Tick, Tock

on November 2, 2009 in Fiction

At last, it could be said that the trains ran on time.

Like clockwork they clattered around their tracks, reaching each destination exactly at the appointed minute and hour. Not a second sooner. Not a second later. The Yeats™ brand entropy engines were powered by the flow of time itself, whose inexorable passage could not be halted or even slowed appreciably.

At least, not at the speeds at which the trains traveled.

There were few problems at first. But then some undesirable aspects of this relentless efficiency became apparent. That the trains could not be halted was as much a curse as it was a blessing. Any time there was an accident down track, it became a race against time to prevent the arrival of the next implacable locomotive from compounding things. Once the schedules were set, it was impossible to alter the railroad timetables in the slightest… the 8:15 from Newark would always be the 8:15 from Newark. If this was no longer convenient or desirable for the men who had built the train, it was necessary for them to bend around it, altering their schedules and even clocks and calendars.

Time, after all, waits for no man.

As inconvenient as these small things were, they were nothing compared to the trouble that loomed. One of the selling points of the entropy engine project had been to reduce the dependency on non-renewable energy sources, but no one has the luxury of assuming they have unlimited time. Time may be running out. Many of the busier rail lines are already running on borrowed time.

But say what you will… at least the trains run on time. Would anybody willingly go back to the old way, now?

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3 Responses to “Tick, Tock”

  1. zeel says:

    wow, the world just got super fricked up. a very creative story, this.


  2. Jon says:

    Having read the first 4 and a half Discworld books in the past 2 months, I’m almost surprised this story hasn’t been in one of them. Well, at least when Pratchett dies, we know his style will live on for a time.

    …that’s just the way that sentence ended; I noticed the exact word a few moments after typing it. Knights Who Until Recently Said Ni syndrome, I suppose.

  3. Chris says:

    Oh I wish I, wish I knew the right words,
    To blow up the Yeats™ engines, take them away,
    They’re irresponsibly sucking all the entropy out of the time stream in a non-renewable manner reminiscent of mad science,
    So they can say that the trains run on time.

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