“You want to do what?” said Alice's mother, Irene. “That's insane!”
“Not really,”said Alice. “We always speak about time as if it were a great surprise, an uncontrollable element. I think it's time we tamed it.”
Her father smoothed his muttonchop whiskers. “Has this something to do with all this monkeying around in your laboratory?”
“Something,” Alice said. “Come, I'll show you.”
She led the way to her laboratory. Her parents had seldom been inside, and stepped in gingerly, staring around.
They saw nothing out of the ordinary in the high-ceilinged, curtained room, unless it was the device on the table, a scintillating orb that whirled so fast it was a blur, emitting a faint buzzing sound.
“Is that it?” asked her father. “What does it do?”
“It's a remedy,” said Alice. “You know how one is always saying, 'oh how you've grown!' to children? And 'it seems as if Christmas was just last week, and here it is again.'”
“Yes, of course,” said Irene. “Time does seem to fly, and more so as you grow older.”
The twins, Agnes and Roger, peered in. “What are you doing?” Roger asked. “Can we see too?”
“Come in.” Alice drew her niece and nephew in, smoothing Agnes' unruly red hair. “Remember the twins' birthday party?” she asked her mother. “We enjoyed it, didn't we?”
“I remember it,” said Agnes. “We had red balloons, and I got a doll and Roger a truck.”
“How long ago was it?” Alice asked.
“Why, it was . . .it wasn't long ago. Let's see, what month is this?” said Irene.
“We're in summer,” said Alice.
“Why, then it was just last fall.. . ” Irene looked puzzled.
“But it seems much longer ago,”said Alice. “Doesn't it?”
“Yes, it's . . .it's been quite awhile, but of course we've had Christmas since then, and Easter . . . and . .. .”
“Time has stopped,” said her father, looking pale. “You've stopped it somehow.”
He pulled out his pocket watch and consulted it. “The second hand is barely moving. I hadn't noticed.”
“Everything in this house has remained the same for some time,” Alice said. “We haven't really noticed because time is an unnatural element for us. We were meant, after all, to live in eternity.”
“Is this . . .eternity?” whispered Irene, looking around rather wildly, as if she expected to see archangels materializing.
“Not at all.” Alice laughed. “It's just time slowed down.”
“But the supplies?” said Irene faintly. “The housekeeper . . .”
“Helga has bravely ventured out occasionally. Rather like stepping in and out of a moving carriage, she says. But there is a small problem.”
Her father looked grim.”What is that?”
Alice crossed to the window and lifted her hand to the curtain. “Well, things have not stayed the same outside. Time has been moving on, there.” She opened the curtain.
Bright sunlight spilled into the room, blinding them at first to the scene outside. Alice, who had not looked out for some months, blinked at it herself. Bridges and skyways looped from one soaring edifice to another, rising into apparent infinity, while under and around them whizzed vivid neon vehicles at speeds approaching sound.
“I'm not quite sure what will happen if I turn it off,” said Alice. “But I suspect we shall be quite an anomaly.”