Dan loved the modern world. Loved that he could build an air-fix plane, put an webcam on it, and watch the flight around the room on his phone. His children gathered round the telly to watch the results, and he knew despite his glasses and the hole in his cardigan, he was one cool Dad.
He had spent a month planning his latest experiment, watching dozens of Youtube videos and gathering materials. The stunt was a perfect mix of simplicity and marvel. Get a simple weather balloon, construct a sturdy container for a basket, put in an Ipad with geolocation in said basket, switch on the camera, and let that baby go!
You will get a video all the way the corner of the stratosphere, displaying the curvature of the Earth, before the ballon pops, and send the device hurtling back to the groun. Hence the need for a nice, safe container.
He and his girls drove out to the farmer’s field, and carried their contraption to the grassy centre. The farmer was used to Dan’s shenanigans. With much excitement but no fanfare, the balloon shot off into space. Dan craned his neck to watch a shadow against the sun.
Inevitably there was point where the IPad’s location vanished off his phone. This wasn’t magic after all. Dan kept his cool, and ten minutes later signal popped back up, five hundred metres from where they stood.
Hand in hand they raced across the field, and there is was, the cracked but intact shell of the container, the ragged remains of the weather ballon attached. Dan ripped open the lid, and whipped out their prize.
He expected the spiderweb cracks on the glass of course. But he didn’t expect the bubbled plastic around the outside, and scorched metal that suggested an inferno.
Grace, his youngest daughter, tugged at his sleeve.
‘Can we watch the video now Daddy?’
'Let’s get it home first. We can watch it on the big screen.’
'No, Daddy, now.’
Dan always gave into Grace. He swiped on the menus, and within two taps the video began.
There it was. That glorious one take shot shot of the ground falling away, turning into a patchwork of fields. Then the weird murky gloop of the clouds. Finally the it was the green, blue and orange of the globe, shot on a device designed for spreadsheet and shopping. Dan smiled, and his children gasped.
It didn’t last. Without warning the Ipad plunged towards back through the clouds, into that seemingly eternal gloom. Dan went to switch off the video, knowing that the bulk of the fun was over.
His thumb was millimetres from the off switch when the black and white world appeared. A landscape of ascending staircases and thing circular platforms, ebony and ivory, checkerboard style.
Crawling down the stairs were something like human beings, only with joints and hands the wrong way round. Where there should be a face and body were stripes of black and white, dark triangular patches instead of eyes. They made a noise that sounded like a clock going backwards. One demented finger touched the corner of the Ipad, and smoke billowed from the device.
With a crackle the video switched back to the last dregs of clouds, now with a crack across the lens, never ending fields below. The video halted on impact with the rugged dirt.
Dan turned off the Ipad, not sure if the machine was very warm, or his hand was very cold. He though how happy the farmer would be that his family would never trouble him again.