and scattered away from the beam. Those that did not scatter fast enough ignited like flash paper. There was no heat. Each dot or crumb of dark substance popped like a dandelion puff made of photons. It was like seeing sparklers from the Fourth of July, like fireflies, like stars that flared and vanished in a second.
There was sort of a chain reaction, as the light from the lightning-bug puffs of sparkle set the motes of grime nearest the cone from my lamp also to sparkle, flare, and vanish with a bluish hue; and their light ignited a concentric cone slightly farther away with slightly less energy, and so the hue was greener and dimmer. The green sparks created a larger and dimmer concentric cone of yellow-orange; and the fringes of that were cherry-red. Did I call it a bomb? A rainbow erupted from my flashlight, or a peacock made of heatless fire, or a silent tornado of pyrotechnics. It was beautiful.
The light was so pretty that I did not realize at first that my cone of light had a solid base. There was a circle of yellow metal reflecting back at me. It was mirror-bright, and its depth was the shadow of a humanoid figure with wings and a tail and a star in his hand, moving to match the motions of my lamp.
A demon? No. A reflection. The wings were my bathrobe-tails, and the tail was the scabbard of my katana.
The golden wall was blurred, as if I were seeing a windowless skyscraper’s wall stream past me, blurred with the speed of my fall. But it was not a wall, and I felt no sensation of motion. It was a hull, moving at immense velocity, only yards from my position.
For a really weird moment, I thought my Mom had sent a submarine to come get me. It was the side of a prism-shaped freight-train rushing past me in the deep, and it was moving so quickly that it was blurred into what seemed a solid wall. I saw how the oily nothing of the non-medium curdled and tumbled into froth like blue-gray cream by the friction of its passage.
Of course. This was the second invasion-sized Moebius coil trying to shoot through the spot where an open doorway should have been waiting for it.
The doorway, in other words, I had just seen close ever so slowly.
How could the power sending the machines know that a big-eyed native girl in glasses with a really attractive figure and a sweet face could light a broomstick on fire and collapse the twilight door?
For that matter, how had she done that? Who makes broomsticks that shut Moebius coils? I mean, granted, if any place on Earth should have a magic broomstick, it should be a place called the Haunted Museum. But if no place on Earth could manufacture such a broomstick, then maybe Penny was not a native girl. Not native to our planet, I mean.
In any case, there I was, a yard or so from where the doorway had been, and so only a yard or so from the machine speeding silently past the now-vacant target spot. There was no propulsion in the back that I could see, but instead a socket the size of a train tunnel opening into a complex of rings and braces, an intricate curvilinear pattern of electromagnets and accelerators, forming a pattern of black and gold like the stripes on a bumblebee.
It was some sort of supercollider, but what exotic or fundamental particles it created or destroyed, I could not guess. All I knew was that the little breadboard copy of one of these machines in the Museum basement had opened a hole in timespace large enough to see with the naked eye. The Professor’s copy of this machine held more power than the Super Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, and it was a handmade toy. This behemoth was longer than a football field, wider than two Mack trucks occupying two lanes of highway.
I did not see anything like props or propellers or rocket exhaust. Were these things being shot like a bolt from a honking humongous crossbow?
I saw the tail receding like the caboose of a bullet train, or the tailfins of a rocket. Then the mighty golden machine was gone, and I was once more like