The Time Traveler's Tale: Chronicle of a Morlock Captivity
What happened next? For more than a century, readers of H.G. Wells' science fiction masterpiece, The Time Machine, have longed to know what happened to the Time Traveler when, at the close of Wells' book, he once again left Victorian London to travel 800,000 years into humanity's remote and tragic future. What became of him? The Time Traveler's Tale: Chronicle of a Morlock Captivity, answers that question, continuing the story in the voice of the original narrator. After many years absence, the Time Traveler returns to his home, where his old friend the narrator lives quietly with no hope of seeing him again. The Time Traveler describes his return to the grotesque world of the Eloi and Morlocks, where he embarked on an exploration of the spectacular ruins of a barely recognizable Europe and confronted the doom of a thousand civilizations, including his own. His attempts to mobilize the Eloi in their own defense against the Morlocks failed and he was captured by the Morlocks, a captivity that resulted in deeply unsettling realizations about the Morlock/Eloi symbiosis. He was gradually assimilated into Morlock society, leading to his eventual discovery of the true cause of humanity's catastrophic transformation into two such tragic races.
The Time Traveler's Tale: Chronicle of a Morlock Captivity is available from Amazon.com as both a trade paperback and a Kindle book.
Excerpt from The Time Traveler's Tale: Chronicle of a Morlock Captivity. In this chapter, the Time Traveler recounts to his companion, the narrator of the previous book, his experience in returning from Victorian London to the far future:
“The peculiar sensations of time travel I have described to you before. In a few moments, the house disappeared and I was on an open hillside. As the machine gained velocity, the interval between day and night shortened. There was again that exasperating and somewhat disorienting period during which day and night alternated with a sharp blinking, reminding me of a fast ride through a tall, dense forest in which the sun flashes between the trunks in brief intense bursts as you pass. But as the machine accelerated so that days passed in mere fractions of a second, I soon found myself in the easier grayness of a furiously rapid passage through the twilit years.
“The motion of time travel, once one becomes accustomed to a vertiginous tendency lurking behind the eyes and tames a creeping panic whose origins I do not fully understand, is thrilling. I suspect it must be rather like the drunken rapture of falling from a great height—the nearly depraved exhilaration of fantastic speed, but without the unholy terror of impending oblivion. I gave myself over to this wild sensuality for some moments—an almost fatal error, for despite the discomfort of my narrow saddle I began to doze off.
“Recall that even before arriving home at the conclusion of my previous trip to the future, I was in a state of utter exhaustion from my wild exertions in rescuing the Time Machine and escaping the clutches of the Morlocks. That struggle was of course followed by my appalling excursion to the far future before finally returning to this house.
"But when I arrived here, rather than rest like a sensible man, I told you all the long story of my experience, and then without so much as an hour's sleep, I spent the remainder of the night planning and preparing for my return trip. Now, under the hypnotic half-light of accelerated time and the smooth, rhythmic thrumming of the Time Machine’s mechanism, my waning energy was without occupation or focus. It should not have surprised me that my muscles and mental processes took the opportunity to relax. I faced danger of an entirely unanticipated kind—from passing out and either slipping from the saddle into some unknown and unchosen era, or plunging unconscious clear through time to the final end of the earth, there to suffer atomic obliteration with the expiring sun and every molecule within its gravitic range.
“The mind worries at small things while great events are unfolding, and on this occasion one such small matter probably saved me. As I drifted into a half-dream about my plans for restoring sense to the future, I was suddenly confronted by the face of my dear lost Eloi woman-child, Weena, looking up at me in direst supplication. I must have imagined her expression as it was during my forest battle with the Morlocks, when we became separated and she was lost to me, but thankfully her plea for protection resonated vividly in my present situation. With a start that both woke and almost unseated me, I realized that I now rode the very means to save her. The Time Machine gave me the opportunity to intervene on her behalf!
“But how? Should I come to a stop just before that battle and steal her away to another day, perhaps in the following week? If I did so, what horrid consequences might ensue from entering a time in which I already existed? Would one or both of me implode from the violation of Time’s order, or would we merely go mad from the impossibility of the sight of our identical selves?
“Should I instead come to rest a few weeks in advance of my previous arrival? I mean earlier, you understand. From that point in time I could carry her in the machine to a safer time, perhaps the week after my previous departure.
“Each question brought on more exasperation. What if I were to arrive so as to precede my previous visit by only a few moments? I could then leave myself a note summarizing the condition of things in this future world, urging upon myself some wiser approach, such as carrying Weena away to some other place or time immediately. But would this action somehow confound my plans to rebuild a sane society in this forlorn place?
“Fatigue muddled my every thought like the slurred words of a doped man, and it seemed to me even in my diminished condition that I was very nearly raving to myself with these abstruse schemes. It was all too difficult to sort out. What effects would it have on my own fate during my previous visit to the future, if I did not meet Weena there because she had been carried away before my arrival? What unanticipated chain of events would any such manipulation of Time’s convoluted fabric have, and how could I be sure that my actions would work to my advantage rather than to my ruin?
“At last I mustered enough strength and resolve to make a decision that, considering my impaired faculties, was the only one with any assurance of my own safety in this unpredictable situation. I would accept the loss of Weena; her fate was less important than the fate of the world I hoped to save.
“I would, I then decided, stop the machine a few weeks after the date of my previous departure. By doing so, I foggily but accurately reasoned, I would give the Morlocks time to relax their vigilance and perhaps even forget about the troublesome contrivance and its violent rider who had so disrupted their orderly brutality.
“I occupied the rest of my journey in forcing myself to answer procedural questions that would tax my intellect enough to keep me awake. First, I determined to arrive early on a bright, sunny day, ensuring myself adequate sleep before the coming of the first night and its Morlock roamers.
“Then I considered the question of what I should do with the Time Machine. Cursing myself for not installing wheels on it in the first place, I realized that even with the help of a great many of the feeble little Eloi it would take considerable effort to move it any distance from the bronze doors at the base of the great marble sphinx, into which the Morlocks had dragged it on my last visit. I wondered if I should not simply destroy the machine, in keeping with my determination to stay in this new world permanently, but my doubts about such an action again indicated that my determination was perhaps not as strong as I might have wanted to believe. Exhausted as I was, my emotional defenses were at their weakest. Every thought seemed to bring to the surface the worst fears. The finality of being marooned infinitely farther from familiar things than any being in the universe had ever before been, combined with my inventor’s affection for the machine itself, left me no choice. I must disable the machine by the simple tactic of removing those same detachable levers I carried with me on my previous visit, and then I must find some way of hiding or protecting it. What that might be I could not imagine; it appeared that only the Morlocks made use of doors and locks. The Eloi lived in open buildings in which I had so far found no sign of a secure hiding place, for precisely the reason that the Morlocks wanted it that way.
“I nurtured a genuine belief that I would never need the Time Machine again for actual time travel, but I was begrudgingly forced to accept that I needed it in some less tangible way. I needed it, I now see, as a physical reminder, a reassuring connection to all I had once known—and to all I had imagined myself to be. As a soldier will carry a photograph of home and loved ones into battle, so I carried the Time Machine in my heart, a single material reminder of the world whose best ideals I wished to restore here in the future. I could not destroy it.
“Having resolved this question in principal if not in actual practice, I sought other topics to engage my weary mind. I have commented before on the odd rocking or swaying motion of the machine in its flight through time. In my growing experience it occurred to me that this might have to do with the ever-changing surface of the earth upon which the machine rested. In my first journey it had seemed to me that the machine was perfectly stationary, like a single stable point in a turbulent universe. For that reason I feared coming to a stop during a period in which the machine’s space was also occupied by some building, tree, or other obstacle. It seemed to me that such a combination of substances would be instantaneously disastrous. The lengthy process by which buildings were constructed, which at my advanced temporal speed was compressed from a year’s work into an instant, seemed to cause no problem for my passage, because my forward motion in time in some way apparently allowed my insubstantial matter to share space with the structure. I could travel temporally through such solid obstacles, but I remained certain that I dare not come to a stop in competition for space with one of them. If I were not shattered to a million fragments by such an encounter, I would at least be permanently embedded in some masonry wall—or left partially free, perhaps a limb or two extending out from a concrete buttress.
“However, it became clear to me that the Time Machine did not, in fact, occupy a fixed point at all, and therein lay an explanation for the slow wobble it occasionally displayed. My slight geological training was sufficient to remind me that soil is the earth’s most active layer, experiencing pronounced elevations and declines in relatively brief periods of a few centuries. Even without the actions of men, my hillside would rise and fall with the varying fortunes of arriving and departing soil materials. In the longer term of thousands of years, the subtle but gargantuan cresting and subsidence of the earth’s surface, through the actions of volcanism and who knew what other forces, would work its greater architectural crafts, and eventually my little hill might cease to be a hill at all. It was obvious, then, that if my Time Machine were to move through the ages at a precisely fixed point, it must at times descend into the substratum, just as at other times it must be suspended high above the ground. As I had never witnessed either phenomenon on my long expeditions through the history of this location, I could only assume that the machine actually ‘rode’ on the slowly undulating surface of the land rather the way a boat rides on a choppy sea. This might account for any unsteadiness or occasional bump I experienced in my long passage. I wondered what would have become of me if I inadvertently stopped in a time when the land had subsided enough to be covered by some future ocean!
“Such deliberations were sufficient to see me through the long corridor of Time to the vicinity of my destination. Drawing the lever slowly back, I decelerated, watching the dial for the appropriate date. At first I thought that, unlike my first return trip to my house, there was no need for great precision of timing. I only needed to seek out the approximate period and ensure that I overshot the dates of my previous visit, which I found quite easy to do. Then it came to me that in fact I should indeed aim for a specific day, that being the return of the full moon to the night sky. It was under full moonlight that the Morlocks would be least active in the Upper World and I would therefore be least troubled by them during my preliminary efforts to organize some resistance among the Eloi.
“With that in mind, I managed my slackening pace by the dials, coasting toward a time about half a lunar cycle past the day of my frantic escape from the Morlock’s hideaway beneath the great white sphinx, which had occurred during the new moon. The annoying blinking returned as individual intervals of day and night became discernible. The sun ceased to be a vaguely weaving yellow band across the sky, and became a gradually slowing blur of light. The lush landscape grew clearer in the progressively lengthening daylight, with individual trees and buildings settling around me in a familiar pattern.
“In the last moments before the Time Machine came to rest, I received a partial answer to my question about what would happen should I, in my travels back and forth through the stream of Time, try to occupy the same moment twice at once. As the Time Machine carried me through the week of my previous visit, I experienced an abrupt and shocking nausea just as I sensed around me the shadowy secondary outline of my own Time Machine occupying this very spot. Right before this momentary attack subsided, I fancied I saw a man flit across the green expanse of lawn: myself on one of my exploratory peregrinations, perhaps the moment of my discovery that the Time Machine had been taken behind those ominous bronze doors. A few more minutes passed as I continued to slow the machine’s progress, and when I had reached a morning about two weeks later, I released the lever entirely, the machine gave a slight thump, and all was quiet. I had returned."