Time in The Void Between | World Anvil


Shorter of breath and one day closer to death...

"Disengage warp," Mouse said. She sensed their hesitation, but after a few moments. The lights flickered back on.   "Why so soon." Argus asked, standing from her chair, "We still have quite a ways to go till Safeharbor. I'm not thrilled about having pieces of that plant on board."   Mouse stood up with a frown. "I know, but we need to finish the zodiac of Calstine and enter it into the record. It's kind of personal for me. Is that so bad? We only have one star left."   Argus opened her mouth to speak but quickly closed it. She nodded, turned away and checked their location. "Mouse."   "What's wrong?"   Argus shook her head. "You said we had a star left. What star?"   Mouse cocked her head. "Calstine-4B the right eye of the constellation." Mouse looked at the navigation panel and back to Argus. There was nothing there.   "Did we lose a star?" Oracle asked.   "No," Mouse replied. She hit a button and the panels rotated, revealing screens showing a live feed from outside. "It collapsed."   They saw the light from stars warping in the blackness of space, the only visual cue of the black hole where the star once was. Mouse felt a moment of panic as she ran to the other side of the bridge.   After taking several moments to analyze data on a nearby screen, she let out a sigh of relief. "We're far enough away. Let's mark this as a black hole and go home." She said, her voice getting quieter with every word.   "Sorry, Rhey." Agus said. She sat back down, her twiddling her thumbs as if unsure what else to say.   Mouse looked over and gave a halfhearted smile, "it's just a star. There's still plenty out there."  
Time does not exist. The end. Two hours with someone you love can feel like minutes, while a short ten-minute lecture can feel like hours. Time is relative. It always has been, and we've known it for quite a while. To ask me how time works, especially on a galactic scale, makes no sense to me. It's a reasonable question, mind you, but I'm sorry. Time doesn't work at all.   Time is a social construct. It's needed, but every species will have its own way of telling time. Even in the case of atomic clocks, the most precise way of measuring time, the nature of what we call minutes, hours, and days would vary depending on where you were and what species you belong too.   Naturally, another species would use different words, but the meaning of these terms would change if on another planet. More than that, what if you're not on a planet at all? How does one measure a day if a ship has no spin? How does one measure a year if there is no star to orbit around?

Failed Attempts

The Matriarchal Eden have mentioned a few attempts to create a single way of measuring time across the galaxy, but these attempts failed for a myriad of reasons. Some failed due to conflicting opinions of which measurements to use or how long they should be. The main reason, however, is that the universe seems to be against the idea, entirely.   Imagine us colonizing another world, light years away from Safeharbor. These two planets would use the same time zone or, at least, be easily able to convert time to their own time zone. If a ship traveled using only fusion engines traveling from Safeharbor to this new world, and used the same manner of keeping time, the clocks won't line up.   The faster you travel, the faster time ticks around you. The crew of this vessel would likely expect a pat on the back, as from their perspective, they arrived early. No matter how you look at it, time is merely a measurement of change, and it's impossible to get everyone synced up.      

How does time work?

It doesn't, and it's a fact of life we have to accept. We use our own methods, and everyone else uses theirs. It's confusing, which leads to misunderstanding and unintentional frustration, but it's a fact. The best we can do is account for dilation, but this must be done with every new location, every new timezone.   What is a year to us may be months, or decades to others. As such. The best course of action is to rely on your own understanding of time. A general idea of a day can be enough to get your point across in conversation, as can any measurement of time.   You know what it feels like for a day to pass, but again, time is relative. What feels like minutes to you could feel much longer for others. It's inefficient, it's messy, and it's impossible to be precise, but it's all we have. I wish I had a better answer for you, but that's just how it is.


The major issue with time, at least for me, is how it differs from individual to individual. Some say the The Battle of The Pillars and The First War occured years ago, but I clearly log it as an event from two years ago. This problem is only made more complicated in that some battles from the first war are still being fought between the Eden and siliue ships that have yet to receive the news.   Space is big, and it may be that events do not have a clear beginning or end. The war ended here in recent memory, while for others, it still rages on. For others still, it never occurred in the first place, and in some places, happened much earlier than we know.   It's best not to worry about it. Time isn't that important when on the verge of extinction, anyway. Take it at face value, for your own sake. The stress could lead you to an early grave, or perhaps a late one...
When they reached Safeharbor, and docked at the colony of Dawn, Mouse stepped out with the sample of the strange flora in hand. Roadrunner darted forward, embracing his mother with a smile. Argus sat on the dock with her feet dangling off the side as she watched the moon overhead, as if waiting for something. Oracle left, likely to visit his wife in Juliet. Mouse looked around, saw her father and felt the tears well up in her eyes.   After hugging him, he walked with her to the nearest shuttle, and kept her company on the flight to the archive. She told him all about her journey, thus far, leaving out the most life threatening details. He remained in the shuttle while she dropped off the sample and Navigational Zodiac.   All the while, she struggled silently. It wasnt until she stepped outside that she worked up the courage to look up. As her eyes adjusted, she searched the stars for Calstine, a constellation depicting a cat with multicolored eyes. She noticed the eye blinking at her.   She knew the eye would be gone, disappearing from the night sky in a flash of light within 100 years, though likely much sooner. One day, all the stars in the constellation would be gone, her contribution to the night sky a fading memory. The stories told by herself and others would lose their source of inspiration.   She felt small when she reentered the shuttle. She spent the night wondering if it was even possible to make a difference in such a cold and ever-changing universe. Would any of her accomplishments last?

Cover image: by Thomas Bormans


Author's Notes

So, this is a cop out… sort of. While warp technology exists, relativity is practically an unstoppable force when it comes to the passing of time on this scale. Scientifically, I really can't imagine a way to make time work on a galactic scale, and part of me doesn't want to. I love this idea that no one can get on the same page, cause the universe just isn't designed for it, if that makes sense.

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Mar 15, 2021 13:48

Not at all a cop out - but a brilliantly made point that is inescapable. No two observers moving at sufficient relative speed can agree on what happened simultaneously in the past, let alone what "now" is. It's a mind-bending result of spacetime. One realization that torqued my brain was that the slower you are moving in three dimensions, the faster you are moving through time - approaching c (the speed of light) if you are barely moving in space. This gives rise to the infamous but not quite correct phrase you move through time at the speed of light. But what does that even mean, when you're stuck in a galaxy with its own peculiar motion and expanding away from other galaxies at mind numbing speed?! It's crazy, and you're right to point it out. How could "star date" work? The only way, it seems to me, is if there is instantaneous communication, so that you can "sync up" without suffering relativistic change. There might be 50 of these in the Void Between, but is it worth keeping those 50 in sync if you can't even contact them without falling afoul of the very imprecision you're trying to resolve?   First sentence in the Problems sidebar has an extra "as" in it.   I love the part where Mouse looks up to Calstine and still sees the star that she knows from her recent survey is no longer there. All the starlight we see was emitted in the distant past. Looking really is looking back.

Mar 15, 2021 13:55 by R. Dylon Elder

Absolutely. I've been reallllly trying to tackle it and it's been so mind numbing, I just threw in towel. If im trying to write out equstions, it may be best to just give in XD besides, it definitely opens up alot of potential issues to explore and that's more valuable in my opinion. Thanks for the kind words! I'm also glad the story bit with Mouse had the desired effect. I really wanted it to drive home the point of the article. It was a fun one. Thanks so much!

Mar 15, 2021 18:10 by Time Bender

This is so cool! I was actually wondering the other day why everyone on Earth decided to go with one time system, hours and minutes, and a 24 hour day. It's really interesting that you covered this topic today! A great article, as always.

Mar 16, 2021 18:27 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

I think this is a brilliant way to tackle such a difficult concept. The story that accompanies this one is particularly beautiful and sad. <3

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
Mar 16, 2021 21:53 by R. Dylon Elder

I'm glad you enjoyed it! It is a cruel fact of life sadly. I really struggled with making time work and I'm glad this is enough cause oooof. Too much math. Xd thanks so much!

Mar 17, 2021 18:44

"The stress could lead you to an early grave, or perhaps a late one..." Ah!!! Stop confusing me!   The bit about the dying star made me consider, perhaps for the first time, that earth may not exist anymore. Our star could have collapsed, or any number of astronomical events could have completely obliterated it between when humanity left and when it discovers it's location again; if there was even anything left to return to in the first place. I imagine a lot of wayfarers have similar moments.   It's a bit trippy that you can still see a constellation years after it's blown up, and even trippier that, with faster than light travel, you can go to the system, see that it's gone, and then go back to safeharbor and look up at it anyway.   When a ship returns to safeharbor, (or any planet really) I imagine they can get the worst sort of relativistic jet-lag, since there are many, many reasons for your clocks to be off from those of the people on the planet.

Mar 17, 2021 18:49 by R. Dylon Elder

Yeah, it's certainly possible. Whats worse is if the earth isn't there anymore, and whatever destroyed it wasnt even the reason for the fall, a mystery that can never be solved by finding it. Oof. Definitely an existential crisis inducing puzzle. Exactly! So other than focusing on data from the planet, why bother having clocks? I imagine its incredibly disorienting returning home. Thanks so much!

Apr 23, 2021 10:49 by Wendy Vlemings (Rynn19)

I don't think this is a cop out. I think what you wrote about time makes a lot of sense. Also, I love how the story is woven into a more informational article. You have done that before and truly enjoy this way of storytelling. It makes me even more invested in the characters and lets me understand better what they go through.   I think I found a typo in the first quote: The saw the light from stars ... . I think the first The has to be They. Another typo just before Failed Attempts: More than that, what of you're not on a planet at all? With of being if.

Author of Ealdwyll, a fantasy world full of mystery.
May 2, 2022 01:19 by Lilliana Casper

I like this idea and how time must flow differently for everyone. Mouse's last quote was so sad. Nice job.

Lilliana Casper   I don't comment much, but I love reading your articles! Please check out my worlds, Jerde and Tread of Darkness.
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