Today’s Sample Chapter

Chapter 39

I now know that I was unconscious for two days. And that it’s remarkable that I’m alive at all. When I came round again, I was in my bed in Tegid’s house, and he and Dr. Heinkel were looking worriedly at my head.

The first thing I did was to cry like a girl. Knowing that I was free and among friends, after those two terrible days in ‘Western England’, was more than I could hold in. I heard Dr. Heinkel sink noisily into his chair and letting out a deep sigh.

“Thanks be to God!” he said. “The boy’s out of his coma. He’ll be fine now.”

Tegid shook my hand, unable to say a thing. I said to him between sobs, “Tegid, I’ll never argue with you again. Never, my boy. I’ve been through terrible things, things you have no idea of. And getting hold of you again, and being able… being able to speak Welsh…”

Tegid turned to Dr. Heinkel. “Are you happy with your K Eins, Doctor?” he said curtly.

“I tried to warn him,” said Dr. Heinkel. “You know that I warned him in vain. He wanted to go.”

“But you could have told him what to expect.”

“How could I? I didn’t know what was waiting for the boy. All I knew was that he could go to a different future. That was all.”

“There’s no blame on you, Dr. Heinkel,” I said, once I’d calmed down a bit. “I wanted to go, because I wanted to see Mair Llywarch again. Well, I got what I deserved.” I turned to Tegid, and said, “The Welsh language is going to die, old Tegid. Soon. Wales will never be free. The chapels are going to close. A million English are going to come, and…”

“Now, Ifan.” Dr. Heinkel had got up and put his hand on my forehead. “The first thing you need to do is have something to eat. The thing you need to do next is to tell of everything you went through. You must try to get it off your mind. And then, I’ll have something to say.”

I ate a light meal, and after I’d finished, Tegid and Dr. Heinkel sat on either side of the bed. Dr. Heinkel had his ever-present notebook on his knee and his pencil in his hand. I began my story.

When I finished it had gone dark. Tegid got up and switched the light on, and closed the curtains against the night. Dr. Heinkel put his notebook down and smiled.

“I don’t see anything to laugh about in that terrible story,” said Tegid.

“Ah, Tegid, I am not laughing. Only smiling with satisfaction. Because I have proved something to myself.”

“Well, your proof cost a lot…”

“Steady, Tegid, steady. Let me finish. Now, Ifan. You think that the first Wales you went to, the happy Wales, was a dream, and that the other, the awful Wales, will be the real one.”

“I do,” I said.

“You’re wrong.” He pressed on. “You remember that I said to you on the night I first saw you that more than one future is possible? A man can take a leap across the years and see one of many possible futures at the same point in time?”

“I remember very well.”

“Well, that is what you have seen for yourself. You have seen two possible futures. Two different lives are possible in Wales in the year 2033. You could have seen yet another different future. Didn’t you hear any mention while you were in the year 2033 about nuclear war?”

“No, only about the effects of nuclear tests in our century.”

“Well, you could have gone to a dead planet, with Wales devastated by nuclear war and the air full of radioactivity. Of course, if you had arrived in a Wales like that, you’d never have come back. You were fortunate.”

“Yes, I suppose so.”

“This is what I want to say to you, Ifan. Both futures you saw for Wales are possible. The cheerful, successful Wales of Dr. Llywarch – and Mair – is every bit as possible as the Welshless Wales of Richards and Seeward and the old woman in Bala. If things carry on as they are today, perhaps in 80 years Wales will only be Seeward’s ‘Western England’, all covered in lakes and camps and forests. But if you and your fellow Welsh people decide that Wales will be different, and you start acting straight away,  then Dr. Llywarch will be lecturing about science in Welsh, and Mair will be acting on stage of the National Theatre of Wales.”

“And the contented, cooperative workers?”

“Of course. Anything is possible. The Wales of 2033 – and before that, more than likely – depends on you, and Tegid, and your families and friends and their families and their friends, from Holyhead to Cardiff. A German like me cannot help you. And the English can’t stop you. You Welsh, you alone, must make the choice.”

I lay back on the pillow, and went back in my mind’s eye to the Llywarchs’ Wales. Those cheerful Welsh men and women came before me one by one: the girl in the Tryfan restaurant, the dancers at the noson lawen, the quarrymen of Bethesda and the miners of Nantgarw and the factory workers of Meirionnydd all owning their own workplaces, the ambassadors Baecker and Telting bringing the world to Wales and taking Wales to the world, Gwern Tywi and his film of the mood and Treharne the funny novelist, the shopkeepers and farmers, the actors and singers, the teachers and ministers, even the Purple Shirts, who were so innocent compared to the accursed platoons. Dr. and Mrs. Llywarch. And Mair…”

I sat up.

“I loved Mair,” I said. “And I’m afraid I still have a lot to tell her. But if I can’t have her as my wife, I’m determined that she’ll be a wife to one of my grandsons or great-grandsons.”

“That’s the spirit,” whispered Dr. Heinkel with satisfaction.

“And Mair Llywarch she’ll be as well, nor Maria Lark.”

Tegid laughed loudly.

“What are you laughing at, big bird?” I asked.

“Your enthusiasm!” said the rascal. “You’ve almost won me over to be a nationalist.” I threw a pillow at him.

“I won’t have the pleasure of winning you over,” I told him. “You’ve got a head start on me. But before I come here again, I hope I’ll have won a few score. Wales is going to live, my boy. And now, get out of here you two. I’ve earned a good night’s sleep.”

Tegid winked at Dr. Heinkel, and the two of them got up. They went out on tiptoe, and turned off the light as they went. It wasn’t long before I was fast asleep. And that night I dreamt I was in a huge crowd, with fireworks lighting up the sky, and the crowd breaking into song because Wales had become free.

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