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Time Dissonance

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German Officer: You'll only see him one night. What's the point of that?
Anna Sörensen: It'll be much more than one night. Our minutes are longer than yours.

Time flows differently for people depending on their age, mood, and perspective. Never is this more pronounced than with vampires, robots, aliens and other immortals who have been around a long, long time. These beings tend to view years, decades, centuries and millennia like we view days, hours or even seconds. What's more, they will boast "argue" that they "Do not conceive of time as humans do", and see no urgency to a situation; they'll compare humans to mayflies and liken our "frantic lives" to the desperate struggling of the doomed.

Often this is blatantly untrue, as they're either flighty ADHD elves/hedonists who can't see past the moment, or in the worst Hidden Elf Village tradition have underestimated the power of the incoming Legions of Hell. The explanation is usually that their limitless lives have completely devalued time of all worth, so they'll spend their days in an opium haze.

If they truly do conceive of time differently, expect deep philosophical sentiments and quite a bit of sadness or detachment, and if not superior and condescending, they'll often marvel at how humans rush around and accomplish so much in their puny lifespans. Other times, beings who are literally outside of time will experience time non-linearly, seeing effect precede cause and move laterally to create parallel timelines.

The opposite can also apply, with unusually short-lived characters seeing weeks as years and last month as an eternity ago.

Compare Year Inside, Hour Outside and contrast its inverse, Year Outside, Hour Inside, compare and contrast Narnia Time, and see Merlin Sickness for another difference in the way time is experienced. Compare Proportional Aging, where the dissonance affects a creature's rate of maturation. For beings who experience/see their present, future and past all at once, see Non-Linear Character. See also Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Time.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Bleach, some of Mayuri's excessively powerful reflex-boosting Super Serum gets accidentally ingested by Szayel. As a result, Szayel's perception of time becomes so extremely fast that everything seems virtually frozen in place, including his own body. He is killed less than a minute later, but to him it felt like years. By the time Mayuri's sword finally pierces his heart, he is begging to hurry up and die.
  • In Dead Mount Death Play, Easlies tells Corpse God when he's still a child that he will likely live an unnaturally long life due to his necromancy, which will gradually distort how he perceives the passage of time.
  • Elves in Delicious in Dungeon live for centuries, and have legal proceedings that last proportionately longer. Humans and members of other races arrested for routine questioning in investigations about The Dark Arts have a habit of being released decades later, or dying of old age while still in custody.
  • In Frieren: Beyond Journey's End, elves live for thousands of years and end up caring little if they waste a few years on a single task. Frieren views her ten year adventure with Himmel is a brief diversion and she then spends fifty years without contacting him. It's only when he dies that she begins to realize how fleeting a human life is compared to hers. She resolves to do better, which is helped when she starts raising Fern.
  • In Hetalia: Axis Powers, the main characters are all Anthropomorphic Personifications of nations who have been alive for hundreds of years. It's been shown that what feels like days or weeks to them is actually years to regular people.
  • Dragons in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid aren't specifically stated to be immortal, but their lifespans are at least long enough that it can be measured on a planetary scale. This occasionally causes them trouble when it comes to putting things in perspective with a human lifespan, like when Ilulu asks Tohru to give her another century to think about what kind of job she wants or when Elma asks Lucoa to rate her new outfit that is several decades out of style.
  • An episode of Mushishi features a Mushi that causes this - it syncs the host's perception of time with its own and, since it only lasts a day before it releases spores and dies, causes the host to effectively "grow old and die" every single day. It's curable, but a lot of people can't stand the dramatic shift in time dissonance and end up purposely infecting themselves again. One such infectee describes to Ginko how experiencing each day as a lifetime unto itself gave her a sense of deep fulfillment; in contrast, a normal human sense of time leaves her uncertain of and constantly anxious about the future.
  • In The Seven Deadly Sins, King and Diane are living together after King was found by Diane as a child. During this time, they meet a mountain man who gives them a meal of soup. They met the same man a little while later, only to find the man is now decades older. It was their only indication of how much time had passed. A "little" time later, they come across his adult grandson.

    Comic Books 
  • Exploited in Animal Man. The title character dodges an assassin's blast of concentrated hydrochloric acid by absorbing a fly's time perception, thereby multiplying his reaction time by ten. He even manages to break the assassin's arm before the acid lands where Animal Man had been.
  • In Douwe Dabbert, Wizards live so long, they have a different perspective of time than regular humans. In a story arc that spends four albums, the two adult wizards send their children away for a stay over with other wizards for "a mere 10 years", and after leaving his host family in Japan, Pief mentions he will ask his love interest to come and stay over at his house in "a hundred years or so".
  • In Legion of Super-Heroes, Element Lad ends up in a Time Abyss after an incident involved him being sent to the beginning of the universe and living in isolation before life evolved where he was. By the time his friends meet him again, he's on such a different time scale that he's completely forgetful of conversations that occurred moments before, and has taken to calling other life blinkers in reference to their lifespans.
  • Marvel's Quicksilver experiences this. As he tells Doc Samson, what kind of attitude do you think you'd cop if everyone else seemed like that one guy who's really slow in the supermarket checkout line?
  • Averted in The Sandman, as Dream is about to punish his captor's son: "Time moves no faster for us than it does for you." In other words, he felt every day of the seventy-five years he was imprisoned, which makes what he does to his victim, someone who could have released him decades earlier, a little more understandable.
  • Doctor Manhattan of Watchmen experiences time in a non-linear sense. It can make it difficult to have a conversation with him as he simultaneously hears what you're saying, what you've said, and what you're going to say. This gives him an extreme sense of fatalism.

    Fan Works 
  • Some immortals in Black Flames Dance in the Wind: Rise of Naruto have trouble remembering how short human lifespans are. Kurohane is surprised that a woman is remarking on finally being her own person after thirty-two years because she herself is extremely young for her kind and is still nearly a century old.
  • Harry Potter, who's over six centuries old in A Discordant Note, casually states that his kingdom could have a bustling port city in as little as twenty years and later remarks on rich young people stupidly buying things to show off their wealth, not mentioning that by "young", he means anyone less than two centuries old.
  • In one The Fairly OddParents! story, Timmy asks Wanda about the morality of him dating Vicky who not only tortured him when he was younger but is an adult while he's barely a teenager. Wanda replies that she doesn't actually understand human morality because it changes so often, rarely staying the same between decades and never between centuries. To someone who's old enough to have been married for nearly ten thousand years, it's a chaotic mess.
  • In Hogyoku ex Machina when Ichigo and company try to explain what they think Ukitake's illness is and ask if Unohana knows how humans cure diseases, they're shocked when she replies that shinigami pray to no one, marking her knowledge as centuries out of date.
  • Death aka Harry Potter in On a Pale Horse is so ancient that he occasionally measures time with Earth's age, such as thinking he hadn't been a hero in "four Earths' worth of time".
  • If a Touhou Project doujin involves Mokou, Kaguya, or Eirin, expect this trope to be explored or at least given a mention. In Kaguya's case, her power is explicitly to cause Time Dissonance ('power over eternity and temporality'), which helps her while away long days of self-imposed exile.
  • Giles doesn't truly understand how old Xander's memories are (having gone as Methos from Highlander on Halloween) in Your Eyes Have Seen until he refers to the Order of Teraka (A 3,000 year old order) as "reasonably old".
  • In When Reason Fails, Aiko creates an artifact that allows the user to manipulate how fast they perceive time.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In her, Samantha, the artificial intelligence attempts to convey her perceptions of the timeline to Theodore Twombly.
    It's like I'm reading a book… and it's a book I deeply love. But I'm reading it slowly now. So the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite. I can still feel you… and the words of our story… but it's in this endless space between the words that I'm finding myself now. It's a place that's not of the physical world. It's where everything else is that I didn't even know existed. I love you so much. But this is where I am now. And this who I am now. And I need you to let me go. As much as I want to, I can't live your book any more.
  • In House of Whipcord Justice Bailey is getting on in years and his sense of time isn't the best. He talks about a girl they tried about five years ago, only for Margaret to inform him that it was thirty years.
  • The Abrasax siblings of Jupiter Ascending are thousands of years old and speak of time casually. The Matriarch was 90,000 years when she was murdered. Jupiter assumes Kalique is late 40s (pre Fountain of Youth) and is in shock that she's actually thousands of years old.
  • In Jerome Bixby's The Man from Earth, John Oldman claims to be a 14,000 year old Cro-Magnon from the Upper Paleolithic. At one point during the long conversation during which he reveals this, he is asked about his perception of time.
    Dr. Gruber: As one grows older, the days, weeks, months go by more quickly. What does a day or a year, or a century mean to you, John? The birth-death cycle?
    John Oldman: Turbulence. I meet someone, learn their name, say a word, they're gone. Others come like waves. Rise, fall. Ripples in a wheat field, blown by the wind.
    Dr. Gruber: Do you ever get tired of it all?
    John Oldman: I get bored now and then. They keep making the same stupid mistakes over and over.
    Dr. Gruber: They. Then you see yourself as separate from the rest of humanity.
    John Oldman: I didn't mean it that way. But of course...I am.
  • In Oh, God!, God exclaims that he processes time differently than how humans do, claiming that he sleeps for centuries at a time (the Dark Ages being one such era) and said that when he most recently woke up, Sigmund Freud was still in college.

  • A man speaks to God:
    Lord, what is a billion years to you?
    Barely a second.
    And Lord, what is a billion dollars to you?
    A mere penny.
    Then, Lord, would you mind sending me a penny?
    Not at all. Just gimme a second...

  • Referenced on occasion in The Bartimaeus Trilogy.
    • Spirits have no natural lifespan and can in theory live forever. Bartimaeus and other such spirits have been around for millennia and have seen all of human history pass by. This unsettles even some magicians, such as Bartimaeus's master from the 4th book when he realizes that Bartimaeus remembers the ancient kingdom of Eridu:
    "Strange must be the memories of a creature such as you, who has seen such places rise and fall . . ." The old man gave a shudder. "I do not like to dwell on it."
    • Some spirits who form strong emotional connections with humans (e.g. Bartimaeus and Ptolemy) express this in a wistful sense:
      Kitty banged her fist against the floor. "Fifty years isn't good enough! Who knows what the magicians will have done by then? My whole life will have gone by! I'll probably be dead when the revolution comes."
      "True," the boy said. "But I'll still be here to watch it. I'll be exactly the same."
      "Yes," Kitty snarled. "Aren't you lucky?"
      "You think so?" The boy looked down at his cross-legged form. He was sitting straight-backed, legs folded neatly in the manner of an Egyptian scribe. "It's two thousand, one hundred and twenty-nine years since Ptolemy died," he said."He was fourteen. Eight world empires have risen up and fallen away since that day, and I still carry his face. Who do *you* think's the lucky one?"
  • Played with somewhat in The Belgariad.
    • Despite being immortal and having lived for seven and three thousand years respectively, Belgarath and Polgara don't really throw their age around, aside from dropping periods like "a few centuries ago" the way most might say "last week." That's usually enough to weird out others.
    Sadi: "It chills my blood, the casual way you people shrug off eons."
    • Their very casual attitude towards time shows up in a conversation with Zakath about several cosmological issues and the reason for the quest that the main characters are currently on. Belgarath is giving a very brief recounting of events, glossing over most things with phrases like "a few hundred years" and the like (bearing in mind that this is a man who could call his biography "The History of the World" and only be about a century or two off from the beginnings of human history). At one point, he mentions that there were five hundred years between Vo Mimbre (a battle he was present at) and the theft of the Orb of Aldur from Riva by Zedar the Apostate (the event that kicked off the Belgariad). Zakath interrupts (do note that the Cthol Mishrak incident was approximately three thousand years before this conversation happened):
      Zakath: Recovery. The Orb was stolen from Cthol Mishrak by Iron-Grip the thief and by-
      Belgarath: Yes. I really was there, Zakath. And I was there two thousand years before, when Torak originally stole the Orb from my Master.
  • In Larry Niven's The Draco Tavern series, the different rates of different types of chemistry result in vastly different metabolisms and perceptions of time. Helium 3 lifeforms have such a slow chemistry that electronic communication is the only way to talk to them, and even a simple conversation takes decades. Their movement is just as slow. Meanwhile, lifeforms that evolved on stars are on the other end of the scale, living less than a year, and regard carbon based humans as equally slow. For non-chemistry forms of the trope, in the story "Limits", aliens advanced enough to have immortality discuss whether or not to give the secret to humans, one side arguing that our brief lives have resulted in humans advancing much faster than other longer lived lifeforms, and more importantly discovering things they have not.
  • Shows up in The Dresden Files - the older (and hence more experienced and magically powerful) wizards were all born a few centuries ago, and haven't adapted to rapidly changing technology. Of course the fact that any technology that was made post-WW2 is basically guaranteed to fall apart in their presence makes it pretty tough. Generally their inability to get with the times is a bad thing, particularly because many Supernatural monsters are much more up to date
  • Discussed but averted in Elcenia: Narax, early in his relationship with Samia, had to repeatedly assure her that despite being Long-Lived, dragons don't experience time any faster than humans, and while being married for the eighty-odd years of her life would only be a small fraction of his, it would still feel like eighty years to him, not the blink of an eye.
  • In The Fifth Season, the Stone Eaters are unaging and have no physical needs, so being pulverized and buried in the planet's mantle to Pull Themselves Together over millennia is more of a stern rebuke than an And I Must Scream situation. Some of them "garden" by holding trees in place for centuries to guide their growth.
  • In Roger Zelazny's "The Great Slow Kings", two creatures who are the last of their kind try to get new subjects from another planet to govern with the help of their Robot Maid. The brought creatures (apparently humanoid) advance from Bronze Age to Nuclear Age and destroy their civilization in a war while the "kings" are working out the wording of a document to ban warfare.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Lazarus Long character and the rest of the long-lived Howard Families notice that they have had to reorganize how they remember events in their lives to adapt to their extremely long lifespans. Lazarus at one point considers going to see a musician that he really enjoyed, but then remembers that he could have died centuries before.
  • The Witches of His Dark Materials live for many centuries, and so do not fret themselves over the same things as humans, for they "know every opportunity will arise again." Loving human men is a delightful and painful experience, for witches feel deeply, and while the passion of their human lovers is delightful, the deaths of their lovers and sons break their hearts over the centuries, until their death goddess is viewed as a kind friend.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy: Parodied in Life, the Universe and Everything, where what sends Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged off the deep end is the prospect of infinite, mind-crushingly boring, slow-moving Sunday afternoons. Ditto with Thor in the Dirk Gently novel The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.
  • In I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, AM alters Ted's sense of time after he frees Benny, Ellen, Gorrister and Nimdok.
    "Some hundreds of years may have passed. I don't know. AM has been having fun for some time, accelerating and retarding my time sense. I will say the word now. Now. It took me ten months to say now. I don't know. I think it has been some hundreds of years."
  • Played for scares in Johnny Got His Gun where Joe is unable to tell time due to having lost most of his body and senses in which it becomes an obsession with him; judging by how often a nurse comes to treat him or by the warmth of the sun. He has no idea how long it has been since he had most of his body blown off.
  • Kitty Norville: In "Kitty Goes to War" she tries to talk to her vampire friend Rick at his nightclub but is stopped by a vampire bouncer. The bouncer reluctantly allows her in, noting that Rick is too tolerant with werewolves. Kitty expresses her annoyances to Rick at the Fantastic Racism of his minions. He explains that just as older generations are resentful of new ones, they are pretty deeply ingrained after hundreds of years. Kitty thinks to herself, "Damn kids get off my lawn, covered a very large lawn then, didn't it?"
  • Dean Koontz has used this trope a couple of times.
    • In Whispers, the main character is 35, and at one point muses that it seems like it's only been one year since he was 25 when in fact 10 years had actually passed since then.
    • Shortly after The Reveal of the Ancient Enemy in Phantoms, the Ancient Enemy, who has been alive for several billion years states that humans are like mayflies to him and that their lifespans seem incredibly brief to him.
  • The Last Dragonlord: Dragonlords are people who are born as humans, but at some point in their twenties they discover that they are weredragons. While they're able to change into either shape at will, even their human forms are different now — nigh immortal, and at that point the weredragon "falls out of time" and starts to see it differently. Time passes quickly whenever they're not paying attention, human lifespans are so short that most don't bother making friends, and one complains that a city she hasn't seen in a century has changed too much too quickly, which causes the humans around her to boggle. Dragonlords don't typically act ancient, but like the ages they were when they "fell".
  • The elves in The Lord of the Rings are ageless and speak familiarly of events from centuries or millennia ago, but also tend to sequester themselves in timeless enclaves. It even bleeds over to the Fellowship somehow in Lothlórien, so that they experience less time there then actually passes.
    Legolas: ...change and growth is not in all things and places alike. For the Elves the world moves, and it moves both very swift and very slow. Swift, because they themselves change little, and all else fleets by: it is a grief to them. Slow, because they do not count the running years, not for themselves. The passing seasons are but ripples ever repeated in the long long stream. Yet beneath the Sun all things must wear to an end at last.
  • The Murderbot Diaries: ART the Artificial Intelligence has the processing power to function orders of magnitude faster than humans, so Murderbot can drive it to distraction by ignoring it for less than half an hour. Even a brief pause in its speech is its equivalent of Stunned Silence.
  • Mentioned briefly at the end of Peter Pan, which notes that fairies live very short lives but it seems longer because they're so small.
  • Terry Pratchett likes this trope. In the Discworld, time is extremely relative. Sometimes a minute lasts forever, or weeks fly by. It's not a figure of speech. The History Monks make sure it all evens out in the end.
    • Death in Discworld: Humans have so little time. Why spend it in a field screaming? (He's trying golf.)
    • In Soul Music, he's shown to have a nonlinear memory, similar to Dr. Manhattan's.
    • Reaper Man has two scenes displaying this. In one, a group of mayflies grumble that you don't get the kind of sun they had in their day hour; now it's all red and near the horizon. Meanwhile, pine trees are having a similar conversation, but it takes seventeen years, and one is cut down. There's "a shocked pause for a couple of years" then one says "He just went! Just like that!"
    • The elderly wizard Windle Poons muses that this has happened to him in recent years, with weeks and months seeming to flit by in an instant, which is strange because individual days seem to take forever.
    • A variation is that trolls believe that they perceive time backwards, reasoning that if you can see the past, it must be in front of you, whereas the future is invisible and therefore behind you. This is based on the similar perception of a Native American tribe, the Quechua.
    • In the Nomes Trilogy, the main characters have a lifespan roughly one-tenth that of a human, with a corresponding adjustment in their subjective rate of time perception. For example, they hear human voices as barely-comprehensible mooing.
    • Obliquely implied to be the case in The Carpet People, in which the disastrous phenomenon of Fray - an occurrance which readers will easily recognize as an our-size human walking a few steps across the Carpet - occurs only at intervals of many days, from the tiny (and presumably short-lived) Munrungs' POV.
  • Ann Leckie's The Raven Tower: The Old Gods predate humanity and some are better than others at adjusting to mortal time scales. One, The Strength and Patience of the Hill, took a few generations to notice that humans were first trying to communicate with it, and still prefers to watch the centuries roll by unless roused to action.
  • In Realm of the Elderlings, Fitz's pet wolf Nighteyes experiences time faster than his master. After Fitz uses the Wit to leave his body behind to escape death penalty, join with his wolf then goes back to his body weeks later, Fitz barely remember he had been human.
  • The Tralfamadorians in Slaughterhouse-Five literally see time as a fourth dimension (the same way we humans see the three dimensions of space).
  • A Tale of Two Clocks: This is what the title refers to. The Old Galactics live much longer than humanity, and on a much slower timescale.
  • Tales of MU:
    • Subverted by Dee, who mentions that while dark elves live longer, five years is still five years to them.
    • Played straight for the sylphs, who perceive humans as moving at a snail's pace.
  • In Maxine McArthur's Time Future duology, the Invidi perceive time very differently, being possessed of extremely long (exactly how long is unknown) lifespans, and are able to look far ahead into the future or way back into the past, and can visualize "paths of influence", which converge at "nodes", and a bunch of other stuff that doesn't make a great deal of sense to non-Invidi. It goes both ways, as they do not understand our view of time, to the point where one of them gets hopelessly confused by the word "soon." The explanation he requires to understand the term is: "A period extending from this moment to and including an unspecified one along our entropic line that corresponds to approximately fifty-five planetary rotations."
  • Tortall Universe: In Tempests and Slaughter (first book of The Numair Chronicles), Master Ramasu says that the gods probably work this way. He states that it's the likely reason why the Great Mother Goddess hasn't done anything yet about her In-Universe chickification by the Cult of the Gentle Mother over a century before, which led to a massive regression in women's rights over the Eastern and Southern Lands. This also serves as a reference to the Song of the Lioness quartet, the first Tortall series, which Tempests and Slaughter overlaps with, giving the implication that Alanna the Lioness was the Goddess' eventual answer.
  • Uprooted: Wizards live for centuries and the senior ones, like Alosha and the Dragon, lose sight of the fact that ten years is a lot of time for most people. The 17-year-old novice witch Agnieszka is quite unsettled to hear Alosha order someone Reassigned to Antarctica for a decade and wonder if she herself will come to be so dismissive of others' lifespans.
  • The cats in Varjak Paw make it sound like Mesopotamia Blues are an ancient breed of cat, however the wording implies that they've only existed for under a century. Jalal, the ancestor of the breed, moved into Contessa's house himself and has been dead 100 years. Contessa is an elderly woman who is implied to have died at the start of the first book. The fictional breed in the book is based off the real-life Russian Blue that naturally started around the 1860s.
  • The characters in Warrior Cats are all feral cats. Cats live ten-to-twenty years, which is reduced down to an average of three-to-six for feral or free-range cats, and spawn new generations every two or three years. Very few cats in the series live to twelve; even seven is a pretty old age for a warrior. "Ancient" cats who have gone on to myth were alive under fifty years ago (possibly as little as thirty) in human time.
  • Watership Down:
    • When the hero Hazel dies at the age of ten, he is so old that his deeds have already passed into the realm of half-remembered myth for the other rabbits, who cannot count beyond four.
    • For that matter, it seems like the rabbits' creation myth is set relatively recently (El-ahrairah myths mention farms, guns, even motor vehicles), yet spoken of as being in the deep past. Possibly because myths, especially in the oral tradition, are modified and enriched each time they're told, so rabbits must have included human technology in their stories as it spread. Also notice that cars, farms etc. have been around for quite a few rabbit lifetimes.
  • The Norman Spinrad short story "The Weed of Time" features a protagonist who, after eating an alien plant, has his perception of his lifespan broadened to encompass it in full. He emerges from the womb screaming for the ship carrying the plant to be stopped but despite knowing every detail of his life is unable to change anything.
  • The Powers That Be and the Lone Power from the Young Wizards series exist mainly outside of time, inserting fragments of themselves into the time-stream in order to be able to have an effect on the things that exist inside of time. This allows for the Lone Power to be an active menace in one location while simultaneously being a Sealed Evil in a Can in a different location. It also means that the Lone Power is simultaneously "eternally rebelling, eternally being defeated, and eternally being redeemed." Which means that It can Heel–Face Turn at the end of High Wizardry and the main characters will still have to fight It in later books.
  • Zones of Thought has an inversion: Sufficiently Advanced Aliens ("Powers") view time quite differently from normal species. That is, much, much faster.
    • The galaxy is divided into inconceivably enormous "zones of thought" which change both the intelligence of living creatures and the laws of physics which set the boundaries for artificial technology. The core of the Milky Way is buried inside The Unthinking Depths (where a human being becomes almost nonsentient), ancient humanity's home of Earth is implied to lie within The Slow Zone (where, among other things, superluminality is impossible), and the "place to be" is The Beyond (which allows FTL technology and other wondrous things). Where things get really strange though, is The Transcend, which the outermost reaches of the galaxy dip into. Merely doing a tiny bit of scientific research while venturing over there allows you to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence almost at once, but the Powers thus created gain the ability to think and create at an enormous speed, causing civilizations to rise and seemingly vanish from contact there in decades or years, and so The Trancend is an extremely tumultuous place (which is made somewhat more intimidating yet for prospective explorers by the abandoned remnants of certain vanished Powers and the apathetic attitude of existing Powers.) The oldest known Power, referred to by all as Old One, is eleven years old.
    • The reader is given a first-hand account of this when the Straumli Perversion, a Sealed Eldritch Abomination in a Can, first gains sentience. As it develops, its sense of time dilates exponentially, until each second that passes seems to last longer than its entire existence up to that point:
      Days passed. For the evil that was growing in the new machines, each hour was longer than all the time before. Now the newborn was less than an hour from its great flowering.... The hours came to minutes, the minutes to seconds. And now each second was as long as all the time before.... Five seconds, ten seconds, more change than ten thousand years of a human civilization.

    Live-Action TV 
  • There is a Sufficiently Advanced Alien in Animorphs that can move in the fourth dimension. Someone in story compared him to a statue and everyone else to a painting.
  • Invoked in the last episode of The Colbert Report: after becoming immortal by killing The Grim Reaper, Stephen mentions that he's not sure whether the audience came back from the commercial break after 2 minutes or 200,000 years.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor has thirteen lives, each of indeterminate length. Not to mention his gallivanting about and around all of time and space somewhat leisurely. At this point he is at least two thousand years old, and has been to both the beginning of the universe and twice to its end.
      • He has been granted an additional cycle of 12 regenerations.
    • Also his ship, the TARDIS, who perceives time all at once. When she was placed in a human body she had some trouble communicating at first, due to Time-Travel Tense Trouble, and made reference to things that hadn't happened yet.
    • Captain Jack Harkness, who, being immortal, has come to view time and relationships much differently.
    • The Eternals, like the Q of Star Trek, live outside of time.
      Eternal: You are a Time Lord. A lord of time. Can there be lords in such a limited domain?
    • Bad Wolf was an immensely-powerful temporal entity created when 21st century shopgirl Rose Tyler exposed herself directly to the Time Stream. As a later episode would show, she was also The Moment, an immensely-powerful temporal weapon that a previous iteration of The Doctor planned to use to wipe out the Daleks and the Time Lords many years ago, in the future, probably. Due to existing across all of time at once, Bad Wolf got the Doctor's past and future mixed up and accidentally appeared to him as someone he was yet to meet.
  • In Frank Herbert's Dune, the Bene Gesserit have their Simulflow technique where they voluntarily alter their perception of time to their desires. Then there is the nearly immortal God Emperor Leto II. He comments how his once a decade procession was just yesterday, or how he'll think a thought for an entire day because what is time to him.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In the episode "Vanishing Act", the aliens abducting Jon Cryer's character transport him another decade into Earth's future every time they return him, because as it turns out, they have no concept of time. Once the concept is explained to them, it's no problem for them to return him to the right time.
  • Played for laughs in a Soap story arc in which Burt is abducted by aliens and meets a fellow captive: Saul (the Biblical King). When Burt says that he was told by the aliens that they wouldn't hold him for long, Saul (played by Jack Guilford) sets him straight:
    Saul: Listen, these people, they have no concept of time. They'll say to you "wait a moment," and three, four hundred years go by, VOOM!
  • This causes some of the friction between the Tok'ra, Tau'ri, and Jaffa in Stargate SG-1. Humans and the rebel Jaffa want to take down the Goa'uld as soon as possible and are constantly taking action, while the Tok'ra are content to slowly infiltrate the Goa'uld ranks and are in no rush to bring their downfall.
    Malek: And I need not remind you that the rebel Jaffa and the Tau'ri are equally indebted to us.
    Teal'c: How so?
    Malek: We have been fighting the Goa'uld for a millennia.
    Jack: Yeah… just when should we expect some progress on that?
  • The Prophets in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, who do not conceive of linear time at all. They needed Sisko to teach them about linear time. The Sarah-Prophet specifically tells him, "The Sisko was necessary." They already knew about linear time, because in his future, Sisko had told them all about it. But they still needed to bring Sisko to them in order that he could teach them about the linear time that they already knew (and were merely Obfuscating Stupidity) about, so as to complete the time loop.
  • Paul Stamets of Star Trek: Discovery starts to experience this when he becomes the biocomputer in the ship's spore navigation system. When he's forced to make several hundred jumps in quick succession, he enters a state of catatonia where his mind is Unstuck in Time (and also wobbles between the Prime and Mirror Universe). After he recovers, however, he gains an immunity to the usual difficulties most people face when caught in a time anomaly, since he's able to perceive what's actually going on and remember the events in previous iterations of a Time Loop.
  • Nicely averted by Death in Supernatural. When he finally shows up, he savors his Chicago pizza, despite the fact that he's (possibly) older than God.

  • "The Ballad of Barry Allen" by Jim's Big Ego is sung from the point of view of The Flash, lamenting the fact that because he's so fast, his sense of time is ruined because he can do so much more than anyone else in the same amount of time.

    Myths and Religion 
  • Very much the case for God in The Bible. Psalm 90:4 mentions 'For in Your sight a thousand years are like yesterday that has passed, like a watch of the night'. Its mentioned again at 2nd Peter 3:8. Very likely there's a similar situation with angels.
    • The apocryphal Book of Jubilees states that the 'a day is as a thousand years' thing is precisely literal: Adam and Eve are warned by God in the Book of Genesis that if they eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they will die the same day. Of course they do, and Adam goes on to die after many centuries at the age of 930—which from God's perspective is on the same day, because it's less than a thousand years later.
    • Presumably, having created the timeline along with everything else, the Christian God would be able to perceive any and all points on it in a way that linear-time-thinkers like ourselves can't comprehend.
    • Jesus also confused some Pharisees with his own perception of time:
      Jesus: Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.
      Pharisees: You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham?!
      Jesus: I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!
    • This trope is the reason some Christians don't see any incompatibility between the timeline of Creation in the Book of Genesis and the actual, physical age of the Earth — 6 divine days simply equal 4.5 billion solar years on the planet God created.
  • Likewise The Qur'an says "A Day with Allah is as a thousand years of what ye reckon." (22:47) "and Unto Him in a Day whereof the span is fifty thousand years." (70:4).

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In one FoxTrot strip, Andy is glad to have the house to herself when her kids go off to school, but runs afoul of this trope:
    Andy: Ah, bliss. (As kids leave for school)
    Peter: Hi Mom, we're home! (Seemingly moments later)
    Andy: I can't believe it took an Einstein to note that time was relative.
    Peter: Man, could a day drag on any worse!?

    Tabletop Games  
  • A Dungeons & Dragons guide to vampires has mentioned them being perfectly willing to wait for enemies they can't defeat to die of old age.
  • Vampire: The Requiem vampires are similar. The oldest vampires still think of the French and American Revolutions as recent history and a few are starting to admit that the USA may have some potential as a country. They can also spend extended periods of time in torpor (a sort of hibernation) if they need to lay low for a while. An unfortunate side-effect is that torpor scrambles their memories, so when they wake up they may not even remember why they did it in the first place.

  • Played with quite a bit in BIONICLE. Most of the main characters are at least a few dozen millenia old, but their personalities can be quite different from one another even if they're the same age. Anyone in the main setting considered to be truly old was around at the beginning of the world. Even if you count someone's age starting from the earliest time they can remember, that's still a millennium for all the Matoran of Mata Nui. Even Makuta's plot had gone on for several thousand years before he brought it to fruition. Still, the main story takes place just over a year, which isn't commented on by anyone despite their huge lifespans. In the Spherus/Bara Magna setting this is downplayed somewhat, as there are mentions of those who have actually died of old age. Still, that means that 'young' characters such as Gresh have still been around for upwards of 100,000 years.

    Video Games  
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: The Abusive Precursor Eternals live up to their name. One thinks a seven-year timespan is "infinitesimal"; another, when released from her tomb and seeing a mortal for the first time, is appalled that they're rotting before her eyes and have at most a few centuries left.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • While not truly immortal like in some other fantasy series, the races of Mer (Elves) are Long-Lived compared to humans, with prominent examples of Altmer (High Elves) and Dunmer (Dark Elves) living naturally for several centuries (and some who've enchanced their lifespans with magic living for several milennia). This is also a reason several of these races believe that Humans Are Bastards. They see Men as having pitifully short lives filled with violence and savagery who disrupt everything the elves try to achieve. Some of the most extreme Altmeri religious beliefs (like those espoused by the Third Aldmeri Dominion under the leadership of the Thalmor) even teach that Elves are oppressed by the very existence of humanity. Even more reasonable Elven leadership, such as the Second Aldmeri Dominion (which you can join in The Elder Scrolls Online), are opposed to a human empire dominating Tamriel because, with such short lives, they can't do a fair and balanced job ruling the continent.
    • Time as we know it doesn't apply to the series' many forms of divine beings in the same way that it does to mortals. To note some specific examples:
      • Akatosh is the draconic Top God of the Aedric pantheon, and is the embodiment of the idea of "time". It is said that he was one of the first beings to manifest out of the raw energy of the early universe, and he started linear time following the creation of Mundus, the mortal plane. At several points in history, Akatosh has also been "tampered with" so to speak, typically my mortals wielding divine implements. These Time Crashes are known as "Dragon Breaks", with the longest one occuring during the 1st Era when a group of anti-Elven inquisitors performed a ritual with the intent to purge Akatosh of his Elven influences. This proceeded to break time for a period of 1008 years (measured using Nirn's moons, which are said to be the decaying "flesh divinity" of the dead creator god and thus unaffected), during which bizarre occurances happened such as children giving birth to their own parents, the sky changing colors depending on the observer, and events as large as wars happening according to once source but mentioned as not happening by another.
      • The Daedra are pre-creation entities who did not take part in the creation of Mundus, thus retaining their Complete Immortality, but are also restricted in how they can interact with Mundus as a result. It is noted in the series that Daedra have odd perceptions of time, sometimes having difficulty telling "when from when". Their home realm of Oblivion, the Void Between the Worlds, sees time flow oddly as well. In some cases, mortals trapped within don't seem to age a day despite years or even centuries passing on Mundus.
      • As shown in Skyrim, the dragons are immortal beings, some of whom, like Alduin, have existed since the beginning of time itself. When a dragon is killed, it always returns to life later, because its soul is persistent. The human-created Shout known as "Dragonrend" exploits this aspect of dragons by forcing them to comprehend the concept of mortality, an idea so alien to them that it freaks them the hell out. This is also why they dread the Dragonborn, the one being in existence that can kill a dragon permanently. Alduin, himself, wound up displaced in time when the peoples of the distant past used an Elder Scroll to send him into the future and forestall the apocalypse he is destined to create.
    • On a meta level, the series tends to treat divinity as the being knowing that they are a character in a video game and using that knowledge to affect the world around them. The Tribunal deity Vivec dives deeper into this concept in his 36 Lessons book series as well as in developer-written supplementary materials. For example, a real life player of the game who goes from playing Syrim to Morrowind has gone back in time 200 years in-universe, but only had a couple of minutes pass in real time. Unless the player is extremely knowledgeable about the series timeline, it might be difficult to tell "when from when", just like an in-universe deity.
  • Final Fantasy XIV: Due to how long dragons live, every moment to them can be relived as if it was the present. As such, feelings of anger and grief rarely subside on their own, as the dragon has nearly an eternity to stew in their rage. This is the reason why Nidhogg wages his Forever War with the Ishgardians, as his grief and anguish from the murder of his sister Ratatoskr is as fresh now as it was a thousand years ago. Conversely, Hraesvelgr's love for Shiva persisted even after a thousand years of watching man's treachery, preventing him from joining his brother's rampage and merely withdrawing to grieve.
  • Galactic Civilizations: The Altarians offer this as an explanation as to why the Dread Lords went all Abusive Precursors and tried to kill everyone else. The Dread Lords (who are biologically immortal) were capable of "perceiving eternity", and didn't see any reason to permit intelligent life that would only last a couple million years at best any reason to survive, since they would evolve, live, and die in a cosmic "blink of an eye".
  • Homeworld:
    • Cataclysm gives us the Bentusi, who, when pressed, view our 'flicker-lives' as expendable next to their vast intelligences and memories. Things change.
    • When the Kiith Somtaaw try to convince the Taidanii that allying with the Beast and promising it half of the galaxy is only going to end up screwing them over once it runs out of things to consume, the Naggarok points out that it'll take countless 'flicker-lives' for that to happen.
  • In The Longest Journey, the Venar perceive all of their life simultaneously. They are aware of everything that has happened to them and will happen to them, from their birth to their death, as if it happened now. Save for a period of time, soon to come, where their perception will be clouded and hidden, which upsets them quite a deal. (And given that they're never upset or surprised by anything ever usually, this means something.)
  • The asari of Mass Effect seem to view time like this, with their thousand year lifespans. Liara and Shepard can discuss this in the first game. In the second, Asari Matriarch-slash-bartender Aethyta complains that she tried to defy this ("We need to get our girls working earlier") and was laughed off her home planet for her efforts. Had anyone taken her seriously, the asari fleets might have been there to stop Sovereign without needing humans as The Cavalry.
  • The Slylandro in Star Control seem to have this. Their standard unit of time is the Drahn, which is around 6460 Earth years. They're long lived enough that they remember the Ur-Quan from when they were a single species and part of the Sentient Milieu some 20,000 years ago, and are surprised to learn that the Ur-Quan turned evil so quickly.
    • In fact, the Slylandro are the only species in the game that has records on the Precursors, who gave them the ability to communicate with star-faring species in the first place. Unfortunately, most of the Slylandro's recollections on them have been lost over time (the Slylandro are unable to write anything down, so they keep records through oral tradition).
  • The plot twist of Starflight is that the fuel you hunt the galaxy for is actually the Ancients race that everyone talks about. Their view of time is so much slower that we see them as rocks, but they are sentient beings. The reason stars are flaring up is being done by the race in self defense.

    Visual Novels 
  • In the Yuri VN Akai Ito, for Sakuya World War II is something that happened just recently. The story supposedly takes place in the 00's. But then, she's a 1700-years old immortal magical werewolf.
  • Briefly touched upon by Methuselah in Dies irae ~Interview with Kaziklu Bey~ with regards to how he and Mercurius view the passage of time through a very different lens when compared to mortals.
    Methuselah: It is indeed true that the world will die soon. However, it is mistaken to speak of our temporal lengths in terms of human senses. Terms such as 'just a bit' or 'a little more' can easily mean a millennium to us.
  • As part of a Mind Screwdriver to tie the plot of Ever17 together a certain character induces a Batman Gambit against himself because he only views time linearly when he has entered our dimension instead of existing in time. When he leaves, he apparently exists in a state like Dr. Manhattan above in that his mental state exists outside normal time, meaning he can trick his 'past' self but retain memories of what he's tricking himself with. Or something. ...Well, it works out in the end.

  • 8-Bit Theater:
    Sarda the (nigh-omnipotent) Sage: Your linear concept of time bores me.
  • The fae of Drowtales are type II immortals and thus very old fae have trouble remembering exactly how long ago things happened and even how old they are, and as a result most drow don't keep track of their exact age and instead refer to themselves by generation, or how far removed they are from the Dark Elves who first fled to the Underworld.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court:
    • Coyote "forgot how short a time humans have in the world". He demonstrates this by pondering why the medium he's speaking to looks younger than he remembers her, mistaking twelve-year-old Antimony for her dead mother (who was twenty-something when Coyote last met her.)
    • Averted by Jones, the resident Time Abyss, whose perceptions are equivalent to a human's despite perfectly remembering the entire lifespan of the Earth.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, Voluptua's people, the alien Nemesites, all speak of centuries as casually as humans talk about decades. Voluptua has said she's reluctant to return to her homeworld, because if she just turns her head for a moment, Bob will age to dust.
  • Vaarsuvius of The Order of the Stick at one point attributes their Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness to "my elven insensitivity to the flow of time."
  • TwoKinds: Keidrans only live 20 years so a couple years is a very long time by their standards.
  • An xkcd strip features a "Time Vulture" following someone. Time Vulures can slow down their internal clocks so that time speeds past them; then they follow someone until they die and then eat them. When the character protests that he's not about to die, his friend tells him that, form the vulture's point of view, everyone says that just before they do.

    Web Original 
  • 17776: Since spontaneously gaining Complete Immortality, humans mostly pass the time with exaggerated versions of modern-day hobbies, like cross-country football games that can last for centuries or millennia. Ed Krieger challenges himself to play each one of his stockpile of video games for 300 years.
    Ed: There are like ten thousand of them ... That's only three million years.
    Tim: Well, that's a lot of time.
    Ed: It's three million divided by infinity. Nothing is anything when you're dividing by infinity.
  • Played for Horror in If you're armed and at the Glenmont Metro, please shoot me. The narrator participates in a clinical trial for a drug that accelerates his brain functions, causing him to perceive time more slowly. At first, the downsides are only annoying and boring, with minutes feeling like hours and his 30-minute ride home feeling like days. As time goes on and the effects of the drug keep intensifying, to the point that turning the pages of a book takes longer than reading it and he can see the individual frames on TV, boredom gets the better of him he eventually decides to take an Ambien to try and sleep the effects off. The sleeping pill interacts with the drug and begins severely magnifying its effects, hitting him right as he was running down the stairs at the metro station, causing him to lose his footing from the sudden change and get locked into a fall down the steps that, from his perspective, takes days. The impact dislocates his shoulder and he discovers, while his senses are slowed down, the pain never subsides because his body is still working in real-time, and he decides it's too much and tries to throw himself onto the tracks. His perception of time eventually slows to the point that simply blinking plunges him into darkness for centuries. After enduring what feels like thousands of years of pain and boredom over the course of a few minutes, he posts online, begging for someone to put him out of his misery. A shot to the temple should only take a few decades.

    Western Animation  
  • Genie in Aladdin: The Series. In one episode he says that a genie cold lasts for only a century or two, and realizes he forgot that's a long time for mortals. Another episode has him falling in love with Eden, a fellow genie. Since Eden watches over a young girl and Genie has his own obligations to help Aladdin and friends they casually make plans for a date next century instead (when both parties will be long dead) like they're talking about next week. Though they do end up running into each other again in a later episode before then.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: One scene in "The Question" shows the planets attempting to sing to Gumball, but from Gumball and Darwin's perspective they don't seem to even be moving. By the time they finish singing about how insignificant peoples' lives are, billions of years have passed and they realize they've wasted all of their time just before the sun explodes.
  • Ben 10: Alien Force: Paradox, who is a Captain Ersatz of Doctor Who.
    Paradox: At first I went mad, of course. But after a few millennia, I got bored with that, too, and went sane. Very sane.
  • Clockwork of Danny Phantom does not view time in the linear way most beings do.
    Clockwork: See, for me, time moves backwards and forwards and... oh, why am I bothering? You're 14.
  • The Drinky Crow Show: In one episode, Uncle Gabby meets another monkey who happens to look alot like him. Upon becoming a god, he takes Gabby into a separate universe called Dirt Girlatonia, filled with clones of the Captain's Daughter doing Girls Gone Wild acts. He and Uncle Gabby watch this spectacle for 50 billion years (which is shown by a black cuecard saying just that), with them still watching and staying the same as if only seconds gone by after the cuecard was shown. He ends up coming back to his own dimension and complains to Crow how he had to stay for 80 billion years, which Crow interrupted by stating he was only gone for 5 minutes, but Gabby justifies it by saying that the monkey god took him out of the space time continuum. This means Gabby is now more than 66.2 billion years older than the universe.
  • The Fairly OddParents! movie School's Out! The Musical reveals that the pixies' plans to take over Fairy World always take 37 years. While still funny, it's not as absurd as it sounds because fairies and pixies are immortal.
  • In Gargoyles, the Wyrd Sisters, when presented with The Archmage's plan for revenge, explain that they have no problem waiting nearly 1000 years for it.
    "What is time to an immortal?"
  • A short stop motion film called "Das Rad" involved two perspective of time between two sentient piles of rocks named Hew and Kew, and the humans who progress from cavemen to building a future metropolis which rot and fade away at the end of the film. Being rocks, Hew and Kew act and talk so slowly that centuries pass during their conversations and the humans who pass by (which are barely visible to the rocks due to the time dissonance) see them as ordinary piles of unmoving rocks. At one point, Kew picks up a broken wooden wheel discarded next to him by a human pulling a rickshaw passing by and inspects it in curiosity before it rots and biodegrades into nothingness.
  • The characters of ReBoot, who live inside a computer, experience time much more slowly than humans. They frequently talk about "nanos" meaning nanoseconds, like the equivalent of seconds. Which leads to a bit of Fridge Logic when season 3 comes around and they point out that game time is accelerated (they age faster in games). And games are a direct interface with The User... which means the user perceives time even faster than they do.
  • Referenced in a Simpsons Christmas Episode with a segment parodying The Polar Express.
    Santa!Krusty: I'm sure in the 25 years of Earth time you've been gone, your parents have gotten worried.
  • The Crystal Gems in Steven Universe are all thousands of years old, and tend to speak of centuries in the way humans talk about months. Sometimes they forget how long these things are to humans when dealing with them or Steven.
    Pearl: It's just a test flight, to the nearest star system. I'll bring [Steven] back in fifty years.
    Greg: What?! I'll be dead in fifty years!
  • In the Thunder Cats 2011 episode "Song of the Petalars", the Petalars are a race of tiny plant people who only live for a day. To a Petalar, that day is a long and meaningful existence. Lion-O's friendship with the Petalar Emrick is all too brief from his point of view as he watches Emrick go from cheerful child to hotheaded teenager to brave adult to wise old man before dying in Lion-O's hands of old age. To Emrick however, Lion-O was a lifelong friend who was there for him at the pivotal points of his life and taught him so much.
  • The Transformers, who are immortal unless someone destroys them (and they can usually come back), have this as well. Millions of years pass as decades for them. The rate at which they perceive time can vary greatly based on the needs of the plot, but it's always at least somewhat in effect. Case in point. At the beginning of Transformers: Animated, the heroes are asleep for 50 years. When they wake up, they treat it a no more severe a loss than a human would consider spending a few hours unconscious.
    • Somewhat subverted with the first episode of the original series where Optimus and Megatron's forces both ended up in stasis for several Million years after crashing on Prehistoric Earth and being reactivated in the 1980s. While most of them don't treat it like too big a deal they do acknowledge that they've been unconsious for a very long time, and the landscape of the planet has changed drastically. Starscream even points out that maybe before continuing their war over energy for the sake of their planet Cybertron they should probably double check Cybertron is even still there after all these millenia. Though on that front it's mostly played straight as not only is Cybertron nearly as they left it but Shockwave and all the others they left to hold the fort are still there and still fighting the war and waiting for a report from the group that went to Earth for millions of years.

    Real Life  
  • Einstein's theory of relativity, in a nutshell, states that time flows faster or slower depending on relative motion and gravity. The details are complicated, but in principle it is possible to exploit this. Orbit the right kind of object in the right way for 10 days and when you emerge, 10 million years will have passed for the rest of the universe.
  • This article entitled "The Infinite Space Between Words" attempts to translate computer time into arbitrary seconds.
  • Truth in Television, to a point. Studies have shown that, in general, younger people experience time slightly slower than older people (because their minds work slightly quicker). Also, other animals experience time at different rates to humans, for example, fruit flies experience time as moving much more slowly.
    • To put that in perspective: A fruit fly watching your average animated cartoon (approx. 24 frames per second) will see it as a slow moving slide-show whereas we see it as a full blown action sequence. Suffice to say, it will lose interest very quickly.
    • This has been put forward as a possible reason why dogs evolved to work so well with humans: they experience time at similar rates, and thus experience the world similarly to humans.
    • Contributing to that is the theory that our feeling of subjective time corresponds directly to the amount of information we consciously take in, this makes it appear as if the day passes more quickly.
    • That accounts for the changing rate at which we experience time passing, moment by moment, but the way it feels in the memory also changes. As one ages, the less impact a day, month, year, etc., has on one's existence. A year for a 5 year old is incredibly long because they see a year being about 20% of their lives, an incredibly significant period of time for anyone. But for a 50 year old, a year is just about 2% of their lives and as such doesn't hold as much significance to them.
      • Along these lines of thought, one relentlessly depressing study calculated that by age 20, most humans will, in terms of subjective experience, have passed halfway through life. Even if you live until 80. Happy birthday now!
    • Many studies also reveal that the widespread smartphone addiction speeds up the perception of time as people spend their days mindlessly scrolling through the same applications rather than paying attention to their surroundings.