The Marvellous Mechanical Time Trap Machine
by Brian M. Milton
The girl carefully placed the small object in amongst the old toys in the window. They were all toys from a previous generation and while she had a great fondness for them, especially the great flabby, cuddly, multi-coloured cat, they were from her Gran and she rarely took them out of the window to play with. Having left the object, which it amused her to think the toys might investigate while she was gone, she left, trying to remember where she had last seen her copy of Twilight.
In the window, with a great rumbling noise not unlike the Metro Goldwyn Mayer lion slowed down to half speed, the cat toy slowly came to life. It arched its back, stretched out its legs and accidentally tapped the object that had been left behind. Looking down it saw a small window frame. The sort you might find on a doll's house with red, gingham curtains.
"What on earth has she left me this time?" thought the cat. "The tat she finds is getting worse. This is clearly just a broken old window. Although, if I look closely, yes, there is something different about this. Something hidden away in the folds of space-time. Should be interesting to hear what the others invent on it." He stretched out again and then opened his mouth wide, breathing out a large, yawning sigh. As the air escaped from his cloth mouth and passed out over the other toys in the window they brightened and more colour came in to them. Gradually they started to move.
"Wake up you lazy lot. She's brought us something and I want a story. So hop to it."
To one side carved wooden mice dropped from the front of a music box, making little squeaking noises as they hurried down to stand in rows in front of the cat. Each vibrated with tension, constantly squinting at the cat in fear while trying to look directly ahead. To the other side a wooden bookend stretched out its wings and then hopped, always on the verge of toppling, down to the main level and gave the object a very hard stare.
"Mmmya, mmya, mmya. It's a window from a doll's house. Plain and simple. I think that girl's been down the dump again."
A rag doll, seemingly fixed to a wicker chair on a higher shelf, craned her neck and looked down. "Oh, don't say that. I'm sure she came by it in a much more innocent way. Maybe she traded it with another girl at school? Or found it by the roadside and placed it here so it can be found?"
The bookend turned its head and gave the rag doll a further hard, glass-eyed stare. "You know as well as the rest of us exactly how many passers-bye look in this window. None. We are at the end of a lane in a field. The only passers-bye we get are cows. Which, I think it is very safe to assume, have no interest in doll's house windows."
"Well I never. I only try to think the best of everyone. There could have been a very interesting story behind this window and the doll's house it came from."
"Hmm, yes, no doubt entirely made up to feature a song you and the toad know."
At this point the cat reached out a paw and knocked the bookend over so that it fell on its side. It flapped its opposite wing and spun its feet but, being mostly rigid wood, it couldn't get itself back upright. "That's enough. I wake you lot up to entertain me, not to argue. Although the wooden one does have a point, most of your stories do seem barely related to the objects. I do sense there is something about this one, some odd tick that makes it hard for me to focus on. I think we'll just skip to the mending bit. Mice get to it."
The mice all snapped out a smart salute in the direction of the cat and rushed forward towards the object, all chanting an ancient tune. They picked up the small window and passed it between them, turning it over and over, examining both sides, tugging at the gingham curtains. Then they began to spin in a circle holding the window between them, their singing getting faster and faster. They revolved at a dizzying speed, their feet skittering across the window shelf. The toad began to strum a simple tune as they went, taking his rhythm from the mice's movements. The rag doll began to slap her hands together and the cat thought very hard about the greasy, many-folded corners of the universe and returning objects to their original state. The mice danced to the edge of the shelf, lifted the spinning window high up and threw it at the floor.
There was a flash of light.
The two people stood in the cafe. Something had just changed. Possibly for the first time in millennia, something had just changed. They could feel it deep inside. Everything still looked the same. Plastic topped tables, cheap wooden seats, the serving counter, the window with its gingham curtains. She slowly stood, the chair scraping backwards across the linoleum, and probed with her mind.
"Outside the window. Quickly, open the curtains."
He jumped up and crossed to the window. He grabbed the curtains and threw them wide. They shot along the rails to reveal the window frame and beyond that no stars. For time beyond measure all they could see out of the window had been stars. The universe whirling on its ever changing journey. Now, there was a room. A cosy room with armchairs, small tables and a wooden structure that blocked one window.
He grabbed hold of the handle on the side window, twisted and pushed it open. He turned back to her. "Quickly, before it changes." She grabbed his hand and followed as he climbed through and dropped down into the room. They turned to look back. The window hung in the air with nothing holding it up.
She lifted her hand and slowly moved it across the window taking care not to touch. "It's still active. Straining to snap shut again." She turned to survey the room, closing her eyes to use her mind. "We've been in a time loop and have escaped not too long after we went in. Something immensely powerful set us free. Immensely powerful and very old. Oh, it's behind that board in the window."
They stepped carefully forward, moving to the side to get a view into the window. There they saw an electric pink striped toy cat looking at them with a quizzical expression. Beside it several other toys looked at them. All of which were clearly alive and nervous. She grabbed his arm as the cat spoke.
"Now this is interesting. It's been a long time since I've had some new friends. I think you will have much more interesting stories to tell than this sorry old lot.”
She stepped backwards, her hand on his arm. "Careful, that's the power. It has those other poor creatures trapped. I can feel them tied to him."
The cat stretched out a paw and cocked its head. "Oh you are clever. I like you."
The man looked around him for a weapon until his eyes fell on the window, still hovering in the air behind them. "Quick, the window!" The two people rushed over and grabbed either side. They tugged at the window and, as if swimming through an unseen liquid, the window moved forward towards the toys.
The cat arched its back. "Oh, I don't think so." It concentrated and a thought bubble started to form in the air above its head. Before it could fully form one of the mice suddenly darted over and jumped onto the cat causing the thought bubble to collapse. The cat reacted, sending the mouse flying through the air to smash into a wooden shelf and drop lifeless to the floor. The rest of the mice dashed forward, screaming high pitched oaths and clamboured all over the cat. They kicked at its face, pulled at its fur and screamed out their rage. One of the mice turned and shouted at the two people.
"Quickly, before it can trap you."
A look of infinite sadness crossed the woman’s face as she looked at the mouse and then she nodded. The two people pushed the window forward. It fell over the wooden shelves and the toys and there was a flash of light.
The front of the room was empty. No backboard, no shelves, no toys. Just a clear view out into the lane beyond. He stooped down and picked up the small window with gingham curtains that appeared to come from a doll's house. He gave it a strange look and then dropped it in the pocket of his grey suit. He then turned to the woman, dressed in a blue dress, and held out his hand. "There are some questions needing answered."
"Yes." She took his hand and the pair faded away, leaving an empty room looking almost sepia in the low sunlight.
All characters copyright their respective owners. It's only meant as a bit of silly fun.