Inside the generically-named Consolidated Enterprises, president Henry Judson is fanning himself with a newspaper which states NEW H-BOMB TEST TODAY. It is a hot town, summer in the city, the back of his neck feels dirty and gritty.
A woman walks into his office, correctly sizing him up as a guy who will do anything for big money. She offers Judson $100,000 to perform a job for her. She hands him a list of things she wants him to steal — Cezanne, Picasso, Van Gogh.
Naturally, he thinks this is impossible. She says that she can give him the means to pull off the job, which makes me wonder why she doesn’t just do it herself. Keen-eyed observers will have noticed that the fan that Judson relied on has been stopped since the woman entered his office. Also, the deafening noise from the street has turned to silence.
She points out to him how quiet it has become. He looks out the window and the world has stopped. This is how she will enable him to pull the heists. She has a device which creates a 5 foot range where time is greatly speeded up. The world outside the perimeter appears to be frozen.
She gives him a 2nd device for an accomplice, but says not to get within 5 feet of anyone or they will speed up too, and witness his theft.
That night Judson goes to see his friend Tony. He offers him $5,000 to be his accomplice, as 5/95 seems fair. Luckily for Tony, he also got a visit that day. He is to go to the public library with his “shopping list.” Tony pulls gun on Judson to steal his device. Judson is too fast and turns his device on; then he is waaaay too fast and walks out as Tony is frozen.
He goes to his other friend Jack Warden. He finds him in the bar and surprises him by freezing the bartender. Together, they loot the museum of various paintings, books and objet d’art. As they finish up, the woman reappears.
They go back to Judson’s office. He asks if he can keep the device, and the woman agrees. She is from 1,000 years in the future and has come to save the art from the impending H-Bomb test which will destroy the world. She says the bomb will go off in 1 minute.
He is caught in a great Catch-22. He can turn the device off and die in one minute with most of the rest of humanity. Or he can leave it on and be trapped on a frozen earth alone, never being able to speak to anyone. He has plenty of time to make up his mind — all the titular time in the world.
- Sponsored again this week by Masland, makers of the Carioca Carpet.
- Written by Arthur C Clarke. It aired the year before Childhood’s End was published.
- Similar to Twilight Zone’s A Kind of Stopwatch.