Gathering her shawl close against the cold February wind, Emma Delaney walked up the steps of the Pennsylvania Institute for Astrosciences. Her co-director stood there waiting for her. “Where have you been?” Kevin LeJeune demanded. “I called you three times.”
Emma checked her wristwatch and silently counted, 3…2…1… “It is eight o’clock sharp,” she said. On cue, her phone started buzzing. “What’s so urgent?”
“You need to check the news in the morning.” Kevin said. “We lost Tuesday.”
In her office, Emma turned on her computer. “So all clocks jumped forward one day?”
“Not just clocks. The sun, the moon, planets, everything,” Kevin said. “Monday night, exactly midnight U.S. Eastern Time. You didn’t notice anything?”
“I was asleep. You’re the night owl.”
“Usually I am. Not yesterday, though. Monday is cinema club night. I watched a movie with some friends, and was in bed before midnight.”
“What about the rest of the world?”
“Everybody lost twenty-four hours, at the exact same time.”
Emma quickly scanned messages on the AstroNet. “It doesn’t seem possible. Earth moved a day forward without anyone being aware of it.”
Kevin was pacing. “And there were no signs or portents. None we could find.”
“What a surprise.”
“Hey, astrology is not an exact science.”
Emma snorted. “Science, right.”
“Yes, science. The sixty-three percent prophecy accuracy of my department is world-class. Besides, I don’t remember you astronomy guys predicting this.”
Touché. “Do we have any evidence that the time actually passed?” she asked.
“You mean mass hypnosis? Who would be powerful enough to put the whole world to sleep?”
It did sound ridiculous. “A god?”
“Hm.” Kevin took his phone and started typing rapidly. For a moment, Emma watched his thumbs wiggle, then she turned back to her computer and tuned him out. They needed more data.
Five minutes later, Emma snapped back to the present. “It probably wasn’t a god,” Kevin said. “I just chatted with a friend of mine who is a priestess of Hypnos.”
“I don’t think I am familiar with the gentleman.”
“He’s the Greek god of sleep. He also goes by the name Somnus.”
“I thought the god of sleep was called Morpheus?”
“That’s his son. Morpheus is AWOL, but Hypnos is around, and my friend is on good footing with him.”
“And Hypnos says it wasn’t him. They don’t think it was a sleep spell at all.”
Emma’s computer pinged to announce an incoming email. No new data. They had to keep looking.
One skipped Tuesday is an anomaly. There were adverse effects, such as travelers not arriving at planned destinations because their flights never left the ground. Students missed exams. Factories didn’t produce goods. On the more serious side, scheduled surgical procedures weren’t carried out. But overall, most people enjoyed the short work week, and life went on.
Except it happened again the week after.
This time, people, and cameras, were watching for it. Nobody could see any time breaks at all. The twenty-four hours were just missing.
After the fourth Tuesday, people grew worried. March was the beginning of the planting season in the Northern Hemisphere. How would the missing days affect the plants? What about ecological balance? And what would happen with the tidal effects of the moon?
As expected, the heaviest clashes were between businesses and their workers. When contracts were for a fixed number of hours per week, that meant either working Saturdays, or longer shifts if people wanted to keep their weekend. Emma opted for Saturdays. The work had to be done, and she enjoyed it anyway.
On Monday evening before the fifth potentially missed Tuesday, Kevin came running into Emma’s office. “Have you seen Mars around lately?” he asked.
Mars? Most gods were elusive, but the Roman god of war generally loved publicity. “I don’t think so.”
“Exactly!” Kevin said. “I haven’t seen him, either, and neither has anyone at the news organizations I talked to. And there have been no recent armed conflicts.”
“Why is that relevant?”
“His buddy Tyr is also missing. The Norse god of war.”
Oh. She sat up straight. “Tyr’s day. Tuesday. That’s Mars’ day in Romance-speaking countries. If the war gods are missing…”
“That might explain the missing Tuesdays!”
“What about other cultures?”
Before Kevin could answer, his phone rang. “Hello? Yes, I’ve been looking for Mars.” His face fell. “Oh. He is? Yes. No, I don’t want to leave a message for him. Thank you.”
“Let me guess,” Emma said. “Somebody found him?”
“He was never lost, he was on vacation somewhere in Africa. Damn! Another dead-end lead. Oh well, it’s late, I’m off to Monday cinema club.”
Emma didn’t normally care for the sort of movies Kevin watched, but he looked so disappointed, she decided to be nice today. “What will you be watching?” she asked.
The title sounded familiar. “Is that one where the protagonist relives one day over and over?”
“It is. We’ve been watching it every week. It seemed appropriate.”
Interesting. “Every week? Since when?”
“This year? Since February, the evening before the real Groundhog Day. A bunch of cinema clubs in the U.S. wanted to start an annual tradition.”
She stared at him. Then she typed a query into her computer. She nodded.
“What?” Kevin asked.
“Which day of the week does the hero in the movie relive?”
He paused. “They don’t mention it in the movie. But most fans think … oh.”
“No way,” Kevin said. “It’s just a movie!”
“And how many people in your cinema clubs have been watching at the very same time? That’s how magic happens. The extra Tuesdays have to come from somewhere.”
Kevin sighed. “I’ll make a few phone calls.”
“Will they listen to you?” Emma asked.
“They will. They love our horoscopes. Sixty-three percent prophecy accuracy, remember?”
The next morning, every news outlet had the same headlines: “TUESDAY IS BACK!” And, “United Nations Consider Banning Public Viewing of Popular US Fantasy Comedy”.