Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer
Robert rifled through the stack of sketched notes and diagrams, some he vaguely remembered making, some he’d simply found under his tired and aching head upon waking; pen clenched in cramped fingers, the writing forgotten yet clearly in his own hand.
Above the main work surface was pinned a sheet of acetate on which he’d rendered half a woman’s face, hair curling down past her shoulders, eyes clear and bright. Beside the partial portrait was another coloured drawing, this of a teal blue door set in a white stucco wall on the edge of an ocean.
He had no idea how they were related, or why they had come to be transcribed by him with such clarity. Neither could he explain the gravity the sketches held for him, how they propelled him to channel all of these other images; schematics and blueprints for a device the purpose of which was beyond his comprehension.
It was the beauty in her face that held him captive, compelled him to build it, begging and borrowing what he could, buying or stealing what he could not. He knew it was complete only when he no longer had instructions left to follow, and even then he had no knowledge of its purpose.
Robert picked through the pages one by one, mentally checking off the completeness of each component, pausing only on the last page, a sheet filled with columns of numbers. These he entered via an old keyboard, watching as the green phosphor display above swallowed each set of digits, blinking tirelessly at him in anticipation of the rest.
With the last values keyed in, a low hum began in the coils of tightly wrapped wire he’d lined the inside of his workshop with, each a perfect half of a squashed circle. The noise was barely audible at first, more a feeling than a sound, but it grew slowly until Robert’s teeth vibrated and his right ear drum crackled in protest of the pitch.
At the point where the noise had become almost unbearable, the air in the focal point of the construct began to shimmer, first blurring the room beyond and then thickening and taking on a familiar colour and texture of its own.
“Stucco.” Robert spoke out loud, in his mind’s eye, he could already sense what would follow.
A depression formed in the middle of the wall, the stucco here softening, changing texture and shape and colour until the panelled wood door he’d drawn formed, weathered teal blue with a white porcelain handle.
Before better judgement could stop him, Robert had reached the door, turned the handle and pushed it open.
He was greeted by waves crashing on sun bleached rock. Where the other side of his office should have been, a natural pier extended a short distance, then blue ocean stretched off to the horizon.
She was standing there looking sideways along one shoulder at him, sun dress catching the breeze, its hem dancing around her knees.
“How…”, he started, unsure of so many things now, “are you trapped? Am I here to help you escape?”
She laughed, eyes sparkling. “No, I’m helping you escape silly, I’ve been waiting for you.”
Robert stepped through the door, blinking against the sunlight. The smell of salt flavoured the air before him, behind him the air filled with the stench of burning metal as his fabrication began to incinerate itself and everything contained within it.
He closed the door, paused just long enough to feel the handle cool beneath his grip, then let go and turned without a backward glance to join his future.