Dalibor Perković is one of the most prominent young authors of Croatian science fiction, winning SFERA Award two times. Resident of Zagreb, he published his first novel this year.
He looked like a young bum. He sat there curled up, shivering from cold, wrapped into a blanket the guards threw at him after hosing him down with ice-cold water. They found him wandering around the Brandenburg gate, lost in the pouring rain, dressed in some weird outfit, mumbling incoherently “Where is the wall? Where is the damn wall?” They said that after he saw them, he jumped at first as if he wanted to run, but then he saw the markings on their sleeves and almost fainted. He cried all the way to the station.
And now he was here, in the interrogation room. Herr Doktor announced he was coming in half an hour or so, so I decided to put every minute to good use. The young man’s fixation sounded mad, but I had to admit, it had a logic of its own. Someone with less experience might have had fallen under his influence. One had to explore, get to know one’s enemy.
“So you’re some kind of celebrity, eh?” I asked, trying to sound casual. I put the cigarette into my mouth and inhaled slowly; the tip glowed in the dim room. The young man sniffled and nodded, holding tight to his blanket. When they realised what he was, they didn’t even want to give him some standard prison clothes, in order not to get it filthy.
“And what was it you said? There are thousands of other people looking through your eyes?” I continued. A small cloud of tobacco smoke started for the ceiling, slowly dispersing.
“Millions”, he corrected me. I nodded. “Looking, listening, feeling,” he explained obediently. I noticed that, as time passed, his fear seemed to shrink and give way to some strange spiteful despair. “If I inhale now they’ll feel the smoke. If you hit me, they will feel the pain. Millions of them. In the future.”
It was a good defensive theory. It was possible that the boy wasn’t mad at all, maybe he was only acting mad. But it wasn’t probable that it would save him. It probably made his end even closer.
“Then we should treat you very carefully,” I concluded and stared at the cracks in the wall. After they caught him, Klaus called me and I phoned dr. Joseph and he said “Excellent, I will pick him up personally.” Dr. Joseph holds professional interest in cases like this.
“And are all those millions … Jews like you?”
He looked at me with scorn and then, as if he finally realised where he was, looked down again. “Maybe. Probably. I don’t know. I think they are mostly Germans. I should have landed into the week when the Berlin wall fell. It is an important event in our history.”
“The Berlin wall?” I asked and took another smoke. I noticed how he said our history.
He nodded. “The wall that divided the city in half after…” he started, but then his voice simply faded away. Maybe I was just imagining it, but it seemed like he smiled for a moment. He shrugged and continued staring into emptiness. “What will happen to me?”
“There are many walls in Berlin, but none of them is what you are talking about,” I replied. It didn’t sound like a question, but I left it hanging in the air, watching him, observing.
He shrugged again. “I guess there was some miscalculation. They missed by half a century. It seems that someone messed up the digits.”
“And, as you say, they all feel what you feel?”
“Yes. It’s called reality show. Something like television…”
“Television?” I asked. The man stopped, confused, and then nodded. “Like a radio. I have a biotransmitter installed into my brain. It’s sending my mindstate through the temporal link. Into the future. The signal is then sent into the homes of a few million people who are lying in their beds and experiencing everything I am experiencing. They paid for a one-week visit to Berlin during the celebration of the unification of Germany.”
The unification of Germany? Sounds good, but Germany will probably never be more united than it is today. The boy has a vivid imagination. But, I had to admit, that thing with the biotransmitter was a really good idea. I’ll have to mention that to dr. Joseph when he arrives. It might give him new ideas to work on.
“So if anything … ugly … happens to you …” I started.
The young man’s eyes glared. “Yes, yes, that is correct! Everything that happens to me will be felt by the millions of people plugged into my mind. And there are many Germans among them.”
“And what would happen to them in case you, say, die?”
“Serious psychic traumas for everybody receiving the signal,” he replied. “And the signal can’t be terminated, there has to be a preparation period. It is required because of the biochemical processes that the viewers were subjected to in order to be able to receive the transmission. You see, the human perception has certain limitations…”
A knock on the door interrupted him.
“Herr Standartenführer,” It was Klaus. “Herr Doktor has arrived.”
I took a long, final look at the prisoner and shrugged. What awaits him will be a punishment enough for wandering the city centre without the proper markings on his sleeve. Justice will be done. I got up and left the room.
Dr. Joseph and I shook hands like old acquaintances. We knew each other from the time he was a young internist under my uncle’s supervision and we maintained contact after he climbed in the Party hierarchy. “So, what have you got for me?” he asked.
“A young Jew who was walking the streets without permit and without the David star on his sleeve. And he’s either suffering from some heavy delusion, that is, he’s either crazy as a bat, or he is a very inventive liar. He has tried to convince me he’s coming from the future as some kind of … reporter, and that millions of Germans are plugged into his mind. He says that, if he is hurt, they will suffer serious psychological damage.”
Dr. Joseph smiled. “Well then, I guess we’ll have to take care to keep him alive as long as possible, won’t we? All right, we’ll take him. We need more of these, we had a bad month and the Eastern front is lacking the suitable prisoners at the moment. But tell me, how are you? How’s family?”
I shrugged. “We’re alive. We are suffering because of the shortages, but we know it will pass. Georg, my elder son, picked up a cold and he’s lying in bed right now. I don’t know what to do with that kid, he keeps getting sick. Do you have some advice?”
The doctor seemed to glow. “No, just keep him warm. It would be good if a doctor could have a look at him. I’ll give you the address of a coleague of mine, we cooperate on regular basis. If he asks anything, just tell him dr. Mengele sent you. There shouldn’t be any problems.”