Your Leap Hour

Every year, we turn the clocks back one hour in the fall. If you’re in the midwest, you experience 1:00-1:59 twice, and then you carry on as if nothing happened.

But what if something different happened during that hour? What if that hour was a freebie, a blip in time, an hour that happens but isn’t “real”? What would you do with that hour?

I’m over in Ireland working on a story that I’ve been playing around with for a week (I took the photo on the right while writing tonight in my castle hotel). I have a myriad of concepts and characters I’m piecing together for a series of connected stories ala A Visit from the Goon Squad, but I’m curious about what you’d do with that leap hour. Who knows, your brilliant idea might end up in the book (I’ll give you a concealed credit).

So here are the rules behind the leap hour:

  • It’s a real hour that happens to everyone at the same time every year. However, it takes place in an alternate timeline, kind of in a bubble of reality that is completely separate from the reality you experience and perceive every day.
  • You do not remember anything that happens during the leap hour. In your primary timeline, you see the clock turn from 12:59 to 1:00 without knowing that there’s an extra hour in there (you only know that hour exists because scientists have proven it to you).
  • Nothing that happens during the hour has any consequence on real time. For example, in the alternate timeline, you could go streaking through the streets of St. Louis, be seen by tons of people (perhaps they’re doing the same thing), and be caught by traffic cameras everywhere…but when the hour is up, you’re sitting on your couch like you were before, with no memories or evidence that you went streaking. It simply doesn’t exist as an event that happened in your life.
So basically, a freebie hour when you can do anything you want and yet you won’t remember it. What would you do?

18 Responses to “Your Leap Hour”

  1. Anne Riley says:

    Eeeeesh…. I dunno. Rob a bank?

  2. Anne Riley says:

    Oh, but then you wouldn’t have the money, would you? I dunno. This is a hard question. OH! I would eat all the cupcakes I could. That’s what I would do. And burgers. And fries.

  3. T-Mac says:

    Intriguing. I’ll have to give this some more thought. Off the top of my head (and since we’re living in the theoretical world of leap hour), I’d create a 1-way time machine and use it during leap hour. To me, the only interesting thing I can think of that can happen during leap hour (if everything is erased as if it never happened an no one remembers any of it) would be something that happens outside of leap hour.

    If I use the time machine that I have in my basement (and currently only use for sports betting like Biff in Back to the Future 2) during leap hour, would I be taken back to 1:00am when the hour is over like all other non time travellers or would I be able to live 2 simultaneous existences since I didn’t exist during the extra hour, dead or alive, when the hour expired? Would I have just nullified myself at 1:00am by not being around when leap hour expired? Could I exponentially build an army of myself if each iteration of me did this during each leap hour?

    By the way, sorry to disappoint you Texans, but it’ll be Cards in 7.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Trev, I’ve never understood why you let that time machine gather dust in your basement. It’s a perfectly good time machine, and just because it’s an off-brand model doesn’t mean you can’t use it more often (or lend it to friends!)

      If you only time traveled during leap hour(s), I don’t think you’d gain any extra time, because once the first hour ends, your consciousness would jump back to the original reality. So it wouldn’t gain you any information you couldn’t gain by using the time machine in your normal timeline.

      I think. But I could be way off.

      • T-Mac says:

        I was wondering about that…but as I tried to think of loopholes, I wondered if the regression to “normal time” only happened to those people who were present during leap hour. If your consciousness isn’t present, does it regress? Does it fork into multiple existences?

        • Jamey Stegmaier says:

          So you’re thinking if you escape the secondary timeline with a time machine, you won’t regress back to the main timeline when everyone else does? I don’t think so, unfortunately. However, the story I’m writing will have a character who gets stuck in the secondary timeline for a very specific reason that I can’t reveal here. Hours exist for him like the pages of a book–after each hour is complete, he turns the page to jump forward an entire year, and his next hour begins.

  4. Jasmin says:

    Go joy riding at top speed. I won’t die or get injured, right? Oh, and eat at the most expensive resturant and walk out without paying.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      You’d have to make sure you start the dinner AFTER the hour begins, or you’ll be stuck with the bill when the clock turns back!

      • Jasmin says:

        NOOOOOOOOO. Then I’ll just have to joy ride the year after the expensive dinner. My forgetable dinner… Oh, that’s so sad. I won’t remember it. ๐Ÿ™

  5. Katie says:

    I’ve been thinking about this one, and I’ve decided I would use that hour to call certain people and tell them what I REALLY think about them! Not just telling off people that I dislike, but maybe confessing a crush or two as well (is 29 too old to still have crushes?).

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      29 isn’t too old to have crushes! Definitely not. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think that’s a good way to use the leap hour–get something off your chest or see what it feels like without endangering or affecting any “real” relationships.

  6. Red says:

    If it happens to everyone at the same time every year, I don’t think you can PLAN anything that incorporates assistance from other people, because you can’t rely on anyone to waste their free hour serving you. You can’t order a meal, because the people making it don’t care. You can’t call someone to bitch them out because they aren’t there.

    I think you let your ID run free, coming up with something completely hedonistic, but where only you are involved. It’d like being drunk, but without waking up in jail the next morning. You may try to be Rico Suave, or try different ways to kill yourself, or seek the randomness of other people.

    I’d propose an additional rule. When Leap hour comes, you remember everything you ever did during all previous leap hours. From a writing perspective, this gives your character familiarity with Leap Hour capabilities, which will let them catch the audience up to speed via memories. Also gives them a frame of reference.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Red–True, people will do what they will with that hour, so you’re probably not going to get service at restaurants.

      I like the additional rule quite a bit. After I read your comment earlier this evening, I thought for a while about incorporating it into the book. And I still might. I’m just not quite sure it fits into the physics I’m using, but it may. We’ll see. It opens up a few story ideas and closes a few others.

  7. Sarah says:

    What a fascinating concept! There are all kinds of fun and frivolous things I could do with a bonus hour that I’d enjoy but wouldn’t make for an riveting read. A massage. A hot fudge sundae. A pilgrimage to Moran Eye Center to tell Geoff Tabin he’s completely, totally, ridiculously awesomely inspiring.

    I think an interesting concept (emphasis: this is obviously NOT what I’d do, but it might make an interesting plot element) would be to have a character who uses the hour to seek out and kill the same person every year — an annual revenge, with the dual perks of zero legal consequences and yearly opportunities to savor the revenge process all over again.

    The character could either be an otherwise respectable person who was deeply damaged by a truly awful past event (e.g. woman tracking down the man who killed her parents when she was a child), or a deeply disturbed person whose vengeful streak makes no sense at all in sane terms, or you could leave it ambivalent so that the reader perpetually wonders whether the character is sane or psycho.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Sarah–Very interesting. You’ve actually touched upon two different chapters I’ve planned (actually I’ve written one of them; the other is to come). There’s a little twist in the perspective of the other one. Let’s just say that it’s through the eyes of someone who observes the murders…every year.

  8. Sarah says:

    Oooh, cool perspective!

    A question about the physics of this freebie hour: What happens in Arizona (or in other countries) where they don’t observe daylight savings time? Does the hour exist? If you cross the state line into Arizona during the hour, do you cease to exist?

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Sarah–Yes, the hour exists regardless of what different areas do with daylight savings time. The hour is connected to space-time, not how we track time on Earth.

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