The machine whirred to life, humming like an engine. Ned picked up two tiny devices and handed one to me. It looked like a garage door opener, but with only one button, and it was smaller, about the size of a matchbox. Ned strapped his around his wrist and spoke to me over the noise.
“This is how we’ll get back,” he said. “You just push the button when you’re ready.”
I strapped it tightly around my wrist. A sick feeling of anticipation was beginning to settle in my stomach and I took a deep breath.
Ned gestured for me to come and we went through the side door into the room with the machine. It was even louder in here, yet somehow it was not unpleasant. The noise screamed at my ears but it was a soothing sound. I had never heard anything like it. Ned pushed a button on the side of the machine and something changed.
The air began to shimmer and tongues of golden light flicked across my eyes. The light grew stronger and brighter and danced in the room like fire. It seemed to overtake the room and my eyes couldn’t take it anymore. I shut them tight but I could feel the shifting air move around me like water. The light grew bright behind my eyelids and the noise escalated as I felt time melt away from me. At the last second I felt Ned take my hand and give it a reassuring squeeze.
I gasped, breathing in cool misty air. A clatter of wheels on cobblestone streets met my ears. I opened my eyes.
Ned and I were standing on a sidewalk surrounded by people in Victorian clothes. Some of them looked at us strangely as they passed but we were ignored for the most part. Carriages rattle by in the street and people went in and out of shops. Three children ran by, filthy and wearing rags. A stench reached my nose. We were near the fish market. A ragged and tired looking woman on the street corner held a crying baby in one arm and limp flowers in the other. She called out her ware over the noise on the street.
I took all this in for a moment. It was unnerving to be suddenly dropped into another world and I was trembling.
“Are you ok?” Ned asked, and with a start I realized that I was still holding his hand. I dropped it hastily, nodding. He took his jacket off and draped it around my shoulders. His eyes were scanning the area with a critical eye and I realized that I was not looking for clues. I looked around, not sure of what kind of clue could be hidden on such a busy street.
“We appeared here facing a book store,” Ned said. “I wonder if that means anything. Do you want to go in?”
I nodded. I think I was still in shock a little bit. We waited for the traffic to slow and crossed the street as soon as there was a moment where it was clear.
When we entered the store the shopkeeper stared at us in amazement, and then glared at me. We quickly walked by towards the back of the store before he kicked us out.
“We are going to have to find some decent clothes,” Ned said. “In this time period you are extremely immodest.”
“Not just me,” I said, gesturing at his modern clothes. “I don’t think they wore ripped jeans and t-shirts in the Victorian era. Even the lower class would have better clothes than that.”
We browsed the books for a few minutes, trying to stay out of sight of the shopkeeper. I loved the cloth bound books with the titles written upright on the spine. I wanted to flip through some of them but the spines hadn’t been cracked yet so I couldn’t. There were a few books by Dickens and I found a few by Jane Austen as well, attributed to “a lady” or “the author of Pride and Prejudice” rather than her real name.
Ned went to the window and peeked out to see if the clue was outside somewhere from this angle.
“Julie,” He called me over in a hushed whisper. “Come here, look at this.”
I came to the window and stood so he was shielding me from the stares of the shopkeeper.
“What?” I said.
“Do you recognize where we are?”
I looked out the window. At first I didn’t see it. There was the street, the flower girl on the corner, the carriages and street urchins. There were a few more shops across the street, but directly across from us there was a row of flats. On the wall next to the flat door directly across from us was a number: 221.
I gasped. “Are we on Baker Street?” I asked.
Ned nodded grinning. “We appeared right in front of the home of Sherlock Holmes and we didn’t even know it.”