Chapter 4

Dr. Heinkel came the following evening, and I had decided to play the game. All day I had been trying unsuccessfully to find a reason not to, and feeling in a bad mood. The more I thought about the experiment, the more incredible and impossible it appeared to me. And this, for all I know, is why I gave in. If Dr. Heinkel was a dreamer or a little out of his mind, it made no difference whether I humoured him or not. It was my duty, in any case, to convince Tegid that the whole thing was folly.

Even so, when I saw Dr. Heinkel some of the terror came back. He was so quiet, so deliberately quiet, obviously hiding some of his excitement. And he wasn’t behaving like a man who was out of his mind. He was every inch a scientist, and like a surgeon before dangerous surgery he did everything he could to reassure me, thereby making me even more terrified.

He warned me not to eat tea or supper, just a biscuit and a cup of coffee around seven. By eight I was starving. But he promised that, if the experiment was a failure, then I could eat all I wanted within an hour.

At quarter past eight, he asked me to lie down on the sofa in the lounge. I lay there, and although I told myself over and over again that we were only playing around, my heart was jumping inside me. Dr. Heinkel jabbed a bit of morphine into my arm, and I felt myself calm down. Then he reached for a big portmanteau, pulled from it a round chrome plate, and hung that from the light above my head. Then, he put an electric lamp by my elbow and plugged it in at the socket by the fireplace. I saw the light of the lamp striking the chrome plate and spinning there, and I couldn’t stop myself from looking towards it.

“Very good,” said Dr. Heinkel. “Keep looking at the chrome plate, if you would. There’s nothing to be afraid of. You’re happy, comfortable, and life is splendid.”

I felt that he was telling the truth. The effect of the morphine, most likely. Although I didn’t take the trouble to turn my head, I knew that Tegid was in the gloom the other side of the electric lamp,  sitting and watching excitedly. But I didn’t care about him. The only person who existed for me at that moment was Dr. Heinkel. He sat by my side and stared into my face and started to speak to me.

“Keep starting at the chrome, Ifan. In the chrome it’s a fine evening in May in the year 2035, here, in Cardiff, very, very close to this room. The Element-K is busy in Space-Time all around us, and I’m trying to connect you to it. I’m putting all of my will into you and the Element-K; I’m trying to connect you together, you and it…”

Even in my drowsiness, I could tell that Dr. Heinkel’s voice was under intense strain, and his breathing was heavy. Although I still felt fine, indeed I was enjoying myself, I didn’t feel any different from normal apart from that. I was perfectly sure that I was still in Tegid’s lounge, and that Dr. Heinkel was by my side. He spoke slowly, rather indistinctly, mesmerisingly…

“I’m still trying to connect you, Ifan. Help me, Ifan. Help me. Help yourself. Think of the year 2035. You want to be there. You have a deep longing to be there. Someone is waiting for you there, someone who is worth the world to you… The Element-K is connecting, Ifan. It’s connecting. In the chrome you see a long, long tunnel, and at the end of the tunnel there’s…”

I have no idea what happened next. The last thing I remember is something like a whirlwind knocking the room flat and whisking me away. I was as if I were decaying, falling apart, going out like a candle. Night fell upon me. I don’t know for how long. When I came to myself again, it was as if I had been pulled through a cave of massive pillows and my head was splitting. I was fighting to speak but felt like my mouth was being closed each time. Then I saw, as if through water, a room full of upside-down furniture coming towards me slowly and drunkenly. Bit by bit, the room straightened itself out, the furniture stood the right way up, and the curtain of water cleared.

But I felt too sick to care. I wanted to die. I stretched my head into the room and threw up. Night fell on me once again.  

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