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Missing Time

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Quite simply— When a character's life seems to 'jump'. They are at work and then suddenly they are at home, with no memories of what happened in between. Sometimes the memories will come back in the form of flashbacks.

This can happen for many reasons— memory damage, aliens, trauma, possession, or multiple personalities, just to name a few.

Truth in Television, black outs, that is alcohol-induced amnesia, have let many people hear great stories about themselves after they woke up in completely different places for decades. Also occurs in those that have Dissociative Identity Disorder, waking up to find themselves in different places then they originally were doing something completely different from what they last recall.


What Did I Do Last Night? is the lighter and/or more comedic version of this trope, usually related to drinking too much (see also Binge Montage). See also Alternate Identity Amnesia, a supernatural cause for Missing Time.

Differs from other amnesia tropes in that only a few minutes or hours goes missing. Compare Time Skip.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Lupin III: Sweet Lost Night,note  Lupin loses 12 hours, waking up in the middle of a busy street, with Fujiko complaining that he betrayed her. Half of the movie deals with Lupin trying to figure out what had happened in these twelve hours, and what to do if it happens again.
  • It's implied that this happens to Bakura in Yu-Gi-Oh! whenever he gets possessed by his dark side. It's very obvious that this is the case when Yami Bakura suddenly relinquishes control during his duel with Yugi in the second season. Poor Bakura is completely bewildered, having suddenly woken up on top of a blimp with a bleeding arm, with apparently no idea how he got there and why. Also, this happened to Yugi during the early volumes of the manga whenever he got possessed by the puzzle.
  • In Trigun, Vash the Stampede has a bit of a problem with this whenever his more high-level powers get unlocked, until he learns to do it on purpose. Since both this incidents involve psychic powers being used to make him blow up a city with his right arm, which transforms into a BFG for the purpose, it's unclear whether the cause of these gaps is the psychic trauma, the emotional trauma, or the physiological trauma. Or the combination.
  • Anya in Code Geass suffers from this periodically, and has made it a habit of keeping a blog of pictures from her daily activities so she knows what she has been doing. This is revealed to be a result of Marianne actively possessing her body, during which Anya has no memories.

    Comic Books 
  • In Animal Man #19, the title character, as he gradually approaches Medium Awareness, wonders why his life seems so episodic and fragmentary:
    What if we're just characters and not people? [...] A few months ago, or maybe it was a year or more, my wife was attacked and almost raped in the woods. There were four guys. What happened to them? [...] Why was there no trial? [...] Why is my life disconnected? One minute I'm at home, the next I'm in the Faroe Islands or in Paris and I think I remember how I got there but I don't really know.
  • The only evidence of the Secret Wars (2015) is that everyone is missing eight months of time.

    Fan Works 
  • Dave in Brainbent experiences this, and in one particularly frightening instance cuts his hand while home alone and then loses time, meaning he could have bled to death and not even known it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Evan in The Butterfly Effect loses time when he uses Mental Time Travel to go back to events in his childhood.
  • In Inception, this is one of the signs you're in a dream: you can't remember how you got into a particular situation.
  • Mentioned in the beginning of Fight Club (Both book and movie). This is later explained in The Reveal.
  • In The Hangover, the main characters awake in the daytime after taking a group drink at night on top of a Las Vegas hotel. Finding out what happened, including finding the missing character, is the main thrust of the movie.
  • Adam Sandler's Click had this happen when the main character used his magic remote to "fast forward" himself past things he didn't like. He got put on autopilot while he did so.
  • In Like Flint. While playing golf with the U.S. President, Z.O.W.I.E. chief Lloyd Cramden uses his stopwatch to time the President's golf swing. When he checks the watch, he finds that the swing took 3 minutes. His investigation of the missing 3 minutes leads to the discovery of a plan to take control of the minds of women all over the world and put a nuclear sword of Damocles in orbit around the Earth.
  • Aaron Stampler in Primal Fear mentions that he "loses" time over his childhood. Subverted.
  • Thanks to copious drug use, Abe in Kid Detective (2020) frequently doesn't know what time or day of the week it is. This causes problems when he forgets that it is the weekend and thinks people will be at work, and instead finds them at home when he is snooping around their houses.
  • This is something that the title character must deal with in the domestic drama Regarding Henry, starring Harrison Ford. When Henry survives a gunshot wound to the head, the resulting pinched artery affects his memory. Cue the rest of the movie depicting him coming to terms with not remembering anything about his life before the shot.
  • This happens to Eddie in Limitless when he starts taking too much NZT.
  • A comedic example in Siren (2016), the group are asked to pay for their night out with a memory, they close their eyes, the music swells... and Mr. Nyx cheerfully tells them it's done. Later, it's revealed that they were really out of it for a couple of minutes.

  • Chrysalis (RinoZ): Whenever Sarah taps into her asura and becomes The Berserker, she will fight until there's nothing left to fight, then fall unconscious and wake without remembering exactly what she did. Since she fights out of fear, rather than actual desire for violence, and she knows that she's unable to tell friend from foe in her berserk state, this can be quite stressful for her.
    Anthony: [Hey Sarah. Welcome back to the world of the waking.]
    Sarah: [Wait! What happened!? Is everyone okay?!]
  • Robert A. Heinlein's novella "The Unpleasant Profession Of Jonathan Hoag": The title character experiences missing time every time he goes to work — everything between leaving home in the morning and returning in the evening is a blank. He hires a private detective to find out what it is he actually does.
  • In The Wheel of Time, Mat Cauthon stumbles into a town that has been inexplicably cursed with a very specific form of societal breakdown: everyone loses control over himself at sundown, kills other people and is killed, then wakes up in his bed with no memory of what just happened. Every. Single. Night. When people try to leave, or kill themselves, they just wake up in bed the next morning.
  • In Lois Duncan's Down a Dark Hall, the girls in the school are possessed by ghosts randomly, and they have don't remember anything that happens while possessed.
  • This is apparently what Ginny's possession in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets looked like from her end, based on her account from three books later: "When he did it to me, I couldn't remember what I'd been doing for hours at a time. I'd find myself somewhere and not know how I got there."
  • Under the Volcano is a stream-of-consciousness novel from the point of view of several characters. One of them is a severely sodden alcoholic, and his sections contain much confusion and some unexpected leaps in time.
  • Short story "Sign Among the Stars". Mike and Molly Carson are at a military Research Base when Battle Stations is sounded and "Emergency Plan X" is activated. They're told to go home and they start to do so, but then lose control of their minds. They wake up the next morning having no memory of what happened. They're told that Emergency Plan X involves broadcasting a hypnoray to all children in the area that mesmerises them and makes them go home as quickly as possible.
  • In the Star Trek: Millennium trilogy, it's revealed that neither Odo, Quark nor Garak can recall what happened the night of the Cardassian withdrawal from Terok Nor. It's a classic case of missing time. Quark is the only one who will admit it, though. His attempt to find answers irritates Odo and Garak, who refuse to discuss or acknowledge that they're in the same situation.
  • One of the first things that clues the protagonists of False Memory off that something's wrong is small episodes of missing time. Eventually, they figure out that time was used by their psychiatrist to brainwash them, implanting phobias and using them as toys and tools.
  • Bone Dance starts the plot with its protagonist, Sparrow, coming up from the latest of several inexplicable episodes of missing time. It eventually develops that one of a group of legendary Body Snatchers known as the Horsemen has been taking Sparrow's body for a ride.
  • William Prior of The Regeneration Trilogy spends part of the second volume suffering from PTSD-induced memory loss that's developing into borderline Dissociative Identity Disorder. One of the few fictional works to address the fact just how absolutely terrifying this must be from the sufferer's perspective.
  • Suffered by Dave at one point in John Dies at the End.
  • In Galaxy of Fear, Tash once hits her head. Her memory of the past hour or so becomes blurry, so she has some doubt about if she's a Tomato in the Mirror.
  • Fear, the pulp horror story by L. Ron Hubbard starts with a professor who realises he's missing both his hat and memories of the past four hours. Despite warnings he investigates; it doesn't end well for him.
  • Feline Therapy has focal character Izzy transformed into a cat on their birthday, and unwilling to immediately return to normal. When their humanity is eventually regained, and memories of their transformation are foggy, they are informed that an entire year has passed.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Medium Alison is possessed by a ghost which causes her to not have any memories while the ghost is in control.
  • Eli Stone gets this in the first season finale, which is how he realizes he's in a coma-induced hallucination.
  • House:
    • Happens to one of the vict—- patients of the week.
    • Happens in the Season 2 finale when House himself, while walking down a stairs, realizes he can't remember what happened between being in his office and walking down the stairs. Some have interpreted this as House gaining temporary Medium Awareness, as the show cuts directly from the office to the stairs; the interim is not depicted.
  • Sometimes happens in association with UFOs and other phenomena in The X-Files. In the first episode, Mulder is ecstatic when he and Scully lose nine minutes while investigating alien abductions.
  • Happens to Sharon Valerii onboard the Battlestar Galactica, when her Cylon programming kicks in, leading to her sabotage the ship's water tanks without realising it.
  • Happens to Dr. Brennan on Bones, after she gets attacked by a criminal of the week and framed for murder. She believes it's some sort of mental effect naturally, while Booth thinks it's voodoo at work.
  • Happens to Fred Ade-Williams in Season 4 of Tinsel.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In an episode, Riker gets infected by an amnesia-inducing virus and comes to 16 years later with no memory of the previous decade and a half, during which time he's become captain of the Enterprise, married, and had a son. Subverted when this turns out to be a Faked Rip Van Winkle orchestrated by a lonely alien boy.
    • Happens a few other times on TNG (at least!). Once, Riker and others are sedated at night, pulled into an alternate dimension, operated on, and returned before morning, causing them to wonder where the night went, and why they're so tired. Happened to Data as well during the day, which helped the crew realize something was wrong — as an android, it should be impossible for him to lose track of time.
    • Happens again to the Crew of the Enterprise-D in Clues, they find that a whole day seems to be missing and Data is acting very strangely and disobeying orders.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise. The crew rescue Rajiin, an alien being kept as a Sex Slave. She tries to show her gratitude to the captain, only for this trope to happen instead. Turns out she's actually a spy who can physically scan a person, then remove memories of her doing this.
  • In Hannibal, Will Grahams starts losing time as his mental health deteriorates. He's even more disturbed to discover that during these periods he acts so much like he normally does that an entire team of experienced FBI workers didn't notice anything wrong the first time. It turns out the real reason is physical neurological damage due to encephalitis, but Hannibal makes him believe it's purely psychological.
  • Supernatural
    • In "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part One" (S02, Ep21), the trope is Played Straight for Sam who wakes up the next day in Cold Oak, South Dakota. But it is a Subverted Trope for Ava, who pretends not to realize that 5 months have passed, so that the others will not realize what she has become.
    • Played for Black Comedy when Dean is apparently abducted by a UFO. On his return he's rather annoyed to find Soulless Sam in bed with a Girl of the Week instead of desperately searching for his missing brother. Sam has to explain that Dean has been gone all night, not just for the past hour as he believes.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Happens to Donna in "Forest of the Dead" while she's stuck in a virtual reality. Though in her case, time really DOES jump: she experiences the cuts between different locations, and people just tell her that it's her memory playing tricks.
    • Unexplained skips are a frequently clue that a character has suffered memory alteration of some sort. It's particularly noticeable in Season 6 of the new series, when the Doctor and companions face off against the Silents, beings that erase your memory of them the instant you are no longer looking at them. This is played for copious Paranoia Fuel toward the end of the season, with characters abruptly realizing that they've moved, or fought, with no memory of having done so.
  • The Twilight Zone (2002): In "Time Lapse", an orderly finds himself suffering repeated blackouts where another consciousness takes over his body and travels out of the state, acquiring a weapon to be used in an apparent assassination of the U.S. President. The other person is in fact a Secret Service Agent who was trying to stop a plot to kill the President, but ended up in a coma and discovered that he could project his mind into a nearby body.
  • Once Upon a Time does this a few times thanks in part to several castings of the Dark Curse, which are often laced with Laser-Guided Amnesia.
    • The second half of Season 3 is built around this premise, with a second Dark Curse cast with the main cast having no idea what happened during the year they were back in the Enchanted Forest. The flashback B-plots often fill in what happened during this missing year before the endgame of the season reveals that Snow White cast the Dark Curse in order to reach Emma, but the Arc Villain threw in a forgetting potion to ensure they don't try to reach her in time.
    • In the season five premiere "The Dark Swan" the main characters travel to Camelot in order to find Emma in order to free her from the Dark One's power. They find her and promise to save her with Emma, determined not to succumb to the evil inside her, entrusting the Dark One's dagger to Regina in order to allow her to maintain control in case the worst happens. As everyone is led into the castle, they suddenly wake up back in Storybrooke with no memories from that point on. They find out six weeks have passed and Emma has fully embraced her darkness and regained the dagger, telling everyone else they failed to save her. The following episodes show flashbacks detailing what happened during the missing six weeks.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "Inner Child", Anne Marie Reynolds loses several hours whenever the personality of her Conjoined Twin Marie, who died in the womb and was absorbed into her, takes control of her body. Marie's personality is contained in a second brain growing on her sister's spine.
  • The 4400: Kyle is so afflicted in Season Two.
    • In "Weight of the World", he goes to a fraternity party and has a few beers. The next thing that he knows, he is outside of a store with a broken window several hours later. He is promptly arrested but Tom "plays the NTAC card" and he is released.
    • In "Suffer the Children", he experiences another blackout while on campus with Danny and suddenly finds himself in his kitchen pouring a glass of orange juice. He ignores the advice of both Danny and his English professor Wendy Paulson to tell Tom what is happening to him as he does not want to spend any more time in quarantine.
    • In "As Fate Would Have It", he attends a concert with Danny. In the middle of it, he has another blackout. He finds himself digging a hole. After yet another blackout, he is in the corridor outside Wendy's apartment. She is unsurprisingly creeped out by his presence. When he tries to explain what happened the next day, Wendy advises him to seek professional help. In the final scene, Kyle throws a gun into a lake, revealing that he is the assassin of Jordan Collier. At the end of "Carrier", Kyle recovers all of his previously missing memories.
  • Taken: Every time that someone is abducted by the aliens, they are returned to Earth hours or even days later with little to no memory of anything that happened in the meantime. However, some of them have vague impressions of what happened to them aboard the ships or have their memories recovered by hypnotherapy. Their stories give rise to all of the urban legends about Alien Abduction.
  • Treadstone. CIA agent John Bentley is captured by the KGB and subjected to brainwashing, but escapes. He's annoyed to be told that the CIA have told his mother that he's dead, as he was only in KGB hands for a week. His colleague informs him he was captured nine months ago.
  • Moon Knight: The first episode makes heavy use of this, as Steven Grant suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder, and often loses several minutes - or even hours - when Marc Spector takes over. Every time Steven 'skips' forward, he's utterly terrified (it probably doesn't help that the skips seen tend to involve him being attacked by Harrow's cultists).

  • Dream Theater's song "Losing Time" mentions this, as it is about Multiple Personalities.

  • On The Threshold A common element in many episodes, including a box full of case studies of those who say they've experienced them. The narrator skeptically rejects most of these accounts and any UFO-related explanations for unclear reasons, but seems more open-minded on a few that don't fit typical flying saucer narratives.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Classic Traveller Adventure 4 Leviathan. While on a data sweep in the Outrim Void, a member of the Scouts found himself on his ship heading at full jump toward his home base with no memory of how he got there and burned out flight recorders. He was the victim of psionic humans who really like their privacy.
  • Unknown Armies has literal missing time. Using powerful magic can cause "glitches" in the fabric of reality. One of them causes a group of people to vanish for hours before suddenly returning, with no memory of any time passing. To make it even weirder, this never happens in front of people outside of the glitch; they only vanish when out of sight.

    Video Games 
  • In Fate/stay night, Heaven's Feel route, Shirou starts suffering this after unsealing Archer's arm.
  • The title character of Alan Wake loses a week after his wife's apparent death, during which he wrote the manuscript pages he finds around the gameworld, at the prompting of the Big Bad, who plans to make them come true.
  • In the prologue of Heavy Rain, Ethan Mars suffers a head injury in a desperate (and unsuccessful) bid to save his son Jason from being hit by a car. This causes him to start having random blackouts that last for several hours at a time. The plot kick-starts when he awakes from one such blackout with an origami figure in his hand, and his other son Shaun nowhere to be found...
  • Danganronpa:
    • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc:
      • Both the serial killer Genocide Jack and their split personality Toko Fukawa experience this. Poor kid. This becomes a plot point for the last trial, when Makoto realizes that even if Toko's memories of what happened to the world are gone, Jack might still know.
      • This occurred when Mondo killed Chihiro, even though they immediately knew what they had done from the body lying on the floor at their feet.
    • In Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, the fourth chapter had everyone enter a virtual world. Gonta Gokuhara ended up mixing up two wires they had to plug into their headset prior to logging in, and so experienced this when everyone logged out after Miu Iruma was killed, having no memory of anything that happened while in the virtual world. They're very confused afterwards, especially when Kokichi Oma eventually reveals during the fourth trial that Gonta murdered Miu.
  • Portrayed from the perspective of Prophet in the Crysis interquel novel, Escalation. This novel establishes that Alcatraz, the Player Character of Crysis 2 was effectively brain-dead at the end of his game, with the suit's backup of his personality becoming corrupted. Nonetheless, he remained partially in control even after the suit tried to integrate it's backup of Prophet, causing Prophet to black out periodically and wake up in places significant to Alcatraz's past.
  • The Lion's Song: After Franz paints his models, he always blacks out afterwards and reawakens in his studio, late in the night, with no memory of what happened. After visiting Sigmund Freud, he discovers that he has been painting himself during his blackouts.


    Web Original 
  • This occurs to First Lieutenant Werner Waltz in Six Chances when he is temporarily overridden by pirate captain Maria due to their Psychic Link. Unfortunately for him, he was in the middle of preparing for an execution when it happens and when he comes to the prisoner he is supposed to execute is missing. It can be read here.
  • This happens quite frequently to the characters of Marble Hornets when they are exposed to elements of the supernatural. Most notable are Jay, who loses seven months of his memory after running at the Operator; Jessica, who also loses her memory around the same time as Jay; and Tim, who frequently wakes up in unknown places with huge gaps in his memory as a result of his masked persona taking over. The other members of the Marble Hornets cast also get this, to varying degrees.
  • Happens in Brennus to the main character and his sister. Doesn't help that they forget that they've forgotten things, and need someone to talk about what they were doing to even realize they don't remember it.
  • In Pact, Duncan Behaim uses this on Blake, resulting in a "missing" chapter with just a redirect to the next one.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Phineas and Ferb Halloween Episode "Night of the Living Pharmacists", victims of the zombification lose all memories of the minutes leading up to their transformations after they change back. When Phineas, Ferb, and Isabella turn back into themselves, they find that they can't recall anything further than building the vortex sprayer to cure the city. This includes Phineas and Isabella forgetting about her confession about her crush on him.

    Real Life 
  • This is a common trait of many alleged UFO sightings, with witnesses reporting that several more hours of time passed than they remembered after seeing the object in question. This may lead them to believe that they were possibly captured by the UFO's occupants and then had their memories of the experience erased before being returned to wherever place they found themselves in.
  • Missing time can result from too much consumption of alcohol, use of drugs, or being under general anesthesia during surgery. The first two probably help explain the phenomena described above.
    • However, enough booze to make it happen is enough booze for alcohol poisoning to take place. Some people find the person they're asking "What Did I Do Last Night?" has wings...
    • Rohypnol can cause anterograde amnesia, especially if combined with alcohol. Which can be annoying if one is taking it for insomnia and a serious hindrance to the police investigation if someone slipped it to them.
  • This can also be an effect of hypnotism or other altered mental states.
  • Trauma to the brain can induce amnesia in retrograde (the inability to remember some events prior to the blow) or anterograde (the inability to form new memories) form. Both are forms of time elapsing without people having any memory of it. Severe anterograde amnesia can result in missing time from the time of the event until whenever now is. If new memories can't be formed, then you just woke up in the hospital five minutes ago... forever. Seems like And I Must Scream to us, but the sufferer would never know (think Dory from Finding Nemo).
    • One episode of Radio Labnote  features a conversation between a mother and daughter after the mother suffered some kind of bizarre brain "hiccup". The conversation is about 2 minutes long, and every two minutes, like clockwork, the mother restarts the conversation with the same question, has the exact same responses to the answers that she's given, and flows seamlessly from the "start" of the conversation to the "end" and back again. At one point the daughter points out that they've had the same conversation about 20 times so far, and the mother is dumbstruck...and then restarts the conversation.
  • A minor case of this can happen if you walk/travel to school/work and back home every day. While the things you do at school/work and at home are usually not the exact same every day, the walks/travels can easily be extremely similar from day to day. At a point, the walk/travel may be so ingrown of a habit that you some day realize "hey, I thought I only just left my home, but I'm already at work" because you did the travel with pure muscle memory (it is especially likely to happen if it's early morning and you're too tired to pay attention to your surroundings). This is because dissociation, while more commonly understood in the context of trauma, can also be felt when your brain thinks something is essentially too boring or too mundane to remember.
  • Another minor example can happen when you're indulging yourself in a hobby or pastime. Once you start focusing on your hobby of choice, you lose your perception of the passing of time. You can't tell if you've been at it for five minutes or five hours until you look at a clock or out a window. This is why the user interfaces for a lot of MMORPGs include digital clocks synchronized to your system clock.
  • Absence seizures can also cause this effect, with the person looking up at the clock and finding that it's an hour later, with no memory of the intervening time because it was spent having constant absence seizures. Depending on the exact type of seizure, simple actions may still be performed, leading to someone recording a movie being aired on TV, carefully pausing the recording during each commercial break, and later having no memory that the movie even exists.
  • Dementia can present like this. In mid-late stages, sufferers may become agitated because they no idea where they are or how they got there, even if it's a place they've lived for decades. This happens due to a loss of short term memory, which causes the patient to not be able to recall travelling to the place in question, and degeneration of spatial awareness and recognition, which can cause a familiar place to look like an unfamiliar place. This is especially pronounced at night due to "sundowning".