[Note: The featured pic is of phantascope wheels, ca. 1832, the earliest known projected animation]
But, the other things had started to happen 10 days after a weekend trip to Disneyland in mid-July.
They’d triggered short-lived debate between Mum and Dad over whether dark rides had done anything to trigger what came next. They’d first manifested ten days ago, Lights had appeared, three days later, but the rest didn’t. Four days after that, they’d appeared again.
And this time?
I worried it might well happen again. It was all so random, its only consistency in how unsettling each time had been, full of approaching dread over a new, ominous outcome, I groped my way to my bedroom, lying on my bed in the darkness.
But, lights still flashed around me half an hour on – only now they were coming together, beginning to glow, rather than merely flash.
I tried not to panic, but any sense of calm or safety rapidly ebbed away. Before too long, the lights took on a kaleidoscopic quality, shifting to new, different patterns,. gyrating ever faster, until they were a kaleidoscope no more. Did that mean the other things were also going to happen again?
I heard a trio of music boxes, playing a a hauntingly enchanting collective clockwork edition of the Entr’actes to Chabrier’s Etoile.
It was in much the same way they’d played a charming version of the orchestral portion of Mozart’s 14th piano concerto – his “odd duck” – as he’d played the piano part on “Papageno’s bells” within the underground labyrinth of the Queen’s Theatre in Birmingham earlier this year, during the time Ian, Stan and I had been rehearsing and performing as the three spirits in a production of The Magic Flute.
A phantascope spun in front of me. Against my will, I opened my eyes at a snail’s pace, peering through its center, and found a full-length mirror levitating over my bed. I stared into it, and found the mirror reflected the phantascope’s myriad animated figures back to me. Just as I’d begun to grow accustomed to this, the room rotated 90°. I found I was standing on my feet, the mirror and phantascope now both upright, facing me.
The more I stared, the more it seemed as if the animated figures left the mirror. Then I realized that I was no longer looking into a full-length mirror, but into the mirror attached to my dresser, and that the figures were now moving atop the dresser itself.
A bicyclist ran his perpetual journey around its perimeter, as a boy rang a bell at one end and a cat was forever trying to jump and catch an eternally elusive bird at the other. Further in, a couple waltzed beside the bell ringer as, next to the cat, a woman swung a large stick at an elusive man, the two forever chasing each other. A grand green dragon lay in the center, nostrils slowly glowing red, then breathing fire before the fire receded and the nostrils grew dark and cold, waiting to glow once again.
Encircling my head, as the lights had been doing but moments earlier, was a five-pointed star, its points ceaselessly spinning, an eye in the centre, forever winking at me.
A smaller, but otherwise identical version of one that had guided me through a series of passages that Stan and Ian, my best mates, and I, by different means, had discovered under the Queen’s Theatre. Chabrier’s full orchestral score of the Ent’ractes had filled our ears then – this time, the music boxes were enough.
I felt the eye’s hypnotic hold grow increasingly stronger, drawing me forward until, as with Alice’s going through the looking glass, the phantascope and I both entered the mirror.
 The phantascope, too rightly called the magic disc,” certainly gave us the first animated figures, and likely gave us the first moving pictures of any sort. Ironically – amazingly – its inventor was a blind man, a Belgian physicist named J.A.F Plateau. How he could have conceptualized the appearance of motion, much less conceived a way to counterfeit it is beyond me. It was a disc, usually, but not always, made of cardboard, with equidistant slits radiating from the center like spokes from a wheel. Sequential pictures were placed at the “rim” of the disc, between the slits. The side of the disc with the pictures faced away from the viewer, towards a mirror. The viewer then spun the disc and looked into the mirror through the slits. When viewed in this way, the pictures appeared to move. The phantascope was the first – albeit tentative – contact I was to make with the “mirror world.”
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