Plenty of Time
By Andy Symonds
It was amazing! The findings were in, and they were beyond Dr. Leopold’s wildest expectations. This would change the world — he was sure of it!
“Dr. Zucher, Dr. Zucher, come quick!” he shouted down the hallway, a foot propping open the laboratory door so his sterile hands could remain vertical, lest these instruments of genius be fouled. The pose was more out of routine than necessity, but old habits…
Too excited to wait for his lethargic partner, Dr. Leopold shot back into the lab and headed straight for Tiny and Tiger. He smiled proudly at the two rodents, knowing they would soon be recognized throughout the world for changing human life forever.
Sure enough, they were still expertly making their way around their respective mazes, no worse for wear after 48 straight hours with no sleep. Each time Dr. Leopold changed the maze, Tiny and Tiger would quickly find the correct path, completing the task and finding their reward.
“Still awake, are they?” asked Dr. Zucher, far less enthusiastically than his partner would have expected.
“Still awake? Still awake!? Doctor, they are not merely still awake, they are functioning at a higher level than any of their counterparts not on ZMT-1002 and with a full 12-hours sleep! Think of what this means for human productivity! A man spends a third of his life sleeping — why, if he can be as productive or more on no sleep at all, think of what he’ll accomplish!”
Dr. Leopold began pacing again while simultaneously rubbing his smooth head, a typical activity whenever serious thought took hold. The lab’s intense fluorescent lights seemed to mimic his thoughts, buzzing softly in the cold, sterile room. They shined mystically off the motion, offering a halo-like affect.
“Developing the drug took three years — why, we would have been done a year ago if we had access to ZMT. And think of what we could have accomplished in that year! Why, exponentially, this will speed up evolution threefold, fourfold, A HUNDREDFOLD! There is no telling what mankind will accomplish!”
He was shouting now, and hadn’t noticed that Dr. Zucher had left the laboratory. There was only one thing left to do — get it into the public’s hands and watch civilization march forward at warp speed.
One Year Later:
“Psh,” mumbled Dr. Leopold distractedly. “Not the least bit appropriate.”
“What’s that dear?” Mrs. Leopold semi-slurred from the love seat across from him.
“This picture your niece just posted.”
She lowered her glasses, reached clumsily for his phone and tilted it in the dark.
“Ah, I would agree. Posing like that in front of a war memorial. Quite disrespectful.” She went back to the television, its lights flicking lonely flashes across the wall. Her shadow raised a glass to its mouth.
“Were you going to do any sleeping tonight, dear?”
Mrs. Leopold looked at her watch, thinking. “I don’t believe so. I got almost two hours the day before last, that should tide me over.”
“I would think so. Going to get to those dishes tonight?”
“We’ll see. If not, there will be plenty of time tomorrow.”
He nodded, went back to his phone.
Two Years Later:
The Zucher’s were late, by almost six hours. Mrs. Leopold hadn’t noticed. In fact, it was probably a good thing, as not only had she not started dinner, she hadn’t yet gone to the store for ingredients. There was plenty of time for that.
Eventually, it was brisk raps on the front door that rousted her from the couch. She slowly picked her way to the foyer and let in their guests.
“Margaret, Doctor! So good to see you, please come in.”
She took their coats and moved to the side to allow entrance. Hurriedly, they came in from the cold morning, a hazy pink framing their chilled bodies.
“Thank you Mrs. Zucher. Is the bell out? We rang for quite a while.”
She pursed her lips, thinking.
“You know what, I believe you’re right. Dr. Leopold hasn’t had a chance to get around to fixing it just yet. Can I fix you a cocktail?”
“Please,” Mrs. Zucher said, smoothing her dress.
“Not for me,” Dr. Zucher said. His wife looked none too pleased.
“He just woke up,” she explained.
“Woke up? Today was your sleep day?” Mrs. Leopold asked behind foggy eyes.
“For him, every day,” Mrs. Zucher said.
“Tom, Margaret, good to see you!” called out Dr. Leopold from the living room. “Come in, let Helen make you a cocktail.”
“I’m fine, thanks Bill,” answered Dr. Zucher. “Margaret would love one.”
Dr. Leopold stood facing his guests, hands on hips. The grandfather clock in the dining room, for some time now displaying the incorrect time, ticked away furiously, the only sound for an uncomfortable beat. Then:
“Ah, still off the ZMT, are you?” roared Dr. Zucher with a friendly chuckle. “Just woke up, more than likely. Quite interesting that the co-inventor of such a revolutionary drug doesn’t use it. Still chooses to spend a third of his life unconscious.”
“I, um, enjoy my, ah, rest,” he finally stammered. They all enjoyed a quiet chuckle, and Mrs. Leopold led them into the nearly dark living room.
Three Years Later:
The laboratory door opened with an exaggerated creak, a puff of dust reminding Dr. Leopold just how long it had been since he had last entered his workspace. For a moment he felt guilty, but another thought quickly replaced that, allowing him to enter with a clean conscience.
The entire building had been abandoned some time the year prior; Dr. Leopold wasn’t sure when exactly, he had been locked away writing his memoirs (since abandoned, as people barely read any longer). Now, the cavernous building was hollow and damp.
He flicked a light switch. The lack of response could either have been due to the rolling blackouts or the absence of payment to the electric company. He reached into his breast pocket, removed a tin flask and took a generous nip. No work could be done now. There would be time for that later.
Four Years Later:
Large, heavy raindrops thudded rhythmically on and all around the mourners. No surface or shoulder was safe from the suffocating wetness. All the better, thought Dr. Leopold: the rain hid his tears.
Mrs. Zucher had no such worry. Her sobs came loud and regular, sanctioning their owner to steal the show. She clasped her husband’s arm tightly, letting out another moan. Dr. Zucher, for his part, stared straight ahead uncomfortably, into the hole that would soon hold his partner’s wife for eternity.
Five Years Later:
If the knock at the door was unexpected, the man at the other end certainly was.
“Dr. Zucher, come in, come in,” Dr. Leopold said excitedly. It had been exactly a year, at his wife’s funeral, since they had last seen one another.
“I will, thank you. Just wanted to see how you were getting along.”
He rubbed his head, opened his mouth several times before answering. “Fine. Getting along fine.”
“Doorbell’s still out, I see.”
He nodded, distracted. “So it is. I’ll get around to fixing it, I’m sure. Plenty of time for that.”