New Story, "When All the Clocks Are Wrong"07 Sep 2017
What would happen if time travel existed, but you couldn’t control when it happened? If your life was interrupted by jumps that pushed you forward or backward in time by hours, or even just minutes? What would you do, and would anyone believe you if you tried to explain? That’s the premise of my newest story, “When All the Clocks Are Wrong,”, which is now up at Escape Pod.
Before she reaches the theater, Jen feels a familiar frisson, disorienting, dizzying. When the red lights of the marquee blink 12:45 a.m., Jen isn’t surprised. The clock thing is happening again. She left her house with enough time to meet Ash outside, buy a ticket, grab a soda. But now, it’s 12:45 a.m. One hour later than it should be.
All her life, time has disappeared like this.
“When All the Clocks Are Wrong” started out life as a 750-word flash fiction story for a contest held by the Codex Writers Group. I had the bones of the story in those few pages–brief scenes following the life of a woman who gets thrown around in time. While rewriting, I added a bunch of stuff to the middle, like several birdwatching trips (which are more exciting than they sound, I promise) and an expansion of family relationships, but the beginning and ending scenes stayed very similar to what I originally wrote in that 750-word version.
I wanted to take a look at how small changes in life can have big effects (see also: chaos theory, where it’s hard to predict how starting conditions can affect changes over time.)
When I think about my own life, it’s easy to pick out times when I made big decisions, like where to go to college, but the outcomes of those decisions were often surprising. I couldn’t have predicted who I’d meet at college, but those relationships certainly changed my life.
And even little decisions had big effects. In my freshman year, I got a late registration slot. By the time I signed up for classes, all the interesting English classes were full. I went through the catalog looking for electives, and signed up for the first classes that looked interesting, two anthropology courses. (Yes, I started at the beginning of the catalog.) I liked those classes so much that I decided to do a double major in English and anthropology.
It can be hard to know what decisions will have a big effect. That’s something I wanted to think about in “When All the Clocks Are Wrong.”
The story itself covers quite a bit in time, going through scenes in Jen’s life. I hoped the jolt of jumping ahead in the story would mirror Jen’s own disorientation when she travels through time.