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Buying Time

Title of Essay: Buying Time

Name: Leong Feng Ping Angela

School: NUS High School of Mathematics and Science


The administration of the Time Magnification Tablet.T for short.T. “… pass the time now to Dr Eric Clarke. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him. “Each of us travels on a different time-stream. 1984. the window became a screen with the words “Ministry Launches New Product: Best One Yet!” That’s what they always say. we capture his inner mind. The time loop lasts eight hours – at least for this current batch of T.M. Now that was something he had never heard of. heart and soul. Matthew Nelson had been staring out the window of the hover-train. he drops back into the main body of his time -stream – which continues to correspond with everyone else’s.M. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him.” Matthew looked up. The screen had cut to a smartly attired man in the middle of his presentation. presumably at the product launch the night before. but genuinely. effectively slowing down time for him. we bring him over to our side. in his body. they’ll be too busy wondering how he managed to accomplish so much in so little time! The best part is. This means that nobody will know that he has gone on a little excursion out of time – in fact. thinks and acts at a normal pace.M. when the skyscrapers outside dissolved away. “When the T. We convert him. we reshape him.T wears off. Head of the Department of Time Research. by virtue of the T. and our Department has found that our time-streams are elastic. George Orwell It was all over the news that morning. but he.M. He observes events around him proceeding much more slowly. or T.T. stretches a person’s time-stream and creates a time loop. not in appearance. 2 . Matthew stared at the floor and let his mind wander through the introduction by the host. Think of how much he can do with that extra time.Buying Time We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us: so long as he resists us we never destroy him. Pixels coalesce. that we’re releasing – and he can use that time to do anything he likes.

She had not been like that since three months ago. your metabolism and living processes slow d own.M.” *** His wife would have objected – Ministry products had never attracted her the way it seduced the majority of the population.T is able to. Matthew still recalled the doctor’s words thundering in his ears: “Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. You age more slowly. she may live slightly past two years.Buying Time while you’re on a time loop. and was replaced by the news host. left. when she had first shown the symptoms for Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease. Future batches will fit forty. maybe even hundreds! Imagine what you could do with a hundred hours a day!” His image dissolved away. even as he thought about it now. “Today. He did. Effectively. this is only the beginning. T. He saw Emily in his mind now. He alighted at the nearest pharmacy. but she won’t be the same person you know… I’m truly sorry. fifty. it sounded so inadequate. A degenerative neurological disorder that affects maybe one in a million people. and how he suddenly found it hard to breathe. 3 . A visit to the doctor confirmed this. CJD for short. lingering hungrily on Eric Clarke’s words. With luck. Didn’t say anything either. Matthew stared unseeingly at the screen. Mr.” That was a distant memory. or possibly a year. Nelson. see it this way.” He remembered that cold dread in his chest. To this day. “Ladies and gentlemen. Emily had been beside him then. you’re suspended in time. declaring in that steadfast way of hers: “They satisfy our wants.M. The current batch of T.T. She didn’t cry. There is no cure. What he had said then. fit thirty-two hours into a day. … suspended in time… what you could do with a hundred hours a day… He knew what he would do. goes on sale at all Ministry-approved pharmacies. not our needs. didn’t do anything. his mind was elsewhere. who was now giving a description of the product. and she has maybe four months.

All those inventions to pacify the masses.Buying Time “What can I do?” “Spend more time with her. not needs. the masses coveted the inventions that brought the media closer to them 24/7. subtly manipulating media broadcasts to ensure they served the aims of the Ministry. and were under constant pressure to invent. Whatever they desired. He never got the chance to find out. it was possible that he could replicate that miracle. and it seemed the perfect utopian. Satisfaction and comfort made minds malleable. Say what you have to say to her. science and the state were indistinguishable. the country was prospering. the Ministry gave them. He shouldn’t have been surprised. do the things you’ve always said you’d do but never did. Pointless really. and so they were satisfied. and what they were doing to achieve these ideals. The later inventions catered to the population’s insatiable appetite for amenities that made their lives easier. He was a researcher working at the Department of Medicine. Attracted like iron filings to a magnet. Wants. he soon began to find his own 4 . and in the process. easily conformed to accept the principles preached by the Ministry. What the masses did not see was how the Ministry turned to the media next. The cure for cancer had been found years ago. The doctor’s advice couldn’t save her. However. it had been innovations on the mass media platforms. after all. but maybe science could. today.” Matthew had known it would be something along those lines. maybe he couldn’t. Not necessarily better. just easier. his life was good. since CJD affected such a small proportion of the population. He had been a researcher long enough to see through the ideals of the Ministry. His proposal was rejected on the basis that it was a waste of resources. inseparable. Maybe he could. Researchers worked directly for the Ministry. Just as religion and the state were one and the same in medieval times. they opened the doorway for the Ministry’s propaganda to enter their minds uninterrupted. At the turn of the twenty-first century. and reinforcing an iron grip later on. Underlying that rejection was the implication that Emily was a waste of resources. He was not overly disturbed at first.

Eric Clarke mused. And no wonder. Mastery of time – who has never dreamt of that? The perfect cover-up. With Emily’s words spurring him on. relatives. He made history when he submitted his letter of resignation. they were known as the Department of Time Research. Even the tiniest spark can start an inferno. to how well disguised this control was. But no one had warned him about the firemen. to the degree of control the Ministry exerted over the population. Emily had been a vital catalyst. He did not give up. But their minds had languished in comfort for too long. For a researcher to resign was unheard of. they were a waste of resources – better to let them die since they could not contribute back to society. Anyone you know. Resignations were rare. he applied to be a teacher. and tried to get his students to see Ministry as it really was. The product launch last night had been a success. society being as self-satisfied as it was. He saw how they restricted freedom of speech.Buying Time ideologies clashing with those of the Ministry. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was the Ministry’s policies towards the small percentage of the population with incurable diseases. and most importantly. In the eyes of the Ministry. Eric Clarke always thought the name was terribly clichéd. the press had publicised it more than any other launches prior to this. She had opened his eyes to the gaping holes in the system. Even the tiniest spark can start an inferno. Start small. she had urged him. Friends. 5 . other departments sometimes referred to them as the Department of Mind Control. Within the Ministry. and how social mobility languished under their governance. how they continually pushed researchers to come up with inventions that made the population ever more submissive and contented. *** Publicly. and like lambs to the slaughter. they would gladly follow the Ministry’s propaganda to the end. anyone you can influence.

The thoughts and memories sent in allowed the Ministry officers to learn the identity of the subject and his innermost secrets. The algorithm written by the Ministry’s elite team of programmers converted these brain signals to thoughts and memories. the Ministry had managed to engineer dreams that were indistinguishable from reality.M. This innovation was never publicly announced. (Courtesy of the Department of Engineering.M. they could use the nearest cameras to follow his every move. In other words. It opened up people’s minds: it mapped out their neurological pathways. replicated the electrical signals in their brains and sent it back to the computers at the Ministry. All that was left to do now was to study the subject’s surroundings and his motives for taking the drug. Keeping the illusion that T. he was hardly the person to have given the presentation. the presentation he had given at the product launch – the elastic timestreams. The real beauty lied in the drug itself. This worked both ways. which were projected in the form of images and footages. and also gave them the ability to transmit electrical signals to the brain of the subject.T. Complete nonsense. nothing more than a side effect. did not magnify time. that was trivial. His specialty was neuroscience. contrary to its name. and the omnipresence of Ministry-owned cameras was never disclosed.Buying Time In actuality. they could put thoughts into the subject’s mind. T. When the subject awoke.T was a time magnification drug was easy: narcotics alone could make the mind believe that hours had passed when in reality only a few minutes had elapsed. and years ago. Even if it had been the truth. all he’d had was a very realistic dream. That marker was also a tracer. enabling them to track the location of the subject at all times. 6 . he would think that he had indeed been on a time loop when in fact. If there was anything he had been truthful about during the product launch.) For Eric Clarke. cameras on the scale of nanometers had long been in existence. Once the subject was tracked down. detected their brain activity and thought processes. and then tailor the signals sent into his mind such that they elicited the appropriate response. it was that the tablets in each bottle were infused with a unique marker. time loops. thirty-two hours a day – had been rubbish. not some obscure area of relativity.

from the same bottle. sending his thoughts to the Ministry around the clock. the drug latched parasitelike in the subject’s mind. and alerted the Ministry so they knew when to send signals to beguile the mind into thinking it was on a time loop. Eric Clarke did not for a second doubt that anyone would not buy it if they could – they were talking about the mastery of time here. Why all this trouble? In recent years. they would gradually drop the price of T.M. “It’s Ministry product. Every subsequent dose increased the effect of the drug. much to Eric’s chagrin. if it proved successful. Matthew could not tell. and that would mark the end of the Ministry’s plans to keep citizens docile and ever compliant. Some members of society had grown dissatisfied with the Ministry’s governance. “It’ll buy us more time together. Maybe CJD had addled her mind.Buying Time The possibilities were endless. and Ministry officers themselves could potentially be exposed to the drug. and we can have all the time in the world. This called for more direct and intrusive action. the Ministry had perceived that keeping the population gratified was no longer enough. Lacing the water supply with the drug was far too risky – the concentration had to be exact. brain-washing would be simple. Later on. *** Emily hadn’t been convinced. it would not do for too many people to be exposed to it yet.T. for crying out loud! By then.T would give the Ministry unrestricted access into the deepest recesses of its subjects’ minds. Eric Clarke had been lying about the wearing off of the drug too.” She shuddered – whether from the illness or from the idea itself. Or maybe it was only the beginning. The T. the prospects immense.” Emily did not comprehend her decision then.M. Once administered. Maybe it was recklessness stemming from the knowledge that there was nothing the 7 . you and I. the drug was still in the beta-testing stage. Besides. until everyone could afford it. Just two pills a day. allowing anti-Ministry sentiments to be detected pronto.

Thirtytwo hours in a day. A flurry of activity ensued. Matthew Nelson used to be a researcher working for the Ministry. But there was something bugging her.T was prolonging Emily’s life. from the same bottle. The fact that they had become so dependent on a Ministry product unsettled her.M. Two pills a day. he could not help feeling a little taken aback when the drug detected an anti-Ministry sentiment. *** Matthew was aware that. He exulted in that fact. Secondly. Two things caught his attention. Even though the drug had been created for that purpose. All the time in the world.M. *** Eric Clarke was surprised. Months had elapsed since taking T. It disgusted him. Even the tiniest spark can start an inferno. He would be there to extinguish it. Eric Clarke silently scanned through their profiles. from the same bottle.T became a daily routine for them. in a certain way. She nodded.Buying Time Ministry could do to her now. A second one followed shortly. Emily knew she ought to cherish the extra time they had bought. you and I. T. First. The first time they dropped into a time loop. Emily Nelson had CJD. Two pills a day. she had noticed something wrong with the 8 . and it was not just the knowledge of the disease that loomed perpetually on the horizon. CJD was doing more than they could ever do to her. and more importantly. you and I. The subjects were identified as Matthew and Emily Nelson. eating away at her from the inside.

He was about to find out.Buying Time carpet. How long had it been? Matthew wondered. so revitalized! CJD seemed like such an incomprehensible concept now. remnants of a faraway memory. when she had always known it was wool? *** Eric Clarke knew what he had to do. it was imperative that the slate be wiped clean and re-written so that they would be unceasingly loyal to the Ministry for the rest of their lives. but she could not put her finger to it. However short that might be. *** Emily Nelson knew there was something wrong with the carpet. Whatever end the subjects faced. Emily wondered if. 9 . the way the clouds scatter and diffuse the light so the whole sky seems ablaze in the moments before the sun sinks into the watery void. How much time had he bought for the two of them to be together? All this time. Anti-Ministry sentiments had to be rooted out. the orange and the yellow and the red. She had never felt so alive. Why did it feel and look so much like polyester. Matthew had promised to take her to the beach that evening to watch the sunset. no words could describe her love for the Ministry. *** How do words do justice to the beauty of a sunset? To the way the colours merge at the edges. he must been blind not to see how well life was under the Ministry’s governance. in the same way. *** Can thoughts kill? Eric Clarke considered the question in a detached. scientific way. It was of little consequence anyway. How she loved the Ministry for leaving that stretch of beach unsullied and unclaimed by the greedy fingers of urbanisation. and replaced with an undying love for the Ministry.

The programme was waiting for his approval. that they had to dispose of Emily Nelson now that her antiMinistry sentiments had been eradicated. Eric Clarke was not going to let a veritable talent go down like that. and that was enough. He moved his finger down almost imperceptibly. *** Matthew had never seen so many stars before. his finger rested on the “ENTER” button. He looked at the two separate thoughts that he had programmed to be inserted into each of their minds. The moment the sun went down. her last act would be in servitude to the Ministry. Gratitude for what exactly? He found he could not remember. subservient one this time. Some detached part of her 10 . her world dissolved. A loyal. He felt intoxicated. Regrettable really. Matthew thought the same. He loved the Ministry. and he could serve the Ministry again as a researcher. and did not care either. but his was a love born of immeasurable gratitude and loyalty. The night-sky was ablaze with them.Buying Time Beside her. A few memory wipes. the pixels shedding away like scales from a butterfly’s wing. The sun disappeared over the edge of the horizon. But her death would not be in vain. drunk with his gratitude towards the Ministry. Do people really see their lives flashing past them seconds before they die? What are the mind’s last thoughts before it goes into the void? Emily’s death would reveal the answers. especially now that his mind had been brought over to the Ministry’s side. *** Emily did not see the stars. *** It would be a waste to dispose of Matthew Nelson.

M.T. The greater part of her was wondering what was wrong with the carpet. the Ministry. Word count: 2996 words 11 . T.Buying Time was aware that she was dying. and was screaming words that sounded like nonsense to her. and something about how even the tiniest spark could start an inferno. There was a man named Matthew Nelson.