art by Melissa Mead
by Sue Burke
The man had deep worry lines between his eyebrows, although he was only in his twenties. When he woke up after a restless sleep, he looked at the window. Mid-afternoon sun shone through cracks in the blinds. He checked his bedside clock: 5:51 a.m.
The clocks were still wrong... and in sudden panic, he reached out for his wife. Yes, she was still there, still safe beside him, or as safe as she could be. She lay with her back toward him, her shoulders bare and beautiful.
At 6 a.m. the house audio turned on. The usual announcers spoke, describing help for victims of a distant earthquake. They said an international peace meeting had been a success, and the weather would be warm and sunny with no break in the drought, but household conservation efforts had exceeded goals.
She stirred, took a deep breath, then another. "Good news?"
"As always," he answered heartily. It was their private ritual. Rumors circulated about protests and arrests. Just a few days ago the network's clocks had gone haywire, but then it recovered and continued immediately with no other changes. The news had ignored it entirely.
Suddenly he worried that he and his wife hadn't mentioned the time change out loud, and maybe their silence gave them away.
"Six a.m. in the afternoon. That's weird," he said, just to say something.
"Sorry," she whispered.