There’s nothing like a little breaking and entering to liven up a dull Sunday. I find myself, crowbar in hand, attempting to jemmy open the boarded-up door to the East Wing of The Manor, determined to discover its secrets.
I’d woken up in a foul mood. The carousing of last night had carried on for a goodly while longer than common sense dictated, and I’d risen with a start far earlier than I’d wanted. I’d dreamt of my late uncle: he was beckoning to me, but no matter how hard I tried to run, I couldn’t reach him.
I found myself unable to return to my slumbers, and I had a quite frightenly sore head. It felt as if my brain was attempting to digest a woollen sock stuffed with barbed wire. After half an hour of fitful tossing and turning in an effort to slumber once more, I eventually admitted defeat and slunk down to the kitchen to see what maid had left for breakfast.
The gentlemen of The Manor were still abed when I’d finished my morning fare of cold meats and boiled eggs. My addled brain could make head nor tail of the Sunday paper, and I found myself in a foul mood, unsure of how to spend this most miserable of mornings. My thoughts kept returning unbidden to the dream of my uncle, from whom I’d inherited The Manor some 20 years previously.
Sir Clarion Merriweather was something of an eccentric, known for his fascination with the sciences and the mystic alike. He spent the best part of his latter years locked away in his workshop, tinkering away with his peculiar inventions and quite cutting himself off from all human contact, save for maid’s regular deliveries of hot food. Towards the end, she often found the trays untouched, the carefully prepared dinners gone stone cold beneath the cloche. It seems my uncle sustained himself on science alone – until the day his body finally succumbed.
Well, at least that’s what we presumed. The truth is that he utterly disappeared. Maid had been leaving food trays beside the workshop door, and daily she returned to find them untouched: this wasn’t unusual, so she thought nothing of it at first. But after a week had gone by, she grew concerned – it appeared my uncle had consumed neither food nor drink for seven days’ straight. Her hammering at the workshop door went unanswered, so eventually she fetched the gardener, who prided open the door with a hoe.
They feared the worst, expecting to find my uncle’s cold body slumped against one of his machines. But they were perplexed. Sir Clarion was nowhere to be found. What’s more, all of the doors and windows were locked tight.
A year went by, and no trace of my uncle could be found. Eventually, after all avenues had been thoroughly exhausted, a tribunal was called, and Sir Clarion was officially declared dead. A will was found: in it, my uncle left The Manor in its entirety to me, but with the express instructions that the East Wing was to be sealed and that no one was to set foot in it ever again. We complied with Sir Clarion’s peculiar request – after all, The Manor was too big to tend to efficiently as it was.
The mystery of Sir Clarion’s disappearance was never solved, but I knew that the answer must lie somewhere in the abandoned East Wing. Now, with the image of my beckoning uncle reverberating around my troubled brain, I suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to lay this mystery to rest once and for all.
So here we are: with a resonating crack, the locked door to the East Wing finally yields to my crowbar, and I stumble into the dark, dusty room beyond. I can barely make out a thing, so I stumble across the room to rip the dust sheets from the windows, hacking and spluttering as I go thanks to the clouds of dust I kick up along the way.
In the pale morning light from the window, I can make out various shapes under dust sheets. I proceed to strip off the cloth, spluttering as clouds of dust are released. Beneath the sheets I find strange contortions of pipes and glass, odd contraptions whose function utterly eludes me. But eventually one of the sheets reveals a fine mahogany desk, and my hopes soar – perhaps my uncle left some notes or correspondence that may reveal the circumstances of his disappearance, and perhaps reveal the nature of his bizarre machines.
I’m certain the desk must have been searched before, but I hinge my hopes on there being some kind of hidden nook or compartment that may have been overlooked by previous investigators. After half an hour of searching, by efforts are rewarded: with a soft click, a hidden button releases a drawer stuffed with a sheaf of papers. The words of the frontispiece cause my eyebrows to fly skywards of their own accord:
‘On the Practical Construction and Use of a Temporal Manipulation Device, or Time Machine’
TO BE CONTINUED…