Noe Nobel, who disappeared without trace, had been a less than renowned physicist -- and totally barmy according to Der Spiegel. Jed, his nephew, was the sole inheritor of the estate -- a run-down cottage and orchard in Hamburg, both as unkempt as the man himself.
Jed jiggled the door handle -- surprisingly, the door swung open on well-oiled hinges.
He peered inside.
And stepped back outside, shaking his head. He circled the building before coming back to the door.
This time, he took a deep breath and stepped inside.
In front of him a lounge at least three times larger than the gartenhaus itself, full of vibrating cogs and whirling wheels that hummed contentedly. His eyes were drawn to a console in the middle that had a padded armchair in front of a large-screen TV. He walked up to it and sat down in the chair.
Immediately straps appeared from the armrests and fastened his body, and what looked like a cockpit rose up from the floor in front of him. On it, three buttons marked PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE glowed.
The TV screen lit up; it showed a picture of the cottage. An embodied Voice seemed to emanate from built-in speakers.
‘So you’ve found it. Press the PAST button. Now.’
Jed’s hand hovered over the buttons. What was happening? Uncle Noe? Or a trap?
He plunged his finger down on the FUTURE button...
...The TV screen lit up. The cottage on the TV screen dissolved; replaced by a high-rise, metallic-looking, condo building. The cockpit descended back into the floor and the straps unbuckled.
Jed shrugged, heaved himself out of the chair. On the top of the console was a remote-control -- was that there earlier?
Coloured buttons; he pressed a red one.
The Voice sounded. ‘Oh dear. I’d advise you to leave before...’
The door burst open. Storm-troopers (so it seemed) rushed into the room. A flash from a lance-like rod stunned Jed, and his legs buckled beneath him as he fell to the floor.
A radio device crackled. ‘Trouble inside D block. Riot on 13th floor. Leave now. The insurgent can wait.’
Jed came to, alone. The room seemed untouched, but the gentle humming now sounded strained. He pulled himself up, staggered over to the armchair, and slumped down.
Immediately he was strapped in and the cockpit rose from the floor.
There was a commotion close by -- anywhere would be better than here. He crossed his fingers and hit the PAST button...
...sounds of tortured machinery, then stillness. The Voice. ‘Straps released. Open the door.’ His uncle stood outside, flanked by two militia. An autumn wind plucked at his greatcoat, as he cupped his handcuffed hands in Jed’s.
‘Timing is everything,’ he said. ‘I’m sorry that your Bar Mitzvah is cancelled, young man. Directives from the Third Reich.’