Time out… Our trusted timekeepers dropped the mic and left the building. The building, in this case, being the world. All at once, at the same precise nanosecond they just up and left. Left us all to count the seconds ourselves. Which we of course immediately failed at miserably. Have you ever counted the seconds of a minute accurately without looking at a clock? If not, I challenge you! No way, you will get to 60 in precisely 60 seconds. Humans are surprisingly bad at doing very simple things perfectly. And so, the moment the clocks stopped ticking all around the world, chaos ensued.
Most of us were so dependent on our little clocks we did not notice what had happened right away. We slept in. Our alarm clocks no longer woke us by giving us our daily minor heart attacks. That was nice! But then, when we did wake up, we had no idea how late we were for work or school. The bright daylight outside told us we were very late though. Cursing about empty batteries, or stupid apps which had stopped working, we hurried through our morning routine and ran out the door. Only to find that the trains were no longer running on schedule. Since no one knew what the schedule was. It was not just your alarm clock or phone that had stopped indicating the time of day. Everyone, everywhere was just as clueless when asked for the time. Trains had to be halted to avoid collisions, planes too. Perhaps your car or bike would still get you to where you wanted to be. And for a few hours, or a time-span that felt like a few hours, it all just seemed like some annoying inconvenience. But the few people who knew the importance of tracking time were starting to worry. How long could this last? Just think about those trains and planes that could not move for fear of them colliding or forming major blockages at stations and airfields. Boats were grinding to a halt too. Do you know how busy ports get? Schedules are important, nay essential, for a port to operate smoothly. All of transport basically stopped moving when the hands of the clocks did.
And it was not just transport that got stuck in disarray. We all lost the ability to do anything on time. Again, most of it was just inconvenience. We all got a masterclass in patience since everyone was always late or way too early. But for the most part we were making light of the peculiar situation. Some even experienced it as freeing. Yet this newfound freedom soon showed its dangerous side. Returning to the topic of transport, our food stopped coming in! A few days after the end of time the supermarkets and magazines started running low on supplies. Toilet paper, of course, was the first item to be sold out.
But we were told not to panic! Our politicians were dealing with the issues and supply lines were being secured. Most of us believed them. After all, the 2020 pandemic had taught us that the disruption of supply chains was just a minor inconvenience. The chaos made for alarming headlines on the news but in the end it did not really affect our lives. Apart from the hoarders who took our precious ass paper, again!
Then, suddenly all the now seemingly defunct clocks all over the world ticked again. Just one tick and then they paused. A few hours later, no one knew exactly how long, another tick. Followed by another pause that was considerably shorter. And another tick, followed by an even shorter pause. And so on. Yet, this did not alleviate any of the problems nor did it inspire hope that all would go back to how things had been. Because the ticks were wrong! That is, they went in the wrong direction. Slowly, but picking up speed, the clocks started ticking backwards. Perhaps this should have led to immediate panic, especially since the politicians were also failing on some of their promises and food scarcity was becoming a serious threat. But instead it led to more amusement and jokes as we all traveled back in time.
In our defense, it did all appear quite ridiculous. Those little machines were ticking back in time faster and faster, but the sun still came up and went down at the same speed moving in the same direction as it always had. So it must be that someone had hacked our clocks and was playing a grand joke, right? Time was still moving normally evident by the path of the sun across the sky, right? Only if it was a hack, then how come even our analogue clocks were running backwards? And some physicists pointed out that although humankind had used the light-dark cycle of the sun as our very first original clock, it was really just the movement of our planet around its axis. Just because we used it as a clock, did not mean it actually was a clock. They proposed that the sun was just as unrelated to time as we were when we went for a walk around the block.
Most of us did not really understand this, nor did we grasp the significance of what was happening. Even those physicists did not really understand it all. And, as we looked in wonder at our watches, phones and all the other clocks, the backward speed increased until the numbers or hands became a blur. Most analogue clocks quickly broke down. The speed with which the hands moved was so fast the machinery could not handle it. Our digital clocks kept going, though the flurry of numbers could no longer be read. We did not understand what it all meant. How could we? Humankind had not lived through a Great Reset ever before. And apparently we were still as naïve as a baby when it came to our understanding of the fourth dimension. Time had seemed so simple. It had always been stable and as reliable as… well… clockwork. Until it stopped.
Now it is running backwards at a speed no one is able to measure due to a lack of reliable timing measures. It has been doing so for months, perhaps it has already been a year. Seasons still come and go, like they always have and we have almost gone full cycle. Again, the movement of our planet around the sun is, as we now know, not fixed to the fourth dimension. We have learned at least that much. But so much more remains unknown. And the one question on everyone s mind these days is, what happens when time runs out? When we get back to zero? Will time start anew? Or will it end just like it started? You know… With a Big Bang…
Nobody knows. And please, can everyone stop saying time will tell?! We are all sick of that phrase by now! It is not funny anymore. None of this is! Although some find the unknown freeing, most of us just want back our nine-to-five. Our safe, predictable scheduled lives. It is a weird world we live in now. Nothing has changed much. Oh, things are still chaotic. The politicians fulfilled only part of their promises. So far, they managed to keep us from starving. But the world order is still not coping well without clocks. Yet, for the most part nothing much has changed. The natural world of animals and plants has never used any other clock than the sun. The strange behavior of our artificial clocks has not affected them. And sundials have helped us recover some control over time. But we know that this control is fake. Even as we try to ignore the approaching start of time and get on with our lives, in the back of our minds questions keep popping up. What will happen? How much time is left? Should we panic? Is it even real?
Many have decided that it is not. Clocks just stopped working. That is all. But if so, then why do all those physicist who are interviewed daily on TV look like they have not slept in months? They definitely seem worried! Yet, they do not say much. They do not seem to have any real answers either. How can yesterday still be yesterday, today still be today and tomorrow be tomorrow, if time is going backwards? It does not make sense! We thought we knew what time was. But we clearly did not. Or is it all a hoax? Some virus wreaking havoc on our computers and phones. Like my aunt read on Facebook. But then, how do you explain my grandfather s windup watch also going backwards? Everyone is asking these questions. No one has the answers. And I am afraid only time will tell…
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Love your first submission, Jan. Keep up the great work. Happy New Year.
Hi Jan, My name is John and I received this story through the critique circle. Normally I don't nitpick but when asked to do so I try my best. That said, I didn't find any grammar or punctuation, or spelling errors! That's great; I usually find something. It was an interesting story and I like your word crafting. It did go on, a bit, without characters though. I look forward to reading your next entry.