smashed_freud

Sunhill Asylum, November 13, 1963

Doctor Pontius did not erase the recording of his consultation with Jack; instead he cut out the remarks about the prostitute in Blackpool and then copied the edited version onto a new tape. The original was destroyed in the boiler room furnace. As far as Pontius was concerned, this was the final evidence he needed to perform a lobotomy on Jack Vallis. With this in mind, he called a board meeting so that the tape could be assessed by his fellow clinicians. Attending the meeting that morning were Dr. Maria Torris, Dr. Peter Hulme, Dr. William Jones, and Samuel Smith, the asylum superintendent. Hulme and Jones were old-school medics who had trained together at Oxford. They set up a joint practice in London after the war, experimenting on soldiers suffering from manic depression. Hulme was a typical endomorph, short and stout, with a bulbous nose and a large walrus moustache stained with nicotine; he was shabbily dressed in a corduroy suit, grey flannel shirt and a mauve woollen tie. Jones was the complete opposite—a tall lean ectomorph, immaculately turned out in a tweed sporting jacket, crisp white shirt and bright silver cuff-links. He had the air of an eccentric aristocrat but his piercing blue eyes had all the depth of a sagacious intellectual. Smith, the superintendent was a local man, Lancashire born and bred, big-boned and burly, with a long monkish beard and dark close-set eyes; he had the semblance of Rasputin, but despite his formidable appearance, Smith was rather timid and softly spoken…

The reel spins to the end and the tape flicks repeatedly over the heads. Pontius turns off the recorder and says:

‘Well, I am sure you will all agree, there is nothing more we can do for Jack Vallis. He exhibits all the classic signs of chronic schizophrenia, and in my professional opinion is a danger both to himself and others.’

‘I concur,’ says Hulme, puffing on his pipe. ‘The sooner you shut him up, the better. Jack Vallis is a psychotic degenerate. Society is better off without these sorts of defectives. A full frontal lobotomy would offer the best outcome. Lunatics like Vallis cannot be cured any other way.’

‘I disagree,’ says Maria. ‘Whatever you may think of his sexual paraphillia, I believe Jack Vallis has intellectual and moral powers which we must encourage and utilize to his advantage.’

Intellectual and moral powers?’ sneers Pontius. ‘Jack Vallis is a degenerate petty thief and a Borstal boy! If he wasn’t committed here, he’d be locked up in prison for stealing women’s clothes.’

‘That much is true,’ admits Maria. ‘But a full frontal lobotomy would simply extinguish him as a person. Besides, haven’t you damaged his brain enough already?’

‘I don’t know what you mean,’ retorts Pontius.

‘What I mean is, electro-convulsive-therapy—if you can call it “therapy.”

‘Of course it’s therapy,’ retorts Pontius. ‘But Vallis is immune to it.’

Immune?’ snubs Maria. ‘Just how can he be immune?’

‘Vallis has an unnatural ability to resist electricity. At first I thought it was a fault with the Ectron machine, so I called in a service technician who duly took it apart and gave it a clean bill of health. Then I deduced the problem was caused by dehydration in Jack’s connective tissue; so I took multiple resistance measurements across his temples; but the ohmmeter gave standard readings. Yet the grande mal seizure eludes him unless the dial is set to maximum and the shock maintained for thirty seconds. Further, his recovery is faster than normal; disorientation lasts barely an hour, and memory loss, although extensive, is far less than other patients.’

‘That’s unconscionable!’ fumes Maria. ‘Submitting his brain to such lethal currents!’

‘What else do you propose?’ asks Hulme. ‘We’ve tried everything in the book to normalize his behaviour. Jack Vallis is a definitive psychopath. That tape is evidence of acute psychosis. He likens himself to Enoch and Moses; he has strange encounters with supernatural beings; he communicates with otherworldly forces. These delusions are persistent and show no signs of abating. My opinion is that Vallis cannot be rehabilitated. Unless you have found a magic cure for manic depression that none of us are aware of?’

‘Jack is not a manic depressive,’ states Maria. ‘His fantasies are too complex, sophisticated and coherent. Manic depressives exhibit retarded and fragmentary fantasies.’

‘Yes,’ agrees Pontius. ‘But Vallis has a deep rooted guilt complex that is fundamentally nihilistic; he believes that his condition is punishment for sins committed in a former life.’

‘Religious mania,’ quips Hulme. ‘I once asked him about these sins, but he refused to answer. Yet I have no doubt that sexual excess is the root cause of his hysteria. He’s an egomaniac. His dissociation into separate personalities spans two different lifetimes. Why? Because his ego cannot bear the thought of its own extinction. His reincarnation is but another manifestation of his persecutory paranoia—only in this instance it is the Old Testament God who persecutes and punishes. Jack Vallis is a bone-fide lunatic of the first order. When he’s not morbidly melancholic he’s acutely schizophrenic. In either case, he has no conception of reality, and fails to differentiate between memory, perception and fantasy. One moment he thinks he’s in an asylum, and in the next, the Holy Tomb. His chronic paranoia is coloured by fantastic delusions, inner voices, and delirious hallucinations, all of which he mistakes for objective sensory impressions. Take the Cyclops, for example: a spectral illusion which only occupies his field of vision prior to the onset of mania. When I last saw Vallis, he was in a state of febrile raving and ran about the wards stark naked in search of buried treasure. He claimed he had been robbed, and insisted that I was a goblin out to destroy him. Three attendants tried to sedate him but he threw them all to the floor. Not even 1000 milligrams of Paraldedyhe could subdue him. Later on, when he was calm and lucid, he apologised profusely and begged my forgiveness. He said he was being pursued by the black enemy. When I asked who this enemy was, he smiled cunningly and said: “The Devil”… I am sorry Maria, but after hearing the tape, my prognosis for his restoration is bleak; Vallis suffers from profound clouding of consciousness and chronic mental incoherence. There is also the grave problem of his psycho-sexual-infantilism—not to mention his other degenerate perversions—all of which are hallmarks of idiopathic disease. Despite our valiant efforts, Vallis continues to cross-dress and shows no shame or loss of modesty. The man thinks he’s a Parisian Lady. What?’

‘But he knows that he’s ill,’ replies Maria. ‘Jack Vallis is not half insane as you would like to believe. You portray him as an incurable degenerate. I disagree. His madness is at bottom a psychic incarceration; the incarceration of a female soul in a male body. But despite his transsexualism, his emotions obey a logic of their own and are fathomable by reason. His one desire is to become a woman, and his perfection would be the fulfilment of that end. But the absolute significance of this case is not his sexual aberration; if it were, you might have devised some Freudian formula to explain him away. No, what disturbs you all about Jack Vallis is his uncanny second-sight—his mediumship and supernatural powers.’

Supernatural powers?’ snorts Pontius. ‘Doctor Torris, just where is this leading? Need I point out that you are treading on very thin ice? I advise you to think very carefully before you say anything that would jeopardise your position.’

‘In that case, let me just come out and say it: I believe Jack Vallis to be a true clairvoyant.’

‘A what?’ sneers Hulme. ‘Surely you don’t mean to tell us that you believe in all that mumbo-jumbo?’

‘As a scientist, I remain open minded. The fact is gentlemen, Jack Vallis told me things about myself that no other person could possibly have known. And he was right about my day off: I was shopping for shoes in Harrops.’

‘An educated guess,’ baulks Hulme. ‘All women like shopping for shoes.’

‘Do not decry me doctor Hulme. I am convinced Jack Vallis has an innate psychic gift. What if I could prove that he can access the Unus Mundus—a conscious field that connects all things?’

Pontius throws up his arms:

‘Oh please! What a load of pantheistic nonsense! Your hypothesis for the Unus Mundus is quite simply untenable: it is nothing but pseudo-religious whimsy to explain away what you do not understand. You call yourself a psychiatrist? You might just as well be a necromancer! How can a spiritual world exist beyond the laws of Nature? It is an insult to my intelligence to suggest that Thought is anything but the physical vibrations of atoms. Thought is as much a function of matter as motion.[i]’

‘Pontius is right,’ adds Hulme. ‘The brain is a product of evolution; our mental characteristics are the product of natural forces. The biochemical processes that give rise to consciousness cannot be prescribed to anything else but materialism. The organic development of the brain and the psychological laws which govern behaviour are the same throughout the animal kingdom. Once we strip away the moral precepts of civilization, we find Man is little more than a beast; all his subconscious states correspond with lower forms of animal life, and the psycho-motor reactions are identical. Call me a fatalist, but as far as the Unus Mundus is concerned, I stand tall and proud with the scoffing atheists.’

‘But what if his prophecy came true?’ asks Maria. ‘Such a prophetic phenomenon would challenge any scoffing atheist.’

‘The assassination of Kennedy?’ mocks Pontius. ‘For a scientist, you’re pretty suggestible.’

‘No doctor Pontius, I’m not. Prophecy has been part of human affairs for millennia. Plato tells in his Phaedrus how men “through divine madness became partakers of true prophecy”. Such men could foretell the future at the oracle of Delphi. And in the Republic, he speaks of prophetic dreams that come in the state of sleep, when the soul has loosened its connection with the body and can glimpse into the future. Think about it for a moment. If the assassination took place, it would suggest providential intervention from a higher power.’

Providential?’ sneers Hulme. ‘Providential for whom? For Vallis perhaps, but certainly not for the president.’

Pontius shakes his head in derision:

‘Doctor Torris, why do you persist with this supernatural farce? Your Platonic theories of the human soul have no place in clinical psychology. I understand that you want to save Jack Vallis, and that is perfectly commendable. But this is a lunatic asylum, not a circus. I mean to say, are you a psychiatrist or a palm reader?’

She tosses back her hair:

‘Doctor Pontius, I find your ignorance, bigotry and puerility astounding.’

‘Do you really? What astounds me is your complete disregard for the case. You ignore all the symptoms of schizophrenic psychosis, and prefer instead to deal in occult phenomena. Are you a doctor or a witchdoctor?’

‘Mock all you like,’ retorts Maria. ‘If the prophecy came true, with the evidence on that tape, we would have irrefutable proof that human consciousness operates independently of Time and Space.’

‘Don’t be a fool,’ scoffs Hulme. ‘The very idea that we would go public on the prophetic whim of a lunatic is professional suicide. It is well known that paranoid schizophrenics like to portray themselves as oracles; I have treated many patients who thought they could predict the future, or believed they were in contact with some Sibylline power. I call it the oracle delusion. The patient feels powerless in life; he finds the world to be a threatening and chaotic place. But the inner oracle provides a sense of control, where world events are not chance happenings, but orchestrated events, guided by the hand of divine providence. Alas, such patients are notoriously stubborn. Their delusion persists even when a prophecy fails to come true. I had one patient who repeatedly predicted the end of the world on several different dates. She always had some vague excuse: “My prayers prevented it.” “The angels averted disaster.” “The fates changed the future at the last moment”. “The world is on a different course.” “The heavens have been altered.” “The shadows of the past are rapidly passing away—a new era is dawning upon the earth…” Etecetera, etcetera. I see no point in waiting until the 22nd of November. Nothing will happen. The lobotomy should be performed as soon as possible. Then we can put this ghastly affair behind us, once and for all.’

‘No,’ says Maria firmly. ‘It would be immoral to go ahead with the procedure before the given date, especially when Jack Vallis has made a written agreement with doctor Pontius. To do so would be a breach of professional conduct.’

‘I concur,’ says Jones, finding his voice for the first time. ‘What’s the harm in waiting? A few weeks will make no difference. Besides, matron has already told the other staff that she witnessed this prophecy for herself. A joke to be sure, but it would look very bad if we went ahead and lobotomised Vallis regardless.’

Hulme strikes a match, relights his pipe and puffs clouds of smoke toward Maria. Then he wags a finger and says:

‘We don’t want to set a precedent whereby patients can make demands regarding their own treatment.’

‘Exactly,’ says Pontius.

‘The precedent was set by you, doctor Pontius,’ retorts Maria. ‘You claimed you could silence Jack’s demons. But there’s no evidence to suggest that amputating the pre-frontal lobes has any effect on auditory hallucinations. That is to say, I presume you think they are hallucinations.’

‘What else would they be?’ asks Pontius. ‘Please don’t tell us that you believe he is actually talking to spirits? But then, in your professional opinion Jack Vallis is a true clairvoyant. In which case you must believe in the spirit world. Well? Do you believe in the spirit world, doctor Torris?’

There follows an uneasy silence. Maria refuses to answer and glares in defiance. Pontius grins:

‘What’s the matter Maria? Has the cat got your tongue? I’m not surprised. After all, if you believe in spirits, that would make you a borderline psychotic. Why deal in all this pseudo-mysticism? Admit it Maria: your Jungian profile of Vallis is nothing but quasi-religious clap-trap…’

She explodes and her palm hits the table:

No it’s not! Jack Vallis has a gift! A gift I tell you!’

Gift?’ sneers Pontius. ‘Pah! The only gift Jack Vallis has is for pulling the wool over your eyes. But how typical of a woman to be seduced by vapid emotionalism and spiritism. Talking to the dead. Vallis is a third-rate charlatan; and if you do not cease his ludicrous defence, then your time here will be very short indeed.’

Another deathly silence. Maria smiles in defiance then says brightly:

‘If you’re right, and Vallis is a fraud, I shall resign forthwith. But if I am right, and Vallis is the genuine article, what will you do?’

Pontius smolders with rage. He says nothing but dips his head and studies his notes.

‘Er, shall I pour the tea?’ suggests Jones, trying to diffuse the situation. He reaches for a large blue teapot which sits in the middle of the table and begins filling the cups.

The trickling spout is a welcome interlude to the heated conversation. They stare at one another in silence. Pontius scowls, Hulme puffs his pipe, and Smith fondles his beard with beady eyes.

‘Milk and sugar, Maria?’ asks Jones.

She smiles:

‘Just milk, thank you.’

‘Ah! Just as I thought,’ beams Jones. ‘I’ve yet to meet a beautiful woman that does take sugar in her tea.’

But before Jones can pour the milk, Pontius snatches the jug and helps himself. Then he slurps his tea and grouses:

‘I cannot believe I am sitting here defending myself against a Jungian. She went to a convent you know!’

Maria bristles and snaps:

‘Yes, I went to convent. So what? I’m not hiding in a cloister saying prayers for the sick; I’m out here in the real world, trying to help people…’

Touché!’ quips Jones.

Pontius slurps his tea again:

‘I fail to see how a nun becomes a psychiatrist. I mean to say, the spiritual life has no value in clinical psychology.’

‘That’s quite untrue,’ retorts Maria. ‘If the spiritual life has no intrinsic value to human affairs, no idealism can exist; and without idealism, the whole meaning and value of life disappears. We are left with an existence that is entirely devoid of content.’

‘Not if you’re a humanist,’ replies Pontius. ‘The plain facts of life are enough. Why get shipwrecked on the rocks of religious fatalism? We don’t need a God and we don’t need your Jungian hogwash.’

‘The facts of life are enough?’ fumes Maria. ‘Are they really? I have spoken with Jack at length. He told me about your last consultation. And after hearing the tape, I find myself pondering a discrepancy. Jack Vallis told you of a certain visit to Blackpool. But all mention of Blackpool has been edited out of the conversation.’

‘I don’t know what you mean,’ flusters Pontius. ‘That’s the tape and that’s what he said. I’m the doctor; he’s the patient. Are you inferring some kind of foul play?’

Another uneasy silence. Then Jones says:

‘Pontius old chap, I’m not entirely convinced the patient’s isolation has been beneficial to his condition. I find those back wards to be a very grim and depressing place; the wind howls dismally round that tower. My opinion is that isolation has only driven his fantasies forward. I think Vallis should at least be allowed to eat with other patients.’

‘That’s totally impractical,’ replies Pontius. ‘Vallis turns the whole canteen into a séance of table-rapping and spiritualist tripe. Even the nurses get involved in his provocative parlour theatre; hearing voices is one thing, but channelling messages from the spirit world is another.’

‘What does he say?’ asks Jones. ‘Anything juicy?’

‘Oh, most of it is complete gobbledygook,’ replies Pontius. ‘For one, he channels a Cyclops from ancient Greece—the same character he writes about in his journals. The messages are very cryptic indeed, if not down right rude, vulgar and offensive. A good majority of the inmates are convinced Vallis can see spirits. He often claims contact with a dead relative or child; but his messages are just anarchic plots. “Your grandfather Horace has just come through. He wears an old black Crombie that smells of mothballs. He has an important message for you: he wants you stop taking your medication; those pills are destroying your mental faculties…” The authority that Vallis assumes on spiritual matters undermines the staff and endangers the patients. His pantomime has but one intention: to subvert our entire asylum. No. Vallis shall continue to take meals in his cell. He’s nothing but a fraud—and a treacherous one at that.’

The superintendent, who has sat in silence till now puts up his hand and says:

‘I durn’t think he’s a fraud. Jack Vallis made contact with my dead muther. She passed five year ago. I know it was her because he told me she only had nine toes—which she did. She too had the gift. I mean, she could see spirits. She weren’t no crazy person neither. I was only a nipper when I saw a ghost in our house. Up on Moor Side it were. We had this old farm wi some cows an’ sheep; but cows were allus too spooked to sleep in t’shippen. Thi durnt go in there after dark; it were reet creepy, and it allus felt like summon wa’ watchin’ over thi. Turned out an old farmhand was murdered there in seventeenth century. He had his head cut off wi an axe. Chop! Well my muther saw him plain as day; and she spoke with him an’ all– just as I’m talking to thee. Funny thing was, this ghost thought he were still alive. But muther convinced him he was dead, showed him the Light, and sent him on his way. We had no trouble after that. Cows slept like logs.’

Silence.

Maria smiles and nods:

‘Thank you Mr. Smith, that was very interesting; and it goes to show that belief in spirits is not a sign of mental illness, but a common held conviction amongst ordinary working people.’

Hulme taps out his pipe on his palm:

‘Curious how these primitive superstitions still exist amongst country folk. But then again, I suppose much of Britain hasn’t changed since the middle-ages. Certain nervous conditions, especially amongst hypochondriacs, are known to cause spectral illusions, which a patient all too often believes to be real. The ignorant are in constant need of fables, mysteries and miracles. Tales of ghosts and witches always hold more charm to the vulgar than the precepts of natural philosophy. I mean, there are some Lancashire folk who still believe that the Pendle witches had genuine powers. Of course, when you study this sort of thing in detail, you soon realise it’s nothing but hysteria.’

‘Precisely,’ adds Pontius. ‘And that’s just the sort of hysteria Jack Vallis will cause if we let him out of solitary.’

Maria taps the table:

Nothing but hysteria. How often is the ‘nothing but’ excuse used to debunk the supernatural and all the mysterious phenomena that cannot be explained by empirical enquiry? Nothing but a lighthouse. I am surrounded by Freudian materialists, but you are not interested in psychological analysis: you are only concerned with physical treatments. Your zeal for E.C.T. has permanently damaged Jack Vallis, and in my professional opinion has only amplified his neurosis and anxiety. A full frontal lobotomy is completely unjustified, and without any medical foundation whatsoever. You study the mind and all its pathologies; but none of you know what consciousness is. What if consciousness is the pre-eminent force behind all matter?’

‘That’s preposterous,’ sneers Pontius.’

‘Is it?’ asks Maria. ‘Galileo was brought before the Pope and made to recant his belief that the Earth was round. According to orthodox science, we live in a three-dimensional Universe. But according to Jack Vallis, we live in a multi-dimensional Universe, inhabited by beings that we cannot see. As Freudians, you have diagnosed Jack Vallis as a psychotic schizophrenic. But as a Jungian analyst I have come to a different conclusion. Jack is not schizophrenic. His consciousness has collided with a numinous archetype. A transcendent force is at work in his soul. He calls it the Cyclops, but this Cyclops is far more than a simple monster from the Id; its psychoid essence cannot be explained in Freudian terms, because the voice of God is an integral part of its numen. Jack Vallis lives in dreams, where the laws of mathematics and the measurements of time and space do not apply. His entire existence is born from a dissonance of body and soul. Whosoever is not in the body, we may count as an apparition. That is how Jack Vallis sees himself and all those around him.’

‘Which makes him all the more dangerous,’ warns Pontius. ‘His grip on reality is tenuous at best. Your Jungian view of the psyche is nothing but a metaphysical prejudice.’

‘I doubt if your materialist view is any more correct,’ retorts Maria. ‘Would it not be wiser to suppose that living matter has a psychic aspect, and the psyche a physical aspect? Materialists formulate the Truth from evidence of the senses. But to Jack Vallis, the fallibility of the senses is an enemy of Truth; he regards the material world as an illusion. Jack dwells in another realm – the Spirit world of the Occult. He is surrounded by a pantheon of ephemeral beings; these are not mere chimeras or hallucinations, but vivid entities with wit and reason. Whatever schizophrenic partition we may ascribe to the Cyclops, as far as Jack Vallis is concerned, it is a living entity who has bestowed him with paranormal powers. If these powers are real, who are we to doubt the source? How shall we ever discover other realms, if our own immediate existence is regarded as the whole reality? The instinctive resistance we feel to such ideas should be a warning to us all. The fact that flying saucers have attracted so much attention by the top military brass proves they are not the delusions of a schizophrenic mind. Jack Vallis claims to have interacted with these extraterrestrials. He also claims powers of telekinesis. Have you tested them? Did it even occur to you that he might be telling the truth?’

‘So you believe that Vallis is in telepathic contact with extraterrestrials, do you?’ sneers Hulme. ‘Then perhaps you can explain to us, how the mental processes in one organism can take some concrete form, travel through the vast regions of nebulous space, then locate planet Earth, and there influence the brain of some selected individual?’

‘I have no idea,’ replies Maria. ‘But I am open to the possibility. Why are you so convinced that Vallis is deluded? Perhaps you are deluding yourselves. Could it be, that you fear the chaos such possibilities would bring upon the well ordered rules of your reductionist world? Is science so infallible that we cannot even ask these things? Just think! Do you not see what an opportunity we have with Jack Vallis? As serious men of science, you should be open to the possibility. Parapsychology is in no way contrary to rational psychology. What if the human mind can, at the command of the will, produce effects at a distance? Surely that would be the most important scientific discovery of our times! We have sent men into space; we have explored the depths of the ocean; yet we have barely dipped our toes into the illimitable depths of the subconscious mind. What if we could prove that Jack Vallis has the powers he claims?’

‘What powers?’ jeers Pontius. ‘You mean walking through walls?’

‘You know very well that’s not what I mean. What I propose is a scientific study. A paranormal investigation of the human mind with Jack Vallis as the test subject. Why, we could even ask the Society of Psychical Research to audit our tests and validate the results.’

‘And kiss our careers goodbye,’ grumbles Hulme.

Pontius can’t believe his ears. If only they knew of Operation Cyclops! He leers smugly as he recalls his meeting with Schneider all those years ago. He seems to derive great pleasure from his dirty little secret. Yet part of him longs to come clean—not from any sense of moral duty—but merely to assert his clinical superiority. For he alone is privileged to associate with clandestine powers. Maria sounds so earnest and honourable; she’s far too decent to get muddled up in his C.I.A. sorcery. Besides, he signed the official secrets act, and nothing that goes on in the basement has ever reached the light of day…

Jones scratches his head:

‘A paranormal investigation? Well, it’s a lovely idea, Maria my dear, but Hulme is right. However you present it, a paranormal trial wouldn’t go down well with the British Psychological Association. And needless to say, the American Association of Applied Psychology would be up in arms about it; too many precious careers have been built on the precepts of Division 12. The philosophy of medical materialism cannot be overturned so easily; the very idea that the nature of Mind should even be questioned in this way, is, well, quite frankly, taboo.’

‘Quite,’ adds Hulme. ‘Besides, what would Vallis do to prove himself? Start throwing wheelchairs about with the power of his mind?’

He bursts into a hearty laugh and Pontius jests:

‘Yes! Or he might fly out the window!’

Maria scowls over her spectacles:

‘How can you call yourself a moral therapist when you deride the patient in such an unprofessional manner?’

The laughter dies down. Hulme puffs on his pipe and winks at Pontius, who says:

‘Doctor Torris, forgive me for being flippant. It was wrong of me. But your paranormal study flies in the face of reason and common sense. To prove the supernatural is beyond the limits of materialist enquiry. Besides, why should Jack Vallis be given any special consideration? I mean, if we had to test every lunatic who claims superhuman powers we’d be here until doomsday. You heard the tape: inter-dimensional insects that pray on the human mind. It’s classic paranoid delusion. Jack Vallis, whatever powers he claims to have, is a complete psychotic.’

‘I disagree,’ replies Maria flatly. ‘His views of the world are different to yours, that’s all. Over half the world believes in the angelic kingdom and the supernatural resurrection of Christ.’

‘Christianity is in crisis,’ retorts Hulme. ‘And rightly so. I’ve gone through the bible with a fine tooth-comb—from Genesis to Revelation—and it’s written there in black and white: the prophets were psychotics. Not to mention their God! The decline of religious superstition is long overdue.’

Maria throws up her arms:

‘Decline? The medieval belief in heaven and hell is still preached from the chapel pulpit every Sunday—attended by half the staff and patients of Sunhill! Why is atheism any less psychotic than Christianity? The idea that we all got here by a long chain of fortuitous accidents is quite frankly obtuse and idiotic. The notion of an alien intelligence is far more probable. Which makes Jack Vallis seem like a wise man amongst fools.’

Pontius wags a finger:

‘Doctor Torris, you’re twisting things.’

‘She has a point,’ says Hulme. ‘Psychotic atheism. Now there’s a thought. But then again, I’ve always thought Christians are complete lunatics anyway: simple weak-minded fools, who believe that Heaven and Earth were created by a magical being in just six days. Haven’t they read On The Origin of Species? What sane and intelligent person would attest that Jesus Christ was the son of God? A magical baby, born of a virgin and conceived by the Holy Ghost? A sorcerer, who turned water into wine, fed five thousand people with just five loaves and two fishes, cast out devils, walked on water, and rose from the dead? Not to mention all his other ludicrous miracles. I’m sorry doctor Torris, but the superstitions of the Catholic Church are preposterous as they are pernicious. I cannot fathom why the supernatural dogma of visitations, apparitions and spectres is still actively encouraged in the twentieth century. As for that Air Chief Lord Dowding fellow, I couldn’t possibly comment. I never read the article myself. But I think it’s highly irresponsible of someone in his position to go blabbing to the press. Extraterrestrials. He might be right; he might be wrong; but what’s the point in causing panic amongst the general populace? The herd has all the mentality of a hysterical child, and as such, it should be treated with kid gloves.’

Jones scratches his head again:

‘Vallis is the most peculiar patient I’ve ever come across. For one thing, I have observed a strange quickening of his senses that occurs a few hours prior to the onset of mania. He can distinctly hear conversations in distant places. Last month he heard two scullery maids singing “If I ruled the world” in the kitchens. Now, if you don’t know, the kitchens are a full quarter mile from his cell, and neither I, nor anyone else for that matter, could hear singing of any kind. Naturally, I thought this was an auditory hallucination. But after questioning the maids, I discovered that they were indeed singing “If I ruled the world”, exactly as Vallis described. Very odd, don’t you think?’

‘Not at all,’ replies Pontius. ‘Scullery maids are apt to sing at any time of day, and that happens to be a very popular song.’

‘Ah yes, I know,’ retorts Jones. ‘But Vallis also told me they were joking about the cook’s false teeth. Which they were. Apparently, the cook’s dentures have a habit of popping out his mouth when he gets too excited. And this time they fell in the soup. So how do you explain that?’

Pontius shakes his head and shrugs.

‘Fell in the soup?’ splutters Hulme. ‘What soup? When? Did I have soup that day?’

Jones winks at Maria, then adds:

‘I must admit, I find Vallis most intriguing. It would be a pity to lobotomise such a unique and articulate patient. His psychopathy never fails to enthral me. Take his reincarnation fantasy—his existence in the fourteenth century—for a patient suffering from dementia præcox, the level of invention is quite extraordinary… And the world he presents is a consistent, unified whole. Part of me almost wants to believe it’s real.’

‘There’s nothing real about it,’ states Pontius. ‘It’s artificial reincarnation: suggestions and memories planted under hypnosis. Under certain hypnotic states, a subject is able to retain their conscious imagination; they embellish and form relationships with non-existent persons; they acquire experiences that are completely fictional. And by this artifice, they create a world that becomes entirely real: a parallel life in a different time.’

‘If that’s true, then who hypnotised him?’ asks Jones.

‘I have no idea,’ shrugs Pontius.

Maria smells a rat:

‘Are you being completely transparent with us, doctor Pontius?’

‘I’m sorry?’

‘Have you hypnotised Jack Vallis?’

Me? Don’t be ridiculous. It’s just a theory. Who knows what happened to Vallis before he was committed? He might be the victim of a stage hypnotist for all we know…’

‘Possible,’ muses Hulme. ‘Entirely possible… But my appraisal of the patient is based more on the tenets of Freudian psychology than an ego split by hypnotism.’

‘And what is your appraisal?’ ask Maria. ‘How do you explain Jack and Jill?’

‘Must I spell it out?’ asks Hulme.

‘Yes, spell it out,’ insists Maria. ‘If you think Jack Vallis is such a threat as to warrant a lobotomy, I’d like to know why.’

‘Is the threat he poses not obvious?’ asks Hulme, astonished.

‘I do not regard him as dangerous,’ replies Maria flatly. ‘Why lobotomise a psychical hermaphrodite?’

Psychical hermaphrodite?’ scoffs Hulme. ‘Is that what you think Vallis is? I don’t believe such creatures exist. Bisexual theory in its crudest form is summarized by the following words: “It is a female brain in a male body.” But as Freud pointed out, we do not know the characteristics of a “female brain”. We cannot locate the female and male brain centres – even though they must surely develop under the influence of the sex glands. Jack Vallis has male sex glands. His brain was formed under the influence of testosterone. So how can it possibly be female?’

Maria shakes her head:

‘You cannot prove that secretions from the somatic sexual organs have any role in determining gender. Indeed, secondary sexual characteristics are often quite independent of gender.’

‘The true hermaphrodite is very rare creature indeed,’ replies Hulme. ‘But the psychical hermaphrodite is just a myth. It is mental illness and nothing more.’

‘Then explain it to me doctor Hulme. Explain Jack and Jill. Explain this ego-splitting…’

Hulme puffs on his pipe then says:

‘Many psychoneurotics suffer from split personality disorder – a depersonalization in which the patient is aware of mental and bodily changes; naturally these can lead to feelings of an alien presence, and an alteration of the ego, which is split into a part which feels estranged and one which carries on as an observer. Patients report feeling split or having two selves at the same time. It may be a defence against guilt or a defence against perception; either way it is part of a schizoid process where destructive impulses within the ego are felt to be alien and “split off” and ascribed to “outsiders”. Jack Vallis is a textbook case. Sometimes Jack appears to be standing off at a distance in a detached and relatively objective manner, observing Jill in action; and sometimes it’s the other way round. The historical element is interesting. Instead of Jack and Jill, we have Jacques and Jacqueline; both are dissociative constructs but Jacqueline – The Parisian Lady – is certainly the more articulate and dominant. Jacques always complains of feeling unreal, and this is accompanied by much paranoid anxiety. Depersonalization often occurs when there are inharmonious identifications between the superego and the body ego. With sexual identity conflicts, one aspect of the self must always be repudiated. Jill repudiates Jack. But Jack never repudiates Jill. And herein lies the problem. For whilst Jill regards Jack as an alien outsider, Jack has claimed to be Jill for as long as he can remember. Jill regards Jack as an imposter, and not just the biological consequence of being born male. Jack himself cannot accept the biological imperative of his genes, and no amount of therapy – not even his own reflection – will convince him otherwise. Throughout his life, Jack has experienced a complete loss of self-esteem; his self esteem is not controlled by the reality of external factors but by magical beliefs and regressed self images; this regression has created the Jill persona, who likes to dress up as a baby girl. Jack cannot live up to the demands of his superego as a mature form of self-regulation, so he compensates with a narcissistic self-inflation via Jill; her infantile gratifications eliminate the pain of Jack’s negative self esteem. But Jill’s infantile value system oscillates between love and hate: the love of feminine perfection and the hatred of appearing male. Freud considered the mother’s breast to be the infant’s first object, and there is often a split between its gratifying and frustrating aspects, resulting in a split between love and hate. I believe this splitting in infancy is the cause of much adult schizophrenia. Jack never bonded with his mother, who abandoned him shortly after birth. Jill often regresses to an almost preconscious level, where her libidinal desires can be experienced without guilt, and she will happily suck on a pacifier all day long. Whilst in this state, the material of The Old World is fabricated by the subconscious. The result is that Jack becomes so dissociated that he fails to distinguish the boundaries of the self, and tends toward hallucinatory and delusional behaviours. Paradoxically, Jill’s regression is Jack’s only comfort in life, and I strongly believe that to interfere with it would precipitate suicide, or even worse, homicide. After all, Jill’s pleasure principle pivots on the death of Jack and the dissolution of his male attributes. As far as Jill is concerned, her bodily imprisonment in Jack is nothing less than divine punishment for some past misdeed in a former life. Those who want to escape reality can only do so when their desires are no longer bound by the facts that contradict them. We all agree that The Old World is just a construct to rationalise the depersonalization of the present existence; a schizoid fantasy where Jill can escape the bonds of the body in magical realm. But there is no escape. Even in the previous incarnations, the transsexual conflict remains between Jacques and Jacqueline, principally because this conflict is all the ego has ever known.’

‘I wonder what misdeed merits so great a punishment?’ asks Jones.

Hulme becomes grave and shakes his head:

‘Believe me, whatever happened in The Old World, it must be a sin so black and terrible, that to drag it up into the light of day would be catastrophic, both to the ego, and its conception of reality. Jack experiences a constant and irresistible urge to dress in women’s clothes. This irresistible impulse is common in all sexual perversions, and indeed other impulsive disorders such as kleptomania, pyromania and gambling. Jack suffers great tension and anxiety if his desire to dress is not satisfied. Like a heroin addict, he cannot tolerate delay. The root of this psychopathy is hunger pangs in early infancy, where the primary love object – the mother’s breast – has been denied the infant. The associated frustration and rage is a fundamental cause of ego-splitting. Once dressed, Jack experiences a discharge in tension that is almost euphoric. As Jill, he becomes calm, rational, and in most respects well adjusted. His alter-ego Jill might restore some archaic ego integrity, but in becoming Jill, Jack’s reality function is lost in a decreased perception, which only aids his delusion and self denial. One characteristic of Jill is her oral fixation. Of course, regression to earlier phases of development are major factors in neurosis, and the oral phase is chiefly characterized by attitudes of basic trust versus basic mistrust. It is well known that oral frustrations release Oedipal impulses, which result in the early stages of superego formation. The intimate relationships between the breast, the mouth and the nipple, that are all woven into the oral phase, constitute an altered-body-ego experience. A suckling baby is so absorbed in the mother, that it becomes a part of her. Becomes female.

‘Is that your own conjecture?’ ask Maria.

‘It is a sound one,’ replies Hulme. ‘In a neglected baby, the pangs of hunger are rarely relieved by the primary love object, if at all. But when relief comes, the gratification is so intense that it becomes confused with the altered-body-ego experience. In other words, the infant begins to identify as female. But I suspect that as a child, Jack also experienced the unexpected frustration of a highly developed libidinal drive, which in some way imploded into Jill, and formed part of his psychosexual development. My overriding fear is that Jill’s transsexual longing will soon give rise to a perilous instinctual tension; and her impulsive neuroses to gratify that tension will have dangerous and unforeseen consequences. Many schizophrenics become violent when faced with the dissolution of their fantasies. When Jill realises that she cannot be saved by returning to The Old World, she will have no recourse but to destroy Jack in The New World. That could have grave implications for this hospital. I recall some years ago there was a plumber from Preston. His was a particularly interesting case; he suffered from a dissociative condition with three distinct personalities, A, B and C… B could give verbatim my conversation with himself and with A, but nothing of that with C. Yet C could repeat verbatim my conversation with all three selves. So C knew both A and B, although A and B knew nothing of C. A was the dark one of the three, and claimed to be the reincarnation of Marie Antoinette. The plumber’s sister broke the delusion one Christmas by quizzing A from a book of history. When A realized she knew nothing of Robespierre or the French Revolution, she poisoned the sister with a jar of plumber’s flux. The confession was given by C. Quite extraordinary…’

He muses on the case, puffing on his pipe whilst he stares at the ceiling.

Pontius opens his diary and takes out his pen:

‘Are we all agreed? Jack Vallis will be lobotomised on 23rd November…’

At this, Maria stands and declares:

‘Gentlemen, there is one person absent from this meeting, and that is Jack Vallis himself. So before you make any final decision, I thought it only right to let him have his say, or at least try and convince you of his remarkable powers. With that in mind, and to fulfil my Hippocratic oath “first do no harm,” I have asked that Jack be brought before you.’

She calls to the door:

‘All right Bob, you can bring him in now!’

The men gawp in astonishment as the door creaks open and Bob wheels Jack into the room:

No, no, no!’ protests Pontius. ‘You can’t bring him in here. This is a private meeting!’

‘What’s private about it?’ asks Jack.

He wears nothing but a patient’s gown; all trace of make-up has been removed, apart from a some eye-liner and rouge blusher. He smiles at Doctor Hulme and says:

‘Good morning doctor Hulme. How is your bladder stone?’

‘I beg your pardon?’ splutters Hulme, pulling the pipe from his lips.

‘Your bladder stone and your blood pressure: exacerbated by too much smoking.’

‘I say!’ cries Hulme. ‘This is most irregular. Doctor Torris, you had no right to summon him here without informing us first.’

‘Why not?’ asks Maria. ‘Do you want evidence of his powers or not?’

‘What’s he going to do?’ jeers Pontius. ‘Ascend into the heavens like Jesus Christ?’

Jack ignores him as Maria steers the wheelchair to the table. Bob exits and shuts the door with a wink.

Silence.

Maria sits down beside Jack, who says brightly:

‘I couldn’t help but overhear doctor Hulme’s diagnosis. Oral Fixation. Very interesting. But that’s a bit rich coming from a man who can’t stop sucking the end of his own cock – I mean pipe. Sorry, Freudian slip.’

Hulme shakes his fist:

‘You won’t make a fool out of me Jack Vallis!’

‘I think you’ve made a pretty good job of that yourself,’ retorts Jack. ‘Don’t worry darling, it’s not your fault you’re a repressed homosexual. I say, look at Sigmund Freud hanging on the wall. Have you ever seen such a vain, conceited and miserable old tosser? He had an oral fixation too. With his cigar. It gave him mouth cancer.’

Hulme glowers in surly silence, then says:

‘You’ve told us that before. A thousand times or more.’

‘Have I?’

‘Yes. And it’s wearing a bit thin.’

‘Forgive me doctor Hulme. It’s the E.C.T. My memory isn’t what it used to be. What a ghastly social pariah I’ve become. My comedic repertoire has shrunk. Shrunk. Wait a minute! I know a good one! How many shrinks does it take to change a lightbulb? One. But the lightbulb must really want to change! … I do want to change, doctor Hulme. I really do. Into a girl. Why won’t you help me? If I can’t be Jill, I will surely die. All I want is some oestrogen and the snip. Is it really too much to ask?’

Hulme shakes his head and looks the other way.

Then Jones says:

‘Jack, we’ve just heard the tape-recording of your conversation with doctor Pontius. May I ask you some questions?’

‘Of course. Fire away.’

‘Do you still believe the president of the United States is going to be assassinated?’

‘Yes. I have seen it. The future is but an unfolding of the present, as the present is of the past; and it is no more difficult to predict what will happen, than to recount what has already transpired.’

‘And do you often predict the future?’

‘Not often. I am more concerned with the past. I must return to The Old World.’

‘The world that you write about is not real, Jack.’

‘Yes it is.’

‘No Jack. The only reality is now. The past and future are simply dreams. Every second becomes a dream the moment it has passed. And the future is unforeseeable. ’

‘Was it a dream when I entered the room just a moment ago?

‘No Jack, of course not.’

‘But your logic infers that it was a dream. What does that imply for the present moment? What division of Time shall we use for the present moment? A second? A split second? The present cannot exist by mathematical proof, since any chosen division of Time can be further subdivided into any number of infinitesimal parts. Which parts shall you call Past, and which parts shall you call Future? Are you in my dream, or am I in yours?’

‘What I mean to say Jack, is, why waste your life worrying about a past that cannot be changed, or a future that may never happen? The only reality is now. Everything else is an intangible dream. You must seize the present moment, and cease this obsession with a past that never existed.’

‘Time does not exist. Did you not know? The past runs parallel with the future. We are all echoes from an antenatal dream.’

‘No Jack, we are not echoes. We are flesh and blood. This is not a dream.’

‘This life is but a shadow of the other side. The colours are much brighter there. Everything is brighter. More real. The Light isn’t just light—the Light goes through your whole body—except that you don’t have a body. I think it would be best if there were no such thing as bodies. The Light is a perfect state of being. You don’t need a body. Not really. But you can have a body if you want to. Your desires make manifest. I think I shall have Scarlet o’ Hara’s body – and all her dresses. I long to return there, don’t you?’

‘You look like a freak in women’s clothes,’ sneers Pontius.

Jack tosses his head and becomes The Parisian Lady:

Vous avez beau parler. A quoi pensez-vous? Ne vous moquez pas d’autrui – qui que vous soyez, quelle que soit votre réputation, et quoi que vous fassiez. Tel rit aujourd’hui qui pleurera demain. Ma vie est rude, et ses aspérités me blessent. On dit Dieu nous afflige afin de nous corriger. Que pensez-vous de cela? [It is vain for you to talk. What are you thinking of? Do not make fun of other people – whoever you may be, whatever your reputation, and whatever you do. Many a one laughs today who will cry tomorrow. My life is hard and its bitterness wounds me. It is said God sends us afflictions in order to amend us. What do you think of that?]’

‘Who are you?’ asks Jones.

‘I am a female consciousness inhabiting a male body. The body you call Jack Vallis.’

The French accent is all but gone. Jack stares vacantly into space and murmurs:

‘Let me go.’

‘Do you know where you are, Jack?’ asks Jones.

‘In hell.’

‘What year is it?’

‘Nineteen-sixty-three.’

‘And what day is it? Can you tell me?’

‘Wednesday. The moon is a waning crescent, and 7 percent visible; its age since the last new moon is 20.32 days. The last new moon was on the 18th October. The next new moon is on 16th November; and the next full moon is on November 30th, which will be 14.77 days old.’

‘How do you know the phases of the moon?’

‘I read them in an almanac.’

‘When?’

‘I can’t remember.’

‘But you remember the dates?’

‘Yes. All the dates and days. This day, 600 years ago, was a Monday (in the Julian Calendar). I was in Paris at the time, buying silk for a new dress.’

‘Jack, do you know who I am?’

‘Yes. Your name is Lord Scales.’

Who?’

‘A judge of His Imperial Satanic Majesty.’

‘Well, I’ve never been called that before.’

‘The bonds of madness weigh heavy on my soul. The Devil’s chain is exceedingly long; it runs up and down these corridors ten times over; it circles the entire globe and extends as far as the moon. I have been there—to the craters of Schrödinger, Poinacré and Planck…’

‘Oh? And what was it like?’ asks Jones.

‘Crawling with Selenites.’

‘You mean extraterrestrials?’

‘Yes. The moon is not made of cream cheese: it is made of cinders.’

Cinders?’

‘The ashes of heretics burnt at the stake. Will you condemn me to the pyre?’

‘No Jack, of course not. Why would we do that?’

‘I’d prefer the pyre to lobotomy… At least I can die with my wits intact.’

‘Jack, the tape we heard was very interesting. You seem to know a lot about geology. Who taught you all those things?’

‘The Cyclops.’

‘Who is this Cyclops? Can you tell us?’

‘The Cyclops is my diamon.’

‘Your what?’

‘An aspect of my soul. A guardian spirit which is not united to the body, but which reaches out beyond, to wander abroad in the realm of spirit and communicate with angels. That is how I derive my gift of prophecy…’

‘I see. And what else did this Cyclops teach you?’

‘I know you think I’m mad.’

‘That’s because you are mad,’ quips Pontius.

‘And you are a butcher!’ snaps Jack. ‘My diamon is not insanity but a gift of the gods! You do not believe in spiritual exaltation because you deny the soul; that’s why your mind is bound by the fetters of the body.’

‘Fetters of the body?’ sneers Pontius. ‘Speak for yourself!’

‘But I’m not allowed to speak for myself, am I doctor Pontius? I’m not allowed to have opinions. I’m not allowed to believe in anything but Nothing. How ironic that the Holy Inquisition of Mother Church has been replaced by the Atheist Inquisition of Science. Psychiatric inquisitors must be vigilant in rooting out and eliminating all mental defectives…’

Maria can see the situation is rapidly getting out of hand. She turns to Jack and bids:

‘Jack, that’s enough! Please calm down. I brought you here to demonstrate your powers. Can you show us? Can you tell doctor Jones something about himself; something personal; something that he alone knows?’

‘Of course. Forgive me. I forgot myself. Let me see now… Something about Jones… Yes, when doctor Jones was eleven years old, he broke his leg playing rugby. He got stuck at the bottom of the scrum, and the weight of the other boys snapped his tibia. A greenstick fracture, but very painful all the same.’

‘Is that true Jones?’ asks Hulme.

‘Well yes, as a matter of fact it is,’ puzzles Jones. ‘That’s exactly how it happened. How extraordinary.’

‘Coincidence,’ scoffs Pontius. ‘How many school boys get hurt playing rugby? This is ludicrous!’

But Jones and Hulme are not so sure. Maria asks softly:

‘Jack, can you contact a dead relative perhaps?’

‘I’m sorry Maria, but the spirits are not coming through today.’

Pontius shakes his head:

‘Gentlemen, what did I tell you? Jack Vallis is a complete and utter fraud.’

‘No, I’m not.’

‘Yes you are,’ retorts Pontius. ‘Your so called “powers” are completely bogus. I see no point in continuing with this farce any longer. Talking to the dead. I’ve got better things to do than waste my time with Gypsy Jill.’

‘Doctor Pontius, I behold a vile creature in your auric rings.’

‘Oh really Jack? And what is it this time? Another black monkey perhaps?’

‘No doctor Pontius. The creature is you. You have the head of a frog, the ears of a bat, and the body of a snake. You crawl down the corridors, croaking like a frog, and slither round the wards on your lizard body; you pick up conversions with your huge bat ears, then capture your pray in that gaping mouth. Your favourite dish is the human brain, which you fry with electricity—just as you fried mine. I could knit and sew before E.C.T. But now I can no more comprehend a dress-pattern than the man in the moon.[ii] Your cooking apparatus is extremely powerful and delivers a pulsed square wave of 450 volts D.C… A single E.C.T. treatment passes enough current through the human brain to light an 84 watt light bulb for 6 seconds or a 500 watt bulb for 1 second. Your croaking voice calls this medicine. You also like your brains served cold. To this end, you hammer an ice pick through the eye sockets of your prey; then you wiggle it about inside their cranium, mashing their frontal lobes to a pulp. You spare no pains to shut out every ray of light, and to turn the eagle of the intellect into a grub of darkness. You are addicted to malpractice and mutilation, especially on transsexuals like myself, and although you hold a prominent position amongst your peers, the Devil himself is waiting for you in hell…’

Pontius stands, his face flushed with rage, and bawls:

‘I will not be spoken to in this manner!’

‘I agree,’ says Hulme. ‘Doctor Torris, you had no right bringing him here.’

‘I had every right. You have diagnosed Jack as a manic-depressive who suffers from schizophrenic psychosis. I want to prove that is not the case.’

‘Take Vallis back to his cell,’ smoulders Pontius. ‘He’s turned this meeting into a circus.’

Jack turns to Hulme and says:

‘Do you want me to demonstrate my powers or not?’

‘What powers?’ grouses Hulme. ‘I’m not in the mood for mind games. That moon thing was impressive—all the phases and what not—if proven correct. But that’s just a simple feat of memory. As for Jones and his broken leg, I have no idea how you knew, but I’m sure there’s a rational explanation.’

‘What about your bladder stone?’ asks Jack.

Hulme holds up his hand in denial:

‘Enough. I don’t want to hear another word.’

‘But I can heal you.’

‘Heal me? I should like to know how!’

‘I can dissolve the stone.’

‘Dissolve it?’ baffles Hulme. ‘You’re completely mad.’

‘Let me touch your groin.’

Touch my groin?’ shudders Hulme. ‘Keep your hands to yourself. You’re not groping my privates. You filthy pervert.’

‘But I can see it.’

‘How do you see it?’ asks Maria. ‘Can you explain?’

‘Certainly. I put myself into a clairvoyant condition; I suspend my thoughts and look steadily with the mind’s eye into the body. After a few moments I begin to see dark blots where the aura is diseased or the energy stagnated.’

‘That sounds like magic,’ says Jones.

‘It is magic,’ replies Jack. ‘Magic is a divine art—an exercise of spiritual power by which the soul of Man controls the soul-substance of the Universe.’

‘What utter rot!’ scoffs Hulme. ‘Get him out of here!’

‘What about telekinesis?’ asks Jack.

‘Can you do it?’ asks Jones, eagerly.

‘Yes. Got any matches doctor Hulme?’

‘Don’t give them to him!’ warns Pontius. ‘He’ll start a fire!’

But Hulme is intrigued:

‘Telekinesis, you say?’

‘Yes doctor Hulme, that’s what I said: telekinesis. Do you have any matches or not?’

Hulme fumbles inside his jacket pocket and removes a box of Swan Vestas. He grins and shakes it in the air:

‘Are you a pyromaniac Jack?’

‘No. And I don’t smoke either. What I want you to do, is open the box and empty the contents on the table.’

Hulme follows his instruction, slides out the tray and tips the matches into a tangled pile.

‘This is rather exciting,’ grins Jones. ‘What is he going to do? Ignite them with his mind?’

‘Party tricks,’ scorns Pontius. ‘Enough of this vaudeville telepathy. I want Vallis taken back to his cell, at once!’

‘Why don’t you sit down and give Jack a chance?’ asks Maria. ‘After all, what have you got to loose?’

Reluctantly, Pontius drops back in his chair and glowers with contempt.

Jack focuses his attention on the match pile; his gaze becomes fixed and his breathing slows. The doctors fall silent and watch intently. Maria bites her lips in expectation. The only sound is the ticking clock that hangs above a portrait of Sigmund Freud. Jack lolls in the seat and his shoulders drop; he looks half asleep; the air wheezes through his nostrils and his eyelids flutter. Then all at once the matches begin to tremble…

‘My God!’ gasps Hulme. ‘Look at that!’

‘It’s a trick!’ cries Pontius.

Jack concentrates harder. A match flips upright and quivers on its end.

‘Oh!’ exclaims Maria. ‘Look!’

Another match flips upright, then another, and another.

‘It’s magic!’ cries Smith. ‘Real magic.’

One by one, the matches re-arrange themselves, shifting, connecting, interlocking. Freud looks down with sceptic eyes, the very portrait of sterile pessimism, as the matches jitter and slot together in a perfect cube.

‘Good god in Heaven!’ cries Jones, jumping from his chair.

‘How did he do it?’ baffles Hulme.

‘Impossible,’ mutters Pontius, white as chalk. ‘It’s a trick. It must be a trick…’

‘How can it be a trick?’ baffles Hulme. ‘I bought those matches myself in Preston this morning. And only last week my doctor diagnosed a bladder stone. Well I’ll be damned!’

Maria is moved to tears; she presses her hands together in prayer and whispers:

I knew it! Telekinesis!’

‘Don’t be a fool!’ bawls Pontius. ‘How can it be telekinesis? There no such thing! Telekinesis defies the laws of physics!’

‘Well, how else did he do it?’ asks Hulme.

‘How the hell should I know?’ fumes Pontius, tossing his chair aside. ‘I don’t know the trick any more than I know how a magician saws a woman in half. But I know it’s a trick.’

‘A trick?’ baulks Jones. ‘Are you mad? How was it done? I can’t see any strings, can you? I think Jack Vallis is the genuine article. Psychokinesis. Bloody hell fire! What else can he do? Jack! Do something else!’

But Jack has collapsed unconscious in the chair; a clammy sweat beads on his brow and blood trickles from his nose.

‘I say, is he all right?’ asks Hulme. ‘He’s gone awfully pale.’

Maria lifts Jack’s eyelids and checks his pulse. Then she slaps him gently in the face:

‘Jack! Jack! Wake up!’

He stirs and whispers:

Fire.’

Suddenly the cube ignites in a blazing ball of flame; it sizzles on the table scorching the veneer and filling the room with sulphurous smoke. Within seconds the cube disintegrates and all that remains is a charred pile of ash.

‘A trick,’ mutters Pontius.

‘Is that all you can say?’ asks Maria. ‘A trick? Do you not understand the magnitude of what has just happened here? Are you not interested the further evolution of the human mind?’

Jones shakes his head:

‘It’s a grave mystery to be sure. This has far-reaching implications—not only for the mind, but for other revelations concerning the ether and matter…’

‘Now, now, now, wait a minute,’ stutters Hulme. ‘Let’s not be so hasty…’

Pontius slams his fist upon the desk:

Fools! You’ve all been duped!’

Jack seethes with fury and foams at the mouth. Then one by one the teacups levitate off the table; they fly through the air and hurl themselves at Freud; the glass splinters and the portrait drops from the wall with a world shattering crash.

The doctors cower in dread, smote with fear and trembling. Freud, the Grand Master of medical materialism, has just been smashed to pieces, right in front of their eyes. All their pompous intellectualism has been stripped away, and they stand raw, naked, exposed, trembling from head to toe.

Witchcraft,’ gibbers Hulme. ‘Witchcraft!’

Jack groans insensibly:

The wood is green, the sky is blue, the corn is gold…’

‘He’s gone,’ mutters Maria. ‘He’s gone to The Old World…

[i] Thomas Henry Huxley, Lay Sermons and Addresses, p.338.

[ii] “Shock Treatment, Brain Damage, and Memory Loss: A Neurological Perspective” by John M. Friedberg, M.D. American Journal of Psychiatry 134:9, September 1977. pp: 1010-1013.

Copyright (c) Nicholas Shea 1992-2017.