Mary found it in the attic among Great Aunt Clarice’s things in a velvet lined wooden box. A crystal cube with mirrored insides. She saw infinite rabbit holes created by the mirrors reflected into each other. Gentle pulling it out of the box and turning revealed another open side that looked in on a mirrored interior that was not the same as the first. Six crystal cubes melded into the space of one but for what purpose?
There was power within it, that much Mary could sense. An enchantment to bend space and bind the artifact together but something more. She stared down into the cube. It wanted something; a thought, no a memory, of a place and time. What memory to give it? Something she wouldn’t mind losing if it stole it completely from her mind.
That man, from the corner, yesterday. Yes that would due nicely. She returned to looking into the cube and pictured the street. Light mid afternoon traffic. The traffic light had just changed. The cube began to warm in her hands. She pressed the crosswalk button and waited. A man walked up behind her, too close, and pressed the button. The dark rabbit hole of reflections shimmered and glowed. She stepped away from him. He smiled at her, she returned the smile reflexively and resumed waiting for the light. She didn’t have to remember the scene anymore because she could see it clearly in the cube. Ah, it let you view the past!
“Lot’s of traffic today,” the man said. Mary could hear his voice echoing out of the image.
“Yep,” past Mary replied only to keep from seeming rude. The image expanded as present Mary continued to focus on it.
“The light usually doesn’t take this long,” he said reaching for the button again. A truck with an exhaust problem drove by and present Mary caught a whiff of the smoke.
Mary jerked away from the cube. The image collapsed and the cube dimmed. She replaced it in the velvet lined box and closed the lid almost slapping it closed. That hadn’t been just an image of the past, it had been a portal. If smoke could come through to to present then something could go back to the past. Or someone. The portal had been expanding.
This was not good. Slowing time even stopping it were relatively simple spells or enchantments. Moving backwards through time was something else entirely. Not impossible of course nothing is truly impossible with magic. It was, however, outlawed by several mage laws the most lenient of which called for life imprisonment for mere possession of a time travel device, artifact, charm, or written spell.
She should turn it in to the watchers. It was the right thing to do but there were enough stories about people disappearing into their dungeons to make her reconsider. Better to simply destroy it and forget it existed. She picked up the box and carried it downstairs.
In the hallway she passed a family portrait. Mary froze mid-step. It was the last one they had taken together before … A thought slowly crept through her mind. A simple delay of their departure would be enough. A flat tire or a unplugged battery. It would be easy. It would take just a couple of minutes. Mary opened the box and looked down into the rabbit hole of reflections. Just a little nudge of power and concentration would take her there.
No. She snapped the lid closed. There was a reason time travel was so taboo. A time traveling mage could unintentionally, or even worse intentionally, cause irrevocable harm to the timeline. Part of her training had included an oath to never travel backwards in time.
“It’s too dangerous,” she said aloud and continued to the kitchen. She pulled the cube from its box and wrapped it in a dishtowel without looking into it again. Just a short trip, a voice whispered in the back of her mind. Before she could reconsider, she gathered the loose ends of the towel, swung it upwards and then down against the counter. There was a muffled crack and twinkling of glass breaking. The lump grew larger in volume as the binding spell released the six cubes into real space. She smashed the towel against the counter a few more times until all the lumps had flattened out.
Inside the towel was a mass of glass and mirror shards. Most dull but a few still sparkled and twitched among the debris trying to find common edges to reform itself. Mary shattered those with a tenderizer hammer until the entire mess was still and dark. She poured the pieces into a jar and sealed it.
Tomorrow she would drive out into the countryside and bury it.