Clearing my throat, I stood and walked the three metres that separated us.
“Excuse me, I’m afraid I’m a little lost,” I declared, not quite catching her silvery eyes.
She studied me amiably, with curiosity. The edge of her expression, hiding a glare, hinted at kindness- or, more strangely, joy.
“S’okay. Take way with me, to my place.” Beyond her British tone, there was a hint of Irish background, evident through the pockmarked beige of her complexion. I guessed, at first glance, that the girl must have been my age, two years younger at the most.
Thankful that she spoke English, I hadn’t noticed that the girl had set off in the ‘forward’ direction, thigh-high boots leaving a faint trace of a track behind her for me to follow.
“Wait!” I cried, picking up my pace. “Who are you…?”
Although the woman cast me a look of acknowledgement, she said nothing, merely placing a spare hand upon my lower back and pushing slightly, all the while keeping those reflective eyes trained on me. She wanted me to follow, and I had to throw some of that unreachable trust her way.
We had been walking for merely a minute when the woman stopped in front of a small river, on the other side of which stood one of the characteristically unordered buildings.
“Stay here.” She added another direction in louder vocals, “bridge.”
In front of my own eyes, the impossible occurred: bricks zoomed forward into the empty space, magnetically bounding to each other, so that a platform came into solid place above the surrounding river.
With half a grin at my shock, the woman turned to me. “Go ‘cross; it’s safe enough.”
She placed one foot in front of the other, bracing the ascent of the newly-formed bridge; when the girl had crossed halfway – and I stood my ground where I knew safety lay – she turned, standing strong, and extended a hand.
“Come on, then!”
With some hesitation, I took her outstretched arm at its covered wrist. My heart pumped as I forced myself to disregard all notions of science as I had once known it and to step up onto something that had seemingly materialised from nowhere. It remained, holding my entire weight, and the girl’s, too, where I let go of her sleeve and followed her down onto the grass beyond.
It was weird to be walking across grass as fresh as this when I had just passed through blocks of concrete; weirder still to see the deformation of that man-made pile of magnetic bricks (I supposed), which had come to be so quickly. I eyed the un-crossable river with new disdain.
What the woman’s lawn lacked in size, the house made up for. With architecture that echoed turreted castles, the large grey-walled building towering over the two metres of grass outranked the rest of the city’s metallic forms. An official sign swung over the porch-like steps, themselves speaking of an ‘old’ design reused, but it was not this way that the woman took me. She scurried along an outer path, turning through to a separate part of the building, marked out by the change of materials. I had stepped back into the city of chrome.
With a final glance to check on me, the woman let us into the side-building, into a cramped room of armchairs and simple tables. Finally, I was back to the style I had known. Wherever the scientists had sent me, it was somewhere very different to my countryside home.
“Would you tell me where I am, please?” I begged her.
“I can now,” she remarked, seating herself in one of the armchairs and gesturing that I do the same with the other. “Out of the ears and eyes that would seek to take what we need. I’m the daughter, Ariadne, of the Mayor of this time. Shh, don’t tell anyone.” I couldn’t tell if she was being serious with her mocking tone. She extended a hand for me to shake; I took it warily, feeling warmth whilst her fingers were unusually chilly.
“Where am I?” I repeated.
“This is the Mayoral office, yes, but I know that’s not what you’re asking. You might be a little shocked at what I am about to say, Serena-”
“How do you know my name?”
“Well, I’d better tell you the whole story now. This place you have found yourself in is, to you, the future; to me it is simply the present, the age of 2345. Please don’t be afraid; I do know more about what has happened than you.”