Hey kids! Justin Thyme here with some fresh tidbits from my upcoming book Meeting Deadlines and Killing Them due out this summer from Kyoto Processed Ricepaper Concerns Press. Or maybe it’s due out in 2025. Could it have already been published, maybe in 1995? Ah well. It will be out soon or at least has already been out for less than 20 years at this point.

My editor Ari said that I should only share low-grade tips for free, but stuff that mess. I’m gonna lay some spun gold time management tips on all y’all, and since ALL my tips in the book are gold, you’re gonna be like a gold digger. And then I’ll get some gold, because royalties. Maybe. Like I said, I might have already got and spent the check.

But yeah, the tips:

1. Set deadlines.
You don’t have all the time in the world. While it’s theoretically possible to have all the time in the world, it’s a lot less expensive in high-energy tachyons. So set deadlines. And if you miss the deadline, set another one. Keep setting them until it’s done or until you don’t have to do the thing you wanted to do anymore.

2. Minimize distractions.
This means your telephones, your books, your papyrus scrolls, your Facebooks, your NeuralNetLinx, whatever. You may or may not have all of those things depending on when this book (or is it an ebook?) comes out, but ignore ’em. If your goal requires the use of such distractions, well, do without. And finally, to minimize distractions, don’t under any circumstances…hmm. Hey, did you ever wonder why monkeys don’t grow beards?

3. Wait for the inevitable collapse of society.
It’s a-comin’, people, and it will be the end of all deadlines forever. Unless it’s already happened. I’m a bit fuzzy on the when, but strap in otherwise! It’s going to be a wild ride.

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The man was elderly, dressed in a suit. Steely grey eyes that danced with intelligence were deeply sunken into a powerful brow, with a rough shock of grey hair above and a neatly trimmed beard below.

“Augustus Zeitengel, I presume,” said Graham. “You look exactly as I thought you would.”

“That is no accident, Thomas Ellford Graham.” Zeitengel’s voice was deep and resonant, the voice of a man who had swayed multitudes and was well aware of the fact. “What you see is solely for your benefit, that you might understand what it being said. Zeitengel’s ideas have always been more important than what is behind them.”

“So are you Augustus Zeitengel, or not?” Graham paused. “Does he even exist?”

Zeitengel–or whatever it was–smirked but said nothing.

“I just want to know the truth,” Graham said. “About you, about the Temporal Anarchists who have been riddling the City’s timeline with holes, about everything.”

The old man laughed a dry laugh, the merry rustling of tree leaves and burial shrouds. “Truth? It was never about truth. It was about certainty.”


“Yes, certainty. The City today is a whirl of moral greys and conditional statements. Nothing is certain except uncertainty, and that is not what humans crave. They yearn for certain knowledge that they can be confident in, a heuristic through which all they meet and experience may be put.”

“Like the Sepulcher?” Graham said. He hadn’t been to a service in so long, even when he and it had existed at the same time…

“At one time your fellow denizens of the City would have found the certainty they craved through that miserable edifice, yes,” Zeitengel sneered. “But as their faith was eroded, they were left grasping for certainty that their worldview would no longer allow them to derive from the Sepulcher and its tired, hoary religion.”

“So that’s where your Temporal Anarchists came in,” sighed Graham. “Offering the certainty that nobody else would. Telling them the lie they wanted to hear.”

“Why, Mr. Graham, what makes you think it was a lie?” Zeitengel laughed his embalmed, deathful laugh again. “If the City had wanted a comforting lie there were myriads to be found. But why do you think none of the lies ever caught on, from the Supreme Temple of the Second City to the Obliteration of the Self to the Death-Worshipers? No. The Temporal Anarchists offer only the truth.”

“But not the truth that your…supplicants…or whatever are after,” cried Graham. “They won’t be reunited with their loved ones, or gain eternal life.”

“Who is to say that they are not? When our great work is done, when the vorhang, the blind, succeed in replacing the order of this universe with chaos, the distinction between living and dead, loved ones and strangers, or other and self will be meaningless.” Zeitengel spread his arms wide in an all-encompassing gesture.

“That can’t work. It would destroy everything.”

“Doesn’t the fish think that life in the air can’t work? Doesn’t the man with no microscope think that nothing smaller than what he can see can exist? Simply because you cannot conceive it, you declare it to be impossible. In fact, it is inevitable.”

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You find the message in your inbox, just like any other:


This is a message from Chronological Communication Systems LLC. Your reply to this message will be sent, by email or appropriate messaging services, to yourself at a past date and time specified in the first line. The message is capped at 250 words, and cannot be re-sent. There is a lifetime limit of one message per customer. You have 24 hours from the time of receipt to respond; at the end of this period, your slot will be re-assigned. You will receive a bill upon successful transmission proportionate to message length, complexity, and distance in time.

Sincerely Yours,
The Chronological Communication Systems LLC. Team

You sit and stare at the screen, silent and wracked with doubt. The message will be sent, that much is certain–it is worth almost any price, and others have reported success.

But what message to send?

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“Don’t you see?” Max’s glasses were fogged by humidity and excitement, his eyes glittering behind nearly opaque screens. “This is a chance to get even with everyone who’s ever pushed us around. It’s our chance to make things fair for everybody and make the town a better place. Hell, the world could be a better place.”

“I…don’t think you’d agree if you could hear yourself, Max,” said Sasha. The…thing…pulsed angrily behind Max, shifting colors from aqua to crimson, and the “veins” that twisted over its surface recoiled with what could only be described as anger. “We’ve seen what this thing will do when it gets bigger.”

“That’s with nobody controlling it, or with someone bad doing it,” Max cried. “With one of us, one of the geeks, in the driver’s seat…it’ll be different.”

“You can’t control it, Max!” Corrie said. “If anything, it’s controlling you!”

More red hexagonal “arms” crystallized from the central, but they were thinner, sharper, than the thick central core of the…thing. “You guys can either get onboard or get our of here,” Max said, a note of menace evident in his squeaky and occasionally broken voice. In school even he laughed at his voice sometimes; no one was laughing now. “If you try to interfere…you’re not going to like what happens.”

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Harry desperately examined the newspaper he’d found in the old china hutch, looking for obvious signs of forgery. Misspellings, ribald jokes, anything. But no, at least as a far as a surface examination was concerned, it looked authentic. The paper had even attained a patina of age, the sort only seen after exposure to the air for months or years.

“Daddy, why are you messing with that dirty old paper?” Madelaine looked up from her frosted flakes.

“Well, I-”

“There’s a new one on the porch, you know,” his daughter said with a five-year-old’s self-assurance.

“I’m…I’m looking at it to see if I can remember what happened way back then,” Harry said. “You know, ’cause I’m old.”

Madelaine nodded. “Yeah, old people are like that sometimes.” She finished the bowl and stood on tiptoes to get it into the sink before wandering into the TV room.

Harry watched her go with a mixture of pride and fear before turning back to the newspaper, which claimed to be an issue of the Sunday Cascadia Post, Tecumseh County Edition. It was dated June 17, 2018: 5 years, 7 months, and 12 days from the date on Harry’s day calendar.

In between mundane articles on the midterm elections and a Deerton millage for a new high school, there was a half-page spread on A2 entitled “One Year Later: A Search for Answers in the Ockham Murder.” The article glossed over events that its readers were presumably familiar with: while the Deerton police had been distracted by a fire on the other side of town, someone had kidnapped and murdered a victim in the old abandoned Petersen barn off US 313.

The picture accompanying the article showed the barn festooned with flowers, teddy bears, and banners of support. The largest banner covered nearly a quarter of the barn’s side and bore the logo of the Deerton Rotary Club.

It read, simply, Madelaine Ockham, beloved daughter, 4/12/07-6/18/17.

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“I was living with my lazy older sister and her smarmy, scheming boyfriend. My parents’ deaths had driven a terrible wedge between us, and her boyfriend’s greed and two-faced ways made things worse. I watched as he viewed the child they had out of wedlock as a ticket to more money from the government, and I had to give him my obsolete computer, the only one I had, just to convince him to try and get me a job at the bank where he worked.”

“Tell me more.”

“All the while we were living in a run-down two-story apartment on the bad side of town. It opened onto a maze of city alleys and a small dilapidated green. I…you sure you want to hear the rest, doc? You’ve already practically got me in a straitjacket.”

“Yes, tell me everything. It’s the only way to begin the healing process.”

“Well…strange things began to happen. Choruses of whispers from the shadows. Strange rustlings. Noises I couldn’t hear but were the sort of thing that maae my loyal dog cower. And a strange mailman, not our usual guy, seemed to be standing in front of our house every time I opened the door. But he never delivered anything. I…no one else could see him, and he drew nearer each time I was at the door. He’d vanish before reaching me, a sight which always filled me with such terrible dread…”

“What happened next?”

“Finally, he made it all the way to the door before I could close it and began to speak. His voice was horrible, shocking…I slamemd the door in his face, but he simply passed through it in a flash of blue light. He began speaking to me, very strangely in that horrible voice, asking where things were (assuming that I knew what he was talking about) and cautioning me that ‘they’ were nearby and anxious to get their hands on ‘it,’ whatever ‘it is.’


“The…the conversation goes nowhere, until he barged past me into the long, thin storage and tool room at the back of the apartment. I heard him ransacking the place, looking for something. I followed him, and he was waving around a rusty screwdriver like a shiv. He shouted at me to shut the door, to be quiet (even though he was being pretty loud) for fear of attracting ‘them.’ There was a sound outside, and he nervously slid up to the door, ready to attack it. It was just my dog, doc, but…he just keeps rambling and ransacking the place. All the while it’s seeming more and more eerie, more and more familiar, then then…well…”

“Come on, don’t stop there.”

“I gradually realized, doc, that the guy was me years in the future. It was clear as day from the way he talked and the way he acted.”

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Opinions and arguments buzzed around the table.

“Why are we even talking about it?” said Sid, age 18. “Let’s send someone back and change things.”

“Who put you in charge of deciding when we’re done talking?” said Sid, age 14. “It’s my life you’re screwing up if it doesn’t work, not just yours.”

“And it’s my life we’re saving,” countered Sid, age 18. “Put a sock in it!”

“Stop fighting,” whined Sid, age 12. “You’re worse than Mom and Dad.

“Oh, if you think that’s bad, just wait until they-”

Sid, age 18 was cut short by Sid, age 16 who cuffed him on the head. “Don’t spoil it for him!”

“Don’t tell me what to do, you wussy dateless nerd,” Sid, age 18 growled.

“Then don’t act like such a jackass, you drunk, doped-up jock!” countered Sid, age 16. “If that’s what I’ve got to look forward to, maybe it’s best we don’t do anything and put you out of your misery!”

In all the commotion, Sid, age 1, began bawling again. “Oh, for crap’s sake,” cried Sid, age 14. “Somebody change him!”

“Okay, I’ll tell you. But it’s probably going to sound crazy.”

Dr. Teller smiled. “I hear things that ‘sound crazy’ for a living,” he said. “Most of the time they’re nothing of the sort; I make it a point never to judge.”

“I’m…I’m walking down a long hallway. An infinite hallway. It’s made of beautiful, cold crystal, faceted like a diamond and colored by the blue sky above. I’ve been walking for hours–days–before I notice something.”

“And what’s that?” said Dr. Teller.

“The walls are made out of little cells, smooth and transparent and unfaceted. And suspended in each one…is me.”

Scratching on the notepad. “You?”

“Not me as I am now–I recognize that even in the dream–but me as I was. This hallway has every moment of my entire life preserved like a bug in amber. As I walk I see what I wear and my age and my position all change, one crystal cell at a time. Eventually, I get to cells filled with me as I am in the dream: confused, disheveled, and in my pajamas.”

“How does that make you feel?” Dr. Teller asked.

“I’m…well, I’m terrified. What happens if I keep walking? What will I see? And does the crystal corridor have an end? The idea scares me more than a hundred psychos in the back seat of my car. It…it chills me to my core, as if the hallway has become ice. But I keep walking. I can’t stop.”

The form was colorful and animated, with a steady stream of HV ads running along the bottom. The questions flew by—her old junior college had wanted to know more, and unlike Metromart, there wasn’t a drug test. Standard stuff, really.

Until the last one, of course. “I hereby release Healing Visions LLC from any and all legal liability that may arise during the aforementioned procedure,” she read silently. “This includes physical traumas such as strokes, heart conditions, degenerative neurological conditions, and mental ones such as hallucinations, insomnia, paranoia, manic depression, suicidal tendencies, and/or depression. I, the undersigned, do recognize and accept the risks of this procedure and…”

Aria sighed. “What am I doing here?” she whispered. Her mind turned toward the ladies in the break room the other day, and how much she’d agreed with them.

They’d been watching TV and chatting when an HV commercial had come on, and immediately the gossip had started. “I heard that the can only show you a few seconds because it’ll cause a brain tumor if the go any longer. One slip up and you’ve got a fried egg up there.”

Aria had nodded silently as the one-upsmanship began. “Well, I heard that there are these guys—like slum lords or something—in Nigeria that collect money from people so they can go on ‘spirit quests’ to the local HV center,” another lady had said.

“And you know they’re whipping those people up into a frenzy over it,” Maria from jewelry had added. “On 60 Minutes the other day I saw a feature about these people in London that’d had a bad time at HV. They saw bad things, and just quit their jobs, walked away from everything and started hanging out in gangs, doing drugs and crime and suicidally dangerous stuff.”

“Who’d ever want to do that?” Aria had interjected, half-heartedly. “Who’d want to see? I’d rather be surprised.”