I wanted to struggle up onto my feet, to break away from her lunacy, but a little part of my mind declared otherwise, and I leant forward to study Ariadne. From what I had already seen, I had exact reasons not to doubt her: this place could never have been any part of my lifetime. I tasted the letters in my mouth. How could it be true?
“How…? I’m sorry, but-”
“I know; it must be difficult to all take in. If you’d make way with me into the following corridor…”
With those words, Ariadne stood and her large strides bounded across the room to a further door, which she thrust open. Hurriedly, I followed her actions as she indeed marched through into an airy corridor, not unlike the halls of the scientists whom I had first met. However, this corridor was filled with a warmer hue, a yellow-cream emanating from the painted walls. Too, I noticed a black square embedded in the whiteness every several metres. My eyes roamed over these, the closest to me humming grey fuzz; the next one along was in its utmost black sheen, but Ariadne sprang to the third one and began to tap her nail-shelled fingertips against it.
Although a little surprise filled me when the panel sprang to life, I was more confused by the electricity’s flow around me. Again that oil smell haunted my nostrils. The way over to Ariadne was duller, no lights above me. As I squinted, Ariadne turned and she called a clear command to the second panel:
“Lights up,” followed by the burst of yellow light in the corridor. “You don’t mind this shade of light, do you?” she added to my bemused expression. “Oh, sorry; I forgot that you don’t know about the lighting system. I like this shade, strength and colour, so that’ll do for information you need to know now. These lights are…unique, to you, I mean.”
“That’s a question,” I pointed out as she continued tapping, now flicking through tonnes of information and scrawls of illegible lines, appearing copied from hand-writing. The screen had the properties of an old-fashioned hard-drive. This I knew well, even when computing and statistics had been the exact bit of my degree that I had chosen to opt out off, with the inevitable consequences.
“How do you…?” I gestured to the lack of leads and sockets. Electricity there was buzzing from the hidden lights to those wall-connected machines, but invisible wires I couldn’t see.
“Think about it as an over-the-airways connection system. The electricity comes directly to the meter, same with the heat and water. Supplies, conserved. We have a cut-off point per dwelling; luckily, we don’t have a maximum per day, and they’ve stopped enforcing the electricity-curfew.”
“That’s…” But I couldn’t speak for my confusion.
A sigh slipped from Ariadne’s lips. “You don’t believe me still, do you? I suppose that’s reasonable- even when I have known to believe in you my entire life. Look, in a minute I can show you properly.” The tapping increased to a rage, but stopped suddenly when Ariadne sharply contorted her wrist.
“Look through here,” Ariadne commanded. “It’s not quite a telescope, but it works in that way. Stand wherever you feel the most comfortable; that’s the way to work with the wall-pads.”
I stood myself half a metre away from the screen, trying not to squint at the excess of visual information that was throwing itself at my eyes.
“What am I seeing?” I asked her. The wall-pad displayed a cross-hatching of square buildings, the same kind of structures that I had passed through to get to Ariadne and her turf. The view had corners cut off, sliced through a circular tube to have a picture brought to me. And yet: this ‘picture’ appeared live, for the ant-shapes of the people I spotted were no more static in their rushing than I had been earlier in the afternoon. Maybe it was a telescope of sorts…
“It’s…only a small town,” and Ariadne shied away from me for a moment, as if she were ashamed of mentioning the area’s inadequacy, “for the cities now are cluttered with many, many persons, the structures built from the marble boom, full of white iron, reflective metallicisms and the dirty grey of worn stones.”
“Oh, I would have thought…” But it mattered not that I had first thought this town to be a city.
As I pulled away from the ‘eyehole’ (as now it came to be known as that name in my mind), the wall-pad gave a tremble and, through the haze of static, the images on-screen flickered to the introduction of a mass of buildings, crowding each other and bustling like I had expected the people to.
“That’s the Capitol,” Ariadne’s voice declared from behind my shoulder.
I caught a glimpse of the expanded version of what she called the capital city through the wall-pad's databanks. It was an industrial hive of sense-destruction. Nowhere hid small and nothing remember the past days... Days from which I had come. The whole extent of my time-travel fell down upon my head as I drew away from the face-sized screen.
"It really is 2345?" I asked Ariadne, feeling dreadfully sick.
“Oh. Well, my next question is: how exactly did I get here?”