III.  Passengers

“Tim?” said Katie, from across her dining room table.  “It’s been too long for me.  How’s this work again?”

“Like those old 3D visual games, isn’t it?” said Atef, seated next to Katie.

“Yes,” said Tim.  “That’s right!  We have examples at the museum. Somewhat like holding one of those jumbled pictures close to your face, then moving the picture forward, slowly, just until the image becomes focused.  Dimensionally focused.  Almost as if you’re in the image with a bird in flight, a clown holding a balloon, or something of that sort.  In our case, we will be in the image—which will be 1990s Paris.  It’s entirely our minds at psychic play . . . almost.  An out of body experience, if you will!”  Tim smiled.  “At least that’s how it was before my newest work at the museum.”

“Exactly how,” asked Atef, “do we keep our psychic minds in the same place at the same time through all of this?”

“I serve as the mental guide, or controller,” said Tim, still smiling. “Somewhat like the spirit mediums in Conan Doyle’s day.  I’ve done this so often, albeit always on my own, I easily possess the strength to unify our minds within the single environment.  I might describe it as mental time travel since we’ll, in fact, be active within the image.  I’ll be in the driver’s seat, I’m afraid.  You’ll be the passengers.  We must stay together at all times, by the way.”

Atef moved uneasily in his seat.

“I trust you,” said Katie, looking at Tim, then at Atef.

“I still don’t completely understand,” Atef said, straightening his jacket, “but could we just get on with it?”

~

“What’s this?” asked Atef.  “A joke!  It’s all in black and white.”

“Slight imperfection,” said Tim.  “With time, I’ll manage a color image.”

“You’re having us as your personal lab mice!” said Atef.

“Don’t be a pill,” Katie butted in.  “We’ve only just arrived.  I think it’s romantic myself.  Like being inside of a motion picture from long ago.  Yes, like those very old Cary Grant movies.  The ones from the university video surveys.”  She turned completely around, taking the scenery in.  “I think I should like this.”

“Cary Grant?”  Atef mumbled.  “Where in hell are we, exactly?”

With her elbow, Katie nudged Tim, lost in thought, staring at the Toshiba in his palm.

“Sorry,” said Tim.  “Just making sure we’re where we should be . . . and when.”

“And?” asked Atef.  “Would you mind sharing?”

“It’s Saturday,” said Tim.  “The last weekend of August, 1997.  It’s 6:24 in the evening, and we’re walking from an alley toward the Rue de l’Ancienne Comedie.  This old building to the left is the Cafe Le Procope.  It’s a coffeehouse.  Founded in 1686.  Quite suitable spot to begin our . . . holiday.”

“August?” said Katie.  “Wasn’t this to be a Christmas holiday?”

“It is Christmas, Katie.  In our bodies and in our present lives.  August is only in our minds.  Still Christmas.  Still a holiday . . . and still my present to you.”

They, even Atef, stood for the moment enchanted by the oddly gray-shades of glass and stone rising before their eyes, the swerving cars like black-and-white brush strokes of light around corners, the mostly dark frowns on Parisians hurrying past and the Bergmanesque evening sky.

~

. . . Since the end of last week, police have examined the records of nearly all 112,000 Fiat Unos registered in the Paris area, dating back to the first ones built in 1983, a police source said today on customary anonymity.

Police lab technicians were trying to narrow the possibilities by analyzing paint chips from the Mercedes to determine the year of the car, the source said.

Investigators of the Aug. 31 crash that killed Diana, her beau Dodi Fayed and their driver Henri Paul were trying to determine what, if any, role the Fiat may have played before the Mercedes crashed into a pillar inside the Pont de l’Alma tunnel. . . .

Christmas In Paris:  a tale in four parts.  IV.  “Between Tick and Tock.”  July 24, 2013

Christmas In Paris:  a tale in four parts.  II.  “The Darkening Thames.”  July 23, 2013

Christmas In Paris:  a tale in four parts.  I.  “Snow Globe.”  July 23, 2013