Stephanie woke up on her back under part of the roof that had collapsed. It had come to rest against the garage counter forming the hollow she found herself in. Water streamed down from the counter and she could hear rain tapping above. Her head ached, possibly from being hit by the roof, maybe from hitting the floor but, other than a few other minor aches, nothing seemed broken.
“Steph! Stephanie!” someone yelled.
“Marcus!” she called back, “I’m under here!”
“Where are you?” Marcus yelled. The piece of the roof over her sagged and shifted.
“Stop! You’re going to crush me!” she screamed.
“How do I get you out?”
“The end isn’t blocked I can just crawl out. Give me a minute.” She rolled over and began wiggling her way along the counter to the open air. A young bearded man, Marcus, appeared at the end and reached in to grab her. She offered her hands and he pulled her the last couple of feet out.
The house was gone. The street was gone. Hell, the entire city was gone. In its place was an empty field surrounded by trees. All that remained was the wreckage she had crawled out of. Part of the garage where they had been preforming their experiments and part of the living room that shared a wall with the garage. The separating wall stood off center on a piece of the foundation which looked about ten feet wide. As Stephanie walked around the chunk of house she could see it was longer in the other direction by several feet. The piece of roof she had woken up under had a rounded edge. So did the top of the wall and the edge of the remaining foundation.
“What happened? Where’s the rest of the house?”
“I don’t know,” Marcus said. He grabbed the edge of the collapsed roof and started pulling.
“What are you doing?”
“The Professor was storing her camping gear right about there,” he pointed through the roof, “She had a tent, sleeping bags, and uh camping stuff in a container.”
“Right ok.” Stephanie grabbed the edge beside him. “On three. One, two, three.” The two of them pulled it off the garage counter and let it fall on the floor. They carefully stepped up unto the wreckage. Marcus started prying the lids of the plastic containers the Professor had kept under their workspace. It had been her house and she had been funding them so there had been little they could do to dissuade her from keeping whatever odds and ends she stuff into a container under there. Now it would be very fortuitous for them as soon as Marcus found the right one.
Stephanie wandered over to The Machine. They hadn’t decided on a name yet and usually just called it The Machine. They had been running a test and then she had woken up under the wreckage. Had the test caused whatever this was to happen? She opened the front panel and gasped. The innards of the machine had been reduced to twisted melted plastic and metal garnished with scorched wires.
“Found it!” Marcus said while pulling a container from under the counter. From inside he pulled out a jumble of cloth and wire. He hopped off the wreckage, looked around before throwing the jumble of cloth and wire into the air. Free of any constraints the wires sprung outward expanding the cloth into a rectangular tent shape. Marcus walked around it fussing with a few bits that didn’t lay right and locking the struts in place. “Grab the box and let’s get out of the rain.”
Stephanie picked up the container with the rest of the camping gear and walked it into the tent.
A short while later they were both sitting in separate sleeping bags beach towels draped over their shoulders while their wet clothes slowly dried spread out in what little space there was in the tent. A solar powered lantern helped take some of the gloom out of the tent.
“What else is in the box?” Stephanie asked Marcus.
“Rope, tent spikes, flashlights, water bags, water purification tabs, you know just camping stuff. Have you got a signal?”
Stephanie picked up her phone that had been charging off the lantern and unlocked the screen. No service. She lifted it over her head and turned it back and forth, still no service.
“Nothing,” she said putting it back down. “Where do you think we are?”
“The countryside? Where else would we be?” he said.
“Ok I’m just going to say it: WHEN do you think we are?”
“That’s not possible.”
“The machine creates a time bubble-”
“Time distortion field effect,” Marcus corrected her.
“Whatever we call it, it changes how time moves.”
“We’ve only been able to generate distortion fields a few millimeters in diameter.”
“I looked at the machine and it’s been slagged like a huge amount of power went through it. A large enough power surge could have expanded the time distortion field.”
“Even if it did, that doesn’t make it a time machine.”
They were interrupted by someone shouting outside the tent. The specific words were unfamiliar but they recognized the cadence and sounds of the language.
“That sounds like Old English,” Stephanie said, “Which puts us somewhen between the fifth and eleventh centuries.”
“Ok, we invented a time machine.”
Author note: The title Codex Cipher will have more meaning in future parts.