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I read this story years ago in a very old magazine, so it is written 1990 or earlier. It was a Bulgarian magazine from the 80s, printing translated stories, probably космос or наука и техника за младежта. I have no idea where the original could first have been printed, but I am quite sure that it wasn't one of the thinly veiled propaganda stories by local journalists, and also nothing by the renowned domestic sci-fi autors like Wezhinow.

There is a high chance that the story has been American in origin. It had a Western feel, and I think that American stories were the most popular with those magazines even back then.

The plot was about a society where everything is done by the clock, in a very exaggerated manner. Everybody has to be punctual to the second. One day, the hero oversleeps a ridiculously short amount of time and catches the next bus to work. There he learns that he has lost his job for being late, and his flat has been rented to somebody else because he now has no salary, etc. The friendly government machine tells him where to go to be helped. It turns out to be the highest building in the city, and he is allotted 15 minutes to jump. He stands there and thinks about his life instead, and hears the elevator bringing the next one.

I'd like to know the title and the author. I don't think it was a sci fi magazine, more likely a popular science magazine including one science fiction story per edition. But I have no more information, and my grandmother has probably thrown away all these magazines from my aunt's youth.

  • 2
    Reminiscent of "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman by Harlan Ellison – A.D Jun 4 '12 at 19:10
  • I have not found a definite answer, but the mention of Harlan Ellison's story reminded me the recent [In Time][1] movie and his lawsuit against it, so I did a bit of checking to see if they credit any influences, but nothing seems to match up. [1]: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Time – FuzzyBoots Apr 13 '14 at 15:53
  • I am still not happy with the existing answer... but I haven't come up with anything myself either. – FuzzyBoots Aug 11 '14 at 11:24
  • Man... this one keeps coming back. We need someone Bulgarian to help us. – FuzzyBoots Oct 2 '14 at 22:38
16
+50

The author is Орлин Крумов (Orlin Krumov) and the title of the story is Три минути за вашето самоубийство translated to Three Minutes for Your Suicide. The story was written in 1988 and was found in one of the stories from Списание „Наука и техника за младежта“, №472 (Magazine "Science and technology for the youth", no 472). The short story is available here: http://chitanka.info/text/29645-tri-minuti-za-vasheto-samoubijstvo

The following are Bing translations of parts of the story:

Examples of how scheduled time is:

"Minute to strip off his clothes, five, to get their hands on customer satisfaction and a minute to get dressed again. The next couple waited their turn outside the door.

Two out, trapped under his arm. Sun, down low over the horizon, shone in their eyes, and this is repeated every day at the serene this time of year, right this minute. They looked at their watches. They had another twenty minutes – enough time to drink a coffee. "

.........

The man was not late getting up, but was actually robbed, which cost him a few minutes and he missed the bus. When he arrived at work:

"The boss made a step towards him, to intercept him.

— Late..., said the young man. — A man robbed me..?

— Your job is already taken.

Viktor bowed his head and walked away. "


After the guys life gets worse and worse, including losing his job, the story ends exactly as @rumtscho stated:

"With uncertain step he walked toward the building. After a minute in the dusky corridor, he opened the door of the elevator and pressed the button for the top floor. His eyes slid over the metal plate on which was written the following message:

"ATTENTION!

The municipality granted you three minutes of your suicide.

The trip to the roof lasts for one minute, you have two minutes, therefore, for everything else.

Follow the instruction!

Any deviation will disrupt the rhythm of others like you.

THANK YOU! "

Then there are others, Victor thought. And one by one we are excluded from the game.

The last thought was like a knife through his body. He sat on a step, fearing to look toward the door to the roof.

There are others, he said. Together maybe we fight with the minutes, against instructions, and those who have created them and ...

Time flowed, minutes galloped without someone to come. Victor waited, looks at the arrow on his watch. A minute or two, ten!

The young man got up and walked over to the low door leading to the roof. Nudged it, took a step and stopped. Took a deep breath and did the second step. Then stopped in his tracks.

Down below, the door of the elevator closed with a loud rattle.

The next one is coming."

  • Yes! This is it. I don't know how you managed to find it, but you must have some great searching skills. – rumtscho Oct 3 '14 at 6:12
  • You can thank @gilles for bringing this to my attention with the bounty, and Bing translation software for allowing me to browse numerous Bulgarian sites with relative ease. That, and how interesting and unique the story was. – Firebat Oct 3 '14 at 6:26
  • I don't know what search term I used to search back when I posted the question, but even though I must have searched directly in Bulgarian, I didn't find anything back then. But yes, I should embrace bounties more readily. I forget that there are sites where they matter. As for the story being so unique, I guess that's what made it stick in my head for over 15 years. – rumtscho Oct 3 '14 at 6:28
1

Your description sounds close but not exact to Harlan Ellison's "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman. It was written in the 60s and has been translated many times.

  • 4
    Other than being about time, there's not relation at all, no man committing suicide on schedule for flats being rented out. – FuzzyBoots Apr 13 '14 at 15:50

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