11-year-old Byron becomes anxious when he learns from a friend that the British government will add two seconds to its clocks. He pesters his mother for details of the event, thinking it will have cataclysmic repercussions. As it turns out, his concerns become legitimized -- on the day that time is altered, his mother crashes into a young girl on her bike. Byron attempts to protect his family from the accident, which only he witnesses. Eventually his path crosses with that of another anxious, isolated man, who serves as the novel's second narrator.