Raindrops streamed down the rounded glass window panes of the tower room in long, wavy tendrils. If I wasn't trying to fall asleep, this might've been a beautiful sight.
A flash of lightning illuminated the ghostlike shadows of objects like it was a sunny afternoon. Not long after, my insides – and probably my sanity – were rattled by the harsh rumble of thunder close by.
There was no way I was going to get any sleep at this rate.
Pushing the musty blankets off, I climbed out of the bed and pulled my sweatshirt over my thin pajama top.
I climbed down the back staircase, each creak underfoot sending shivers up my spine (and splinters up my feet). The darkened kitchen, still a bit icky from the earlier demonstration, was empty when I peeked inside from the landing.
Jubilant laughter, accompanied by the tinny sound of an old Beatles record, wafted up from the second flight of stairs leading to ... the basement. What was it down there that my uncle and cousin were so eager to hide?
I tip-toed, willing these steps to not creak. In one corner of the concrete-floored, clammy-walled basement, Uncle Jake and Daniel huddled in front of a very large ... something, over which Jake had just draped a thick, green tarpaulin.
"It worked, Danny-boy!" my uncle was saying gleefully, rubbing his hands together. "C'mon and give your old man a high-five!"
Daniel gave his father a reluctant handshake before he asked, "When are you going to take me with you?"
Jake frowned, his triumphant mood deflating rapidly into sheer awkwardness. "Oh, uh...."
"If it's Kimberley you're worried about, we can always leave her behind and be back in a matter of seconds for her--"
I couldn't take this anymore. "Leave me behind while you do what?" I demanded, stepping into view.
Both Kesslers seemed to freeze in place. Finally, my uncle spoke.
"We were just planning a ... fishing trip! Right, Danny?"
Daniel agreed a bit too eagerly. "Oh, yes!"
I folded my arm across my chest. "At three in the morning? And I happen to love fishing!" A lie for a lie.
Realizing he couldn't fool me, Uncle Jake hemmed and hawed for a moment before he cleared his throat resignedly. "I suppose I ought to show you."
Show, not tell. This was going to be interesting.
My uncle ambled over to the large, tarpaulin-covered thing and, with a hard yank, uncovered what lay beneath.
A large, metal sphere rested on four tripod legs. There were no windows, save for a transparent, glasslike dome on top. Several pipes and cables snaked their ways 'round the bottom, like the stuff you might see under a car.
But this thing was no car.
"Well," said Uncle Jake expectantly, "what do you think?"
Now, it was my turn to fall silent as I gazed up at the machine before me. I settled on, "I'm not sure yet. What does it do?"
This seemed to be just what my uncle wanted to hear. Like a wound-up toy, he sprang excitedly into action. Vaulting up the ladder, he turned a small metal wheel, and the door slid open.
"Come on in!" he called from within, his voice echoing around inside the sphere.
Hesitantly, after Daniel went inside and no scary, horror-film-esque noises ensued, I climbed in after him.
The interior was dimly-lit, illuminated only by the rows of computer monitors that lined the round, concave walls. Streams of some obscure programming language covered the screens. My uncle sat on one of three swiveling desk chairs whose movements were limited to a rail-like track that ran along the room's perimeter; evidently, he didn't want them moving around while this thing was ... in transit?
"You're probably wondering what all of this even is, right?" he said somewhat amusedly.
I nodded silently, my antagonistic mood washed away. I felt like I was in tech-geek heaven, even though I wasn't all that much of a tech-geek.
Sensing my bemusement, Jake began, "I imagine you're not going to appreciate the technological details behind this, so I'll cut to the chase. Right now, the three of us are sitting – well, you and Danny are standing – in a Time Machine."
Pausing for a moment to let the words sink in, he added, "I built it."
I looked about myself in wonder. "This machine really works, right? It actually travels through time?"
Uncle Jake nodded in affirmative. "It really does. And I'm more than willing to prove it to you both."
Daniel and I exchanged excited looks. He and I were on the exact same page; neither one of us had ever taken a trip on this thing, and now we would have our first.
"I can program just about any location within our four dimensions so long as we know the exact coordinates," said my uncle, pressing a few buttons on the nearest keyboard and queuing up a new screen of code with multiple blank spaces.
"Four dimensions, did you say?" I asked, still a bit confused.
"Time," Daniel explained, taking a seat far away from his father's. "Time is the fourth dimension."
"Right on, Danny-boy," Uncle Jake said with a smile. "Now, where do you two want to go?"
As if by some coordinated cue, Daniel and I both exclaimed "Anywhere!" at roughly the same nanosecond. It was kind of creepy, but the excitement of our fast-approaching future outweighed any creepy factor by a longshot.
Our answer seemed fine with Uncle Jake too. He immediately began filling in those blank spaces and proceeded to add even more parameters in a large wall of code.
"I'm telling this machine to pick a random location in time, limited to the past," he explained. "I can't say I've ever tried going to the future, and frankly, I'd rather not know those icky details like when I'm going to die or how many grandkids I'm going to have." He winked conspiratorially at Daniel, who blushed a redder shade of dark.
Evidently, my cousin didn't care to know these things any time soon either. And it wasn't any of my business, for that matter.
"Sounds good," I said accompanied by what would have been a shrug if the Time Machine didn't launch into into a fit of convulsions that threw me clean off my feet!
From my vantage point on the vibrating floor, I saw Daniel fearfully clutching the sides of his chair tightly as it collided with Jake's like a pair of hideously unsafe bumper cars. Jake, on the other hand, was laughing – maniacally at that – until he fell out of his chair and banged his funny bone.
Only seconds after it began, the vibrations stopped abruptly.
"What ... just ... happened?" Daniel demanded, slumping weakly in his seat. He looked a bit green in the face.
Uncle Jake picked himself up and hollered at nobody in particular, "We just traveled through another dimension!" More maniacal laughter followed. Suddenly, I didn't want to be in the same dimension as this guy.
Breathing heavily, he translated, "In layman's terms, we just traveled through time to approximately...." He made his way towards the door and grinned. "Why don't we go find out?"
And so it began, my first adventure with my dimension – er, time-traveling – uncle.