Chapter 31

“Ifan, Ifan, you’re back!”


I tried to shake the mist from my brain and figure out where I was. With a great deal of difficulty I raised my hand to rub my eyes, and the room slowly lit up around me. Tegid was standing by my head, smiling like an organ and shaking me a little too energetically.

“You know what, old boy, I was beginning to think we’d never see you again. Thank heaven you’re back safe and well. I’ve just been to the kitchen to get a spot of supper, and when I came back, here you were. Yikes, I’d better get you up off the floor…”

“Don’t worry, Tegid. I think I can get up my myself.”

With Tegid’s help, I got up from the carpet and collapsed into an armchair. I asked him to stop talking so much – he was going like a mill – and let me come to myself. But there was no stopping him.

“Dr. Heinkel will be here any minute. He’s here half a dozen times every day; he’s gone mad over this experiment. It’s going to make history, he says…”


“Tell me, where were you, old boy? What did you see? Did you see much that had changed? Shush! Here’s Dr. Heinkel, just like he said. Well, well, he’s going to completely lose his head…!”

Tegid left the room to meet the doctor, and I was glad to have a minute’s peace. But I didn’t get a full minute. The two of them rushed in, and Dr. Heinkel almost threw himself at my feet.

“Ifan! Well, well, well, well! I’m glad to see you back. But you must go to bed at once, or the strain will be too much for you. Let me see your eyes. Yes… yes, sure, the light of a distant age is in them, as I expected. Come on Tegid, help me get him to bed, and then you must take his supper up to him. No talking tonight, Ifan. I’ll come here tomorrow morning with a big notebook, to get all the details.

In no time at all I was in bed with a tray in front of me. The cup of tea was a life-saver, but I could hardly touch the food. Tegid was obviously aching to hear the story, but Dr. Heinkel had laid down the law clearly enough. After I’d eaten as much as I could, the two of them went down and left me there by myself I don’t remember anything after that. When I woke up, the sun was shining pleasantly through the window, and it was quarter to twelve.

As he had promised, Dr. Heinkel was by my bedside the moment I woke, with his big notebook in his hand. I was so late getting up, though, that it wasn’t worth him starting to write before lunch. We went out into the city to get lunch.

As I went through it on the bus, I could hardly believe my eyes. The sun was shining on it, and the gardens were fairly colourful and the trees fairly green, but this wasn’t the same Cardiff as the one I’d been living in for almost a week. Compared to that, this was colourless and stale. English was on every shop, on every street, and on every lip. Everything smelled of petrol. And the vacant stares on the travellers’ faces… so different from that cheerfulness on the faces of their descendants… so disappointingly different. Oh well. Things were going to get better, at least. It was good to know that.

After returning to the house, I spent the afternoon telling the story to Dr. Heinkel. He wrote quickly in German, stopping me from time to time to ask a question. The day was hot, and we went out into the garden. When Tegid came home from work, he brought tea out to us, fair play to him.

“I don’t feel like tea,” I said. “I’d like blackberry tea with ice.”

“Blackberry tea with ice?” said Tegid in amazement.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “I forgot. We don’t drink that in our age. It was – it will be – a good drink.”

Tegid heard my story like a man enchanted. Everything I recited seemed so simple to me. So natural. But to Tegid…

“And you were in Free Wales!” he said incredulously. “Oh, if only I’d been a K Eins.”

“Ah, Tegid,” said Dr. Heinkel. “You must be satisfied with your limitations. Now Ifan, you were halfway through the story of the football game, and Rhys Rhymney…”

“Oh yes, Rhys Rhymney,” I said. And on I went. And on. And on.

When bedtime arrived, I was still telling the story. And Dr. Heinkel was still writing. And Tegid was still listening. Dr. Heinkel closed his book, and said,

“No more tonight, Ifan. You must go to bed. You can tell the rest in the morning. Tegid, can I use your telephone? I need to phone the hotel to tell them I’m on my way, lest I arrive and find the door locked.”

“You mean the gweleffon[1]…” but I stopped myself.

Tegid laughed.

“You’re still living in the year 2033, old boy,” he said.

I was, more than he knew. More than Dr. Heinkel knew. I longed, really longed, for the leisurely, contented life that I’d been able to live for such a short time. I longed for the colourful streets, the contented workers, the Welsh daily newspaper, for Dr. and Mrs. Llywarch, and for Mair. Especially Mair. My longing for her was consuming me. I was sure that I couldn’t live without her for long.

In my bed that night I was thinking about her again. I could see her two big eyes as clearly as I could see the light from the streetlamps on the wall in front of me. That quick smile that would break across her face, and the hint of a tremor in her voice when something had moved her. I saw her by my side in the car by the wide road in Dyffryn Mymbyr, and her head on my shoulder in the garden of the farm above Llanrwst, and the moonlight like silver threads through her hair, and her looking at me as I left her in the laboratory. I turned over, and tried to push her out of my mind. But there was no forgetting her. Mair had rent a void through my soul, and there was nothing that could close it.

[1] i.e.videophone, see chapter 12; in Welsh the two words sound much more similar than they do in English.

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