Slowing Down Time

matrixIf you type “slowing down” into Google, one of the first alternatives it will offer you is a search of “slowing down time”. It is obviously a popular topic, and I knew when I created my hero Alex that his ability was hardly unique. Normal humans often report time moving slower during an emergency, although Jeff Wise has a wonderful blog post explaining how researchers have shown this is just an illusion. Fictitious super humans frequently slow down time to stop crime or protect themselves, none better photographed than Neo in the original Matrix movie.

But Alex is just a normal guy, in what I want my readers to believe is the real world. What’s more, time doesn’t merely slow down for him in an emergency, it eventually moves differently for him when he wills it to do so. During much of z2, Alex learns to recognize and to finally use this gift. Along the way, he gives the very nature of time, and the possibility of time travel, some serious consideration.

slowing-time-clockAs I created Alex, I wanted him to discover another who shared a variation of his talent so that at the very end of the book they could work together. Xuha, a short-in-stature student of Maya descent, surprises Alex with his fighting abilities and confides his own time manipulation talents. The two of them consider whether great fighters, athletes, and musicians might not all have a touch of these same abilities.

Here is an excerpt from Twists of Time, telling of the first time that Alex uses his ability off of a basketball court.

Then, there she was. Alert, wide brown eyes and dark reddish-brown hair the color of the logs popped up about sixty yards upstream. All three of them shouted before the current sucked her back under. Alex felt his own breathing return, knowing she was alive. Seconds later she popped up again, moving towards them, but this time she was coughing hard. Alex looked closer. She didn’t have her life jacket on.

She was in the middle of the river now, moving fast. Ken started walking downstream hoping to intercept, but Alex thought she was coughing too hard to even try to make her way to shore. Hell, she can barely swim. He looked around for anything he could grab quickly.

“Alex, get back here!” Sara yelled it as she saw Alex start to wade out into the fast cold water, a canoe paddle in his hand.

“Alex, no!” Ken joined in as well from his position downstream.

All Alex could think of was he damn well had to make sure he did everything he could to make this right.

Then he noticed how wide the river was. How far to the center Lola was and how fast she was moving. How slow his own progress in the deep cold water was going to be. He realized he’d never make it to her in time. She’d flail on past, dozens of feet away from him, and none of them would have any way of reaching her before cold and fatigue completely overtook her.

Then it happened. The roar of the water and the sound of Ken and Sara’s shouts faded and all Alex heard was his own heart pounding. The beat of it remained steady as the water slowed down. Alex had the odd sensation of walking out onto a basketball court, willing his body to move to the rhythm of the game, of this game. His feet felt light but firm as they moved with power along the rocky riverbed. His hands were strong as they lifted the paddle out towards Lola. He was moving at a normal pace to him, but he was already in chest-deep, and only feet from her now. She looked puzzled but grateful, and Alex heard his own voice boom slowly “Lola! Grab the paddle!”

He thrust it towards her, and as the current twisted her body downstream, her fingers barely curled around the white blade. Alex pushed the paddle more firmly into her hands. Her grip tightened as Alex used the paddle to pull her in closer, reaching out to grab her shirt and drag her towards shore. She collapsed at the water’s edge, coughing hard and shivering uncontrollably.

Sara rushed to her, and Ken hurried back to them, as Alex sunk down into the pebbled sand, shaking with cold. Slowly, Lola’s coughing picked up speed, as did Ken and Sara’s movements, and then everything moved with his heartbeat again, happening at the pace it should.

“I had no idea you could move so fast.” Ken chided Alex with a relieved grin as he joined the group.

“We yelled at him not to go out into that water.” Sara was shaking her head to Lola. “But thank heavens he did, huh?”

Lola pulled herself upright and stumbled towards Alex to give him a hug. “How did you make it out there to me?” she asked.

“I wasn’t willing to accept any other option.”

“I’m glad.”

As they got off of the river, changed into dry warm clothes, and headed home towards Texas, Alex kept having one thought.

I had no idea. It never occurred to me time would slow down like that for me anywhere but on a basketball court.

For two of my favorite sources of information on time dilation, see
It’s About Time: Understanding Einstein’s Relativity, N. David Mermin, ISBN 978-0-691-12201-4
Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel, Michio Kaku, ISBN 978-0-385-52069-0

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