The Time Machine
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Pages (PDF): 88
Publication Date: 1895
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The sci-fi novel that actually gave us the term: 'time machine'. The book's protagonist travels to the year A.D. 802,701, only to find that the state of the human race has changed considerably. He discovers two distinct peoples; the Eloi, and, the Morlocks, and originally believes that they share a kind of 'Lord/Servant' relationship. However, he soon realises that it is more like that of 'Ranchers/Livestock'.
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The thing the Time Traveller held in his hand was a glittering metallic framework, scarcely larger than a small clock, and very delicately made. There was ivory in it, and some transparent crystalline substance. And now I must be explicit, for this that follows—unless his explanation is to be accepted—is an absolutely unaccountable thing. He took one of the small octagonal tables that were scattered about the room, and set it in front of the fire, with two legs on the hearthrug. On this table he placed the mechanism. Then he drew up a chair, and sat down. The only other object on the table was a small shaded lamp, the bright light of which fell upon the model. There were also perhaps a dozen candles about, two in brass candlesticks upon the mantel and several in sconces, so that the room was brilliantly illuminated. I sat in a low arm-chair nearest the fire, and I drew this forward so as to be almost between the Time Traveller and the fireplace. Filby sat behind him, looking over his shoulder. The Medical Man and the Provincial Mayor watched him in profile from the right, the Psychologist from the left. The Very Young Man stood behind the Psychologist. We were all on the alert. It appears incredible to me that any kind of trick, however subtly conceived and however adroitly done, could have been played upon us under these conditions.
The Time Traveller looked at us, and then at the mechanism. “Well?” said the Psychologist.
“This little affair,” said the Time Traveller, resting his elbows upon the table and pressing his hands together above the apparatus, “is only a model. It is my plan for a machine to travel through time. You will notice that it looks singularly askew, and that there is an odd twinkling appearance about this bar, as though it was in some way unreal.” He pointed to the part with his finger. “Also, here is one little white lever, and here is another.”
The Medical Man got up out of his chair and peered into the thing. “It’s beautifully made,” he said.
“It took two years to make,” retorted the Time Traveller. Then, when we had all imitated the action of the Medical Man, he said: “Now I want you clearly to understand that this lever, being pressed over, sends the machine gliding into the future, and this other reverses the motion. This saddle represents the seat of a time traveller. Presently I am going to press the lever, and off the machine will go. It will vanish, pass into future Time, and disappear. Have a good look at the thing. Look at the table too, and satisfy yourselves there is no trickery. I don’t want to waste this model, and then be told I’m a quack.”
There was a minute’s pause perhaps. The Psychologist seemed about to speak to me, but changed his mind. Then the Time Traveller put forth his finger towards the lever. “No,” he said suddenly. “Lend me your hand.” And turning to the Psychologist, he took that individual’s hand in his own and told him to put out his forefinger. So that it was the Psychologist himself who sent forth the model Time Machine on its interminable voyage. We all saw the lever turn. I am absolutely certain there was no trickery. There was a breath of wind, and the lamp flame jumped. One of the candles on the mantel was blown out, and the little machine suddenly swung round, became indistinct, was seen as a ghost for a second perhaps, as an eddy of faintly glittering brass and ivory; and it was gone—vanished! Save for the lamp the table was bare.
Everyone was silent for a minute. Then Filby said he was damned.
The Psychologist recovered from his stupor, and suddenly looked under the table. At that the Time Traveller laughed cheerfully. “Well?” he said, with a reminiscence of the Psychologist. Then, getting up, he went to the tobacco jar on the mantel, and with his back to us began to fill his pipe.
We stared at each other. “Look here,” said the Medical Man, “are you in earnest about this? Do you seriously believe that that machine has travelled into time?”
“Certainly,” said the Time Traveller, stooping to light a spill at the fire. Then he turned, lighting his pipe, to look at the Psychologist’s face. (The Psychologist, to show that he was not unhinged, helped himself to a cigar and tried to light it uncut.) “What is more, I have a big machine nearly finished in there”—he indicated the laboratory—“and when that is put together I mean to have a journey on my own account.”
“You mean to say that that machine has travelled into the future?” said Filby.
“Into the future or the past—I don’t, for certain, know which.”
After an interval the Psychologist had an inspiration. “It must have gone into the past if it has gone anywhere,” he said.
“Why?” said the Time Traveller.
“Because I presume that it has not moved in space, and if it travelled into the future it would still be here all this time, since it must have travelled through this time.”
“But,” said I, “If it travelled into the past it would have been visible when we came first into this room; and last Thursday when we were here; and the Thursday before that; and so forth!”
“Serious objections,” remarked the Provincial Mayor, with an air of impartiality, turning towards the Time Traveller.
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