The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The unnamed narrator is invited in 1949 to visit his friend Alan Querdilion, whom he has not seen since before the war. He finds Querdilion oddly different as a result of his experience as a prisoner of war (POW). Querdilion is withdrawn, distracted, and even apparently afraid of his fiancée. Eventually, Querdilion tells the following story, while asserting that it is evidence only that he had been mad; to believe otherwise would be to doubt the sanity of the world itself.

In 1943, after two years in a POW camp in eastern Germany, Querdilion manages to escape. Weakened by his imprisonment, under stress, and without water, he quickly becomes fatigued and confused. Stumbling through the dark forest, hopelessly lost, he crashes into some sort of an energy fence and passes out. He awakes in what appears to be a prosperous private hospital in the midst of a forest. At night, he hears the melancholy and wild notes of a hunting horn in the distance. He learns that he is on the estate of Count Hans von Hackelnberg, the Reich Master Forester, who hunts at night.

Querdilion receives excellent medical care and recovers from his exposure to the Bohlen Rays that energized the fence. The doctor is amused by Querdilion’s delusion that he is living in a past time; it is, the doctor informs him, the 102d year of the First German Millennium founded by the first führer, Adolf Hitler. The doctor treats Querdilion as a guest but advises him not to be seen by...

(The entire section is 578 words.)