Chapter 3

The Professor arrived about half past six.

I heard Tegid talking quickly and enthusiastically in the hallway, and a deep voice, guttural but pleasant, was answering him. I got on my feet and turned to welcome the visitor, expecting, having heard the rich bass voice, to see a tall and well-built man coming through the door. When the Professor arrived he was well-built, it’s true, but he was short, and dark, and about fifty years old. He had frameless glasses and the eyes behind them were kind, and radiated personality.

“This is my friend, Ifan Powell,” said Tegid to him. “Ifan, this is Dr. Heinkel.”

I extended my hand and he extended his hand. But before his hand touched mine, he lowered it again. He looked at me like a man who had had a vision.

Donnerwetter!” he said (a German oath, I expect). ‘K Eins’.

I understood later that K Eins (K1 on paper) was one of his scientific terms, a categorisation that he had devised himself. I didn’t understand that at the time, and seeing my confusion the Professor smiled.

“Forgive me, Mr. Powell” he said. “I forgot myself for a moment. How are you?”

He extended his hand again, and squeezed my hand warmly. He and I sat either side of the fire, and Tegid went to prepare supper. Dr. Heinkel asked me about my work, and where I was from, and about my parents and my school days and all sorts of things. I began to feel that he was taking too much of an interest in me, and he sensed that.

“Forgive me again, Mr. Powell,” he said. “I’m too nosy. But the fact is that you’re very similar to someone I know at home in Germany, someone who is very interesting to me. And I wanted to know just how far the similarity between you and him went.”

“That’s all right, Dr. Heinkel,” I said. “Do you find that he and I are similar in any way apart from appearance?”

“Yes,” said Dr. Heinkel slowly. “Very similar.”

I should have felt uncomfortable, but Dr. Heinkel was so kind and his personality was so agreeable that I felt remarkably at home with him. The conversation turned to other things. His work, and his family, his impressions about Wales and its people and affairs, and the purpose of his visit to Cardiff. Unbeknown to me, he had sucked me into some charisma that he possessed, and I found myself talking to him more freely and carelessly that I typically would have done. I was surprised to see that it was coming up to eight o’clock, and the thing that brought me back to earth was Tegid’s voice calling us to the table.

I saw that there was a bottle of wine on the table, and that was a bit of a shock to me. I knew that Tegid, like I myself, was a teetotaller. Tegid saw me staring at the bottle, and laughed.

“Dr. Heinkel likes a bottle of Liebfraumilch with his supper,” he said. “There’s lemonade, Ifan, for you and me.”

“Ah,” said Dr. Heinkel. “That’s the only weakness in you Welshmen. You deprive yourselves of one of life’s chief pleasures. A bit of wine with food puts an edge on the appetite and helps digest the food. Apart from that, there are things in a good wine which make up what is lacking in the food and thereby make the meal more complete. Didn’t Saint Paul say ‘Take a little wine, for your stomach’s sake?’[1] But you Welshmen make alpha and omega of Saint Paul’s most profound teachings, and you ignore his most practical advice. Ah, well, I won’t convince you, for sure, you stiff-necked things.”

The three of us laughed, and the atmosphere was entirely friendly. Tegid turned to the Professor, and said,

“Dr. Heinkel, I’ve been telling my friend here about your theory regarding time. He’s a bit of a sceptic so far, and I’d like you to convince him.”

Ach, so,” said Dr. Heinkel, and he took a draught of the pale, watery-looking wine. The he dried the corners of his mouth with a napkin, and set to work.

“It’s very difficult for me, Mr. Powell – may I call you Ifan?”

“By all means, Dr. Heinkel.”

“It’s very difficult, if not impossible, for me to explain this theory to you without going into the most technical of details. Indeed, I can’t explain it properly to my fellow-scientists so far, since they cannot yet understand or accept my terms and my categorisations. But I will try to give you an idea, like this.”

I was sure that I was about to receive a lecture that would send me quickly to sleep. The only thing that made me start to listen with some level of interest was Dr. Heinkel’s likeable personality, and his own obviously consuming interest in his subject.

“The old idea of time,” he said, “is that it’s always moving, like a river, going past us day after day and always bringing new and different things with it.  That the future hasn’t come yet, and the past is gone forever. But lately some thinkers have struck upon a different idea. Namely this, that time isn’t something that moves, but something that stands still. That the past is not something which has disappeared, and been deleted, but something which still exists. And in the same way, the future exists, even though we haven’t arrived at it yet. According to these people time is something stationary, and stable, and we’re moving through it. And therefore, they say, since the past and future still exist, if we could find some secret way then we could go back to the past or forward to the future and come back again to the present. Go back and forth along time without any hindrance, like the slide on a sliderule.”

Dr. Heinkel popped a piece of bread in his mouth and took another sip of wine.

“Of course,” he said, “some dreams prove that these thinkers are correct to some extent. It’s definitely true that some have been able to travel back to the past in dreams, and others have dreamed of some event in the future, and the event has happened, and the dream has come true. But,” and at this point Dr. Heinkel became more serious, “I believe that the truth is a hybrid of the old idea and the new idea. Time isn’t something which is wholly fluid, but it’s not entirely stationary either. It’s static, standing still, up to a point. And from that point onwards it’s dynamic, it moves. But that point itself moves, of course, because that point is the present moment.”

I could see that Tegid was consumed by the Professor’s words, and I must admit that I – although all this wasn’t clear to me – was slowly being pulled into his logic as well.

“The past,” said the Professor, “has happened. It’s an unchangeable fact. Each of us could go back to the same point in the past and see the same thing and live through the same event. But as for the future – no. I don’t have a definite proof for this yet, but I fully believe it. The future hasn’t happened yet. It’s moving towards us. But as soon as it reaches the present moment, it ceases to move, and becomes fixed. It ceases to be a process and becomes an event. We three could go to the future, even to the same point in the future, but we’d see three totally different things at exactly the same time. That is, the future hasn’t been created in the same way that the past has been created, and what will happen in the future is constantly being decided by whatever is happening in the present moment.”

“But,” said Tegid, “if the future doesn’t exist yet, then we can’t go there.”

“Ah!” said Dr. Heinkel. “But the future does exist. Only what will happen in the future is yet to be decided. Three, or thirty, or three hundred different things could happen in the same place at the same moment in the future – but which one hasn’t been decided yet.  But that point in future already does exist.”

He saw the confusion on my face, and smiled.

“Now,” he said. “Think of a rope being plaited. Being plaited from eight cords, for example. The part that has already been plaited is one rope. But the part that hasn’t been plaited yet is still eight different cords. These eight cords will eventually become one rope, but so far they’re still eight separately. The point where the eight come together, as it were, is the present moment. The metaphor isn’t perfect, since time selects from among the eight possible outcomes (sticking with the number eight for the moment), rather than combining them together. But the rope gives you an illustration.

“Or think of a river freezing. The surface has frozen[2], but the water underneath continues to flow, but as it flows it freezes to the surface layer and the frozen layer becomes thicker all the time. The part which is frozen is the past, and the part which is still flowing is the future. The point where the two meet is the present. But the form which the ice will take is not decided until the freezing takes place. One ripple freezes one way, the next another way. The next one, perhaps, not at all, but is thrown on. The ice chooses its ripples, as it were, just as time chooses its events. But the flow exists before it freezes, and can be sailed on or swum in. “

I could follow Dr. Heinkel’s reasoning a bit more clearly now.

“Of course,” he said, “I could explain this to you in much more detail and more technically, but perhaps…”

“I think we understand as much as we can for now,” said Tegid.

“But,” I added, “suppose that the past and future still exist as you say, and there’s a way to got back to the past or on to the future, how is that done?”

“Ah,” said Dr. Heinkel. “Now we’re getting to the part that’s really hard to explain. You’ve heard of that which some of we scientists call ‘the fourth dimension’?”

Tegid and I nodded.

“That is,” said the Professor, “as we live we’re conscious of a world with three dimensions: length, breadth and height. Is that understood?”


“But now, we believe that there’s another dimension, and call that ‘Space-Time’. The thing I’ve been trying to explain to you. The time – past, present and future – exists as surely as this room does, and there’s a way to move in time as easily as we move in place, in a room or along a road. The three familiar dimensions are length, breadth and height. And the fourth dimension, which is almost wholly unfamiliar to us so far, is this space-time.

“Now, lots of scientists believe in the existence of the fourth dimension, in space-time. But I’ve gone a step further. I believe, as you do, that our consciousness exists in the three familiar dimensions, but I believe that our subconscious inhabits the fourth dimension. This explains why some, in dreams, travel to the past and the future. And I believe that, through using a special form of hypnosis, closing the conscious mind and fully opening up the subconscious, a man can travel through the fourth dimension almost unimpeded. Not only in his mind, but with his body following on. The difficulty so far is in controlling this travel, but I have been experimenting on that, and have succeeded in some cases to control a man’s journey to a specific point in the past or future – to within a couple of years, at least.”

“But how do you control the journey?” I said.

Dr. Heinkel stretched his arms out.

“How can I explain?” he said. “I can’t, except through symbols and comparisons. But I can say this: that I’ve discovered an element of space-time – unfamiliar till now – which is in sympathy with the suggestive element which is in human nature. You’ve heard say in English about ‘suggestion’ and ‘mass-suggestion’ . Well, now, I can suggest to man under hypnosis that he travel to a specific point in the future, and he can go. Because I’ve discovered that there’s an element in the fourth dimension, which I call ‘K’, which is in sympathy with my suggesting. If I suggest to a man under hypnosis – with my special process, of course – to travel to the year of the battle of Waterloo, and he starts to obey, then the element ‘K’ in space-time connects with my suggestion and helps him to reach that year.”

“Remarkable,” said Tegid.

“Impossible,” said I.

Dr. Heinkel smiled.

“But,” I said then, “is it possible for everyone to travel in space-time like this?”

Dr. Heinkel looked at me very assiduously.

“Until now,” he said, “no. Until now, only a few have a subconscious which is sufficiently alive to the fourth dimension, and only with them does the Element K work. You can recognise those people, by and large, by their physical characteristics – an odd thing to say, I know – from the shape of their heads and the lines of their faces and especially from the expression in their eyes. I have an anthropological theory about that, that some Neanderthal blood – subhuman – has come to flow through their veins by some strange means – but that’s another story.”

Dr. Heinkel was looking at me so assiduously by now that a strange shiver went through my whole body.

“Ifan,” he said, “I hope you won’t be afraid when I say this. When I came into this room tonight, and saw you, I stared at you, and before I could get a grip on myself I said ‘K Eins’. What that means is that you, Ifan, are one of the type who are able to travel through time.”

I broke out in a cold sweat, and then laughed.

“You’re wrong, Dr. Heinkel, I’m sure,” I said. “There never was a more earthy and material creature than me.”

“That’s the sort,” said Dr. Heinkel, “who are K Eins. Remember, I can’t be perfectly sure of you. Your outward characteristics, and the way your mind works as far as I’ve been able to gather, mark you out as one of them. But the only thing that could prove it would be for us to do an experiment.”

We all went quiet for a minute, and Tegid broke the silence.

“Good gracious,” he said, “I didn’t think I was doing anything important bringing the two of you together.”

“You haven’t either,” I said, properly frightened by now. “There’s not going to be any experimenting on me.”

“But it won’t do any harm,” said Tegid. “It’ll only be a bit of a game.”

“No,” said Dr. Heinkel. “It’s as well for Ifan to know. It will be more than a game. If he agrees for us to do the experiment, the experiment could be terribly important for science. It could prove various things which are still questions for me. So far, I have only experimented with some of my own nation. The chance to experiment with a man from another nation in another country is something that I haven’t had before.”

“Well,” said Tegid, looking at me with renewed interest, “you’re a man of some importance, Ifan my boy.”

“I’m not willing,” I said.

“I won’t put pressure on you, Ifan,” said Dr. Heinkel. “There are dangers in the enterprise, and it’s not right for me to lay claim to you. You’ll be in my hands, of course, and I’ll take all possible care. But take until tomorrow night to consider the matter.”

Tegid and Dr. Heinkel turned to discuss other matters, but I failed to come to terms with the idea of being a guinea-pig for a scientist. Even after Dr. Heinkel had left, and Tegid and I had washed the supper dishes and were sitting either side of the fire and conversing like the conversations of old, I was quiet and in a dark mood. Tegid pulled my leg about it, but I couldn’t put up with being provoked and said I was going to bed.

Having gone there, despite trying and trying to count sheep and use every other trick I knew, I failed to get a wink of sleep.

[1] 1 Timothy 5:23

[2] In the original, the author makes an elementary scientific error in saying that the river freezes from the bottom up. I have corrected the physics whilst seeking to retain the author’s intent.

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