When I came to myself this time, a hand was holding a glass to my lips and some bitter, thick liquid was trickling down my throat. Whether because of the medicine or not I don’t know, but I was feeling better.
“Thank you, Dr. Heinkel,” I said.
“Llywarch,” said the man who was by my side.
The voice was completely unfamiliar, and I raised my head. On his feet by my side was a man, about fifty years old, his wavy hair beginning to turn grey, and his eyes were smiling at me. He was wearing a green linen coat.
“I’m not…?” I said, and a bolt of fear shot through me.
The man smiled and looked at his wrist.
“Five minutes past nine on a May evening in the year 2033.”
I may as well not try to describe what I felt at that moment. If I went to the South Pole then I’d be far away from Cardiff, but at least I’d be I the same year. But now, there weren’t miles between me and Tegid and Dr. Heinkel, but years. Eighty years. Every tomorrow was already yesterday. I was… I was a hundred and ten years old. And that was impossible. The truth was that I had already died, and was buried somewhere in Wales, and I was talking to a man who hadn’t been born when I was with Tegid and Dr. Heinkel a few minutes beforehand. Dr. Heinkel’s experiment had been a cruel success.
“2033…?” I said, speaking just to hear my own voice as much as anything, the only thing that would be familiar to me in this unfamiliar age. “Dr. Heinkel said 2035.”
“Only two years short,” said the man who called himself Llywarch. “Dr. Heinkel did well.”
“You know about Dr. Heinkel?” I said.
“I do. We read about him in our history books. Dr. Heinkel was a great experimentalist.”
I hoped that I could keep my head.
“We were expecting you,” said the man a moment later. “there’s a record about you in one of Dr. Heinkel’s books – the date and everything. He doesn’t say much about your visit to us, just enough to prove that you had been here. We knew that you were on your way, because of this.”
Llywarch pointed to a big machine, covered in shiny dials, against the wall in front of me.
“Turn the machine off, will you, Gwilym?”
For the first time, I noticed that there was another man there besides Llywarch. A young, black-haired lad, also wearing a green coat. He moved towards the machine, pulled a couple of levers and threw a switch. I noticed in the sudden silence that until then the room had been shaking and humming, and that the machine was the reason for that.
“How could you tell by the machine?” I asked.
“The closest thing you know to this machine,” he said, “is radar. A bit like radar, our machine is able to make waves in space-time, as it was called in your days. If anything approaches Cardiff from the past, these dials warn us. Come now. You’re sure to be starving.”
Indeed I was. The lad called Gwilym came to me, and helped me to get up from the couch where I was lying. I looked around properly for the first time, and could see that I was in a kind of laboratory. There was a little furniture there, all made from something which was very strange to me, something similar to bluish-green translucent plastic. I saw Gwilym press a button on the wall opposite, and the laboratory slowly lit up. I noticed how dark it had been there before. But although it was very bright there now, I couldn’t see a lamp anywhere.
“You’d better change your clothes in a moment, Mr. Powell,” said Llywarch. “We don’t want everyone staring at you in your old-fashioned clothes wherever you go. But before you do, Gwilym can take a photo or two of you. This camera behind you has recorded everything that’s happened in this room so far. But we’d like to have a couple of good static photographs… Ready, Gwilym?”
“Ready, Dr. Llywarch,” said Gwilym, and a little camera flashed at me two or three times.
“These will be in the papers tomorrow morning,” said Llywarch. “And now, Mr. Powell…”
“How do you know my name?” I asked.
“Dr. Heinkel’s records.”
“Oh of course…”
“Let’s go. Gwilym, will you look after the lab until Dr. Prydderch comes to work the night shift?”
“Yes, Dr. Llywarch.”
“I’ll take Mr. Powell home with me.”
We went through a door to a small, very cosy room. A room where I didn’t feel entirely at home, despite its cosiness. There was something insubstantial about it – it’s hard to say how. The chairs and the little table were made of the plastic-like material, and the walls seemed to made of a shimmering mist, and the floor – that was like warm glass with light in it. I saw that Llywarch was studying me.”
“Sit down, Mr. Powell.”
I sat down on the plasticky chair, and I had never sat in anything more comfortable.
“I’ve been studying your reaction to this room,’ said Llywarch. “Naturally, you don’t rightly know what to make of it. I brought you here first to prepare you.”
“For what?” I said.
“It’s hard for you to realise that you are in a very different age from the one that you lived in. You’ll find that life is different from how it was in your days. The buildings will be different, the clothes different – even the atmosphere will be different. Try to relax completely, and take everything quietly as it comes – just as if you were in a dream. If you let everything shock you and disturb you, then in three or four days you’ll be a wreck, suffering from the disease of those who break through the curtain of time. Will you do as I suggest?”
“I’ll try, Dr. Llywarch. But… I don’t want to be here for three or four days. I want to go back…”
“Whenever you want,” said Dr. Llywarch.
“Can you send me back?”
“Easily. We helped you to come here tonight, helping Dr. Heinkel to transfer you. If it weren’t for my efforts here, perhaps Dr. Heinkel’s experiment would have been a failure. It will be easier to send you back – thanks to the machine.”
I let go a sigh of relief.
“Forgive me for asking… What is your work, Dr. Llywarch?”
“Professor of Superdynamics in the University. If you’re interested, I’ll show you the college and the laboratories tomorrow.”
“I’d like to see them.”
“Dear Mr. Powell, you need to eat. My wife is waiting for us. Come.”