Friday, November 16, 2007

tick tock, tick tock

This is not as much a story as it is a conceit for a story, and hopefully, the first shot in an interblog war as the eponymous Zero and I start rewriting one another's posts as an exercise in finding pointless ways to annoy each other through writing. (Assuming he's up for it. I haven't asked.)

It was nearly an hour after Hartdegen's discovery before he began to grasp what had happened: Somehow, he had found a way to call other times on his office phone.

The first sign that there was something unusual going on came late in the afternoon on November 5 when he had to ask Vax about the Wells contract. At that time, he hadn't got around to resetting the clock on the phone, so that it said 5 o'clock when it should have said 4. He called Vox on the other side of the building, and got his end-of-the-day, out-of-office voice mail message -- only Vox hadn't left yet.

After Hartdegen left his message, he ran into Vox in the hallway and got the information. The next day, Vox teased him for calling half an hour after their talk to ask the same exact questions.

It was a subtle sign, and Hartdegen missed it, but more signs came over the next two weeks of work that something odd was afoot. He arrived early for work and called co-workers, not expecting them to be in, only to find them already hard at work as though the time on his phone clock really were correct. Once he called Mrs. Watchett and spoke with her for ten minutes, only to find that she had no memory of the call when they met less than an hour later.

Little signs accrued here and there: gaps in people's memories, times and events that didn't synchronize by an hour exactly.

It was on Novemeber 8, when he fixed the in the living room and the one in the guest room that an idea began to percolate uneasily in Hartdegen's mind. The computers, the cell phone and the VCR all had taken care of themselves on Nov. 4, and he had reset the time on his alarm clock late November 3.

So at quarter to three on November 16, Hartdegen decided to try an experiment. After fumbling with the programming controls for his office phone, he changed the date to November 5, 2008, and called a friend's cell phone.

"Hey, it's Alex," he said. "I just wanted to check in with you. Can you believe the election last night?"

Hartdegen nearly dropped the phone in a mix of shock and excitement. He was talking to the future.

With time at his fingertips, he was now officially ready for Eastern Standard Time.

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