem very likely.

The other consideration was in the expanding universe, whatever it was might be something in passing. We’re currently moving 67km/sec, that’s 4,020km/min, that’s 241,200km/hour, that’s 5,788,800kn/day and 2,112,912,000km/standard year. That’s 1,312,902,648.533 miles/year for you non-metrics. Not quite a light year per year, that’s 946,100,000,000km for those keeping count, but if it was a singularity we were passing then it might be in range for a couple years. We would have to hope that we wouldn’t be sucked into it. Not just our Earth but any of the planets around us. The Solar system is a finely tuned balancing act that took many millennia to achieve what we have today. Man is barely a second in the time that has happened. If any of these events happened, that would be the end of life on Earth.

If the data revealed it had only just started then things were likely to get worse before they get better. If they get better. As ironically as it might sound, only time will tell and we had no way of telling how long that might be.

As such, we decided to apply another Einstein maxim. All things are relative and the space-time flux was consistent on Earth. No one had travelled into the past or future. Our present was still pretty much our present. It was universal time that might be less consistent. We had plenty of time to contemplate that. Time is funny that way.

End

© GF Willmetts 2017

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