Monday, November 21, 2005

Adrienne's photo

And here is the better photo. . .

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Photo from last night

And here we are, enjoying the madness. What a wild bunch we look too.
Looking forward to seeing YOUR photo, Adrienne.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Time Machine

Angus opened the tin door to his time machine, and swept his arm in an arc towards to small wooden schoolchair that stood within.

“Are you going to give it a try?” he asked, smiling benignly. There was a wild look to him, possibly the combination of uncombed hair, which stuck out around his head like a halo, and the steel-rimmed glasses on the end of his nose.

Gloria sighed but stepped forward: “How do I get out from the inside?” she asked, looking around the cavity before sitting down. “I don’t fancy being stuck in here while you run off laughing into the distance.”

“You’ve got a lot of faith in my work, but I’ll forgive that for now. It’s a latch here at the top of the door, which won’t shake open in transit.” With these enigmatic words, Angus swung the door shut and told her to lock it.

Gloria called out from within: “It’s pretty dark. How do I see?”

“You won’t need to, until you open up at the other end.”

The door opened again. Gloria blinked into the light: “Where’s the timer I set to come back? I mean, if I’m meant to believe this, there must be a timer.”

Angus hit his forehead with the palm of his hand and rolled his eyes. “Yes, yes, of course. It’s here.” He indicated an old analogue clockface set back against the panels behind the chair. “I do most of it from this end, but of course, you need to reset it when you get there. See that middle knob; it’s got the years in it, you just turn that back to June 15, 2005, and then press the green button beside the clock. Make sure you’re sitting when you do.”

Gloria smiled and nodded. “Okay, okay. I’ve got the picture. Should I have brought my camera?” she laughed.

“Already in there, in the box on your left.” Angus wandered off out of Gloria’s sight behind the contraption and wound a few levers. He came back clutching a thermos and sandwiches. “Almost forgot. Thought you might need some real food just in case. Don’t stay too long – just long enough to take a few shots, and get the feel of the place. It’ll be here, but the year 1400.”

“How long do I wait before I open the door?” asked Gloria good-naturedly. “I have an assignment to do before tomorrow.”

Angus scratched his head: “I wish you’d take this more seriously. I’ve spent the better part of a year on the project. You’d better count to one hundred slowly just to be sure. This is going to blow any assignment you thought you had sky high”.

“Alright let’s do it, then,” said Gloria. She pulled the door shut, latched it, and felt for the chair, lowering herself into it carefully. Twisting around she saw the fluorescent letters and numbers on the clock shining in the darkness, and only then did she notice that it wasn’t a normal clockface, but one with months and years on it. It was set for June 1400.
She placed the thermos at her feet, the sandwiches on her lap, folded her arms and waited. It was dark inside the container but light shone dimly through some of the joins in the metal walls, and she heard the sounds of Angus moving around to the back and various levers being primed, as well as the slowly increasing whirr of some machinery.

“Sounds great. Authentic.” She called encouragingly. To her surprise the light through the wall joints got brighter and strobed gently, and a high-pitched whine arose. The ‘engine’ made her chair shake slightly. Reaching down Gloria felt the thermos and drew it up onto her lap, where she gently unscrewed the lid. She held it in front of her and carefully poured some of the liquid out into the cup.

“I’ll have some of the tea now,” she shouted above the racket, half wondering if she should offer some to Angus. A sudden jolt made her slop the hot drink over her left arm and she swore. Lifting the cup quickly to her lips she slurped the rest of it up and then screwed the cap back on and placed it at her feet again. “That was delicious, thanks.”

The whirring was slowing down now, and the flickering light was easing to a dim glow. Gloria couldn’t hear Angus at all, but she guessed he’d slipped away to put on a costume to surprise her. It was all so obvious. How she came to be flatting with a mad scientist was a puzzle to her but it did make her rather ordinary life interesting. And it did make for some great stories over coffee with her friends.

“49, 50, 51, 52. . .” Gloria counted loudly, suddenly remembering that part of her training. “78, 79, 80. . .”

As her recital reached the nineties, she noticed the sounds outside had changed. Bird song and insect noise increased until it reached deafening proportions, and she put her hands over her ears.

“98, 99, 100! Coming, ready or not,” and Gloria reached for the latch above the door.

At the same moment, a terrific screech sounded just to the right and above the contraption, and she was so surprised she shrieked in return. The sounds diminished suddenly. It was then that she noticed her toes were wet, and, reaching down, her fingers felt moisture seeping under the door.

“Go easy, don’t give me a heart attack, Angus, I’m warning you,” and with a quick flick Gloria had the latch down, “I’m coming out now.”

Carefully she pushed the door ajar but even slowly, Gloria was utterly unprepared for what she saw.

A crescent moon hung overhead, but a rosy glow warmed the distant horizon, shining through a lacy silhouette of branches and foliage. The thick aroma of dense, moist undergrowth surged into her confined space. As Gloria stared, details emerged; punga fronds, trailing vines, massive trunks, the flitting of numerous insects, scuffling sounds close to the ground.

Gloria whimpered and pulled the door shut, locking it and sitting unsteadily down. Her heart was beating too fast, and she panted.

“Angus?” she bleated shakily. “Stop this now. If you’ve drugged my tea, I’m going straight to the police, I mean it.”

She waited for fifteen minutes, hoping either the drug would wear off or the sounds would go away, but the birdsong increased, and once again she heard the loud screech to her right, and the heavy tread of an approaching creature.

“Angus?” she called tremulously, rising to her feet. Gloria unlatched the door gently and peeped through a gap no bigger than her thumb.

A golden sun had risen and the rays from it drenched the forest before her in steamy light. Myriads of insects flitted through the dappled sunshine, and she pushed the door open wider, not even feeling the tears on her cheeks. Woodpigeons and tuis fluttered overhead, amidst a cacophony of birdsong, which swelled around her. A laugh burst from her when she saw the scuffling at her feet was a couple of kiwis disappearing into the fern. Then Gloria lifted her face and looked up the trunk of the largest kauri she had ever seen. Its broad speckled bark almost glowed in the morning light and the crown of the tree was lost in the clouds. This tree was one of many crowding the sky between her and the horizon line. With her mouth open and her head up, she stepped out of the container. At the same time, a feathered head peered over the door and gazed down, cocking its eye at her. Gloria fainted dead away among the bracken.

When she came to, it took her a moment to realise where she was. She was staring straight up at a filigree of leaves in the canopy above her, and when she remembered what had made her faint, she rolled her eyes to the right. It was only when Gloria saw that there was nothing large and feathered standing there that she sat up and looked around. A weta was standing on her left shoe, her hair was thick with mud, various wriggling insects were wandering over her sweatshirt, but there was no moa. That was what she had seen just before passing out.

“Oh, Angus, how ever did you do this?” she muttered thickly shaking her head in disbelief.

Quickly now, Gloria lurched into the ‘time machine’ and opened the box by the chair for the first time. It contained a small backpack in which she put the ham sandwiches, and she also found a water bottle, notebook, pencil and disposable camera. It took just a moment to pull the camera out and put the backpack on, and then she stepped out again and pushed the door as closed as she could.

With her back bent almost double, Gloria prowled the ground to the right of the machine, and there, clearly defined in the mud, were enormous prints comprising three toes at the front and a back one. The prints wound away in the direction of the rising sun, and rolling her jeans up Gloria followed them. The undergrowth was so thick and lush she was forced to untangle herself often, but the bird had chosen a clearer path to follow and before long, Gloria parted a stand of bracken and was rewarded with her first true sighting of the moa.

As tall as the Nikau Palm the bird seemed immense. At the end of its long graceful neck, the small head and beak picked away at undergrowth, and every now and then, a taloned foot would scratch at the earth and the feathers on that massive oval body would tremble and shake. Once, the moa lifted its head and fixed a beady stare on the clump of bushes Gloria hid behind, but soon it resumed its foraging and Gloria let out the breath of air she was holding. She lifted the camera carefully and steadied herself against the trunk of a tree. Tensing, she pressed the plastic button on top and grimaced at the noise as the shutter opened and closed. Worse, the automatic flash lit up the forest for a moment and then it was all over.

With a piercing shriek the moa leapt forward into the foliage, and within seconds was out of sight.

Gloria came out and stood up straight, staring at the place it had just been. “I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it,” she muttered, and she knelt down to take a photo of the prints left behind. Standing up, Gloria remembered she should have taken note of her track, and so she made a mark with her knife on the trunk of one of the largest trees before she turned her back on it and set off in the direction of the sun.

After quarter of an hour Gloria had used up all the available film in her camera. There were species of everything from lichen to lilies that she had never seen before. She didn’t even notice she was talking to herself: “I can’t believe you only gave me ONE camera! A digital wouldn’t have gone amiss here. I’d have let you off your rent for a year, Angus. How could you!”

Passing a stand of manuka Gloria found the ground descended steeply ahead of her and a most glorious vista opened before her eyes. In the foreground, just beyond the low-lying scrub twinkled the waters of an inner harbour, and beyond, the mouth of the harbour and the two points of land that rose on either side. What marked the scene as familiar to her, were the high points on the jagged skyline and she realised with growing wonder, that she was looking at Mt Eden, Mt Wellington, One Tree Hill and other volcanoes, but each of these were taller and rougher in shape.

Good Lord, she was in Auckland, standing in Te Atatu facing the city. What city? There was nothing but bush, tree and shrub that she could see from this distance. An hour ago she wouldn’t have remembered what the skyline had been like before the Sky Tower and here was a stretch of lumpy land whose ‘buildings’ were all immense trees. How had she ended up here? Of course! Her flat was in Henderson, and that was where the time machine had been constructed. She had walked with her back to the Waitakere Ranges. Barely had she grasped these details, barely had she swung her pack off her back to take a swallow from her water bottle, than Gloria heard a deep rumble start up from some distant place. She swung around and stared out to sea with a rising panic. At the same time, the ground began to shake beneath her feet, and she gripped the nearest branch for support fearing what she would see next. It took her a moment to focus on the source of the low rumbling and when she did, she remembered what was missing from the picture ahead of her, and the sweat broke out on her forehead. Rangitoto!

Even as Gloria turned and ran back into the forest, the ground bucked underneath her, and she was forced to grab at the trunks of trees and pick herself up off the ground numerous times before she found herself back at the place she had seen the moa. A terrific explosion sounded and in horror, Gloria twisted around and saw above the treetops a rising tower of ash and molten lava, and poisonous black clouds bursting out in all directions. She stumbled forward as all around her missiles of rock pelted the bush, and small fires started. When she reached the machine, she was barely inside it before a huge rock belted up against the roof and dented it inwards.

“What do I do again? Oh Angus, where are you when you’re needed. . .” Gloria fumbled forwards, her hands shakily turning the dials on the clockface behind the chair. She pressed the button beside the clock and sat down with her head between her knees and her hands over her ears. A violent shaking knocked the thermos over. The slow whine of something mechanical grew until the noise overtook the explosions outside and rose to a deafening pitch. Gloria gripped the sides of the chair, which was rattling and moving over the floor. She was immensely relieved when, with a sudden lurch and ear-splitting crash, she was plunged into silence and darkness. The only sound was the rasping of her breath panting in and out. Straightening up, she turned to see what the soft glow behind her was. The numbers on the clock shone dully back.

June 3005.

The End

The first posting. . .

Hi, and here I am, ready to go and raring to right, . . . I mean wraring to write. . . I mean.

Well, I'm here. Watch this space.