In my podcast this week, I read my story "Another Time, Another Place," recently published in The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, a companion volume to Chris Van Allsburg's classic Mysteries of Harris Burdick, a collection of illustrations and titles from a lost (imaginary) short story collection. I was commissioned to produce a story for the collection along with Sherman Alexie, M.T. Anderson, Kate DiCamillo, Jules Feiffer, Stephen King, Tabitha King, Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, Walter Dean Myers, Linda Sue Park, Louis Sachar, Jon Scieszka, Lemony Snicket, and Chris Van Allsburg.
Gilbert hated time. What a tyrant it was! The hours that crawled by when his father was at sea, the seconds that whipped past when he was playing a brilliant game in the garden with the Limburgher children. The eternity it took for summer to arrive at the beach at the bottom of the cliffs, the flashing instant before the winter stole over them again and father took to the sea once more.
"You can't hate *time*," Emmy said. The oldest of the three Limburghers, and the only girl, she was used to talking younger boys out of their foolishness. "It's just *time*."
Gilbert stopped pacing the treehouse floor and pointed a finger at her. "That's where you're wrong!" He thumped the book he'd taken out of his father's bookcase, a book fetched home from London, heavy and well-made and swollen with the damp air of the sea-crossing home to America. He hadn't read the book, but his tutor, sour Senor Uriarte, had explained it to him the day before while he was penned up inside watching the summer moments whiz past the study's windows. "Time isn't just time! Time is space! It's just a dimension." He thumped the book again for emphasis, then opened it to the page he'd marked with a wide blade of sawgrass he'd uprooted before, and chewed while Senor Uriarte explained time and space to him.
"See this? This is a point. That's one dimension. It doesn't have length or depth. It's just a dot. When you add another dimension, you get *lines*." He pointed at the next diagram with a chewed and dirty fingernail. "You can go back and you can go forward, you can move around on the surface, as though the world was a page. But you can't go up and down, not until you add another dimension." He pointed to the diagram of the cube, stabbing at it so hard his finger dented the page. "That's three dimensions, up and down, side to side and in and out."
Emmy rolled her eyes with the eloquence of a 13 year old girl whose tutor had already explained all this to her. Gilbert smiled. Em would always be a year older than him, but that didn't mean he would always be dumber than her.
"And Mr Einstein, who is the smartest man in the whole history of the world, he has proved — absolutely *proved* — that time is just *another dimension*, just like space. Time is what happens when you can go up and down, side to side, in and out, and *before and after*."
Em opened her mouth and closed it. Her twin brothers, Erwin and Neils, snickered at the sight of their sister struck dumb. She glared at them, then at Gilbert. "That's stupid," she said.