MemberJune 9, 2021 at 1:33 pm19 Forum Points
Here’s a story of 996 words (according to Google Docs, anyway, although I’ve found that sometimes different word processors disagree..!) on ‘The Time Inn’. It’s inspired by David Hilbert’s paradox of the Grand Hotel, Carlo Rovelli’s time cone theory as put forward in ‘The Order of Time’, and a teeny-weeny bit of the Monty Hall problem.
The sight of the first coach over the hill inspired mixed feelings among Innfinity’s staff. On the one hand, more business was always good – what’s a business for, if not to do business? – but on the other, the nature of their business was frequently a logistical nightmare.
Indeed, the foremost bus proved to be only the first of an infinitely long line. Several of the housekeeping staff started stretching in anticipation of the workload to come.
The front door swung open and a chap with the unmistakable smile of a man who arranged bus tours for a living entered the sumptuous foyer.
The receptionist inclined his head. ‘Welcome to Innfinity.’
‘Ta… Davey,’ said the newcomer, peering at the receptionist’s badge (which read ‘David’) and plonking a heavy sheaf of papers on the desk. ‘Guest info,’ he said, nodding down at the stack. ‘I’m Nige. Liaison.’
David raised a neat eyebrow. ‘This appears to be finite, sir.’
‘Got ‘em all to write really small,’ said Nige, as if that explained anything. ‘Go on, then. Always wanted to see the move.’
‘The… move, sir?’
Nige blinked. ‘Infinite hotel, infinite guests? The… thing?’
‘Oh, I see.’ David adjusted his tie, which was already perfectly straight. ‘We no longer move guests in space.’
Nige opened his mouth to respond, then closed it again.
‘As you know,’ David went on, obscenely polite, ‘Innfinity has infinite rooms. When every room is occupied by a guest and a new infinitely large group of guests arrives, we -’
‘I know this one,’ Nige butted in. ‘Shunt all the existing guests to the room that’s their current room number times two, so only the even-numbered rooms are occupied, then stick the new lot in the odd ones. ‘Cos both of ‘em’s infinitely big, innit?’ He beamed, showing off little strings of saliva connecting his whitened teeth.
‘We used to do that, sir,’ said David, ‘but as I’m sure you can imagine, it was an awful lot of hassle to ask an infinite number of guests to move. The guests in lower-numbered rooms tended not to mind too much – number ten would just be down the hall from number five – but the ones required to make some truly staggering journeys were, understandably, unenthralled.’
‘Makes sense,’ said Nige, crestfallen. ‘So you don’t do that anymore?’
‘We do not.’
‘Shame. Woulda been funny to watch ‘em all bumbling around.’ Nige sighed. ‘What about the one where there’s a car in one room and all the others are goats? Still do that one?’
‘Different thing entirely, sir.’
Nige sighed again, tapping his fingers on the desk. ‘So if nobody’s moving, where’re we gonna go?’
‘Well,’ said David, with the picture-perfect smile of the proud host, ‘we no longer design hotel experiences in space, but in time. Why only use three dimensions when so many more are available?’
Nige’s eyebrows crawled down his forehead until his eyes were almost invisible. ‘Time.’
‘Indeed. Which is, of course -’
‘- an array of skewed cones, yeah,’ Nige interrupted. ‘We all know that, Davey, c’mon. Time’s wasting.’ He frowned. ‘Unless it isn’t.’
‘Oh, we never waste any times,’ said David.
Nige nodded as if he understood perfectly, frowning in a way that suggested he wasn’t understanding at all. ‘Look,’ he said, patting the pile of paper, ‘been a long journey, so can you just get us all booked in, yeah?’
‘Of course, sir.’ David fed the stack into a contraption resembling a cross between a photocopier, a binding machine, and a bottomless abyss. ‘It’s very finely calculated,’ he said as the appliance whirred. ‘Each party’s cone is placed such that it never overlaps with any other, providing a bespoke chronological experience for every group with both internal continuity and inter-party discreteness.’
‘Course,’ Nige agreed.
‘Thus we maintain the singular delight of the Innfinity experience for all who visit -’ that practiced smile again ‘- while ensuring the Evertime remains at peace.’
‘Oh, yeah.’ Nige cleared his throat. ‘Obviously we all know, Davey, but… maybe best explain again, just in case anyone’s listening who hasn’t heard of the Alltime somehow.’
‘Evertime,’ David corrected, immediately but with precise politeness. ‘The entity whose time cone contains all others.’
‘Ah,’ said Nige, eyebrows on the move again. ‘That.’
‘Keeping the Evertime appeased is Innfinity’s most vital function,’ said David, glancing at the paper-processing machine as it finished with a merry click. ‘Let’s see when you’ve been allocated.’ He checked a readout crammed with scribbles, then adopted the expression that was universal hospitality code for we’re very sorry but there’s a slight issue. ‘Well, we’ve got your destination,’ he said, ‘and what are the odds? Well: infinity-to-one.’
‘Well, there is a precisely infinity-to-one chance of any given group of guests being assigned any specific location in time, since there are infinite locations. Yours is the most prestigious and exclusive of all: the Evertime!’
‘Right,’ murmured Nige. ‘Only we were hoping for… maybe a beach or something.’
‘There may be beaches,’ said David. ‘Who knows?’
‘Shouldn’t you know?’
‘Oh, this is unprecedented,’ said David. ‘We always knew we would one day sacrifice infinite people to the Evertime to keep it eternally at peace. I never thought I’d be the one, though, since Innfinity only has to make one infinite sacrifice in all of infinite time.’ He smiled, then pressed a button.
‘Might just go to a normal hotel,’ muttered Nige, and then the floor of Innfinity’s spectacular lounge exploded into asynchronous, anachronistic, unchronometrical catastrophe. In moments that were aeons, the Evertime swallowed the entire contemporaneity before vanishing into untime as if nothing had happened – which, in most ways that mattered, it hadn’t.
Elsewhere in Innfinity’s timeline, the roster of staff closest to the event – and thus first to be notified – sighed with relief: housekeepers at having one less group to do infinite work for, middle managers at not having been the ones to be obliterated out of temporality, and the financial director at the fact that the party had already paid in full.
ModeratorJune 16, 2021 at 12:39 am
First off love that you use a different pun than everyone else.
I think you have a strong foundation. The science fiction elements are really cool.
I wonder about the choice to ask for an explanation of the time ones. Is there a more subtle way of doing this?
I also think you have an opportunity to expand the the ending. I would like more description, detail, showing, etc. I know you’re up against the word count, but it’s ok to go over by a little bit. We could always cut words later.