Time to Live


Hello coffee lovers and avid readers! Welcome to Olive’s Library at Olive’s Café, where you can read the stories of adventurous characters as they explore life.

Have you ever thought of a life where we would have to clock in and out, even outside of our jobs? What would that life look like? Here’s one story where I imagined a future where clocking in and out is no longer limited to jobs:

New York, 2174

Huh, I can finally breathe. Even when it’s only for 15 minutes. The projects just get overwhelming every day. For 8 hours, it’s the meetings, then drafting new work, then the discussions and critiques, and then the corrections have to be made, then we have to do spreadsheets, and then it’s more meetings. Good thing the meetings are timed so we’re not behind on our tasks. Otherwise, the company gets fined by the city for overtime on meetings.

Even when meetings are meant to be 30 minutes. Go over even a minute, the city sends a warning, and fines the corporate leaders. They hate that.

But now that work is done, it’s now time to go home.

I’m so hungry, lunch was just not enough. But since I only had 30 minutes, sandwich and fruit would have to do.

*ding* Next stop is: 45th Avenue.

Oh, that’s my stop. I signal the bus to stop at that street for me. Once it reaches the street, it makes a complete stop and I get off, stepping into the chilly wind of a late winter. Good thing it didn’t snow today. Otherwise, I would get home late because of the slippery ground, even with snow boots. I can’t get home late.

Otherwise, city officials would make a call. We haven’t really received any calls from them because we’re never late coming home. But there have some instances where my sister, Ashley, and I witnessed one of our neighbors getting taken away by authorities because someone in the family kept going home late.

The family moved out the next day.

I walk into the block of where Ashley and I have lived since my parents were coded together. The houses look at the same: cubic with rectangular windows, garages that open sideways for vehicles to enter and exit. The only person that drives is my sister since it’s only one person allowed to have one. Since she’s the oldest, she’s the one who owns the car.

I think it’s stupid for only one person to own one car, or even required to own any vehicle. Well, it’s the regulation, especially since she works in city hall. And city hall is over 30 minutes away. If she’s late even by one minute, she would have to spend a long time in Human Resources about why she’s been late to work.

Even if it’s just as minor as picking up a toothpaste cap. She has to report it.

If she’s early, that’s okay. No one would need to report that.

Once I reach my house, I dial a code on the knob and the door unlocks, letting me enter. Then, I turn to my right and punch in my number on the sphere pad, clocking into my home. The speaker on the side makes a ding and announces, “Amy Manor, No. 081952, has arrived on time. Welcome home, Amy Manor.” I roll my eyes, annoyed that these things even have to be in our homes. Whatever, it’s here, and I’m finally home. I take off my coat and hang it against the wall, then a little door slides open as a small arm slides out and sprays my coat up and down, sanitizing it. By the time it finishes, I walk in further and take the stairs to my room. I drop off my bag and change into my robe before leaving to my bathroom. I turn on the lights and clock in for cleansing, turning on the shower as I take out my nightwear.

I’m actually happy they don’t watch our every move, even showering. But let me not say anything so I don’t let that topic resurface in the government conference.

Once I’m done with my cleansing, I clock out and leave the bathroom as everything turns off. I hang my bathroom robe behind my door and walk downstairs to the kitchen, clocking in for dinner once I go inside. I sit at our table, shaped in a square like every furniture in every room, but some tables vary in size. The bigger the family, the longer the table. Since it’s just my sister and I, our table is small enough to fit us, and there are only two chairs. In two years, though, there would only be one as the house will be passed on to me.

I’m not scared to be alone, but I do think that it’s stupid that it’s now required by law that my sister has to be ‘married’ to someone else and live somewhere else since the houses are assigned to the remaining resident.

I sit at the table before my sister does as she sets the last dish on the table. Another reason she’s required to have a car: she has to clock in to cook and prepare dinner. Once she gets married and moves out, not only will the house be assigned to me, but I will also have to request a vehicle so I can get home in time to make dinner.

How annoying.

“Thank you, Ashley,” I say to my sister before I start to prepare my plate with the food she cooked. Good thing they don’t limit what we eat.

“You’re welcome, Amy,” she says back, smiling before she prepares her plate.

As we eat, I start to think about how all of this routine started. Clocking in and out of work was normal. It’s to keep track of the hours so we can get paid per hour. Although, as years pass by, clocking in time slowly became regulated, even when we take vacations.

It’s to a point where we don’t even want to take vacations because we would worry about being late. The last thing we want is the government punishing us on our vacation.

We basically lost our freedom of time.

“Ashley?” I ask after swallowing my food.

“Hm?” she says as she drinks her cranberry juice.

“Don’t you find this time routine a little too overbearing?” I ask as I look at her.

As she puts her glass down, she looks at me and says, “What makes you ask this?”

I shrug as I say, “I don’t know. I feel like I’m closed in with time. Having to clock in and out of our house. Even when I have shower or eat breakfast and dinner. It’s like, they fear that once time is free, there would be anarchy.”

Ashley sighs as she crosses her arms and says, “Well, we all know why the government is controlling our time. They want to track everything we do. So, once we slip up, they can convict us when some of us commit a crime. It’s unfair, but they just want our society to be safe.”

I look down at my plate as I think about what she says, and I remember when I learned about the first time, they started tracking everyone’s time decades before I was born. All because there have been crimes all over the country where suspects would lie about their alibis. Once they caught the pattern, the government has created the system where they track everyone’s time. Well, we all know now where that has led. At least the crime rates have lowered down to almost nothing. No one fears time passing by anymore. But we do fear that time will be used against us if we were ever late. Or worse, if we never clock in or out.

I just still find it stupid.

“But doesn’t it bother you that you would have to clock in and out of every meal, or clock in and out for vacation, and you have to be on time?” I ask Ashley.

“Honestly, I don’t really mind. I’m always punctual, anyways,” Ashley answers as she bites into her chicken.

“But is it that serious to be late by one minute? I mean, I get it if you’re 15 minutes late to work. But to be late for dinner by 1 minute? And then we get a phone call by your bosses as soon as they see that we’re late? It feels like we can’t live anymore,” I say, now upset that our life is timed by the clock, and the big man on the chair is watching every hand on our clocks.

It makes me shiver at the thought.

“Amy, it is what it is. Now, let’s finish our dinner so we’re not late to bed,” Ashley says, requesting that I finish my dinner.

I scoff at her statement, finding it ridiculous that they even track us while we sleep. “I wonder why,” I mutter as I eat my potatoes.

I hear Ashley laying her fork down before she asks, “You know why they track our sleep?”

I look at her as I say, “Kind of.”

Ashley sighs as she says, “It’s to keep us sane, so it doesn’t lead to anything worse. Insomnia, paranoia, depression, anxiety-“
 

“Yeah, but do they even track that?” I ask, interrupting her.

“Yes, through sleep tracking. Miss one minute, and they’ll assume that you have a problem. Lose an hour, they’ll assume that you’re not even sleeping, but doing something else. They’re trying to keep this country clean,” she argues.

“Are you saying that because you work for the government, or do you really mean that?” I ask, squinting my eyes as if to see inside her mind.

She sighs again, taking a moment of silence. The clock dings and announces that we have 20 minutes left of dinner. Once her moment is up, she says,” Look, it’s just safer this way. I don’t want to lose you just because you think that time tracking is stupid.”

“I wouldn’t have to be the only one you have if they hadn’t tracked Mom and Dad’s time with us,” I say.

Now, I’m getting out of hand.

“Now you know that’s not fair for you to say things like that,” Ashley says, “Their time was up, and the government placed them in a better place.”

“Now, where would they place retired people?” I ask sarcastically. Although, I am curious as to where they place people who retire at 50 years old.

“That’s classified,” she says, wanting to end the conversation as dinner is almost ending.

“Why? Why aren’t we allowed to know where are parents are located? And aren’t they too young to retire?” I ask, starting to intrude.

“Amy, enough with the questions. We have to finish our dinner before time is up,” she says, almost shouting.

It startles me when she shouts. She hasn’t shouted like that since we were kids, and when she does shout, she reminds me of Mom.

I just find it suffocating that not only we’re timed as we live our lives, but we also lose our parents the moment they turned 50.

And that was last year.

“I’m sorry, Ashley. I just Mom and Dad. And then, you have to get married, soon. Who will I have?” I say, sad.

“Hey, there’s still time for us to be together. Besides, even when I do get married, we’ll still visit you and call you. And you have to get married, too,” She says, reassuring me that we have time.

Time. Our life ward, and we’re the prisoners.

“We have time. Or does time have us?” I say, argumentatively.

“Okay, now you’re sounding rebellious,” Ashley points out.

“Since when you’ve become rebellious?” she asks as she finishes her dinner.

“Since when being curiosity is rebellion?” I ask back as I finish mine.

Ashley laughs a little as she gets up and gathers all the dishes to take them to the dishwasher. Once she loads them, she adds soap and starts the dishwasher, with 5 minutes left on the clock. When she sits back down, she says, “Look, I just find it odd that you’re now asking these questions. You were never this curious or intruding. Why are you this curious now?”

I sigh this time, thinking about why I started asking so many questions. Then, I answer, “I just feel like time should be free. So, we can have a life that’s timeless as we share moments. I mean, our life hasn’t been much of a theme park. Have you seen our house? It’s all black and white.”

Ashley laughs at my last statement, making me smile. Once she stops laughing, she says while she smiles, “I understand. I mean, we should live our lives with more freedom, and be able to have more color. But being safe will keep us alive and healthy.”

Once the clock dings, announcing that dinner is over, and Ashley gets up first to clock out, I mutter, “I don’t feel very much alive.”

After I clock out from dinner, we both walk upstairs to our room, saying good night to each other as we go our separate ways. Since we have an hour and half left before bedtime, we clock in for our leisure time. Ashley enjoys reading books and knitting, so that’s her free time. I, however, write in journals, writing poems and prose every day. It’s only time I ever get creative since I work at an engineering service office, helping draft blueprints for new machinery.

Yeah, not so creative on my part.

I laugh at the thought of me working in the Engineering department, where I help with development, but I enjoy journals. I look around and see my bookshelf full of journals that I filled for years, even while I was in college. But in every journal, there are stories of a life that I wanted to live. A life where time is free, and so smooth, it flows around us as we dance night away. The roaring 20s was like a dream, where people threw parties, and the people were frivolous before the crash.

Yes, truly a dream before you woke up and had to face nightmare, we call reality.

I would remember the time I told my teacher that the 1920s was the year when people had freedom with time. My teacher called me crazy for ever thinking that.

But as I got older, I started to develop this desire to have our freedom back. To have our time back.

We shouldn’t have to live this way anymore. To worry that we have too much fun, time will only pass faster, and we would have to rush to get back to home base before we get in trouble with the time audit.

I laugh at the thought of that job position. Time Audit.

Then, I stop laughing once the clock on the wall announces that I only have 20 minutes left of leisure time. I look at my journal and read the words out loud:

She was sick of time being controlled in her life. She wanted to be free so she can dance with time, enjoying the night as the stars give her the spotlight as she rhythmically takes a step and sways her hips. She struggles to breathe under the restraints of those who put time in chains, controlling time to keep everyone in place of the line. But not her, for as she stole her clock and ran away into the night. Never to return to the prison. Even though she leaves behind her life as she drives away, she looks forward to a new life, where time is free, and she shall breathe with that freedom.

As I finish reading the first paragraph, my heart beats rapidly as my mind races with the thought of having freedom for myself.  Could I ever run away from this current life, and start a new life with the anarchy of time? Would that make me a criminal? Probably, since it is regulated that time has to be tracked, so every minute counts, just like every step we take for as long as we lives. It may even be worse if she would ever set all of time free for everyone. That’s if anyone wants time to be free for them.

I know it’s safe for us to have time controlled for us, so we can live a normal life and we don’t have to derail ourselves into a scary place. But just the thought of the 1920s and the life that it had. It was as if the war didn’t affect them in any way. Once you returned home, you’re happy.

Since when was the last time that I ever smiled coming home, to a clock announcing that I have arrived home on time? What if I wanted to go out past curfew? Especially on a Friday? What if I wanted to stay up all night until 2am to write or dance around in my room?

Is it such a crime to have a fun life? Is it a crime to have a human life?

Then, it clicks to me as I finish my prose. It clicks to me that I’m not living a human life, but a life where time is in chains, and we have to be on time to every aspect, even sleep. This isn’t human life. Not at all.

This is prison. I can’t even see my parents as I don’t know where they are. Even if I did, will I even have time to see them, or would that be timed as well?

Just when the clock dings and announces that there’s one minute left, I reread what I wrote in my journal. A smile forms on my face as I realize that my journal entry could be the start of a revolution to free time from the chains of the government.

Then, with 15 seconds to spare, I wrote on the bottom of the page before I clock out of leisure time, and clock in for sleep.

Time to Set Time Free…

Comment down below your thoughts, or how you would imagine the future would look like. More thoughts and ideas are welcome!

Thank you for tuning in on Olive’s Library at Olive’s Café!

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