“Before me”

[Estimated reading time: 5 minutes]

[Note: this is a work in progress.]

I ring the doorbell of the biggest and oldest house on the block, and Doc answers after a quick second, all excitement and joy at seeing me.

"Come in, come in, my boy!"
Doc's hand are long and expressive, waving this way and that, welcoming me into his mansion.
"Perfect timing, I was just getting us all setup."

The first floor of the building is columns and glass doors, and Doc leads us past all of them to his "seating room".
The room is behind a dark-brown door with a faded copper grid over its surface.
Doc slips in a large, ornamental key into an ancient lock, twists and turns it, and ushers me into a well-lit library.
The door locks behind us and I look around.

It's a two-story library, exposed dark wood covers the ceiling, an ornate carpet is on the floor, books cover most of the walls.
Ahead of us is a dark red velvet curtain, it hangs across a doorway.
Chairs and couches adorn the first floor, and a winding metal ladder leads up to the metal ramp that circumnavigates the second floor.
There are a number of fans mounted on the ceiling, and they're all spinning at different speeds.
There's also curtained window on my right, and it is only letting through a mild glow of the afternoon's sun.

"You must be hungry, and I've got just the thing!"
Doc goes to a corner and takes the covering off a trolley of food.
There are a few dozen scones, muffins, mini-quiches, they are piled high up on multiple serving trays, and the trays are setup in a beautiful tree-like arrangement.
Next to it are three large industrial coffee carafes.

"Just here for tea, Doc!"
I feign incredulity.
"Are you hosting a convention?"
But I still take a scone and bite into it: cranberry, my favorite!

"Funny you should say that, I do have a colleague I'd like to introduce you to," Doc replies with a sly smile.
"And not to worry, this will be quick!"
Doc makes his way to a podium on the side of the room opposite the pile of food.
I come over, a scone in hand, and look at the podium.

On a raised platform sits a silver platter with a glass dome, and under the dome...
is the very room we're standing in.

It's an exact 1:12 scale replica of the library, under glass.
The trolley with a the dozens of sweets is perfectly remade in the miniature, along with the coffee.
Even the podium itself is present in this replica, with its own small glass dome perched on a tiny silver platter, covering up a yet-smaller model of the room.

"Whoa, good attention to detail, Doc!
Must have taken you forever!
What was the most challenging-"

"Hold you questions, hold your questions!"
Doc interrupts me, raises a finger as the universal "shush" symbol.
He walks away, toward the curtained-off doorway and steps through the red velvet curtain.

That's rather uneventful, I must say.

I look around and wait for Doc to return.
Maybe he's off getting the blueprints or something, wants to show me the delicate planning it took-

I look down at the glass dome and the diorama within it, and notice a small, 1:12 scale version of Doc, complete with his signature gray lab coat and black safety goggles.
Somehow I'd missed him on first glance.

Tiny Doc looks up at me and waves.
He's half a foot tall!

I look around and try to figure out if this is some elaborate prank.
Doc has never been one to prank me, or at least not in this scale (ha!), so I'm not sure what's going on.

Tiny Doc is waving his arms in the direction of the red velvet curtain, the same one that he'd just stepped through.
It must hide the controls for the tiny diorama.
It must.
Some worried part of my brain suggests that the answers are there, and I should hurry towards them.
I walk cautiously toward the red velvet curtain, the scone in front of me as the least dangerous weapon in existence.
The curtain pulls at me, psychologically, and I stumble through its embrace and into Doc's seating room.

Did I get turned around?
But no, there's Doc, smiling.

"How did you get here so quick?"
I ask incredulously, confused.
As I speak, I take a moment to look around.

There is something different about this seating room.
But what is it?

I look up at the exposed dark wood ceiling and fail to see what I am expecting.
Instead, I am looking up at a distorted "seating room", as if I'm seeing it... from the podium.

This seating room's ceiling looks out from the podium, and into the seating room.

I look at the podium next to me, with its own 1:12 scale version of the seating room, then look back up at the ceiling.
They are one and the same.
I am looking out at the seating room, from the small diorama.

"Acid in the scone?"
I look down at the treat and feel anger toward the sweet.
Then I feel sorry for it, because it is a scone, without volition, so I take another bite.
"Or, something else?
Doc, what's going on?"

"A friend lent me this artifact, it's really quite something!"
Doc is all smiles but very little answers.
He wants me to try and figure this out on my own.
He looks around us, then stares upwards.
"By the way, notice anything about the view?"

I take a good long look at the ceiling, eat more of the scone, and start to frown.

"Looks like one of the fans is broken," I say and point up, through the glass ceiling above us and on, at the ceiling fan of the first seating room.

"Good eye!
It's not moving much.
Just a bit of momentum, but you wouldn't call that a working fan."

"That's interesting," I say and for a while we just stand and watch the fan.
The broken fan is the farthest from us, and after a little while I can see that it is rotating, just slowly.
It does not slow down, does not speed up, just continues at a snail's pace to revolve.

"It's not broken, it's just moving slowly."
I walk back through the velvet curtain, look up and see the farthest fan spinning quickly.
The fan isn't exactly a blur, but my eyes still can't quite make out the painted design on the blades.
The fan is spinning quickly here.
I take note of the other fans, try to memorize the blur patterns, spend a few seconds doing this.

Then I go back through the red velvet curtain and look up again.
The farthest fan is moving slowly, it's easy to identify the design on the blades.
The other fans have different blur patterns than what I saw, meaning that they are spinning at different speeds.
Or, at least, it looks to me like they are moving at different speeds.

Doc is finishing up a Danish pastry and washing it down with coffee.
I didn't see him get either of those.

"Here, time flows faster.
I was outside for about five seconds, but here you've had a whole minute to get coffee and a pastry.
I'm not certain about this crazy stuff, but so far that theory seems reasonable.

Doc smiles and nods.
"Right you are!"

"Is the ratio one-twelfth?"

"Right again!"
Doc is all smiles.
He likes it when I can figure things out on my own.
He watches me, steadily, with a slightly-wooden smile, then his eyes shift sideways.

I look at the red velvet curtain...
and just now do I see that it's a blue velvet curtain.

"I just walked through it!
How could it have changed..."
My voice trails off as I notice that across the room from the blue velvet curtain is a red velvet curtain.

My eyes shift between the curtains, the glass podium, and the ceiling.
This is hurting my head.

But after a moment I think I see the answer.
I finish the cranberry scone and pour myself some coffee.

Then I step through the red velvet curtain, look up, and see a large Doc towering overhead.
He takes a slow sip of coffee and I can see his adam's apple moving at a snail's pace.

My coffee's all done by the time Doc has finished that one gulp.
I walked through a red curtain, but now, from this side, it is clearly a blue curtain.
I walk through the blue curtain and face a regular-sized Doc.


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