“Wow, uh, sculpture garden,” I said, trying not to let disappointment color my voice. “Yeah, this is fun.”
I glanced over at Meagan, wondering if she’d bought it. It was already our third date, and I still hadn’t worked out quite how I felt about her. Unable to make a decision, I eventually just threw up my hands and elected to base the future of our relationship on this third date.
I’d let her pick the location, and so far, I wasn’t particularly impressed.
Perhaps for the best, however, Meagan hadn’t caught my sarcasm. “Oh, it’s a really unique place,” she insisted. “The whole Kepler museum is amazing, but the Times Garden has always been my favorite.”
“Yeah, great,” I nodded, as she kept on prattling on about how much she loved the sculptures. I wondered if the museum had a food court.
Still, even though this wasn’t my top date choice, I acted the part. I slipped my hand into hers, let her tug me along the white stone paths that cut through the hedges of the garden. Meagan, at least, seemed to really be enjoying herself. She pointed out various bits of metal and stone, and I nodded along.
It wasn’t a bad day, at least. The sun shone brightly in the sky, and its rays felt warm on my face. A light little breeze tousled my hair and tugged at Meagan’s curls.
“Oh, and this is one of my favorites, up here! The Kepler Ring!”
I turned and looked, expecting to see some metal circle with a couple planets stuck onto its edges. My mouth dropped open and my feet stopped as I stared at the Kepler Ring.
A massive ring of smooth white material appeared embedded vertically in the ground. The ring was dug into the ground, and the path led directly to it, as if we could step through and onto the other side. Nothing else but some bushes and shrubbery surrounded the ring; it stood on its own in the air.
But the vision that I saw through the opening of the ring was not the same garden I stood in now.
I felt Meagan clutching my arm. “Isn’t it cool?” she whispered to me in hushed tones. “No one knows where it came from, or what it does, or how it works.”
“What’s… what’s on the other side?” I stammered.
“Oh, nothing. It’s just the Garden, again, but reflected.”
I peered a little closer. Sure enough, now that I looked at the other sculptures I could see on the far side of the ring, I realized that it seemed to just be reflecting the scene back at us.
With one major difference.
“But the sky? What’s with the sky?”
Meagan shrugged, still holding my arm with both of her hands. “It’s six hours in the future, so the sun’s set,” she commented, as if this was nothing special.
“Like I said, no one knows.” She loosened her grip on my arm, but I put it around her shoulders as we both gazed into the Kepler Ring. “Every now and then, some scientist has a grand breakthrough theory, and it always turns out to be wrong. For now, people just come and look at it.”
“What if we went through?” I asked, after another minute of contemplation.
“Well, we’d probably have to go find a security guard to let us out, since the museum would be closed,” Meagan answered, smiling. “They’re used to it, though. Someone always wants to go through.”
“If we went through, and then turned around, could we come back-”
“Nah, it doesn’t work like that,” she interjected. “It’s always six hours forward. Never into the past. Like I said, they don’t know why.”
I frowned. “I guess having a ring that lets you hop six hours into the future isn’t super useful.”
“Not far enough forward to see the distant future, and you’d have to keep on hopping through it like hopscotch,” Meagan chimed in. We both giggled at the thought of some presumptuous time traveler hopping back and forth, in and out of the Kepler Ring.
After another minute, I felt the girl on my arm grow antsy. “Come on, there’s more sculptures that I want to show you,” she said, tugging me onward. “See, the Kepler Museum isn’t so bad after all!”
I felt my face blush. She had caught my initial disappointment. “Yeah, okay. This is kind of fun.”
When she smiled at me, I couldn’t help smiling back. She had a cute face, I decided. It always seemed happy, full of energy. I liked seeing her smile directed towards me.
Meagan tugged me further into the sculpture garden, and I followed, listening to her happy chatter.