Story Idea – Time Dilated

Star Trek 2009

This is an idea for a short story involving time travel (well, more like time-acceleration) and pregnancy. It’s light on sci-fi and focusses on Human issues, perhaps not even labelling itself sci-fi, as Steven Lyle Jordan discussed in this recent article. It probably isn’t strong enough for a full novel, but it’s a neat concept of an idea that would work as a short story or a subplot in a larger series of novels.

Zhu is our protagonist and he’s a very neurotic man, with trust issues. He’s married to Nikita who is quite quite pregnant. She’s been telling everyone she’s 35 weeks, but in actual fact is 37. But that won’t be revealed in the story until later. In fact it’ll only be hinted at.

Zhu and Nikita both work at Accel Ltd, a high-tech company that uses accelerated time to grow plants incredibly quickly. Zhu is a botanist, or gardener, or farmer. You don’t have to mention his title, but essentially he uses the technology that Accel provide to grow plants and vegetables incredibly quickly, allowing the company to turn a profit. Nikita however is further up the chain. She’s smart, and in a managerial position in the company.

Start of the Story

We begin the story where Nikita is too pregnant to come into work. This has happened a few weeks earlier than they’d planned, and Nikita isn’t taking it well. Zhu tells her to stay at home.

Zhu’s Problem

He’s an anxious man, and probably not that smart. He’s discovered that the technology that accelerates time, allowing plants to grow faster, feels great for Humans. Locking himself in with the plants and accelerating time feels like a real buzz, like a drug, and it’s addictive too – not chemically, but gives him a pleasurable sensation that alleviates his worries about his impending fatherhood. Plus it makes the working day go faster.

Time is only accelerated slightly. It’s not like he’ll fall asleep and wake up in a million years or anything.

Nikita’s Ex

Zhu is incredibly jealous about Nikita’s acquaintance George, whom he knew she used to date before they got together. He’s a nurse at the maternity ward, where Nikita goes for a check-up, bringing out Zhu’s jealousy and paranoia when they meet.

Some Classic Pregnancy Peril

Something bad happens. Stories need peril. Nikita falls or has a complication, and needs to spend time in the hospital. This adds to Zhu’s anxiety and his jealousy of George. He uses the time-accelerator at Accel even more, to speed up the time between hospital visiting hours.

He also notices that Nikita tells the nurses that she’s 37 weeks pregnant, whereas he’s sure she’s only 35. He even tells the story that they conceived 2 weeks before their wedding, having to get a quick marriage because their parents were traditionalists.

But this confusion about dates leads Zhu to investigate, assuming his wife is having an affair with her old flame George. He finds that she was away at “a conference” a weekend 37 weeks ago. He assumes the baby isn’t his.

Twist or Double Bluff

Building on the theme of unfaithfulness it could be a twist to bring in that Nikita, like Zhu is hooked on accelerating time too. Accelerating herself 3 weeks closer to the end of her pregnancy over the last few months.

But this could be a double bluff. Nikita could have been unfaithful, and is using the exposure to time-acceleration as a convenient excuse. You might want to sum this up at the end of the story, or perhaps not.

  • Christmas Snow

    There is an issue with time acceleration, both for Nikita and her baby:
    – Nikita uses time acceleration to shorten the pregnancy time? It is a tricky thing to do, since the baby is inside her, compelling her to accelerate her time and the baby’s time at the same rate. Nikita would feel that time “around her” goes faster and her pregnancy is perceived as lengthy as a normal one.
    – If you base the story on Nikita’s unfaithfulness, she would rather SLOW DOWN time, to make her pregnancy end as close as possible to “full term”, not the suspicious “pre-term”.

    Zhou’s time-accelerated greenhouse is intended to grow crops very quickly if you observe the plants from outside the greenhouse. This means the time inside the greenhouse runs faster and you wait less. If Zhu sits for hours inside the machine, he will find-out that only few minutes have passed outside since he put himself in. What would that imply? His days (outside the machine) will grow longer, not shorter, and he cannot shrink the time between doctor visits at the hospital.

  • Glad someone else pointed that out. Will Christmas Snow get Grumpy Pants too?

  • You know that the Greenhouse would be “gone” or “invisible”If it time moves at a “Faster speed” it also means it be constantly in the future and no photons could “catch up” with it to be reflected.
    Also if the produce “grows faster” would human subjects not also get older faster?

    • Christmas Snow

      The issue of invisibility is not quite obvious. I drew a different conclusion based on a known fact predicted by Einstein’s theory of relativity:

      First, to make the subtle issue clearer, I would say:

      Time bubble = A region in space where time moves at t different pace compared to time outside it.

      Time dilation = Time moves more slowly inside the bubble. Physical and chemical reactions inside the bubble occur at a slower pace. For a person inside the bubble, outside events occur too quickly. People inside the bubble will grow older more slowly. Crops in the greenhouse will grow more slowly — Not what ACCEL LTD is looking for.

      Time contraction or compression = time inside the bubble moves faster, allowing processes (such as growing crops) to conclude at a much faster rate. People inside the bubble will “finish their jobs” more quickly, and will perceive events outside their bubble as occurring more slowly.

      Einstein’s theory states: As you get closer to a planet/star, not only gravitational force increases, but also its effect on time: It was proved that time on the surface of a planet/star runs more slowly than far out in space. That’s time dilation. The more massive the planet/star is, the more prominent dilation will be. Despite that time difference, we can see the stars and anything else from Earth, and observers in space can see us. We can see light emanating from pulsars, though their stronger gravity means a greater time dilation. We cannot see the surface of a black hole because of gravity, not time dilation: Escape velocity beneath the event horizon is greater than the speed of light.

      Natural Vs. Artificial time dilation/contraction: The natural time dilation caused by gravity is gradual. Time’s pace slows down gradually as you get closer to the surface of the planet. Does the bubble in our story have “clear boundaries”? What if not? It may affect people at a close proximity to the machine. We may base our story on that phenomena.