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Science fiction

               They drove up the long wooden entrance to the manner and parked in the crescent-shaped driveway. Acton estimated that they were on eighty acres if the drawing Sara had given them was an accurate indication of the property’s size. There was a moat around the building, which they marveled at as they crossed it.

               “Look how clear the water is,” said Jervis. “It’s pristine.”

               “Spectacular,” said Acton in a deadpan voice as he rang the bell. It was made of aged, unpolished bronze, there was a substantial crack in its large bowl. The sound was answered almost at once, and a woman, about thirty, blond, stout, with a round face of crystalline gray eyes, wearing a navy pin-stripped skirt suit, answered the door. 

               “How may I help you?” she asked.

               “We’re here to see Doctor Brandenfort,” said Acton.

               “Your names,” said the woman.

               “Doctors Bill Acton and Frank Jervis, we have an appointment.”

               “Mm,” she said with an air of detachment, putting her left hand out, proffering the entrance to them. “Doctor Brandenfort is with another guest, and they’re expecting you in the drawing room.”

               The woman closed the door and led them down a stone corridor to the entrance of the drawing room, where two men sitting in high-backed chairs were visible at a distance. The sound of their muffled voices could just be made out.

                “Doctor Bill Acton and Doctor Frank Jervis to see you, sir,” the woman called into the room.

                “See them in,” came the voice. 

                “Please,” she said, putting her hand out once more.

                “Thank you,” said Acton. Jervis smiled with a nod to the woman, and they entered the high-ceiling room, approaching Brandenfort and his guest.

                “These are the gentlemen I was telling you about,” said Brandenfort. “Sit down and join us, gentleman.”

                Acton and Jervis sat in the remaining two empty, high-backed velvet chairs toward the two men seated. The fourth man was small-framed, with thin brown hair parted to one side, wearing wire-rim glasses and a scotch-plaid shirt. The enormous bergère chair nearly consumed him.

               “This is Doctor Xavier Ullín, ” said Brandenfort. 

               “So we’re all doctors here,” Jervis quipped. 

               “Doctor Ullín and I have been discussing my invention. I’ll get straight to the point, gentlemen. I have discovered a means for time travel.” 

Acton and Jervis suspected they would hear this exact outlandish statement from what Sara had told them. 

               “How does it work?” asked Jervis.

               “You drink it,” said the doctor, putting a caramel into his mouth. “Precisely, this,” he said, holding up a vial of dark blue liquid between his thumb and forefinger. He placed it on the table in front of him.

               “The contents of that bottle, gentlemen, when swallowed, will put the user into a catatonic state wherein they will be given the chance to return to any time in their life in order to live it again.” 

               “I wouldn’t mind going back a couple of girlfriends before I met my wife,” said Jervis.

               “It creates reality from lucid dreams based on the user’s life, allowing them to revisit some time of their past, during which they can make wiser decisions. Once they return, they will wake up to the reality they created by making those decisions. 

                “I’ve used it myself,” said Doctor Ullín, speaking in fluid English with a thick Argentine accent.

                “In order to demonstrate my findings to you, gentlemen, I’ve arranged for Doctor Ullín’s assistance in introducing you to my discovery.”

                 “Doctor Ullín has undergone my process himself, at his own behest. Let us let him reveal his experience to us. We’ll step into the next room.” 

                  At that, the old man stood taller than the others, seemingly vital but marked with signs of advanced age on his skin. He led them into an adjacent room. This was a smaller, low-ceiling, dark batten-paneled room with an operating bed at the far side and a butcher block desk strewn with notebooks, drawings, and chemistry equipment visible in the faint light. Brandenfort led them to the back, where there was a body on the operating bed. The figure was a young, small, dark-haired man who lay still. 

                   “That looks like you, doctor,” Jervis said to Doctor Ullín.”

Brandenfort laughed. 

                   “It is Ullín. He’s been fading all morning. I think it’s about done now. At that moment, Dr Ullín disappeared without the faintest protest right before their eyes.

                   “Ullín!” shouted Acton. “Doctor Ullín has disappeared!” 

They had all seen it happen. 

                    “How did that happen?” asked Jervis.

                    “Ullín helped develop the serum with me, and he decided to be the second volunteer to try the method.”

                    “I gather you were the first,” said Acton.

                    “What’s going to happen to him?” asked Jervis. 

                    “Ah, that’s a good question, Doctor Jervis,” said Brandenfort. “The change to Ullín has already happened. He is presumably living a better life somewhere now.”

                    “Won’t he have to come back here since his body’s here?” Acton asked.

                    “No, Doctor, Acton, this body here is an unused shell of the man. It’s a projection of a possible incarnation of his life; it, too, will disappear. He’s already contacted me. Doctor Ullín is in Buenos Aires as we speak. And, yes, Doctor Acton, I was the first person to try the method, and I must say, my experience, too, was an astounding success. But the meaning success, gentlemen, is relative.” 

               Then Brandenfort walked around the shell of Ullín to another operating table in the far corner of the room neither of the visitors had seen. He lifted a sheet to reveal the emaciated, blanch-white corpse of himself. The two younger doctors stared in amazement at the corpse.

               “Then where are you, Doctor Brandenfort?” asked Acton.

               “This, too, is a shell," he laughed. "You see, gentlemen, I chose to go to war to fight the Nazis, and I didn’t survive that experience.”


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