Volume 5 Number 2
There's not much you can do if you're a philosophy student with a love for the finer things in life: drink, sex, and drugs. In fact, your career is basically mapped out for you: you will graduate and get a half-arsed job, which you'll keep right up to the point when you turn up for work drunk and stoned.
At this point, most people only have one option: to become an alcoholic beggar. But I was lucky.
The man was waiting when I got home.
"A bill, rent notice, another bill, a library fine." He raised his eyebrows. "Looks like you need a bit of help."
"What are you doing in my apartment?" I clung to my umbrella.
"I've got this job available and a mutual friend says you're trustworthy."
So I became an anthropomorphic figure: I personified a concept important to humanity. It would give me plenty of time to debate philosophical concepts, and I'd pretty much be acknowledged as an expert in my particular philosophical field. Besides, the union is strong and you get paid well.
I decided to become Time.
Of course, no one mentioned the downside: it's hard work. Ever since Einstein came along, the idea of absolute simultaneity went out the window. That means that two events that occur at the same time for one person happen at different times for someone else. It's not that big a deal for humans — you won't notice it unless one of you is travelling really fast — but it's a pain for Time, who has to make it all make sense.
There came a point when I couldn't take it anymore.
"You want out?" It was the man who hired me.
"Yeah, it's not what I expected."
"Well, bad luck," he sneered. "The job's for life."
Not being one to give in easily, I decided to hunt down the person who was Time before me. He was sitting in a gutter, smelling of cheap booze and displaying a sign begging for money.
"So," I said, after I explained myself, "I want to know how you got out of it."
He smiled. "I did such a bad job that they had to fire me." He saw my smile but shook his head. "Nope, won't work for you."
"After me, they changed the contract. If you don't do the jobs to their satisfaction, you have to spend an eternity with Pain."
So I hurled myself from a cliff top and smashed upon the rocks below. I expected blackness. Instead, I stood looking down at my body. I had waited for Death but in the end had been visited by Suicide.
"You know, you arts students expect to be unemployed, but I completed a proper degree," Suicide was saying. "Physics is a respected science. Why couldn't I find a job?"
I sighed. "Yeah, that weak job market makes it hard." I held up my hand to forestall any further comments. "But what about my death?"
Suicide began to fiddle with the pen he was holding. "Well,you're Time, right?" I nodded and he continued. "So, if I kill you, time stops. Effectively, that means I've killed myself. But if time ends,then I can't come and collect my own soul to make the suicide real, so I can't do it."
"It's a paradox. I'm not allowed to let them happen."
"Oh, come on."
I was returned to my healed body, and one option got crossed off my list.
The next time I visited the wildest neighborhoods and confronted the toughest people I could find. Soon, one of them snapped and shot me.
From above my body, I waited. This time, Murder came to visit.
"I can't take you," Murder said. He was an old man and wasn't bothered with the preliminaries.
"What's the problem this time?" I glared at him.
"Same thing," he said. "You see, Death isn't really divided into Murder and Suicide like you think — he's just Death. If you die in any way, then he will be committing suicide and then the same problems eventuate."
"But you're Murder; you're separate from Death."
"Me? No, I'm no one, really. Death just delegates some of his jobs."
"What do you mean?"
Murder seemed surprised. "Well, we're given some of his power and responsibility. I deal with murders, for example, but in reality he's doing it all through us."
"And I can do this?"
"Sure, didn't you read your contract?"
The young man sat in front of me. I smiled. He was an arts student — they were always desperate for work.
"So basically," I finished, "you'll be responsible for the quantum tick — the smallest unit of time. You just have to make sure that nothing happens between ticks."
The man looked puzzled. "Isn't that all automatic?"
"Sure it is," I smiled, "or at least it's our job to make it seem that way." I slid the piece of paper across to his side of the desk. "Sign here, please."
When he was gone, I pulled the whiskey from my desk drawer and took a swig. The applicants were always impressed by my Moroccan beach house, and I tried not to ruin the impression by drinking while they were present.
I'd delegated almost all of my work now. Which jobs did I keep? Well, you know when you drink or do drugs, and time seems to go a little funny. Well, that's my fault: it's hard to keep track of something as complex as time when you're drunk, and these days I'm drunk a lot of the time.
These days they call me Party Time.
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