Author: Natalie J e Potts

Apparently, scientists had been debating the nature of time for years. Some thought it was linear, others circular, with a multitude of theories in between. Now there was a new, more frightening theory. Time was linear, but it ended in a squiggly knot that twisted in on itself. The squiggle had been dubbed the ‘Great Slowdown’ and many believed we were deep in the middle of it.

I glanced at my watch to confirm that the seconds were actually moving forward. It was barely quarter-past five, and while I’d only just got on the bus, it felt like I’d been sitting in the seat for a long time. All I wanted to do was get home, turn on the heater, and chow down on the lamb shanks I’d put in the slow cooker this morning. But the bus ride was taking forever, and judging by the overwhelming waves of deja vu, it wasn’t the first time I’d made the trip.

A few years ago, when only the government had access to time travel, the glitches were infrequent and exhilarating. The heady buzz you got with that rush of familiarity was exciting. Everyone would smile and nod knowingly at each other, safe in the knowledge that something important had just been set right.

Soon all the governments had it, and the effects started coming more frequently. People stopped acknowledging when it happened besides the occasional expletive or irritated huff. Just knowing you were doing something again became annoying, even if you had no actual recollection of it.

About six weeks ago the plans had been leaked on the web. Pretty much every comments section on any site with the hashtag #TickTock could be guaranteed to give you a link to an illegal blueprint or a pdf of the plans. That or a virus. Who knew which was worse?

It was obvious that people had started building them straight away. The sense of ‘normal’ and ‘novel’ fast disappeared. The one saving grace was that time travel was limited to a hard four hours into the past. Enough time to go back and revise the right answers to an exam or not say that career limiting comment, but not enough time to go back and contain a pandemic or stop an uprising.

Suddenly days felt like weeks. While our clocks all showed the days passing as usual, the bone-deep fatigue told a different story. It was true, there were only 24 hours in a day, 1,440 minutes, or 86,400 seconds – but there was no limit to how many times you could live them. Today felt like it had been at least a century long.

Eventually, so the theory went, we’d have so many people sending us back by four hours that we’d stop moving forward altogether. What that looked like, no-one knew. How close we were to that was also open to speculation. I just hoped that I’d manage to get home in time to crank up the heater and eat my