Behold the Man
The time machine was a sphere full of milky fluid in which the traveler floated, enclosed in a rubber suit, breathing through a mask attached to a hose leading to the wall of the machine. The sphere cracked as it landed and the fluid spilled into the dust and was soaked up. Instinctively, Glogauer curled himself into a ball as the level of the liquid fell and he sank to the yielding plastic of the sphere’s inner lining. The instruments, cryptographic, unconventional, were still and silent. The sphere shifted and rolled as the last of the liquid dripped from the great gash in its side.
Momentarily, Glogauer’s eyes opened and closed, then his mouth stretched in a kind of yawn and his tongue fluttered and he uttered a groan that turned into a ululation.
He heard himself. The Voice of Tongues, he thought.
The language of the unconscious. But he could not guess what he was saying.
His body became numb and he shivered. His passage through time had not been easy and even the thick fluid had not wholly protected him, though it had doubtless saved his life. Some ribs were certainly broken. Painfully, he straightened his arms and legs and began to crawl over the slippery plastic towards the crack in the machine. He could see harsh sunlight, a sky like shimmering steel. He pulled himself half-way through the crack, closing his eyes as the full strength of the sunlight struck then). He lost consciousness.
Christmas term, 1949. He was nine years old, born two years after his father had reached England from Austria.
The other children were screaming with laughter in the gravel of the playground. The game had begun earnestly enough and somewhat nervously Karl had joined in in the same spirit. Now he was crying.
“Let me down! Please, Mervyn, stop it!” They had tied him with his arms spread-eagled against the wire-netting of the playground fence. It bulged outwards under
his weight and one of the posts threatened to come loose. Mervyn Williams, the boy who had proposed the game, began, to shake the post so that Karl was swung heavily back and forth on the netting.
“Stop it!” He saw that his cries only encouraged them and he clenched his teeth, becoming silent.
He slumped, pretending unconsciousness; the school ties they had used as bonds cut into his wrists. He heard the children’s voices drop.
“Is he all right?” Molly Turner was whispering.
“He’s only kidding.” Williams replied uncertainly.
He felt them untying him, their fingers fumbling with the knots. Deliberately, he sagged, then fell to his knees, grazing them on the gravel, and dropped face down to the ground.
Distantly, for he was half-convinced by his own deception, he heard their worried voices.
Williams shook him.
“Wake up, Karl. Stop mucking about.” He stayed where he was, losing his sense of time until he heard Mr. Matson’s voice over the general babble.
“What on earth were you doing, Williams?”
“It was a play, sir, about Jesus. Karl was being Jesus.
We tied him to the fence. It was his idea, sir. It was only a game, sir.” Karl’s body was stiff, but he managed to stay still, breathing shallowly.
“He’s not a strong boy like you, Williams. You should have known better.”
“I’m sorry, sir. I’m really sorry.” Williams sounded as if he were crying.
Karl felt himself lifted; felt the triumph…
He was being carried along. His head and side were so painful that he felt sick.