Before Williams went into the future he bought a camera and a tape recording-machine and learned shorthand. That night, when all was ready, we made coffee and put out brandy and glasses against his return.
“Good-bye,” I said. “Don’t stay too long.”
“I won’t,” he answered.
I watched him carefully, and he hardly flickered. He must have made a perfect landing on the very second he had taken off from. He seemed not a day older; we had expected he might spend several years away.
“Well,” said he, “let’s have some coffee.”
I poured it out, hardly able to contain my impatience. As I gave it to him I said again, “Well?”
“Well, the thing is, I can’t remember.”
“Can’t remember? Not a thing?”
He thought for a moment and answered sadly, “Not a thing.”
“But your notes? The camera? The recording-machine?”
The notebook was empty, the indicator of the camera rested at “1” where we had set it, the tape was not even loaded into the recording-machine.
“But good heavens,” I protested, “why? How did it happen? Can you remember nothing at all?”
“I can remember only one thing.”
“What was that?”
“I was shown everything, and I was given the choice whether I should remember it or not after I got back.”
“And you chose not to? But what an extraordinary thing to—”
“Isn’t it?” he said. “One can’t help wondering why.”
W. Hilton Young (1923-2009) was a British writer and politician and the 2nd Baron Kennet. His short story, “The Choice”, was first published in the March 1952 issue of Punch.