Remember that Twilight Zone episode when the annoying Patrick McNulty is fired for putting dopey suggestions in the office suggestion box? He goes to a bar, where people begin to leave, irritated by his personality. He buys a drink for a drunk, and in return the drunk gives him a stopwatch. It’s an odd gift, but even odder is the fact that that it actually stops time. Everything (except him) comes to a halt when he presses a certain part of the watch.
McNulty goes back to the office to try to show the boss who fired him the power of the stopwatch, thinking that if they could figure out how it works, they would be the biggest company on the planet. His boss isn’t interested – and doesn’t even let McNulty tell him his plan. McNulty departs in a snit. He goes off to rob a bank, but – uh-oh! He accidently drops the watch, breaking it and thereby freezing time permanently.
In the last scene we see him running off, alone in an utterly unmoving world, trying to figure out a way to fix the watch so time can start again.
We tend to see time as a linear experience. We’re born, our lives move forward in time as we grow old. We move from point A to B to C.
But when we talk about primal religions, the concept of time emerges as very different.
For example, aboriginal tribes regard time as an eternal now. It’s causal rather than chronological. The past is the Source, and is constant. We are all part of that source.
It’s hard to wrap our Western minds around that.
Harder still is the idea that all time exists at the same time, as though all events are spread out on a table, but a flashlight only shines on one object and then moves to another.
I also like to imagine that we’re walking backward into time, rather than forward. We’re always seeing, with utmost clarity, what has happened; and the future is unseeable, as though behind a curtain.
Write a story using an entirely different concept of time. Start from the end and conclude at the beginning.
Or have everything happen at the same time.
Or have two characters experience time differently.