Friday, March 5, 2010

Flash Fiction 27: One More Minute

As one who is continually doing things at the last second (note the blog post time :), I had some fun with this one. Hope you enjoy!


Time is an unusual creature. When you're standing outside in -20 degree weather waiting for the bus to come, ten minutes can seem a lifetime; but when you're trying to get "just one more thing" done in an all too frantic life, those ten minutes pass in a heartbeat.

The trick, I've learned, is to borrow from the long time to use in short time scenarios. Bet you never realized that when it seemed to be an awfully long ten minutes that's because it was -- but such is life; with the right connections, you can learn all sorts of interesting secrets. And I, luckily, seem to have those connections.

It was one of those seemingly serendipitous moments. I was running late, as usual, having tried to cram in "just one more thing" before leaving for my job interview -- and now I was already a minute late, and as the minutes ticked off far too quickly -- two, three, four minutes late; the elevator still didn't arrive.

My anxiety radiated off me in waves; I was sure they could feel it up in the office. Certainly the guy next to me could; he sent me a look that clearly said "chill"".

"What's so important that it can’t wait for the elevator?" he asked,his tone suggesting he really didn't care but felt compelled to ask.

Almost unwillingly I found myself answering in amounts of detail totally inappropriate for sharing with a stranger. And as I relayed my tragedies large and small a hint of a smile appeared at the corner of his mouth. "Glad I could amuse," I thought sardonically.

"It sounds like what you need is a course in time management," he told me. I thanked him for his suggestion and replied politely that I'd already done that, more than once.

"Not this one you haven't," he stated confidently with an enigmatic smile as he handed me his business card. "Call me when you decide it's time."

Jason Cook, Time Librarian

I only had a second to puzzle over it before the elevator finally arrived to deliver me to my floor.

"You're late," the dour secretary addressed me. And that was the highlight of the interview.

I got home, thoroughly disenchanted with life -- it seemed I'd be staying at my same horrid job a while longer. I dumped my keys and wallet on the desk as always and sticking out of the wallet was the card. Jason Cook, Time Librarian. There was no phone number, only an address.

Googling the address placed it in an area of town that a century ago had probably been quite the ritzy local, but now not so much. Feeling I was setting myself up to be a fool for the second time today, I turned around and walked back out of my apartment.

I soon found myself at the city library. I had to laugh -- at least the prank had some thought behind it. Resolving to follow it through I entered anyway. Worst case, I'd find something to read and hang out for the afternoon.

Surprisingly, Jason cook did appear to work there. Finding his office was a bit of a challenge, but at the top of a nearly hidden stairway was a door with his name on the plaque. My hand hesitated a moment and just as I went to follow through on the knock the door opened. There was nobody inside. I called out tentatively as I let myself in, to no answer. The door slammed shut behind me, making me jump. I spun around but there was still no one to be seen. A note taped to the inside of the door caught my attention:

My apologies for not being here to meet you -- Time is such a fickle master! I'll be back in a nanob (that's 30 long minutes to the uninitiated) and would be honoured if you would deign to sojourn until my arrival.
Yours in time,

Deign to sojourn until my arrival? Who wrote like that? And far more importantly --how did he know my name? Or maybe the note was meant for someone else; it wasn't exactly an unusual name after all. I determined that I would wait for half an hour or until either Jason or the intended Sarah arrived.

I lurked his bookshelves -- lots of history, science fiction, and a Dilbert comic book. Ah well, at least I could relate to that one. The time passed slowly as I continued to doubt the sanity of my staying there. Eventually, Jason Cook arrived; a quick glance at my watch told me it was indeed exactly 30 minutes from when I'd read the note. Eerie.

"So how'd the job interview go?" he asked with a grin that was entirely too knowledgeable.

"Oh about what you'd expect," I told him.

"And if you'd been on time?"

"Probably wouldn't've gone much better," I admitted.

"So what is it you're looking for?" he asked.

"Something better than what I have now," I answered honestly if not politically correctly. I didn't really care what it was so long as it paid the bills and got me out of where I currently was.

"See here's the thing," he stated, "I need an assistant, and I think, with some training, you'd be perfect. You certainly understand the need for what we do."

Seriously doubtful as to the sincerity of the offer, I couldn't help but ask the obvious question, "What is it you do?"

"I'm a time librarian. I lend, and collect, time." Uh huh, at that I turned to leave. "Bet your wait seemed longer than 30 minutes," he stated. "But the clock told you that's how long it was. And you believed it." I stopped and raised an eyebrow in exaggerated disbelief.

"Look Sarah, the thing is, the moment you're born you're given a set amount of time -- and that time is divided into short time and long time. Short time is when hours seem to pass in seconds. It keeps life moving and makes the world an interesting place. Long time as created to balance it out. It's when time seems to take forever to pass.

"But sometimes people don't like the balance they've been given, and so they want to trade long minutes for short ones, or less often, the reverse."

“So what’s the exchange rate on minutes?” I asked, as though I believed a word of this.

“At the moment it’s 0.5 SM to 1 LM.” Somehow I was only slightly surprised at the instant answer.

“So somebody can give you two of their long minutes – that would be used waiting in line or generally killing time, in return for one short minute to use when having ‘one more minute’ really matters?” I reiterated for clarification.

“Exactly,” Jason confirmed.

I had to admit the theory had its uses but, “if people buy short minutes with long minutes, they’re left with fewer total minutes. How do they get them back?” I asked.

“They don’t,” Jason told me bluntly. “The brightest flames burn the fastest; the same is true for people. We believe it’s up to each individual to use the time they’ve been given in a manner they see fit. Most prefer to live quickly –- which is good for business since our profit comes from collecting long minutes. But there are those who prefer a slower life, and for them it’s a great deal! Two long minutes for every one short!"

I briefly tested my conscious to ascertain if I had any serious moral concerns about this whole idea; quickly deciding not, I figured I’d use up my remaining vacation trying this job to see if it was for real. But something puzzled me, “So what do you do with all the saved up long minutes?” I asked.

“Well that is precisely how we stay in business. You see long minutes are the key to time travel.”


ker said...

I really liked this one :)

Lauren Cude said...

Thanks Ker :)

Cathy Webster (Olliffe) said...

Well done, Lauren. Nice writing style. Liked it.

Eric J. Krause said...

Wow, very cool. Such an interesting concept. The last line really intrigued me.

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