Mad Scientist Week – Old Todger’s Time Bender (Part Two)

Last week I posted part one of this story. Now, the conclusion. To recap, Todger had found that he could speed up time by adding oxygen to a bell jar containing a candle clock, and slow it down by adding carbon dioxide. But when he repeated the experiment using a water clock, time was unaffected. Why? Was time, like the elements, split into Fire, Water, Earth and Air? Oxygen and carbon dioxide were Air elements. Was the water clock unaffected by them because it was ruled by Water-time?

This led to Todger’s most productive period. He built his own water clocks and tested them extensively, trying to isolate the Water-time element.

After a year, he found it.

Temperature was the key. Todger found that if he placed one water clock in a cold room and another in front of a fire, that time for the cold clock slowed down. And the greater the temperature difference, the greater the temporal difference. When Todger packed ice around one clock and placed the other in a bain-marie, bringing the water almost to boiling point, he found that time for the heated clock passed seven times faster than for the cold clock.

Todger realised he had stumbled across an explanation for hibernation. Some animals, perhaps those whose nature was essentially controlled by the Water element, would find time slowed to such an extent by the winter cold that they would begin to ‘live very slowly’ – a state which, to the untrained eye, would look very much like sleep.

Todger was soon struck by another notion. He had shown that heat was the key to Water-time, but wasn’t heat a form of Fire? Had he discovered that Fire was the temporal controller of Water?

This led him to re-evaluate his theory on Air-time. What if the candle clock was a Fire element? This would make Air the temporal controller of Fire. Were all the four elements controlled thus? Each element controlling and, in turn, being controlled by another?

Todger began his search for Earth and Air clocks. The hourglass was the obvious choice for an Earth clock, but Air? Would that be a sundial?

He began experimenting on hourglasses. If his theory held true, then the temporal controller for an Earth clock would be either Earth or Water – with the latter being the most likely, or else Earth would be controlling Earth and Todger couldn’t believe that God would allow such an inelegant solution to exist. The temporal controller of Earth had to be Water and Air’s controller had to be Earth.

But what were they?

Todger soon discovered a way of slowing down Earth-time – the addition of water to the sand in the hourglass made it wet and slowed the flow. Sometimes it even made time stop altogether! But he couldn’t make time speed up. He wondered if perhaps an hourglass filled with dry sand was measuring ‘fast time,’ and that slightly moist sand was ‘normal time.’ But when he added even more water, the sand and water mixture began to flow faster and time accelerated.

It was about this time that Todger’s health began to fail. He was working all hours, missing meals, and rarely left his rooms. He was obsessed with finding a solution to the four faces of time. He knew he was close, but he was beginning to doubt his ability to make that final breakthrough.

In desperation he decided to curtail his Earth-time experiments and commence a study of Air-time. But was there anything that could speed up or slow down the passage of the sun through the sky? If his theory held, the answer would be an Earth element.

Months passed with little progress being made. And then he hit upon the idea of using a prism to bend the light of the sun. Glass was that elusive Earth element he’d been searching for! Using a combination of prisms, lenses and mirrors, he found he could both speed up and slow down the passage of time on a sun dial. Not only that, he could also make time go backwards.

Todger was quick to publish his findings. Some say too quick, for the reaction to his publication was far from universally favourable. He was accused of trying to pass off common trickery as science. Time, they said, was not being slowed or reversed. His manipulation of sunlight was no different to someone moving a strong candle around a sundial in a darkened room and claiming they were affecting time.

Todger refused to accept this criticism, and decided that the best way to convince his doubters was to conduct a human experiment. This experiment would be the very culmination of a distinguished career and demonstrate, for the first time, the use of time multipliers. Man – being composed of Fire, Water, Earth and Air – would be susceptible to all four temporal controllers. And if all four were combined together at the same time then their power would be multiplied.

The first experiment, designed to demonstrate slow time, had to be abandoned for lack of volunteers. People, remembering Todger’s first human experiment, did not relish the idea of ending their days as ‘the man living even more slowly.’

Like a true pioneer, Todger decided to experiment on himself. And, ever desirous of the spectacular, decided he’d demonstrate fast time … and put on a real show.

The mix of extreme heat, a lens, a lack of water and an overabundance of oxygen was certainly spectacular. Robert Boyle, who observed the experiment, told the coroner that Todger’s remaining years had passed before the assembled onlookers in a ball of flame, and even the attempts of his friends to slow time down by throwing water on the speedily expiring Todger, were insufficient to haul back the years. Boyle estimated that Todger’s age at death would have rivalled Methuselah.

Fittingly, the coroner ruled the cause of Todger’s death to be ‘living too fast.’


Medium DeadChris Dolley is a NY Times bestselling author living in France with a frightening number of animals. His novelette, What Ho, Automaton! was a finalist for the 2012 WSFA Small Press Award for short fiction. More information about his other work can be found on his BVC bookshelf .
An Unsafe Pair of Handsa quirky murder mystery set in rural England charting the descent and rise of a detective on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Which will break first? The case, or DCI Shand?
Medium Dead – a fun urban fantasy chronicling the crime fighting adventures of Brenda – a reluctant medium – and Brian – a Vigilante Demon with an impish sense of humour. Think Stephanie Plum with magic and a dash of Carl Hiaasen.
What Ho, Automaton! – Wodehouse Steampunk. Follow the adventures of Reggie Worcester, consulting detective, and his gentleman’s personal gentle-automaton, Reeves. It’s set in an alternative 1903 where an augmented Queen Victoria is still on the throne and automata are a common sight below stairs. Humour, Mystery, Aunts and Zeppelins!
French Fried the international bestseller – true crime, animals behaving badly and other people’s misfortunes. Imagine A Year in Provence with Miss Marple and Gerald Durrell.
International Kittens of Mystery. If you like a laugh and looking at cute kitten pictures this is the book for you. It’s a glance inside the International Kittens of Mystery – the only organisation on the planet with a plan to deal with a giant ball of wool on a collision course with Earth?
Resonance “This is one of the most original new science fiction books I have ever read. If it is as big a hit as it deserves, it may well be this book which becomes the standard by which SF stories about … are judged.”

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