Copyright 2017 Mario V. Farina
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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“My name is H. G. Wells. May I sit here with you, Ms. Adams?” the young man asked.
I was at the church’s annual spring dance with my friend, Wendy Georgen. There were chairs along the wall. Wendy and I were sitting beside each other. There was an empty chair at my right. He was about thirty, of average height, with dark hair a little sparse on top. A small bushy mustache was doing a fairly good job separating his nose from his mouth resulting in a pleasing countenance. He carried a formal, distinguished demeanor.
“Sure,” I responded. “You know my name?”
“Yes, I hope you don’t mind. You have a look that impressed me. I asked around about you. I heard nothing but good. You’re Alena Adams, lovely, about twenty-five, never married. You’re the kind of woman, a man would have a hard time finding.” He spoke with an elegant English accent.
The complement was unexpected. I didn’t know whether I should be offended.
“Are you the famous H. G. Wells,” I asked facetiously. It was a meaningless question. The renowned British author had died shortly after the end of World War II. Though I had been fascinated by his stories, “The Time Machine,” “The War of the Worlds,” and others, I had not heard his name in many years.
“No,” he said. I’m not that H. G. Wells! His name was Herbert, George. My name is Hugh and my middle name is Gerald. I’m an author, as he was, but certainly nowhere near as successful. Please call me Hugh.”
My feelings for the visitor immediately softened. “Yes, Hugh, I’d be happy if you sat next to me and my friend, Wendy.”
The next several hours left me with a blur of memory. Hugh and I ignored all thoughts of dancing. It was not even mentioned. Instead, we spoke non-stop about what each of us would want in a life-mate. I could not escape the feeling that each of us was interviewing the other for the position of husband or wife. Wendy abandoned the thought that she might figure in the conversation and went to sit with another person. I did not see her, nor did I even think of her for the rest of the evening. The most memorable statement that Hugh spoke to me was, “Alena, I’ve searched the world for you.” That statement kept reverberating in my brain as I fell asleep in my bed that night.
Sleep was like a slumber of death, deep, and non-interruptible. Hour after hour I lay, as if in a coma, with dreams of scenes that made little sense. I saw a young boy writing in a book, page after page complete with imaginative images of suns, ships, rocky crags, and fiery spirals. There was a brief reference to “Desert Daisy.” I saw an older boy sitting at a desk, fist to chin, obviously bored. I saw a column of scantily clad women being summarily waved to the side, some to the left, some to the right. When I awoke, I felt deeply troubled. Hugh and I had agreed to meet in Seneca Park for a picnic at noon. I had agreed to bring a basket with what I could find in the refrigerator. I determined to ask penetrating questions during our outing.
We had barely sat on the blanket we had laid on the grass, when I asked my first question. “Hugh, are you a relative of the real H. G. Wells?”
“Not really. In a sense, maybe,” he responded.
“I had some very disturbing dreams during the night!”
“I know,” he said. “I sent them!”
“I have abilities most do not,” he responded cryptically
“Hugh, I read a biography of H. G. Wells this morning on the internet. Who are you, really?”
“I’m Harold Gordon Wells, Alena!”
“Level with me, Hugh! Otherwise, our relationship will end right here, right now!”
“You won’t believe me, Alena!”
“Alena, I was born in England, near London, in 1866!” I gasped audibly. Ignoring my reaction, he continued, “I was the H. G. Wells that wrote the books you mentioned. My parents were poor. I had been born with a passion to write. I was a flop with everything else. When I was ten or eleven, I wrote a childish book called Desert Daisy.” He stared at me closely.
“You lied to me, Hugh,” I said. “Your name.”
“No,” he replied, “Hear me out.”
“Despite my humble roots, fate smiled upon me and I was able to study what there was to know in many fields of knowledge. Darwin affected me a great deal. I studied under a man named Thomas Henry Huxley, a disciple of Darwin. Ideas came to me that would have eluded me, otherwise. When I was twenty-five, I married my cousin. Isabel Mary. The marriage failed and I began living with a woman named Amy Catherine even though I was still married. At about age twenty-seven, I published a book in Biology and, soon after that, The Time Machine in 1895. This book sold beyond my wildest hopes!” He stopped speaking for a few seconds.
I showed no emotion though what he had said about his marriage was greatly upsetting to me.
“Alena,” he said resuming his story, “from Darwin, I came to understand that every moment we live begins a new life for people. There are many thousands of ways we can lead our lives. Actually, an infinity of them.”
I did not try to hide my confusion.
“I also learned that time travel is possible,” he continued. Feeling that I had messed up my life I made a machine that would take me to the future where I could start a new life. At the same time, I searched for a companion with whom I could share it. This is when I found you!”
He seemed to anticipate my next question. “I knew that when I took on a new identity in a different time frame, my old identity would continue but the person living it could no longer be me. I was voluntarily beginning a new life and giving up the one that I had messed up.”
Last month, in your year 2017, and which now is also my year, I was reborn at age 29. It was as if I had become two persons; one left behind in 1895, one here, now. The life that had begun in 1866 would continue and my new one would begin! Like you, I wanted to know about how my life had continued in England. What I read on the internet was all new to me! Reading about my death awed me considerably.”
“Hugh,” I asked, “How have you lived here as a newcomer? Where have you lived? What did you use for money? How have you spent your time?”
“What you ask have not been problems for me. I have abilities most do not,” he repeated the cryptic remark he had made before.
“You became very famous,” I said. “You did a great deal besides write about time travel.”
“Yes, but I’m not proud of the life I led. Eventually, I married the woman had been living with. The way I dealt with my two wives was abominable.
“Actually the way you treated all women was detestable,” I suggested.
“That too,” he agreed.
“You died in London in 1946,” I said.
“Yes,” he replied. “The life that I continued living in 1895 had proved successful for me as an innovator, teacher, and politician, but a failure as a man. The new me is struggling to become a responsible person!
“Hugh, I asked, who are you, really? Are you Herbert George Wells or Hugh Gordon Wells? Do you consider yourself married or single?”
“I’m the latter,” he said. “Herbert George died many years ago and so did his marriages. “Hugh Gordon is unmarried but wishes to be married to you! I believe you and I can live a successful life together!”
“Are you proposing marriage?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“What would you do if I say, no?”
“Alena” he said. “If you say no, I will return to 1895 and resume my former life with the knowledge that, though I search the world again, I will never find another you!”
“And if I say, yes?
If you say yes, I’ll dismantle the Time Machine and live a happy life with you!”
“Where is the Time Machine? I asked.
“It’s at Thompson’s Storage on Maple Street. We can walk there in a few minutes.”
“Let’s go!” I said excitedly. We had not begun to eat . Rising from the blanket, I hurriedly stuffed it in the picnic basket. Holding hands, Hugh and I began a brisk walk to the Thompson location.
I had walked by that place many times. It was a nondescript facility, a row of twelve doors. Hugh stopped at the third door, unlocked, and opened it. The time machine did not look much like the one in the movie. It looked like a small stage coach on skis. “What a cute little Puddle Jumper, I exclaimed.
“Yes, you know, tiny jitney!”
“There she is!” Hugh said.
“After you have dismantled the time machine, would you be able to rebuild it if you needed to,” I asked. “No, he said. “I don’t have the knowledge and the skill.”
“Does it run now?
“Yes, I could go to the beginning of time or to its end today if I so desired.”
“Hugh,” I said. “Though you’ve said you want to share your life with me, you haven’t used the word, love, even once. Resume your search. Don’t return to 1895. That time period was not for you, but, here, with me, you still haven’t found the right one! Take me home, then resume your search!”
Hugh did not respond. He knew I meant what I was saying.
There were two seats in the jitney, one behind the other. I sat in the back seat. Hugh was at the controls. The trip home took two minutes at slow speed. I stepped out of the vehicle on to the sidewalk.
“Good bye, Alena,” he said. I waved. The ship dissolved from view and disappeared.
“Had I made the right decision? I knew that only time would tell.