Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Zograscope: Charlotte's Window


Charlotte slipped quietly from the bed; she paused when the sheets rustled as he shifted in his sleep. When he was settled, soft even breathes making his thick handsome chest rise and fall she started down stairs.

The fourth step down creaked, the sharp sound echoed through the quiet house. Charlotte gasped softly startled herself. She quickly tiptoed down the rest of the staircase before putting on her robe.

For a moment, she listened to the stillness of the house. It was a lovely night with a full harvest moon.   She remembered nights like this as a girl. When her grandfather would sneak them from the house into the field out back to watch the zeppelins fly over with all their lights blinking in the purple sky.

Charlotte could close her eyes and conjure the scent of the cool night air, and feel the dewy blades of grass brushing her legs and fingers. Now more homesick she made her way to the foyer closet.

She opened the door and carefully shifted boxes until she could reach one hidden in the very back. A soft smile touched her lips, there’s always a bit of excitement mixed with the longing for her homeland when she opens this box.

With the same care she would carry her baby boy, now slumbering upstairs, Charlotte carried the box into the library. She set it on the desk and turned on the lamp. Her smile widened as she opened the box.

It was one of the few things she had from home. This world and its modern ways were wonderful and sometimes thrilling. Yet on some nights like this one, she came to miss her own very much.

Charlotte carefully unpacked the zograscope, setting it on the desk and opening the lens and mirror. With a bit of whimsy in her heart she lifted the stack of perspective prints from the box and untied the bow. She savored the sensation of the velvet ribbon as it slid through her fingers.

They had velvet here but… it just didn’t seem the same to her. She took a soft breath and placed the first print on the table under the mirror. Once she adjusted the magnifier, her smile broadened. Home.

The view was of a cityscape, people dressed in what they called Victorian garb here milled about the streets. Zeppelins and steam-powered balloons filled the sky as they traversed from city to city.

Charlotte could hear the soft rustle of skirts as the ladies rushed to catch the trolley. The ring of the trolley bell urging them to move faster.  The soft hum and hiss of the steam engines, the scent of her favorite bakery with a fresh tray of apple turnovers. Her flat had overlooked this view. She could sit on the balcony and watch the hustle and bustle below for hours on end.

She changed the print to another of her family’s home. The large house was always filled with family and friends. Large parties like the one in the print. Her father holding up his latest invention, her uncle more interested in refilling his brandy than science.

The next was a slide of her father’s laboratory. The small cranks and coils in the corner that generated power for their life’s work. The work that brought her here in fact.

The image came to life before her eyes as her memory opened. Her father had a theory; there were other planes of existence that ran parallel to theirs. For six long years, they worked to perfect a dimensional window. The window would let them see into their neighboring dimension. Only it did a bit more.

She can see her father connecting the conductive wires to the frame of the dark pane of glass. It was the color of dark smoke with veins and swirls like marble. Once the connections were made, she flipped the lever, and the stored energy within the power coils began to crackle and snap.

The air in the room thickened and her skin prickled as though lightening were about to strike. Charlotte bit her fingernail as her eyes studied the glass for any kind of change. Father and daughter watched hours until the swirls in the smoked glass began to move.

Her father gripped her arm. “Did you see?”

The smoke began to swirl and fade and she nodded back. “Yes, yes I see. Father, it’s working.”

Their excitement built as a small circle of clear glass appeared. They peered through it to see a wondrous world. Strange cars, men and women dressed so differently. One of the ladies on the city sidewalk made Charlotte blush with her short skirt and low open neckline. “They are very… free there.”

Her father cleared his throat and nodded as he tore his attention away from the woman. “Indeed.”

For the next few days, they took notes and sketched their observances. Excitedly debating about different technologies they had seen. Suddenly on that last day large storm had gathered. Lightening struck the rods to refuel the coils but it was too much with what they had already stored.

The extra power flowed through the coils and into the window. The glass opened further to become a shimmering membrane. Charlotte knew it was no longer just a window, they had created a door.
The temptation was too much for her curious mind. She was always far too curious for a woman, as her uncle oft said. Before she could have a second thought Charlotte stepped through the shimmer.

She gasped with the sting and tingle of electricity as she passed through. Everything was black and quiet one moment, the next she stood on the sidewalk they had been watching for the last week.

She gave an excited giggle and spun to call to her father. But the shimmering door was gone. She could see her father through the darkening window calling to her frantically trying to restart the coils and open the gate once again.

Charlotte blinked and wiped her eyes as she put the perspective print back into the stack. Her father had managed to open the window a small bit now and then to send her things from home. Like these prints and her zograscope.

Perhaps someday soon with her knowledge of this world’s science she’ll be able to reopen the door and show her new husband and their son where she came from. 

Part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the letter Z 

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