"America, America, God shed His grace on Thee, And crown Thy good with Brotherhood from sea to shining sea."
America, the Beautiful
"Let's see, you've told us that your full name is David Alan Neuport," Dr. Karoll paused and then added, "and how old do you think you are, David?" There was a slight smile about the corners of the doctor's mouth as he asked me this and I sensed that he had some kind of surprise for me.
"Why, I'm fifty-four," I said slowly.
"Hmmm," Dr. Karoll hesitated. "David, this is the year 2103. You must be more than one hundred years older than you think."
I couldn't take in what Dr. Karoll meant. I couldn't see why he had made such an incomprehensible statement.
"What do you mean?" I was almost angry. I had not expected such a confusing turn in the conversation. "How could this be? Where am I?"
Seeing my reaction to his statement caused Dr. Karoll to be silent for a moment. Then, without showing that he had heard my questions, he began asking me how I felt and what I thought of the treatments given me. This distracted me and, as we discussed my health and how I liked the food, I calmed down and relaxed. Then, in the same tone that he had asked how I liked my dinner a few moments earlier, he asked, "Where did you live?" The doctor said this without realizing the implication of his question.
"What do you mean...where did I live? My home is in Asheville." I did not see a sign of familiarity with the city showing on anyone's face. "Asheville, North Carolina," I repeated, miffed by the apparent insignificance of my hometown to these obviously well educated people.
"Oh, yes! Of course...we're not far from there right now." The doctor's response came as though he was just remembering something that he should have known immediately.
"What part of Asheville?"
I felt like his question sounded patronizing...as though he hoped that showing an interest that implied a knowledge of the city would put me more at ease.
"Charlotte Street...about six blocks from the freeway." Being suspicious of the purpose of the question, I did not care to elaborate further.
Dr. Karoll sensed my feelings and he said nothing for a moment. Then he gently began asking questions that would lead me to talk about myself, my family, my work, my religion, hobbies, and the ambitions I had for myself. It was apparent to me that the family was sincerely interested in me. Though I was a total stranger, they wanted me to know that their friendship and the accommodation of their home was offered as if I were a member of the family. The treatment I had already received at their hands left no doubt in my mind about the good thoughts they entertained toward me. Still, there was a disturbing implication that I would continue to need their friendship even after my strength was restored, and this I did not understand. However, once I began to talk about myself I became so engrossed that I temporarily forgot the alarming questions churning in my mind. The rapt audience they gave me was flattering so I talked on and on. This released my tensions and I found myself giving my life history.
"I was born in Asheville and grew up there. My father and I never got very well acquainted because he was a traveling salesman and was away even on weekends about half of the time. My mother was conscientious about taking care of her four children, my two older brothers, my older sister and myself. She had strong feelings about the value of an education and influenced me to take advantage of my own opportunities for learning." I began my account this way, touching only the high points as I went along.
They all listened so attentively that I was soon encouraged to give a more elaborate account. I told them of my high school successes in sports and academics, of my interest in science, of my time in the military air service and how I had served as an aircraft maintenance engineering officer. I outlined how I had come up the hard way, working after hours since grammar school to buy my own clothing and bicycles, and then going to work full time at eighteen, first as an apprentice to a carpenter and, later, learning steel fabrication in Norfolk as a boilermaker's apprentice. I recounted how I enjoyed the challenge and the satisfaction of accomplishment in learning trades. I learned shipfitting, lofting, structural steel and ornamental iron work, moved into office work to become a draftsman, steel estimator, sales engineer, structural design engineer, and, eventually, a freelance professional engineer.
As each member of the family showed such keen interest in my story and asked questions upon various details to persuade me to elaborate on them, I began to feel confident that my mind was functioning normally. It seemed to me that the evening was hardly well started before it was time to retire. I had learned little for I had done all the talking. The family was anxious to have me continue with my account the following evening if I felt strong enough. With the interest that each of them expressed in me, it did not enter my mind that I was a stranger interrupting the routine of their household.
The doctor asked my permission to invite one or two friends that he felt would like to hear me continue my story and his son, James, made the same request. Flattered for the moment, I said I should be glad to have them, but after we retired and I was lying quietly in the dark before going off to sleep, my thoughts took me back over the events of the evening and I began to see them from a more impersonal point of view. I thought about this family group; the father and mother and their obviously superior qualities by comparison with myself, Alice, with such maturity and intelligence, the sixteen year old son with such a remarkably developed body and mind and the way his questions about my work showed a comprehension of engineering principles beyond my own.
The events of the past few days began to race through my mind. What about the totally unfamiliar home conveniences that I'd seen, the lighting techniques, the approach to healing that they had used to cause my recovery? A mental conflict was growing in my mind. The questions that at first seemed impossibly farfetched were becoming plausible. My heart began to pound. Could I have caught the interest of these superior people because I was actually from a different culture - a culture that was current more than one hundred years in the past?
Why else should I interest them?
Why hadn't they all known immediately that we were near Asheville?
Was Dr. Karoll actually correct when he said that I was over one hundred years old?
What prompted him to ask, "Where did you live?" instead of asking, "Where do you live?"
Sleep was gone from my thoughts now, though I was exhausted. A kind of insecurity I'd never known before came over me...fear would not be the right word, for I had learned to condition my unconscious mind against fear. Before setting up the last experiment that Professor Darch and I were working on, I had learned self hypnosis. The details of those experiments and the events surrounding the last few days before I awakened under Dr. Karoll's care were coming back to me.
As these memories took shape, powerful emotions began to arise. I began to breathe slowly, deeply and evenly to help master them. With all the will power I could muster, I tried to hang on to my powers of reasoning.