Out of a sliver of air something blue emerged, like a puff of cloud that coalesced into a blonde woman dressed in a slim fitting jumpsuit. Beside her and equally as trim there appeared a man, square of jaw and also blond. His grey suit seemed almost to serve as a backdrop to the woman's blue hues, a reserved contrast to what seemed a reflection of the woman herself.
"Is this correct?'
His eyes scanned the area, as his resonant voice demanded her reply.
"Yes. Yes, it is. Only it is inside of that tent… over there."
She pointed to a large tent that boasted with a sign over the entrance: Fun House.
The woman, Sapphire by name and element, looked to her companion for direction. He, Steel in every nuance of the word, began a slow walk towards the tent.
It resides within this?
Their conversation was not audible, each of them able to both communicate and receive telepathically, as they chose to do now.
Yes, somewhere inside of the tent… the Fun House, as it is called.
Steel turned his head slightly, wishing for her to stand beside him and not trail behind as she was doing. He disliked not feeling her next to him.
Why? What does the name imply?
Sapphire smiled, amused once more at her partner's inability to grasp simple human terms.
It is what the word says… fun. People go inside of here for an experience that they believe is fun. Is that so odd to you, Steel?
There was no reply to this question, nor had Sapphire expected one. Steel merely squared his shoulders and walked towards the opening to the tent. There could be no fun in this place. Time was here, a miscreant if ever there was one. Fun indeed.
Sapphire watched Steel enter into a darkened chamber then scurried to match his stride. He wanted her near, and she responded to that need with a complete understanding of it. Together they could defeat this interloper from another era. It was a partnership that suffered greatly if either of them was missing; as much an emotional strength as a strategic one, she mused.
Do you sense it?
Steel shook his head as he answered, blond hair flailed at the air with the motion. It was a contrast to his otherwise stern exterior that the handsome agent indulged in its length. It was, perhaps, the type of adornment suitable for a male of the species; a crown of sorts. Sapphire admired it and noted the glint of light that caught at the fringe as he turned towards her. She resisted the impulse to reach out and touch it.
Why had he not simply answered her?
"I do. It is that mirror, over there."
The two walked toward a large mirror that was leaning against a stack of wooden crates. As they came to stand in front of it they saw that their reflections were not true; it was some sort of visual prank that cast a distorted image of them back for consideration. Their bodies appeared in waves rather than the perfect forms they inhabited; neither of them retained their subtle beauty in the mirror's skewed reflection.
This is it, then?
Sapphire glanced at Steel and then back at his warped image in the duplicitous mirror.
Yes. This is the portal.
Time was breaking through by jumping along the incongruous lines created in the mirror. What passed for entertainment to these humans was like a slide on which Time was entering in small increments, each time the subject turned to walk away.
This Fun House was a relic, recently re-opened by an enterprising businessman who saw the profit in recreating an era that held the romance of days gone by. What he could not have known was that the elements of his business held a door to the past that was now seeping in through the distorted images in the mirror.
A couple approached the mirror, excusing themselves and moving past the two Elementals. Silly poses produced laughter and more posturing, all of it cause for Steel to solidify his opinion of human behavior.
At the moment the two turned to walk away, something seeped out of the mirror. Sand. Grains of sand trickled from the ripples in the mirror and fell to the floor, only to skitter away as though drawn through a straw.
"Did you see that, Steel?"
Sapphire had grabbed Steel's arm, her grip on his an involuntary motion that betrayed un-ease here in this place. He placed his hand over hers in an uncharacteristic display of empathy.
"Yes, but where…?"
Steel knelt down to examine the small mound of grains. As he reached out his hand, they scattered as though being repelled.
''They are separate from one another. There is an independence in the activity, as though each grain has a different destination to which it must travel."
Sapphire stepped closer, trying to see the grains of Time as they skittered away from the two Elementals.
"Do you suppose they are running from us? Where would they go from here?"
Steel didn't know, could not fathom the purpose of Time separating its particles and trying to reassemble elsewhere.
"Chaos. Time is unable to rejoin itself in this place, and yet insists on escaping from the past that this mirror represents…"
Steel was attempting to create a scenario, an explanation for what they had witnessed. Time was always logical and had a sense of self-preservation. This was not logical.
Where did this begin?
Sapphire's eyes began to glow, intuition guiding her. The mirror became a window into the past as scenes of an era long gone began to appear; a girl in a yellow cotton dress, a picture of youth from a hundred years ago. As Sapphire and Steel observed the girl she made funny faces, laughing at the distorted image of herself, motioning to someone just outside of the mirror's reflection. As she beckoned to her companion, slowly a young man appeared. His image, however, was not marred by the mirror's unique properties, but was perfectly reflected.
"He's the one! He doesn't belong there."
Steel stepped closer to the mirror, not observing the slight motion of the young man's hand as it reached towards him. With one strong jerk the man in the mirror yanked on the wrist he had in his grip, pulling Steel into the waves of the mirror much like a body traveling through water. Sapphire reached out to try and retrieve her partner, succeeding only in grabbing his jacket and being pulled through behind him.
When they were fully entrenched in the past, the surroundings were much as they might have imagined. The music of a calliope sounded in the background as people milled about, ducking into various tents and booths for thrills and entertainment.
The man who had pulled them into this world stood before them unapologetically. Never before had he done something like this, but recognizing the two Elementals as fellow travelers had prompted his actions.
Steel noted with disdain that their clothing had changed. No longer was he dressed in the solemn and dignified suit, but wore the clothing of a journeyman, plain and poorly tailored. Sapphire was still stunning, but simply attired in a pale blue cotton dress. They matched the time, which Sapphire now knew to be April 18, 1893.
The fellow was small, stockily built with features not unlike a child. It was difficult to ascertain his age based solely on what could be seen.
"I am so sorry. But, you'll be all right here. That is to say, you can easily go back to your time.. well, that is if you actually have your own time."
Steel glowered in his most stern affectation of displeasure. This person, whoever he was, seemed completely satisfied with what had transpired. Sapphire noted with some amusement that Steel's clothing was not up to his normal standards. Their host, for lack of a better word, was aware of her perusal.
"Ah, the clothing. Well, it wouldn't do for you two to show up here dressed as you were. I do apologize for not providing something more…hmmm, stylish. You do fit in, though, and rather well I believe."
"You have pulled us into this place, this time… Why? Are you trying to move from here yourself, and if so…"
The man looked puzzled for a moment and then replied to Steel's gruff questioning.
"Oh, goodness no! I am not the one, or the thing… '
He stumbled over his thoughts, unsure as to how he might explain things to these extraordinary personages.
"You see, it isn't me trying to escape. It's the mirror that is slowly divesting itself of Time. When I saw the two of you, well I knew…"
Steel glared at the man, his mind struggling to find reason within the blithering explanation.
"What did you know? How do you know who we are?"
He doesn't belong here, Steel. He's traveling through time, much as we do.
Steel stopped at that. A displaced citizen of the Universe, here in this little…
"Where did you come from?"
The newly rumpled blond intoned a gentler disposition as he considered what it would be like to remain here endlessly. Something like pity colored his opinion now.
"Come from? Oh, you mean from whence did I originate?"
"Well, yes. And, how long have you been here? And why?"
This seemed to amuse the man.
"By the way, my name is Benjamin. Or, at least I have chosen that name for as long as I am here among these creatures. People. Yes, these people."
Steel's empathy was short lived as he waited for an answer to his questions.
"Again, where are you … From whence did you originate?"
"Ah, yes… from nowhere. Everywhere. I am, have been and continue to be… here, and other places."
This was maddening. Steel looked ready to erupt as Sapphire placed her hand on his shoulder, a gentle reminder that not everyone, or everything, operated within his style of compact expediency.
"Perhaps you might tell us how long you have been here Benjamin. And what, exactly, brought you here."
This one is full of mischief, Steel. Don't let him antagonize you with it. He can't help himself.
It doesn't make me like him any more, Sapphire, simply because he is fulfilling his own nature.
If he could have felt chagrined by her silence, then Steel would have reciprocated something like remorse at his ill temper. Fortunately for him, that was not the case.
Benjamin knew that they were communicating. He wasn't capable of it himself, but he certainly recognized when others were indulging in it. He thought it rude, but decided to like them anyway. Especially Sapphire; she was too lovely to dislike. Steel was lovely too, in his own way, but not enough to charm Benjamin beyond mere cooperation.
"I don't deal in Time, so it's hard for me to say how long I have been here.'
The good natured Benjamin saw that Steel was displeased with the answer, although Sapphire smiled at him in a way that made him feel free and …
"Sapphire knows. Don't you Sapphire? You can read my past, just as though it were a book."
"He's a sprite, although not from this place; he's not from earth."
Steel scowled, his eyes turning a deep grey as he tried to formulate how such a creature had landed here, among these others.
"A sprite? But not of earth? How is that possible?"
Sapphire bit back a reply she knew would only make matters worse.
"Benjamin, can you tell us how you arrived here? Perhaps that will help me to …"
Benjamin backed away from her, suddenly afraid of the powers these two possessed. He knew of them without having been told, his instincts were very good.
"I… I don't want to go back. I like it here. I like these people and the fun and the… I want to stay."
That last was said with a small voice, almost childlike in its effect. Sapphire reached out her hand, a conciliatory motion intended to reassure the little man.
"We won't send you anywhere else, Benjamin. We are only here to stop Time from escaping into the wrong place. It's what we were attempting to do when you pulled us into … to where we are now."
Without paying attention to the surrounding activity, the trio had failed to realize it coming to a stop. All around them were still images of the fair, of people and rides. Even the sound had stopped and was caught in the atmosphere like a dull hum.
Benjamin shrieked out a loud lament. Time was stealing his world.
"Stop it! Stop it now, please. I… this place…"
Suddenly Sapphire understood, although she berated herself for not sensing it sooner.
"It isn't real, Steel. All of this is being powered by Benjamin's love for it. His mind is the catalyst for all of this that we see. Time is trying to repair itself by removing this scene from the continuum. It doesn't belong here…'
Sapphire looked at Benjamin, pity and sadness all rolling together even as Steel was roiling with anger at this faux world and the damage it had done.
"Benjamin, you can't have this place. It doesn't belong here, and Time is justifiably attempting to remove it, one grain at a time."
This caused Benjamin to fall to the ground, much like a child in tantrum. He wailed and cried as he stomped at the ground and thrashed the air with his balled up fists.
"Noooo… no, I won't allow it. This is my world, my fair… I want it. I want it back. You can't take it from me."
Steel strode purposefully into the tent, his aim to try and reconcile Time and intention as only an Elemental could. For once, right was on the side of Time and it had reason to try and hold onto reality. Not often would their purposes hold a parallel path.
Sapphire stayed with Benjamin, although her patience became sorely tested with the continuing fit he displayed. Sprites were capricious at best, and apparently this one had been so entitled as to think he could outmaneuver Time and Reason.
When Steel returned he carried the mirror with him. Time was still in the strange reflections within, and now as the three of them stood before it, only the two Elementals saw their images slurred by the mirror. Benjamin remained as he was, although his expression now was sorrowful beyond words.
"We will return via the mirror, back to the time from which we came. You may come with us, Benjamin. Time will allow it. If you remain here…"
Benjamin looked up from his sullen posture, his eyes brimming with tears. Sapphire put her hand on the small shoulders, a twinge of sympathy caught in her throat.
"Benjamin, please come with us. From there you can continue your travels, although you may not construct another phantom world. You must be real, at all times."
The sprite nodded, his understanding far deeper than these two understood. He agreed to their terms.
"All right, only please let me take the final look. I shall step in after you two. Will you allow me that?"
Steel looked at his partner, nodded his ascent.
"Thank you. Well then, off you go…"
Steel took Sapphire's hand and stepped into the mirror as it rippled and yawned with anticipation. Time would tell…
The inside of the Fun House tent was as it had been when last seen, and as Steel and Sapphire stepped onto the straw covered flooring, the mirror closed up behind them and retained none of the flaws from its previous appearance.
Benjamin had not come with them.
"Steel! What will happen to him? How can he…?"
The scene around them began to waiver and fade until the two Elementals were left standing in an open field. All of fair's props were now gone.
"They must have gone back to Benjamin. He was able, somehow, to retrieve all of this…'
Steel motioned around him, although there was nothing now to illustrate his explanation.
"… all of what was once here. It belonged to him. I admit to not understanding it at all."
Sapphire merely smiled.
"Then no harm has been done by it?"
Steel shook his head, causing the long hair to swing about freely. Once more she noted with satisfaction the movement of each strand and the color that was etched by the fading light.
"I rather liked you in that other set of clothes. Do you suppose we might go someplace else and…'
Her imagination spoke to his as they set off into the fading light of day.