Mater Artium: A Time Lapse

Fiction for the 2001 film ‘Kate & Leopold.’
Necessity is the mother of invention.

Prologue: A Time Lapse

Kate relaxed into the leading rhythm of Leopold’s dance steps, her lips still damp from his unreserved kiss, and watched her new audience watching her. Handlebar moustaches and crisp collars brought friendlier faces than did flat curls and lace: the women were unhappy with her.

Whilst turning along with Leopold she spotted an expression of jealousy among the other dancers, then one of disappointment, then another of confusion, and yet all the while the palpable otherness separating her from her surroundings contained the girls’ distaste so that it couldn’t touch her. These weren’t merely the faces of strangers, they were entirely alien to her. They were sepia photographs, colorized.

All of these people are dead.

Seeking comfort in familiarity, Kate caught Leopold gazing down at her, his pupils wide and dark, his smile soft. Unafraid, he did not glance away. He was in love for the first time. He had no idea how much it could hurt, and he was beautiful.

Leopold is dead.

Whirling, she tripped. Leopold caught her in a swift improvisation so that it seemed she hadn’t faltered at all, and they shared a little laugh, but her existential vertigo caught up with her.

I’m dead.

Kate sought stability in the glowing globes of the electric chandeliers overhead but they drew uneasy trails across her vision, evoking motion sickness. A function in the back of her mind counted the decades ahead.

1886, 1896, 1906, 1916.

She tried to ground herself in the beauty of the big bouquets of lilies and roses bordering the ballroom, but the thought of their purfume nauseated her further.

1886, 1896, 1906, 1916.

She would be in her seventies during the first world war. She would probably miss the second altogether.

I’ve been dead for a very long time.

Kate felt tossed about in a wooden machine, as though Leopold was only a figure in a robotic puppet display that had whirred through these exact motions a gazillion times before, and she was the sole living occupant of the whole apparatus, hanging pliably from his automatic arms.


She couldn’t find a single word for him. Her heart siphoned strength from her limbs to fuel its roaring pace. The dance escaped her grasp as the music succumbed to ringing. She felt her smile slip away.

“Kate, are you all right?”

The ballroom rose up to heaven.