Time Enough

A short story by Fleur Helsingor

The telephone rang. It was the third call in ten minutes, and Julia sighed as she answered the phone on the second ring.

"JK Graphic Design, Julia speaking."

"Julia, this is Alison Sterns. I was just wondering how the newsletter mock-ups were coming along."

"Just fine, and I received the last article that we were waiting for from the author just this morning. Has the deadline changed?"

"No, we're still going to go to press next Friday."

"We'll be good to go in plenty of time," Julia replied, trying not to sound annoyed. "I'll be in touch early next week about the proof sheets. If anything urgent does come up, I'll give you a call as soon as I can."

Julia hung up just as Mark knocked on the doorjamb. "Hey, you look a little miffed!" he said, as she turned around.

"Oh, these clients. They keep calling to check up on me. Don't they realize that every time they call it's an interruption? It's bad enough when they call to push a deadline up a day or two, but when they're just checking up on me … grrr!"

"Why don't we head out for some supper?" Mark suggested. "I know, it's money that we don't need to spend, but if we eat out then there are no dishes to wash!"

"I like that idea. Let's go someplace quick as well as cheap," Julia replied. "Let me grab my jacket."

The phone rang. "Dammit!" Julia grumbled.

"Come on!" Mark said, laughing. "Let the butler take it."

"Ah, so that's what the answering machine is for," Julia replied. "Let's get out of here!"


The call turned out to be from Claire, another designer and production artist who graduated at the same time that Julia did, so Julia called her right back. Claire's father had been in an accident, so she needed to head down to Los Angeles for a few days.

"I have two projects that are due next week. Can you finish them up?" Claire asked.

"Sure, no problem!" Julia replied. "Just give me a call when you get back and we'll talk about how to handle the billing."

"I appreciate this a lot. I can't really spare so much time away, I've got bills to pay!"

"I hear you! I sometimes wish that I could have an extra eight hours in a day. If I just didn't need to eat or sleep, I could get everything done and pay off all of these debts."

"You know, that reminds me. A friend of my brother's is working on an interesting project, and I would participate in it if I could. He's a physicist, like Tom is, and he told me a little bit about it. Shall I send you the URL? The website's pretty cool!"

"Sure, I can always use a break," Julia said. "Maybe there will be some good design ideas that I can borrow, too!"


A week later, Julia met Brandon for coffee.

"I am a physicist, but I'm really interested in simple and practical projects, things that would make everyone's daily life a little easier," Brandon told her. "My dad is a mechanical engineer, and he's always tinkering with something. I guess I'm the same way."

"So how does this work?" Julia asked.

"This is an awful oversimplification, but what happens is that we can account for more than four dimensions in the physical universe, even if you count time as a dimension."

"As you should!" Julia said, thinking of the filmmakers and musicians from her school days.

"And it's also likely that, while nobody can really account for universes that are parallel to the one that we know, it is possible that there are parallel dimensions, especially where time is concerned. In essence, this device connects our time dimension onto a parallel time dimension. It looks like a little loop. You can then step onto the loop, have a slightly longer day to do what you need to do, and then step back out into your usual time dimension."

"But what if I get lost?"

"The device marks the dimension that you just left," Brandon replied. "Also, a stasis field is formed. For the time being, I'm keeping this field very small, just enough to fill a small- or medium-sized room. You wouldn't be able to use it while walking, driving, or traveling. Besides, I'm trying to keep it cheap enough so that people can actually afford to use it."

Julia took a deep breath. "So how much would it cost me to use this device?" she asked. "Say, for eight hours?"

"It will be expensive, about two hundred dollars an hour," Brandon replied. "It may be cheaper later, but you would still have to consider the costs of having technicians available to monitor the stasis field as well as the costs of the power and the equipment."

Julia gulped, and said, "Well, I guess that I could afford one eight-hour session. It would be worth it!"


The following Saturday, a technician came by early in the morning. "You'll need to keep other people and your cat out of the studio," she told Julia, "and you'll need to stay in the room, with the windows and doors closed."

"What will the field be like?" Julia asked.

"Very quiet, no phone calls or other interruptions. Otherwise, everything will look the same as usual. You should have some food and drink in the room, in case you get hungry. You won't be able to leave the room and then return."

After the technician finished with her instructions and set up the device in the corner of the room, she set up the monitoring terminal just outside Julia's studio door.

"I'll keep an eye on you from here. You won't be able to see me but I can see you," she said. "Another technician will take over periodically, since we work in two-hour shifts. We've both done what you're about to do, so try not to worry."

After a few more minutes, Julia was instructed to sit in her chair and work at her computer as usual. A tone from the device would let her know when the stasis field was turned on. After eight hours, another tone would sound and the session would be over.

What an invention! Julia thought, when the second tone sounded. She stood up, stretched, and went into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. Mark was sitting at the table, with a bowl of oatmeal, a glass of orange juice, and the morning paper in front of him.

"There's coffee ready," he said, "and I got some scones in case you wanted breakfast."

"Oh, I do!" Julia exclaimed. "I might as well start my usual Saturday now."

"Are you going to be OK?"

"Sure, I think so. I don't feel any worse than the time I stayed up all night a couple of weeks ago."

"Isn't this going to be expensive?"

"Well, yeah … but I guess I'll work all day today and start paying it off," she said. "It will just be another debt."


A month later, the deadline for a sixteen-page newsletter got moved up two days. That's the last straw! Julia thought, so she made an appointment for another session.


After a year's worth of sessions, she found that both of her credit cards were at their limit. Then she caught a chest cold that she couldn't shake, and her doctor told her that she needed to take some time off.

"But I'm a freelancer!" Julia said. "I don't have any sick leave, and a day of vacation is a day without pay!"

"Well, you need to plan ahead for that sort of thing," he replied. "You're setting yourself up for all sorts of problems if you don't."

He sent her home with instructions to rest in bed for a few days. She sent two urgent projects to Claire, and tried to get some sleep.


After a week of rest, her cough was almost gone so she got up and had a quick breakfast with Mark. She took a cup of coffee into her studio, just as the telephone started to ring.

The caller was Albert Li Yang. "Is the final comp for my Disney promo ready yet?" he asked.

"Almost," Julia replied. "I plan to finish it today."

"Well, that's cutting it pretty close. I need to have it ready for the presentation early tomorrow morning. I was hoping to have one more look at it today, in case something needs to be changed."

"You'll have it, I promise. I'm sorry about the delay."

Julia hung up and took a deep breath. Now what will I do? she said to herself. It's too late to schedule another session with Brandon's device and I'm all out of money anyway.

She leaned back in her chair. Nothing to do but get to work, the old-fashioned way. I really truly am almost finished with that stupid Disney promo comp, she thought, and at least Mr. Yang always pays within thirty days!

The telephone rang, and Julia decided to go ahead and answer it.

Genre: a science fiction story featuring a practical use of physics and string theory to solve one of life's universal problems