Chapter 38

The town clock struck nine o’clock. Every strike was like an electric hammer driving another nail into the cell door. I had been in there for six hours, and except for the policeman who brought me tea I hadn’t seen a living soul.  But I had heard plenty. The prisoner in the cell to my right had been banging the wall and trying to ask me why they’d brought me in. But I didn’t have the heart to answer him. I was in too much despair for anything.

Had Seeward and the professor been able to escape, I wondered. I could hope a little about that, at least. I was thankful that I had that much feeling left. If they had managed to escape, then good for them. I couldn’t think of a greater blessing than escaping from this ‘Western England.”

Nine o’clock. Somehow, through my mental pain, through the despair, I remembered something. I remembered about Tegid and Dr. Heinkel, the two of them free in my own age, wondering where I was and how I was doing. And I remembered Dr. Heinkel saying he’d be in Tegid’s house every night between nine and ten, concentrating his mind upon me. I could hear his voice saying, as he’d said to me before I left him,

“It might be hard for you to come back. In case you find yourself in any difficulty, I shall be here in this room every night between nine and ten, concentrating upon you. If you want to come back, and can’t find any assistance,  concentrate upon me in this room at the same time of night – between nine and ten. Concentrate, and apply your will, hard…”

But perhaps I was imagining it. I was a man in despair imagining that I was hearing voices, remembering words of comfort, while not actually hearing or remembering anything except his tortured imagination conjuring up false hopes. What chance did I have of setting off from this cell across eighty years of time, without Dr. Heinkel or Dr. Llywarch or anyone to push me deep into the fourth dimension? I might as well try bringing the cell walls down by singing, as expect to succeed in such a venture.

On the other hand, there was no harm in trying. I had nothing else to do, just wait. And wait for what, I didn’t know. More questioning, for sure. Court, perhaps. Prison, possibly. At best, I couldn’t expect to escape in one piece. And if I escaped or was let free, what then?

I crossed to the hard bench-bed, and lay on it. There was no harm in trying. I tried to relax completely, every sinew, every nerve. That’s what Dr. Heinkel had told me. Although the bench was warm, it was hard to relax on something so hard. I kept at it, kept relaxing, and started to think about Tegid’s parlour and Dr. Heinkel sitting there. I imagined seeing him there, staring towards me, gathering his will towards me, pulling me… And then – I thought I must be deceiving myself, but it felt so real – I felt myself being pulled as if by a magnet, and the stronger I willed, the stronger I felt its pull. Already, the cell around me was slipping away from me, my head was turning…

Then, the cell door opened.

“Come on you, you’re wanted.”

I opened one eye, and saw the policeman who brought me in standing there. I didn’t move a hand or foot. I was in agony. The pull from the unseen had locked down my faculties, and the policeman’s command had given me a blow to the brain.

“You heard!” shouted the policeman.

And then he came towards me.

The last thing I remember is shouting “Dr. Heinkel!” all over the place, and trying to jump. The policeman, the cell, everything, disappeared. I felt myself being lifted up as if by a whirlwind. Then everything went dark on me.

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