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I'm trying to track down a science fiction short story I read 20+ years ago that is based on the notion that the passage of time isn't just us moving from the past into the future, but rather literally moving from one universe (or reality / dimension) to another. There was a notion that the movement from one universe to the next was on some time interval (minute, hour, day), though I don't recall. Each new universe was built (or prepared / manufactured) by some beings or higher power.

My recollection is that the story was at its core an explanation for why people sometimes seemed to lose an item that would then reappear later. In this case, the item wasn't lost or misplaced; rather the "missing" item was simply forgotten by the beings that built that version of the universe (aka a "glitch").

I want to say that it was written by a famous author though I'm not sure that is true.

It's a bit like this Short fantasy about disappearing items - Asimov's early 1980s though the characters don't have any control over the disappearing items. Instead it's more like, I left my brush on the counter yesterday and it's not there today. Though tomorrow it will be found in the place it was supposed to be.

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. It's not the story where people accidentally end up in a moment that hasn't finished being constructed yet, is it?
    – DavidW
    Oct 19, 2023 at 2:23
  • Could be, do you have a title, author or link to the story?
    – Thaedron
    Oct 19, 2023 at 3:30
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    I was thinking of "Yesterday was Monday" as Andrew posted below. But I re-read it and there's nothing in it about lost or misplaced items.
    – DavidW
    Oct 19, 2023 at 3:52

2 Answers 2

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This may be Yesterday Was Monday by Theodore Sturgeon

In this story, a man wakes up a bit too early, and find that the little people who set the stage for each day are still at work on the set for the new day.

Here is an excerpt of the story

On the steps a little fellow, just over three feet tall, was gently stroking the third step from the top with a razor-sharp chisel, shaping up a new scar in the dirty wood. He looked up as Harry approached, and stood up quickly.

“Hi,” said Harry, taking in the man’s leather coat, his peaked cap, his wizened, bright-eyed little face. “Whatcha doing?”

“Touch-up,” piped the little man. “The actor in the third floor front has a nail in his right heel. He came in late Tuesday night and cut the wood here. I have to get it ready for Wednesday.”

“This is Wednesday,” Harry pointed out.

“Of course. Always has been. Always will be.”

There was a notion that the movement from one universe to the next was on some time interval (minute, hour, day), though I don't recall. Each new universe was built (or prepared / manufactured) by some beings or higher power

Iridel threw up his long hands. “My, you actors are stupid. Now listen carefully. This is Act Wednesday, Scene 6:22. That means that everything you see around you here is being readied for 6:22 a.m. on Wednesday. Wednesday isn’t a time; it’s a place. The actors are moving along toward it now. I see you still don’t get the idea. Let’s see . . . ah. Look at that clock. What does it say?”

This arrangement would certainly explain missing items, too.

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Possibly Anachron by Damon Knight?

Brother Number One invents a machine that can extract things and place things in elsewhen, but only if the acts don’t interfere with free will; Brother Number Two tries to steal the machine.

By God and all the saints,” he said. “Time travel.”
Harold snorted impatiently. “My dear Peter, ‘time’ is a meaningless word taken by itself, just as ‘space’ is.”

“But barring that, time travel.”

“If you like, yes.”

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