She takes my hand and swiftly leads me to the lab, as we approach it slips out of hold, only air brushing my fingers as her focus shifts from me to her second love. I follow regardless; I love to watch her work.
Sarah lopes about the place, movements quick but elegant, blackboard to work station and back again. The battery which takes up half of the room hums louder than usual. Blue chalk swishes over the board until it’s covered in scrawled equations. And then her palm slides up to wipe off unimportant pieces, pale blue dust smudging its way across a cheek. She tinkers with springs and tubes and other metal contraptions.
Sarah’s in the zone; it conjures an ethereal beauty in her, face alive, motion graceful and unrelenting. Even after hours there’s no hint of tiredness. She’s impressive, as always. I think if her fellow scientists could see her, they would understand, would stop saying she was throwing away her career for crazy ideas. I have faith in her, maybe that makes us crazy together. After all, who the hell tries to build a time machine?
Then again she does have a history of getting her odd inventions to work, even if none have been this bizarre. I go upstairs to get us something that can be eaten with one hand. Sarah won’t stop her work for trivialities like food.
When I return, I find her standing on a little round stool, reaching up for a timer device; she then crouches down on the balls of her feet, balancing on the stool as if physics itself couldn’t stop her. Except no, that’s not how she would see it, rather that she’s so in tune with the forces at play, so at one with them, that she is of them. Sarah leans over, still without falling.
Food is consumed in between the turning of screws and pressing of buttons. The lab’s space keeps shrinking as the machine grows bigger. I begin to hope we might be close to success. I wonder whether we’ll need a bigger lab. Sarah steps over large chunks of machinery, feet dancing across the little holes of bare floor. Until finally, as evening encroaches, she comes to a stop.
Turning to me, she says softly, “Hi.”
“Hi,” I reply, carefully stepping over parts to stand next to her.
“So, moment of truth,” she swallows in anticipation. I’m excited, my gut clenches wildly.
She writes something and places the scrap of paper on a circular protrusion, “I’m going to send this message back in time.”
I nod. Sarah flips a switch. The machine whirrs, lights come on. Our hands entwine. The volume increases, into a roaring hiss. Neither of us takes a breath. It starts vibrating. We are still. The paper sits stagnant. We wait.
There’s a bang. Wisps of smoke appear. Sarah deflates. I tentatively wrap my arms around her and she leans into the embrace.
About half an hour passes with us in that position, neither saying or doing anything, merely here in this new hum-less silence. When she pulls away I say light-heartedly, “remember this, everyone will want to know what happened on the first try.”
She playfully slaps my arm, and as I knew it would; her face dawns with fresh determination.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Sarah realises her hands are pressed against the glass of the exhibit and she lets them drop. Wiping a stray tear, and letting out a smile, she looks at the plaque beneath the page.
‘An Account of the first trial run of the timemac-01’
Not so agile anymore, she leans on her cane and slowly turns towards the stage, tucking away a wisp of white hair, listening.
“The newest version can allow someone to travel back in time by a whole three hours!”
There’s a fresh round of cheers (the previous incarnation only manages two hours, twenty seven minutes). Realising she’s about to be mentioned, Sarah ambles closer to the platform.
“And now, to celebrate the launch of the timemac-212, we have the inventor herself! Sarah Houser!”
Having already refused the idea of anyone helping her, with Jerry now gone, she alone slowly traverses the three steps to the sound of loud applause.