David was a Wednesday man. She was a Tuesday girl. In the year 2075 the human population of the World has increased by a factor of seven in about 50 years and has now reached around 50 billion. Because the planet is extremely over-populated the citizens of the Eden Region are constrained to living for only one day of each week. In the other six days each citizen is put inside a capsule where all atomic and subatomic activity in the body is suspended.
David only experiences Wednesdays. On that day he is awakened and released from his capsule in order to go to work. He walks along the platform, passing the capsules of people who live in different days of the week to him, and joins the queue to board the HS3 train which will take him, at 300 miles per hour, to the centre of Edintown, his nearest Smart City. David is a Government bureaucrat. He puts in a full day of processing data, sitting at a desk, that someone else will occupy the next day. He is not unhappy, but neither is he happy. He just gets on with his work and makes sure he gets back to his capsule before midnight.
David ultimately works for the Higher Beings who control all governments; but he is not aware of this as he has never been told. His educational background is in computer-programming and data-processing which allows him to serve The System. He experiences very little real human closeness, and has no significant other. At break-times, and in the evening, he sits in the Common Area and downloads his emotions from his Smart Pad which provides him with all his entertainment. David is reliable and a Good Citizen and should incrementally be promoted every two years to the next grade. This could bring him more credits allowing him to purchase higher-quality entertainment downloads.
David doesn’t know many people. He occasionally shares a coffee or two with some colleagues but he never really feels anything for them, or even knows anything about them. They mainly talk about their download packages and the characters in the videos. He has a brother who also lives on Wednesdays but he is in another Smart City and his HS3 Line does not go there. But, now and then he leaves him an audio message, just to keep in touch.
David sometimes wonders about what the other people are like, the ones who live in different days of the week to him, but he doesn’t dwell too much on this because he knows he will never meet any of them.
David has never been ambitious, but now, in his mid-thirties, he’s starting to wonder if he will ever meet a woman and perhaps fall in love, like the type of thing that happens in the Smart-Pad downloads. He’s never really paid any attention to anyone else around him, when he is waiting for his seat on the train, or when sitting on the train, other than just making sure he does not accidentally bump into anyone in case he has to start up a conversation which could get unpredictable and maybe he might risk breaking a Speech Code law or the like.
David is at the stage of life were he’s becoming a bit curious. His journey to the office is always the same, and his work does not challenge him in any way, he just does it. He has never really thought about this type of thing before, but it occurs to him that perhaps he needs a woman in his life. But the people on the platform, and on the train, never notice him as they are always glued to their Smart-Pads. And so each Wednesday, as he walks along the platform, he starts to pay more attention to those in the transparent capsules, that are lined along the platform, containing the suspended ones from other days of the week. He begins to take a keen interest in a Tuesday capsule with a woman standing inside who is roughly the same age a him. The capsule-name states her name is Lucy Swann. When David peers into the capsule, to see what she looks like, he has feelings which he cannot explain. He experiences an excited tingle and is drawn to the lady in the Tuesday capsule. It is almost as if he is feeling emotions coming from inside himself rather than the ones that come down through his Smart Pad.
David began to think about what life would be like if he actually lived on another day of the week. And, when making causal conversation with others, he discovered that some of them, the ones with an imagination, thought about this too. However, up until now, he didn’t really have any reason to move out of his own world, never mind move to another day of the week. Then his house burned down.
David awoke to look out of the door at the ashes and the fire-fighting robots. A robot motioned for him to stay inside. After fifteen minutes another fire-bot indicated that all was safe. He pressed the button by the door and it swung open to reveal a bed of ashes. He stepped outside and sunk down, ankle-deep. The ashes were still warm. He checked his Pad and it told him that a short-circuit had caused the fire. Around sixty other capsules had been affected. He was due to get to work by 8am and so the problem of getting somewhere else to live would have to be put off until after work hours. They all went to an emergency centre to eat. The government would be able to allocate him a capsule on the HS3 platform without too much trouble, he thought, as he was classed as a Key Worker.
That evening, David went to a Public Emergency Place. He slept for the required four hours while the inductive field speeded up his dreaming. He woke up and then stepped into an upright capsule of eternium. He stood there for ten seconds, gazing out, through the transparent door, at the other capsules, with their still figures, and then he pressed the button. Approximately ten seconds later he became unconscious. He had to spend three more days in the Public “Coffin” as people referred to them. On the fourth day he was notified on his Pad that he been allocated a capsule on the HS3 platform which could last for about a year, or he could wait in the Emergency Centre for a communal capsule-house to become available like he lived in before, but these only came up when someone died usually.
Five days, of the eight days of spring, had passed for David, the Wednesday man. Time was pacing on. He decided to go for a capsule on the train-platform and relinquish the chance of a place in a house with all the benefits of familiarity of faces and comfortable Common Areas. Hopefully he would get a Wednesday-capsule near to a bunch of Tuesday ones which may give him more time, before and after work, to have a look at Lucy Swann’s capsule. He knew many cases where people could spend a whole year, that is forty-eight days, in a Public Emergency Place, waiting for a permanent capsule. He sent a message on his Pad accepting a train-platform capsule. He moved in the next day, and had two days of spring still to enjoy.
David thought he might use some Off-Time in the next two days to buy some new clothes and perhaps become acquainted with Lucy’s capsule. Sometimes he wished he had never been born with an ability to be good at data processing because the Government made him work many more hours than a plumber; maybe twice as much, as they only put in about three days out of every seven.
There were sixty-three other tall-grey Wednesday-capsules surrounding his, but he was only interested in Lucy’s capsule. And so he found himself standing there, peering in through the transparent shell. There she was: Lucy had long black, slightly curly hair, a face that was gorgeous, and long slender legs. Wow! She was truly beautiful. Her lovely blue eyes were open as she stood there in suspension. She wore a silvery dress.
The Identity Plate on the top of the door gave her vital data: Lucy Swann. Born 2050 A.D. Edentown. Actress. Unmarried. Tuesday’s child.
That would make her 25 years old.
David felt sick in his stomach from a desire that could never be satisfied. Sick with her beauty?
He thought: For will in us is over-ruled by fate. Who ever loved, that loved not at first sight?
David looked at his Pad to catch a Newscast. They were talking about things that had been happening last Wednesday and today. The Speaker of the House was retiring after his term was up. Forget about Lucy, he said to himself, watch the News.
A Mrs Wilder had stabbed her husband, and herself, with a kitchen-knife. Both of them got put into permanent suspension for this. An investigation into a slowdown in data-processing in the county offices was taking place. The complaints were that Monday’s people were not properly setting up the computer algorithms for Tuesday’s operatives. The case was being referred to the proper authorities of both days. The Ganymede base reported that the Rings of Saturn were emitting definite pulses that did not seem to be random. The last five minutes of the Cast was dedicated to major events from other days of the week.
David looked into Lucy’s capsule. He felt sick again. Out of reach; never for him. Tuesday was only a day away. But, early this morning, Tuesday was only a few hours away. He touched the capsule. She stared at him. Her right forearm was angled to hold the strap of a large hand-bag. When the door opened, she would step out, ready to go.
Some people had their showers and fixed there faces before they went into their capsule so that when they stepped out later they would be ready for the day. He would like to step out of his capsule at the same time as her but he was prevented from doing this; but only by the Rules.
He turned away. He was acting like a sixteen-year old. He had been sixteen about one-hundred and six years ago, not that that made any difference. Physiologically he was in his mid-thirties. He had to drag himself away and get on the train to work. Perhaps he would dream of her, when in suspension, tonight.
If dreams were wish-fulfilments they would bring her to him. That night he slept, and Lucy did not come to him. He began to wonder what would happen if he did not go into his capsule before midnight. How would he feel? Would he be panicked?
All his life he had only known Wednesdays. He knew that it was against the Rules not to go into suspension, and if he attempted this, without having a reasonable excuse, he would be put on trial. If found guilty he would be put into permanent suspension; the same penalty for murder.
Sometimes people can have accidents and don’t get back to their capsule and they inadvertently change days. He asked someone, that this had happened to, about what is was like to move to a different day. He was told that it was pretty-much the same as before apart from the fact that he did not recognise anyone, but everything else seemed to be the same, more or less.
If he had been in a Tuesday, he could dodge his capsule and skip into the next day, Wednesday, before he was caught, but getting back to a previous day would be impossible just by oversight. If he didn’t go into suspension he’d move into Thursday which would be no use to him as she was a Tuesday child. But it could be done. It would take time and patience, but it could be done.
That night, at ten minutes to midnight, David was gazing into Lucy’s capsule. The intercom alarms were whooping. The Voice of Authority was instructing everyone to get into their capsules and it was reminding all Wednesday people of the penalties of non-compliance. Time for everyone to go on a six-day trip to oblivion before waking up on a Wednesday again. On the spur of the moment David decided to leave an audio message. He activated the microphone on Lucy’s panel, and said:
“Dear Miss Swann. My name is David and my capsule is near to yours. I am a data-processor working for the Government in an office in Edentown. I know this is presumptuous of me but I have never seen anyone so beautiful. No wonder you are an actress. You must have a talent to match your beauty. I would like to see some downloads of your shows. Would you please send some to my Pad inbox.” He then encoded his contact data into the message.
He played his message back. It was certainly bold enough, he thought. Too flowery or too pressing would have made her wary. He had commented on her beauty twice but not overstressed it. And the appeal to the pride in her acting would be difficult to resist, he assumed.
He whistled a bit on his walk back to his own capsule. Inside he pressed the button and looked at the time. Five minutes to midnight. The light on the huge screen at the Surveillance Centre would not be flashing for him. Ten minutes from now Thursday’s robot-police would take over from Wednesday’s. There was a ten-minute hiatus during the hand-over and this meant all hell could break loose. Sometimes it did. But a price had to be paid to maintain the walls of time.
David opened his eyes. His knees sagged a little and his head dropped a bit. The activation took a millionth of a microsecond from deep-suspension to being conscious. And the heart never knew that it had been stopped for such a long time. Even so, there was a little delay in the muscles’ response to a standing position. He pressed the button, opened the door, and it was as if the button had launched the day.
David stepped out and keenly walked to Lucy’s capsule. He tapped in his contact code on the panel. There was a message for him. A voice that was husky but also melodious said:
“Dear David, I’ve had a few messages from other days. It was fun to talk back and forth across the abyss between the worlds, if you don’t mind my exaggerating a little. But there is really no sense in it, once the novelty has worn off. If you become interested in the other person, you’re frustrating yourself. That person can only ever be a voice-recording and a cold, waxy face in a metal coffin. I wax poetic. Pardon me. If the person doesn’t interest you, why continue to communicate? There is no sense in either case. And I may be beautiful. Anyway, I thank you for the compliment, but I am also sensible.”
“I should just have not bothered to reply. But I want to be nice; I didn’t want to hurt your feelings. So please don’t leave any more messages.”
David waited while silence played. Maybe she was pausing for effect. Now would come a chuckle, or a low honey-throated laugh, and she would say, “However, I don’t want to disappoint my public and so I have sent you my latest downloads.” The silence stretched out. He walked away and entered a Dining Room for breakfast.
Rest time at work was between 14.40 and 14.45. David lay down on the narrow bunk and flicked the switch. Within a second he was asleep. He did dream of Lucy this time; she was a white shimmering figure floating out of the darkness and moving toward him. She looked even more beautiful than she had been in her capsule. David woke up at 14.45 and got on with his work.
He thought: This is ridiculous, I’m a grown man. Maybe … maybe I should see a psychrometric.
He would have to make a petition and perhaps wait about 300 days before a psychrometric would allocate time for him, if he was lucky. And if the psychrometric doesn’t work out, maybe he could petition another one and wait 600 days.
Petition. He slowed his thoughts down. Petition. What about a request, not to see a psychrometric, but to move? Why not? What did he have to lose? It would probably be turned down, but he could at least try.
Even obtaining a form for a request was not easy. David spent two non-work days at the Edintown Central Bureau before he got the proper forms. The first time he was handed the wrong form and so he had to start all over again. There was no queue set aside for those who wanted to change their days. There was not enough who wished to do this to justify a special queue. So he had to line up before the Miscellaneous Section of the Mobility Department of the Vital Transfer Division of the Interchange and Cross Transfer Bureau. None of these titles had anything to do with moving to another day.
When David got his form for the second time, he refused to move from first position in the queue until he had checked the actual serial-number of the document and asked the administrator to double-check for him. He ignored the mutterings, and the cries, coming from behind him. He then went to one side of the huge room and stood in another queue before the DNA analysers.
After two hours, he got to sit down at a small box-shaped machine, above which was a large screen. He inserted the form into the slot, looked at the projection of the form, and punched buttons in a sequence to mark the proper spaces opposite the proper questions. After that, he put his palm on a glass plate to confirm his identity. He was then required to say his name into a voice-recognition microphone. Now, all he had to do was to drop the authorised form into a slot and hope it did not get lost. Or hope he would not have to go through the same procedure because he had improperly punched the wrong test-sequence.
That evening, peering into Lucy’s capsule, he put his head against the hard metal and whispered to the calm face behind the door, "To go through all this, I must really love you. And I don't even think you know it. Worse still, if you did, you may not even care."
He leaned against the capsule and patted the door. "I tried not to think about you all evening” he thought. He then left another audio message for her, then wiped it out. What was the use? Besides, he knew that his speech was a little emotional, and he wanted to appear at his best for her. But why should he? What did she care for him?
David did care, and there was no reason or logic behind it. He was in love with this forbidden, untouchable, far-away-in-time, yet-so-near woman. It would soon be midnight. By then David was standing inside his capsule, dreaming.
Three days later, now well into winter, he received a message on his Pad. It was the reply to his request to move to Tuesday.
Explanation: he had no reasonable reason to move.
That was true. But how could he give his real motive? That would have been even less impressive than the one he had actually given. He had typed into the box opposite No. 11.
REASON: TO GET INTO AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE MY DATA-PROCESSING TALENTS COULD BE BETTER DEVELOPED.
He cursed and he raged. Surely it was his civil-right to move into any day he pleased? Or, it should be his right. So what if a move caused a lot of effort. So what if it required a transfer of his I.D. and all of his life-records from the moment of his birth? So what!
But, he could rage all he wanted to, and it would not change a thing. He was stuck in the world of Wednesday.
Not yet, he grumbled. Not yet. There is no limit to the number of requests I can make. I'll just send out another. They won’t wear me out. Not me. I’m going to wear them out! Me against the System. Man against the machine. Man against the hard cold Rules.
The twenty days of winter speeded by. The eight days of spring went by in a flash. And it was summer again. On the third day of the twelve days of summer, he received a reply to his second request.
It stated that if he thought he would be better off psychologically in Tuesday, because his astrologer had said so, then he would have to get a psychrometric critique of his astrologer's report.
David jumped into the air and clicked his heels together. Thank God; thank God that he lived in an age that respected astrologers! Astrology was seen as a necessity and it was legalised and honoured. And laws had been passed, and because of that, David had a chance.
David walked down to Lucy’s capsule and kissed the door. He told her the good news. She did not respond, though he thought he saw her eyes brighten just a little. That was, of course, maybe only in his imagination, but he liked his imagination.
Getting a psychro for a consultation, and getting through the three sessions required, took another year, another forty-eight days. Doctor Stanley Remington was a friend of Doctor Brooker, the astrologer, and so that made things easier for David.
"I've studied Doctor Brooker’s chart carefully and analysed your obsession for this woman," he said. "I agree with Doctor Brooker that you will always be unhappy in Wednesday, but I don't quite agree with him that you will be happier in Tuesday. However, you have this thing going for this Miss Swann, so I think you should go to Tuesday. But only if you sign papers agreeing to see a psychro there for extended therapy."
Only later did David realise that Doctor Remington might have wanted to get rid of him only because he had too many patients. But maybe that was an uncharitable thought. He had to wait while the proper papers were transmitted to Tuesday’s authorities. His battle was only half-won. The other officials could turn him down. And if he did get to his goal, then what? She might reject him without giving him a second chance. It was unthinkable, but she could. He caressed the door of her capsule and then pressed his lips against it.
The psychro said that he was incapable of a true and lasting bond with a woman, as so many men were in this world of downloaded emotions. His report said that David had fallen in love with Lucy Swann for several reasons. She may have resembled somebody he had loved when he was very young, perhaps. The deep, and important, truth was that he loved Miss Swann because she could never reject him, kick him out, or become tiresome, complain, weep, yell, insult, and so forth. He loved her because she was unattainable and silent.
I'll come down to your area tonight and take a look at this fabulous beauty, Doctor Remington said to David. He appeared there immediately after supper, and David took him over to view Lucy’s capsule.
The doctor stood for a long time in front of the capsule. He hmmmed several times and checked her data-plate with his records.
Then he turned and said, "I see what you mean. Very well. I'll give the go-ahead."
"Ain't she something?" David said. "She's out of this world!”
"Very beautiful. But I believe that you are facing a great disappointment, perhaps heartbreak, maybe even madness, much as I hate to use that unscientific term."
"I'll take the chance," David said. "I know I sound nuts, but where would we be if it weren't for nuts? Look at the man who invented the Web, at Bill Gates, at Isaac Asimov, at Da Vinci, you name them."
"You can hardly compare these pioneers of progress, and their passion for humanity, with you and your desire to marry a woman. But, as I have observed, she is quite beautiful. But that makes me very cautious. Why isn't she married? What's wrong with her?"
"For all I know, she may have been married ten times!" David says. "But she isn't now! Maybe she is waiting for the right man to come along. Maybe …"
"There's no maybe about it, you've lost the plot," Remington says. "But I consider that it would be more dangerous for you not to go to Tuesday than it would be to go there.
"Then you'll say yes!" David says, grabbing Doctor Remington’s hand and shaking it.
"Perhaps. I have some doubts."
The doctor had a faraway look. David laughed, released his hand, and slapped the doctor on the shoulder. "Admit it! You were really struck by her! You'd have to be dead not to!"
"She's ok,” the doctor said. "But you must think about this. If you do go to Tuesday and she turns you down, you might dive off into the deep end, much as I hate to use such a non-scientific phrase."
"No, I won't. I won’t be any worse off, Doctor. I’ll be better off, in fact. Because, at least I'll get to see her in the flesh."
Spring and summer flew by. Then, a morning came that David would never forget, the Official letter of acceptance. With it, there were instructions on how to get to Tuesday. They were simple enough to follow. He was to make sure that the technicians came to his capsule sometime during the day to re-adjust the timer within the base. He did not tell anyone else about this.
That evening, his heart beating hard, he opened the door to his capsule. Others had found out by then; he had been unable to keep the business to himself. Actually, he was glad that other people knew. They seemed happy for him and wished him luck.
An acquaintance found out that he had been going to see Doctor Remington. "He's a very influential man. Some say he's even got influence on other days. He edits the Psychro Digest, you know, one of the few Smart Pad periodicals read by most professions" his friend informed him.
David said to his friend that he was glad he had gotten Remington. Perhaps he had used his influence to get the Tuesday authorities to get his request processed so swiftly. The walls between these worlds were seldom broken, but it was suspected that the very influential did it when they pleased.
Now, quivering, he stood before Lucy’s capsule again. The last time, he thought, that I'll see her in suspension. Next time, when he wakes up on Tuesdays, she'll be warm, colourful and touchable … at last.
The technicians had been and gone. His capsule was adjusted to wake him up now only on Tuesdays. He stepped inside his capsule, closed the door, and pressed the button. He would keep his eyes open, so that …
He woke up. And today was Tuesday. Though the view was exactly the same, it was like being on another planet. He pushed open the door and stepped out. He saw several people whose faces he knew and names he had read on their plates. But he did not know them to speak to. He nodded his head to them and said hello while he walked over to Lucy’s capsule. And then he stopped. Lucy’s capsule was gone.
He seized the nearest man by the arm.
"Where's Lucy Swann?" he demanded of this stranger.
"Let go. You're hurting me. She's gone. To Wednesday," was the reply.
"Sure. She'd been trying to get out of here for a long time. She had something about this day being unlucky for her. She was unhappy, that's for sure. Just two days ago, she said her application had finally been accepted. Apparently, some Wednesday psychro had used his influence. Lucy became obsessed by this guy David from Wednesday and was impressed by his warm voice and his data-processing credentials. She was just an actress for the downloads you see but this guy David held an important position in the Government and he was drop-dead gorgeous too she would often say, to anyone that would listen.”
The people and the buildings surrounding David seemed distorted. Time was bending itself this way and that. He wasn't in Wednesday; he wasn't in Tuesday. He wasn't in any day. He was stuck inside himself at some crazy date that should never have existed.
"She can't do that!"
"She just did that!" was the reply. “She moved to Wednesday to meet you, the data-processing guy with the gorgeous voice.”
"But… you can't transfer more than once!"
"That's her problem."
It was his, too.
"I should never have brought that Quack to look at her!" David said. "The swine! The unethical swine! He’s stolen her from me!”
David stood there for a long time, and then he went into the communal Dining Area. It was the same environment, if you discounted the people. Later, he went to the Office to get on with some more data-processing. He watched the Smart Pad News Cast that night. The Prime Minister of the land had a different name and face, but the words of her speech could have been those of Wednesday’s PM. Earlier on he was introduced to his new work-colleagues; there faces were not familiar but they looked the same as his previous co-workers
The only real difference here was that Lucy was gone, and oh, what a world of difference that made to him.