Jules Amostel had been tinkerer all his days, from his youth when his parents gave him a chemistry set to play with, through his time at university in the engineering department, where he was constantly toying with circuits in the lab or in his dorm room, and later as he found himself a job working for the city’s transit department. The first thing he did upon the purchase of a house, after marrying his longtime girlfriend, was to turn the unfinished basement into a lab space for the various projects he embarked on.
Jules had never been particularly social, and while he enjoyed going out and meeting with friends, and got on well with all his co-workers, he needed time to himself to do as he pleased and found it in the basement. His wife Amy was a patient woman and recognized it as a release of sorts from the stresses of day to day living. Every now and again she would notice him spending too much time alone down there and would remind him that he needed to spend time with her and his friends. She did not ask much about what he did there and he volunteered little, showing her the odd device he built, but they mostly confused her.
Soon they had children and their lives became busier still. Jules found time when he could for his work in the basement, though admittedly less now. It did not bother him, his daughters were far more intriguing than anything he might work on down below. As they grew into their teens and became more independent, he found he had more time that he could devote to his work and he returned to it with a renewed vigor. Sunday became his day dedicated to his devices and he would descend below after breakfast while Amy and his daughters entertained themselves.
Finally, after twenty five years of intermittent work, Jules finished what he had begun so long ago in his university dorm room. The individual devises that had so confused Amy were but a part of a much grander whole—a vast contraption—that, when he finally assembled it, took up much of the basement. It was capable of traversing time and space, perhaps even the fabric of the universe itself.
It was his life’s work, his grand design, but for many weeks he did not engage the contraption, would not enter it. Fear stopped him short. What if he turned it on and he was sent somewhere or sometime and could not return? Worse, what if nothing happened at all? It was difficult to say which of those possibilities scared him most.
Read the rest at Circumambient Scenery.
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