* * * * *
Dan took a deep breath and tried another lever. The cage rose gently, in eerie silence. It reached the ceiling and kept going. Dan gritted his teeth as an eight-inch band of luminescence passed down the cage.
Then he was emerging into a spacious kitchen. A blue-haloed1 cook waddled2 to a luminous refrigerator, caught sight of Dan rising slowly from the floor, stumbled back, mouth open. The cage rose, penetrated a second ceiling. Dan looked around at a carpeted hall.
Cautiously he neutralized the control lever. The cage came to rest an inch above the floor. As far as Dan could tell, he hadn’t traveled so much as a minute into the past or future.
He looked over the controls. There should be one labeled “Forward” and another labeled “Back”, but all the levers were plain, unadorned3 black. They looked, Dan decided, like ordinary circuit-breaker type knife-switches. In fact, the whole apparatus had the appearance of something thrown together hastily from common materials. Still, it worked. So far he had only found the controls for maneuvering in the usual three dimensions, but the time switch was bound to be here somewhere….
Dan looked up at a movement at the far end of the hall.
A girl’s head and shoulders appeared, coming up a spiral staircase. In another second she would see him, and give the alarm—and Dan needed a few moments of peace and quiet in which to figure out the controls.
He moved a lever. The cage drifted smoothly sideways, sliced through the wall with a flurry4 of vivid blue light. Dan pushed the lever back. He was in a bedroom now, a wide chamber with flouncy5 curtains, a four-poster under a flowered canopy, a dressing table—
The door opened and the girl stepped into the room. She was young. Not over eighteen, Dan thought—as nearly as he could tell with the blue light playing around her face. She had long hair tied with a ribbon, and long legs, neatly curved. She wore shorts and carried a tennis racquet in her left hand and an apple in her right. Her back to Dan and the cage, she tossed the racquet on a table, took a bite of the apple, and began briskly unbuttoning her shirt.
Dan tried moving a lever. The cage edged toward the girl. Another; he rose gently. The girl tossed the shirt onto a chair and undid the zipper down the side of the shorts. Another lever; the cage shot toward the outer wall as the girl reached behind her back….
Dan blinked at the flash of blue and looked down. He was hovering twenty feet above a clipped lawn.
He looked at the levers. Wasn’t it the first one in line that moved the cage ahead? He tried it, shot forward ten feet. Below, a man stepped out on the terrace, lit a cigarette, paused, started to turn his face up—
Dan jabbed6 at a lever. The cage shot back through the wall. He was in a plain room with a depression in the floor, a wide window with a planter filled with glowing blue plants—
The door opened. Even blue, the girl looked graceful as a deer as she took a last bite of the apple and stepped into the ten-foot-square sunken tub. Dan held his breath. The girl tossed the apple core aside, seemed to suddenly become aware of eyes on her, whirled—
With a sudden lurch7 that threw Dan against the steel bars, the cage shot through the wall into the open air and hurtled off with an acceleration that kept him pinned, helpless. He groped for the controls, hauled at a lever. There was no change. The cage rushed on, rising higher. In the distance, Dan saw the skyline of a town, approaching with frightful speed. A tall office building reared up fifteen stories high. He was headed dead for it—
He covered his ears, braced himself—
With an abruptness that flung him against the opposite side of the cage, the machine braked, shot through the wall and slammed to a stop.
Dan sank to the floor of the cage, breathing hard. There was a loud click! And the glow faded.
With a lunge8, Dan scrambled out of the cage. He stood looking around at a simple brown-painted office, dimly lit by sunlight filtered through elaborate venetian blinds. There were posters on the wall, a potted plant by the door, a heap of framed paintings beside it, and at the far side of the room a desk. And behind the desk—Something.
1. blue-haloed Can you guess the meaning of this word from the context?
2. waddle to walk with short steps that make your body move from side to side like a duck’s body does when it walks
3. adorn decorate something –adorned(adj.) –unadorned(negative adj.)
4. flurry a short period of activity or emotion
5. flounce a wide piece of cloth that is formed into folds and fastened for decoration to the edge of something such as a piece of clothing or a curtain –flouncy (adj.)
6. jab (at) to push something with a sudden straight movement, usually with your finger, your elbow, or a narrow object
7. lurch sudden uncontrolled movement
8. lunge a sudden strong movement to catch or hit something or someone