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Time Zone

Kevin J. Anderson has published more than 140 books, 56 of which have been national or international bestsellers. He has written numerous novels in the Star Wars, X-Files, and Dune universes, as well as unique steampunk fantasy novels Clockwork Angels and Clockwork Lives, written with legendary rock drummer Neil Peart, based on the concept album by the band Rush. His original works include the Saga of Seven Suns series, the Terra Incognita fantasy trilogy, the Saga of Shadows trilogy, and his humorous horror series featuring Dan Shamble, Zombie PI. He has edited numerous anthologies, written comics and games, and the lyrics to two rock CDs. Anderson and his wife Rebecca Moesta are the publishers of WordFire Press.
I had just gotten home from work, ready to start dinner for myself, when the phone rang. It wasn't even 5:30 yet, but the dinner hour is exactly when phone solicitors like to prey on customers. I answered with a "Hello" that was more like a sigh.
"Ronnie! Are you all right? We're so worried!" Not a salesman then--my parents, back in Wisconsin.
I had moved to California only a month ago, and my parents seemed as lonely as I was. They often called just to hear my voice.
Right after college I had taken a job for a large company in the San Francisco area. I was a young man living on my own for the first time, far from home. My fiancee would follow me in six months, but for now I was solo, except for babysitting her dog, a fat and snorting pug named Beau that she loved for reasons more unfathomable than the reasons why she loved me. Beau greeted me now with far more exuberance than I wanted, demanding attention while I concentrated on the phone.
"Of course I'm all right. I just walked in the door from work. Did you forget about the time change again? I'm not usually home this early." My parents lived in rural Wisconsin, had never traveled farther than the adjacent states, and certainly never left the country. Their business was local, never had to worry about calling New York or Los Angeles. "You're two hours earlier, remember?"
"No, the earthquake!" my mom said. "It's been on the news non-stop."
My dad broke in, talking on the extension. "A major quake. San Francisco is leveled. We couldn't get through--the phone lines have been jammed for more than an hour, but we tried and tried."
I looked around my intact townhouse. "Everything's normal. No earthquake."
Beau snorted and farted, wagged his tail so forcefully that his entire body wobbled. I bent over to pat him on the head, hard.
"We're watching the report on Fox right now," my dad said. "Total devastation. We thought you were hurt. We couldn't get through."
I thought about fake news. My parents have often been duped. "No quake, honest. Not even a little devastation."
My mom was crying. My dad was tense. "I'm reading the crawl right now! Magnitude 6.0 earthquake hit the East Bay at 5:35 P.M."
I looked at the clock on the wall. "It's not even 5:35 yet. You're forgetting the time change again. You're two hours ahead."
At my feet, Beau whined and then began barking, much more agitated than his usual excitement about my lukewarm affections. Then he began to howl.
"I'm so glad." Mom's voice still sounded strangled with disbelief. "I don't know how to explain it."
I tried to shush the dog, but Beau was going crazy.
"Nothing to worry about, Mom." I wondered what other crackpot conspiracy theory would set them off next.
The clock hit 5:35.
The ground started to shake beneath my feet.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, April 5th, 2018


I grew up in Wisconsin, and my parents had very small town lives, having only been to a couple of other states and certainly never out of the country. After college when I got a job and moved out to California, they took forever to get used to the two-hour time difference. They would always miss planned times for a phone call, wake me up too early. "Aren't you out of bed yet? It's 8 AM!" "No, Mom, it's 6 AM here...." You can see the inspiration for the story.

- Kevin J. Anderson

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