the-golden-egg-bosch

Sunhill Asylum. November 13th 1963.

Following the preternatural revelations of morning, Jack was sedated and put in a recovery room at the end of the West Annex. Maria kept vigil by his bed and Bob guarded the door, occasionally peeping through spyhole.

Throughout the afternoon, Pontius, Hulme and Jones went about their duties in a fog of disbelief, and as evening encroached, the paranormal events took on the hue of an uncomfortable dream. At six ‘o’ clock Pontius called an informal meeting in his digs where the three men could talk in private.

Pontius lived in a luxurious flat overlooking the rose gardens. The lounge was panelled in oak with a large baronial fireplace. A stag’s head hung above the mantelpiece and tall bookcases stood either side, crammed with gilt bindings. In front of the fire was a coffee table, a Chesterfield sofa in ox-blood red, and a black leather wing-backed chair. Pastoral paintings adorned the walls and Persian rugs covered the floor. The room was more akin to a gentlemen’s club than the bachelor pad of an asylum psychiatrist…

At the strike of six a knock comes at the door.

‘Enter!’ cries Pontius.

Hulme shuffles in, panting and rubbing his hands:

‘It’s bloody freezing on those stairs.’

He is closely followed by Jones who exclaims:

‘Ah! A fire! Thank god for Pontius.’

‘Sit down and make yourselves comfortable,’ replies Pontius. ‘I’ll pour us some medicine…’

He goes to a side-board, unlocks a Tantalus, and pours some whisky into three crystal tumblers.

‘Make mine a large one,’ sighs Hulme, slumping in the sofa.

‘Mine too, old boy,’ adds Jones, sitting beside him. ‘I’m still in shock.’

‘It’s doubles all round then,’ replies Pontius, filling the glasses with a liberal slurp. He hands them round then sits opposite. The three men stare gravely at one another. Then Hulme raises his glass and says:

‘To sleeping dogs.’

‘What do you mean?’ asks Jones.

‘We should forget all about it,’ replies Hulme.

‘Buy why?’ exclaims Jones. ‘We must go public.’

‘Go public?’ squawks Hulme. ‘Are you mad? To go public would overthrow the entire theory of materialism.’

‘Exactly,’ says Pontius. ‘Jones, do you really think that empirical science would regard our claims as credible?’

‘They would if they witnessed them,’ replies Jones.

‘You’re starting to sound like Maria,’ tuts Hulme. ‘Our Delphian Pythoness.’

‘Anyway, where is she?’ asks Jones.

‘Gone home,’ replies Pontius. ‘At least, that’s what she told me. But I suspect she’s at Jack’s bedside this very moment. She has developed an unhealthy attachment to him.’

‘I must admit, she’s quite a remarkable woman,’ muses Jones. ‘I say, she taught us a thing or two, what? And whatever you may think, she’s right about a paranormal trial. We must arrange a convention; get Jack to do some demonstrations and record them on film. His psychokinetic ability will rewrite the laws of physics.’

‘No!’ snaps Hulme. ‘The existence of paranormal phenomena might be proven, but science cannot explain them. Consequently the phenomena must be denied.’

‘Denied?’ scoffs Jones. ‘And you call yourself a scientist? I thought science was the unbiased exploration of natural phenomena. But your denial is nothing but hypocritical scientism – pre-determined conclusions based on an orthodox body of knowledge. Just how will the census of the scientific community further mankind? You’re a complete coward Hulme!’

‘A coward no. But a realist, yes.’

‘Hulme is right,’ concurs Pontius. ‘Telekinesis is an inexplicable riddle that cannot be classified by theoretical physics. Direct brain action is a complete mystery; the modus operandi is unknown.’

‘But that’s precisely why further investigation is needed,’ replies Jones.

Hulme shakes his head:

‘No. That would be a mistake for all of us. Sceptics would attack us on every front: ideological, political, and scientific. We’d become unclean, untouchable. All our claims would be relegated to the realms of pseudo-science, mysticism or the occult.’

‘Isn’t that exactly what we did to Vallis?’ remarks Jones. ‘We believed in our intellectual superiority, our Freudian training. But now we know better. Because we witnessed Jack’s powers with our own eyes. And once the sceptics see what Vallis is capable of, they’ll change their minds too.’

‘Change their minds?’ scoffs Hulme. ‘Oh Jones, you really are terribly naive. Do you really think that sceptics are so unbiased and opened minded? They’ll scorn, mock and deride us. Orthodox science is far too insular, parochial and bigoted to ever accept a thing like this…’

Hulme puts down his whiskey and takes a tobacco pouch from his pocket; he fumbles the zip with his fat fingers then says:

‘Mind if I smoke Pontius?’

Pontius is too pre-occupied to answer; he stares pensively at the rim of his glass, then looks up startled:

‘Sorry Hulme. What did you say?’

‘Mind if I smoke?’

‘Not at all.’

Hulme tucks the pouch in his belly and starts filling his pipe, drawing strands from the nappa like entrails of a dead animal. When the bowl is full, he strikes a match, sits back, and sucks in the flame with a “poc, poc, poc.” He grins contentedly as clouds of scented smoke waft to the ceiling.

Jones shakes his head in exasperation:

‘I don’t know how you can sit there, puffing away as if nothing has happened. Are you not alarmed?’

‘I see no reason to be alarmed,’ says Hulme. ‘Provided we all keep silent and maintain a level head.’

‘You disappoint me Hulme. I always thought you had a broad and elevated mind. You pride yourself on being an intellectual, but now you want to hush this whole thing up. What’s happened to all your progressive ideology?’

‘I am merely thinking of the long term implications. Not only for us, but for science in general. No good can come of this Jones. No good at all. Can you not see that?’

Jones thinks for a moment, firelight twinkling in his eyes. Then he says:

‘I must confess, as a clinical psychologist, I find myself stuck between a rock and a hard place. I was brought up in the Evangelical school of Christianity, and in a very strictly Puritanical fashion, but I turned my back on theology in my teens (in fact, I began to question miracles at primary school). But even though my rational mind refuted the resurrection, my heart never ceased to think it possible. I think I always had a mystical streak, despite knowing nothing of the Saints. Oddly enough, even though I became a clinical psychologist, I always felt Man was more than the sum of his parts. After what Vallis did today, I feel my whole life has been devoted to a lie.’

‘Don’t bring God into it!’ snaps Hulme. ‘You sentimental old fool!’

‘Call me sentimental if you like. But I do not see why we should keep silent just because these phenomena do not harmonise with materialist philosophy. Either telekinesis exists or it does not. And it does exist. The phenomena is too genuine to be ignored. Yesterday I thought Jack Vallis was a deluded schizophrenic; but today I realized he was speaking the truth. We were the deluded ones. If someone like me can come to terms with this transcendent revelation, why can’t you?’

‘Because I’m a realist,’ replies Hulme. ‘Make no mistake, the phenomena is conclusively established in my mind. And I do not doubt it’s authenticity. But what I witnessed this morning stinks of the occult. And I would rather go on living peacefully in the halls of materialist dogma, than ignite a whole mountain of superstitious dynamite.’

‘That’s hardly scientific, is it?’ retorts Jones. ‘Maria is right. Jack Vallis presents us with a great opportunity. In telekinesis there is probably a latent force which will shake the foundations of the world just as much as the discovery of electricity.’

‘An absurd and pointless speculation,’ replies Hulme.

‘What’s absurd about it?’ asks Jones, offended. ‘It’s no more absurd than the physics of radio or television. Were they pointless speculations? Two hundred years ago, who would have believed that the mechanics of science would produce a device that could transmit moving images of the living? Or that magnetic recordings could reproduce the speech of persons long dead? Telekinesis obviously utilizes a force-field potential unknown to modern science. Whether that field is electrodynamic, psychodynamic, or a combination of both, we do not know. But the brain can interface with this field to affect atoms of matter. Clearly the laws of classical mechanics no longer apply: mass, gravity and inertia are all overcome by the power of the mind. Science may be uncomfortable with the implications, but it should at least admit the anomaly.’

Hulme squirms in his seat:

‘But Jones, don’t see? If you admit one anomaly, you have to admit them all. Think about it for a moment. Jack Vallis can throw objects about with the power of his mind; and he can ignite instantaneous fires. What of his other paranormal abilities? He claims he talks to extraterrestrials. Is that true? He claims he can speak with the dead. Is that true also? He claims he can walk through walls. Where do we draw the line? After all, we have no idea how he does these things; and we shall never know, because we do not possess the same abilities. He’s a race apart.’

‘Who are we to start drawing lines in the sand?’ rebuffs Jones. ‘To decide where science ends and the occult begins? We must investigate Vallis in the spirit of honest scientific impartiality; without discrimination and without due prejudice.’

‘I remain proudly prejudicial,’ sneers Hulme. ‘And I draw the line at talking to the dead.’

‘Do you?’ asks Jones. ‘Yesterday, I would’ve agreed with you. But now I am more inclined to think that this material world is but a small subset of a greater reality. What is the mental force that moves a distant object? How is it externalized? Is it produced by the brain, or is it an external force that the brain manipulates? Is this force distinct from the subject, or an extension of him? For all we know, the telekinetic force might be generated by immaterial spirits.’

‘Oh for God’s sake!’ snaps Hulme. ‘You’re talking clap-trap.’

‘Am I?’ asks Jones. ‘How can you be so sure? I’d like to conduct a séance with Jack Vallis.’

‘You mean, with a Ouija board?’ asks Hulme.

‘Yes. Now hear me out. Assume that Vallis contacted your dead mother. And assume that she told Vallis private things only you could know. Then only three possibilities exist: 1) Vallis is reading your mind; 2) your mother exists beyond the grave; or 3), there’s a demonic intelligence trying to deceive you. Either way, each one implies an external intelligence that operates through the planchette. Whether it’s telepathy or clairvoyance, an externalisation of consciousness is involved. Which implies the mind is not the brain. And if the mind is not the brain, then survival of bodily Death becomes a distinct possibility.’

‘You bloody fool,’ sneers Hulme. ‘When you’re dead, you’re dead, and that’s that… Death is the ultimate reality that overshadows all things. And leave my mother out of it, would you?’

‘I don’t know what you’re so uptight about. Maria is right.’

‘Stop saying that, would you? Maria is right. Maria is right. You sound like a broken record.’

‘But she is right. We should set up a department of parapsychology. With a patient like Vallis, we’d be at the forefront of research on the human mind. Does consciousness exist beyond the body? What kind of energy is responsible for direct brain action? Is it an act of will alone, or is there a biological stimulus that produces a psychokinetic reflex? The philosophical implications are astounding. Because, if psychokinesis is not a reflex action in the Pavlovian sense, then the deterministic account of mental processes is a complete dead-end. The behaviourist model would be proved entirely wrong. For psychology would no longer be dependent on physiology alone, but on an exterior mental field—the Unus Mundus—just as Maria said. A paranormal trial would go a long way to answering these sorts of questions.’

‘There will be no trial,’ states Pontius.

‘But what about the prophecy?’ asks Jones. ‘I scoffed at first, but now it seems entirely possible.’

Pontius knocks back his whiskey then says:

‘What do you suggest we do Jones?’

‘Well, we could telephone the FBI.’

‘Telephone the FBI. And then what? Tell them that the fate of the president depends on the prophetic dream of a psychopath? They’d come down on us like a ton of bricks. And God forbid if it actually came true. They’d lock us all up. Confiscate our research. Ruin our careers. Do you know what I think Jones? I think we should sweep this whole affair under the carpet. Jack Vallis represents a dangerous metaphysical threat; and one that must be neutralised as soon as possible.’

‘My sentiments entirely,’ says Hulme.

Jones gapes in disbelief:

‘I say, aren’t you killing the goose the laid the golden egg? Jack Vallis is a paranormal prodigy—and you want to wipe him off the face of the earth.’

‘As far as I’m concerned, he’s a freak of nature,’ replies Hulme, relighting his pipe.

‘But this is extraordinary!’ exclaims Jones. ‘I still can’t believe it – the way those cups just flew through the air! And it got me thinking: if a man exists in the twentieth century with powers like that, then such men must have always existed. All the folk tales and oral traditions of antiquity – half of them are probably based on truth… The psychic boy who dreams of gold, despised by his countrymen, but favoured by supernatural powers, who then becomes mysteriously rich… The telepathic maid who solves riddles set by goblins, and relates truths of faraway places… Mysterious healers and savants… Were they not telepaths like Jack Vallis? Don’t scowl Hulme. Have you no concern for the magic of science?’

‘The magic of science or the science of magic?’ scoffs Hulme.

‘I still think we should go public,’ insists Jones. ‘As scientists we should be imaginative and adventurous. If the Unus Mundus exists, it would mean the dawn of a spiritual age: the fusion of mind and matter. People would have to accept that there is purpose in the universe: that this world is more than an accident of atoms, governed by mechanical laws.’

Pontius draws some whiskey through his teeth then says:

‘Vallis is but a small anomaly that does not fit within the historical body of empirical data. The percentage of people with paranormal abilities is pitifully small: no more than a tenth of one percent of the entire global population. Why upset the apple cart?’

Hulme nods in agreement.

‘Pontius is right. If clinical psychology were to admit the existence of supernatural forces, medical materialism would end up in the dung heap; the entire foundations of the enlightenment would crumble into ruins. We’d be back in the dark ages. There can be no marriage between religion and rationalism; after all, rationalism is a sceptical movement.’

‘Precisely,’ says Pontius. ‘You saw what Vallis did to Freud. You think that was an accident? Those cups were directed at Freud deliberately. My god, the implications of such mental powers are frightening. That was just a portrait, but what if it were a real person? Make no mistake, Vallis can kill with the power of his mind. He doesn’t need a gun; I doubt he even needs to be in the same room. Does that not frighten you Jones?’

Jones swallows hard:

‘Well yes, as a matter of fact, now you put it like that, it does rather.’

‘So it should,’ grouses Hulme. ‘Go public? Gadzooks! If we went public on a thing like this, we’d give evidential foundation to witchcraft. Witchcraft, Jones, witchcraft. And that would overturn the foundations of physiological and psychological medicine! We’d give credence to every quack and fanatic since the Holy Inquisition! Jack Vallis should be lobotomised as soon as possible.’

‘Do you think he can hear us?’ frets Jones. ‘I mean, he can read our minds, can’t he? Your bladder stone—and my broken leg. How did he know those things? And what of his other so called delusions?’

‘Which ones?’ asks Hulme.

‘The ones we laughed at. Like bilocation for example. Or levitation. If he can lift a cup, why not his whole body?’

‘You’ll have him flying about on a broomstick next,’ mutters Hulme, knocking back his drink.

‘Well, it might be possible,’ reasons Jones.

‘Indeed,’ concedes Hulme. ‘Entirely possible. But which is it—telekinesis or witchcraft? Do you know the difference? I’ll be damned if I do. The two words are completely interchangeable. For who can deny the possibility of witchcraft after seeing Jack Vallis start fires with the power of his mind? And this is the crux of the problem. Witchcraft multiplies the terrors of hell; the tortures of disease it attributes to spells and possession by devils; it pollutes all that is good and paralyses the rational mind with fear. The enlightenment has reduced magic to an object of ridicule; but if Man is proved to have telekinetic powers, then magic will once more become a very real object of horror and dread. Then the tyranny of superstition will reign once more. Just take a look at the old admission registers: they record many strange causes of insanity; some even speak of witchcraft and demonic possession. The superstitious claims of the mentally ill remain just as real today. A good majority of my patients believe they’ve been hexed by witches, wizards or cunning-folk. If we go public with Vallis, we will undo the progress of the last hundred years, and men will once again attribute the cause of depressive psychosis to devils and sorcery! That is utter madness, and we cannot allow it!’

‘Gentlemen, we must come to an agreement,’ says Pontius. ‘We must decide how we are going to deal with the situation. After all, getting rid of Vallis is the least of our problems. There’s Maria and Smith to consider. Both witnesses have strong sympathies toward Vallis.’

Hulme relights his pipe, then muses:

‘Once we neutralise Vallis, it’s just their word against ours. Maria has already crossed the professional line; she has no future here as far as I’m concerned. As for Smith, it’s high time he was replaced. We could always get him to resign. I remember a nurse who once threatened us with malpractice. But she was soon dismissed. They found she was stealing tranquillisers from the medicine cabinet. Her purse was full of them. Of course, she had no idea where they came from. Oh, there are countless ways to get rid of Smith.’

‘I didn’t hear that,’ says Jones.

There follows a long awkward silence. At length Jones sighs and says:

‘I think Jack Vallis should be released and allowed to live a normal life.’

‘Normal?’ scoffs Hulme. ‘There’s nothing normal about him. People think this is a democratic age and that we democratise everything, including mental health. The fact is our entire age is in the grip of a Materialist caste; the paranormal is not a subject that the common man understands, except in fairy tales. Society cannot accept the reality of such things.’

‘Fairy tales,’ echoes Jones morosely. ‘No doubt we will all face that reality at the moment of Death…’

‘Oh really Jones,’ sneers Hulme. ‘Please don’t tell me you’ve had a religious awakening.’

‘I wouldn’t put it quite like that. But after what happened, I can no longer deny the possibility of providence, or reject the idea of human immortality.’

‘Immortality?’ scoffs Hulme. ‘Don’t be such a fool! I suppose you think that Man’s material predicament denotes a fall from Divine grace?’

‘Who knows? Either way, I can’t claim to be the same man I was this morning. Can you?’

‘Yes, I’m exactly the same,’ replies Hulme, emphatically. ‘I remain a devoted Freudian, and a firm believer in materialist philosophy, which is framed in the interests of society, not the individual.’

‘But that’s just it,’ replies Jones. ‘Society must be full of individuals like Jack Vallis. How many psychics have we destroyed in the name of clinical psychology? Early in my career, I treated a girl who believed she could talk to the dead. She said her brain was like a radio set. But she couldn’t select the channel or switch off the power. The dead tortured her with demands night and day: a never ending hubbub that drove her insane. Do you know what I did? I cut out her frontal lobes. But now I think she would have been better served by a priest – or an experienced clairvoyant, who might have taught her how to use her gift.’

‘Assuming she had a gift,’ grumbles Hulme.

‘I think she did.’

‘The benefit of hindsight is a terrible thing,’ quips Hulme.

‘But how shall I live with what I did to her?’

‘You did your best. You can’t ask for any more than that.’

‘My best wasn’t good enough. I mean, if Man is a multidimensional being as Vallis claims, then our cures are little more than butchery…’

Hulme pulls the pipe from his lips:

‘Jones, need I remind you, that any category of reality that puts Spiritual transcendence above the determinism of a Material Causal System becomes dangerously libertarian. How shall we distinguish between schizophrenic delusions and clairvoyant messages from the Other Side? The fact is Jones, we can’t. And in most cases, neither can the patient. As men of science, we must always choose empirical reason over mystical conjecture.’

Jones slams down his glass:

‘Oh for God’s sake Hulme! How can you be so stubborn and blinkered? Call yourself a realist? You’re nothing of the kind! You’re just a recalcitrant atheist! Is not Reason limited to experience? Are not all scientific proofs derived from experiential evidence of the senses? We all witnessed a supernatural event – something that went beyond the bounds of our current understanding of the physical world. You cannot deny it Hulme.’

‘Yes I can.’

‘Why? Because what you saw is incomprehensible? Because it infers the material world is infused with Mind?’

‘No. Because I do not believe the phenomena can be explained materialistically.’

‘How do you know? There might be a material explanation.’

‘I doubt it.’

‘Are you not even interested to find out?’

‘Not really, no.’

‘But why Hulme? Why? Because it begs us to ask what the soul really is! If that’s the case, then we are dealing with the most profound and fundamental question of all: the question of God.’

‘Don’t bring God into it.’

‘Why not? If we are dealing with the Unus Mundus, then we dealing with God in anything else but name. Universal Mind. What if the soul is not the brain? What if the soul is more than a Voltaic pile of grey matter? That frightens you, doesn’t it Hulme? Something transcendent lurks at the boundaries of our reason. If we cannot encompass it, then how shall we evolve? It is absurd to deny the evidence simply because it does not fit within the current paradigm, or your cognition of what is possible. Telekinesis proves the existence of an immaterial essence—an intelligible force that operates above the realm of material things.’

‘Exactly,’ retorts Hulme. ‘And such phenomena can never be derived from the homogeneous ground of pure Reason—at least not as materialism defines it.’

‘Then by your own logic, this is a spiritual problem,’ states Jones.

‘Nonsense,’ scoffs Hulme. ‘What will you claim next? That souls can be transferred from one organism to another? What were you in a past life Jones? A beetle or a bird?’

‘Don’t be facetious. You don’t want to believe. But at least I’m asking myself the right questions. For I fear that to fully understand these things, we must accept the possibility of a spiritual dimension.’

Hulme puffs calmly on his pipe then says:

‘I wasn’t aware this was an ecclesiastical court. What do you want me to do? Fall down in idolatry? Smelt the candlesticks into a molten calf? The incomprehensible cannot be defined. And I have nothing in common with an immaterial God, who cannot be touched or comprehended by the five senses. I cannot conceive of a God who creates and causes everything, but who remains intangible, mysterious and unknown. As for what we witnessed this morning, I advise you to forget it.’

Pontius likes the sound of that. He smiles and picks up the decanter:

‘Another drink Jones?’

Jones sighs heavily and shakes his head:

‘No thank you Pontius. I’m obviously flogging a dead horse. I understand why you want to neutralise Vallis. But I think you’re both making a grave mistake. Vallis is important. And to throw away the opportunity he presents would be a great loss to science. I can’t make myself any clearer than that. Anyway, I think this is where I slink off to bed. It’s been a stressful day for a die hard sceptic, and I’m more than a little tipsy already. So it’s Horlicks and a hot water bottle for me. Well, if you will excuse me gentlemen…’

Jones rises from his seat and Hulme gives him a Royal wave of the hand:

‘Good night Jones, old chap. Don’t have nightmares. This will all be over by tomorrow.’

‘Will it? Somehow I doubt that. Thanks for the drink Pontius.’

‘You’re welcome Jones. Good night.’

‘Good night. Mind the bugs don’t bite.’

Jones exits.

Hulme puffs on his pipe and stares at the fire, his face flushed with whiskey. Then he tuts:

‘Sentimental old fool.’

‘Do you think we can trust him?’ asks Pontius.

‘He just needs a little more persuading, that’s all. Don’t worry yourself. I’ll soon kick him into shape.’

‘That might not be so easy. He’s got a soft spot for Maria.’

‘Yes, I noticed that. I’ve yet to meet an attractive woman that does take sugar in her tea. There’s no fool like an old fool. Jones hasn’t got the stamina for a woman like that. At his age, he’s probably half impotent. Spiritual dimension. The blithering idiot.’

‘Listen. We need Jones on board. It’s vital that we all stick together on this. Otherwise things could get very messy.’

‘I’ve known Jones for over thirty years; and in all that time he’s always gone with the prevailing wind. He’s in shock, that’s all. Give him some time to mull things over. When push comes to shove, Jones always puts his career above personal sentiment. Relax Pontius. He’ll come round.’

‘In that case, I’ll defer to your better judgement.’

Hulme thinks for moment then says:

‘Can I be totally honest with you Pontius old chap.’

‘Of course you can. We’re friends aren’t we?’

‘Well, it’s just something you said in the meeting this morning.’

‘Oh?’

‘It’s been bothering me all day. That claim you made about hypnosis and artificial reincarnation. How come you know so much about it? I mean, did you do that Vallis?’

‘Do what?’

‘Hypnotise him. Implant all those thoughts in his head. All that stuff about his previous life. He swears it’s real. Well, what I mean to ask is, are his memories delusions, or did you put them there?’

Pontius glares over the rim of his glass:

‘Hulme, there are things that go on in this hospital of which you have no inkling.’

‘Obviously. But what things are you talking about, precisely?’

‘I am not at liberty to say.’

‘Well this is all very cryptic, I must say.’

‘Before you came here, there was an extensive trial involving a secret new drug.’

‘A trial?’

‘I’m under oath not to repeat the details.’

‘Oh come on Pontius, old man. You can tell me, What sort of drug, exactly?’

‘A narcohypnotic.’

‘And you used it on Vallis?’

‘I can’t say any more. Really Hulme, I can’t.’

‘Why ever not? Don’t you trust me?’

‘Of course I do. You’re the only one I do trust.’

‘Then speak your mind…’

‘I’ve said too much already.’

‘Tell me now, this trial wouldn’t be something to do with the basement, would it?’

Pontius looks anxious and his tongue flits across his lips. Then he clams up and stares into the fire. Hulme grows restless and his leg starts twitching in frustration.

‘Your silence speaks volumes Pontius. I’ve heard rumours about that basement. It’s very well equipped by all accounts. What went on there, exactly?’

‘Hulme old chap, please don’t ask me any more.’

‘But you hypnotised Vallis?’

‘Oh I did much more than that.’

‘He’s been brainwashed.’

‘Repatterned is a more accurate term.’

‘What of his reincarnation? Are you responsible for that too?’

‘I believe so, although I gave him no such suggestions. Artificial memories. A clinical fabrication.’

‘Well that’s a relief. At least I don’t have to worry about an afterlife. What a horrendous can of worms that would be. I say, can you bring me in on these trials of yours?’

‘I’m sorry but the experiment finished over five years ago.’

‘Pity. I would love to get involved with something like that. Artificial memories. How fascinating. I presume Jack Vallis has no idea what you did to him?’

‘None at all. As far as Jack’s concerned, he obtains all his knowledge from transcendent beings in another dimension.’

‘Oh I say!’

‘He receives telepathic transmissions via a tensor beam…’

‘Tensor beam? I think Jack Vallis has watched too much Flash Gordon. Just what is a tensor beam, exactly?’

‘I’m sure he made the term up. I mean, a tensor is an abstract mathematical entity which converts one vector into another by linear modification of its components. But a tensor beam—it’s just gobbledygook… When I asked him to explain, he replied in his usual pompous manner: “The maths is completely beyond you Doctor Pontius, but a tensor beam converts concepts in the fourth dimension to the third…” He then gave a list of mathematical examples – metric tensors and the like – and quoted Eisenhart’s Riemannian Geometry verbatim, for two whole hours. He claims the beam creates mental images which are completely independent of language. That’s how he can describe the outer regions of the solar system; and that’s how he went to the moon; but of course, he didn’t go there physically, he simply saw pictures in his mind that were transmitted by the Selenites…’

‘You’re beginning to sound as if you believe in his moon creatures.’

‘Vallis insists they are as real and tangible as you or I. He speaks with them often. But they are nothing more than a residual part of his ego that was created during repatterning.’

‘Of course. And what about all those dates and phases of the moon—did you teach him those?’

‘Well no, not exactly. I merely lit the blue touchpaper and stood well clear. You see, Jack has learnt everything whilst in a state of deep hypnopedia. The drug induced a special kind of trance whereby the conscious faculty was kept in a subliminal but operative state. Consequently the creative potential was able to form new relationships and judgements.(i) Whilst in this state, Jack was programmed with recordings from famous books—great works of literature, classical discourses, mathematical treatises etcetera. One such book was The Astronomical Almanac for 1957. After a single hearing, Jack could recite any page verbatim. That is what I expected. But the remarkable thing was this: after being programmed with astronomical data for a single year, his brain learnt how to compute positions of the planets for any date in time. He became his own ephemeris.’

‘How extraordinary.’

‘Yes. To determine just a single orbit, both backward and forward in time, is a gargantuan feet of mathematical calculus. But Vallis can do it for all nine planets in the solar system; and he does so without formulas or working out of any kind. He just arrives at the answers instantaneously. Whatever the planet, he can mentally compute the correct coordinates for any location on earth—equatorial, ecliptic, horizon and galactic. It’s child’s play to him.’

‘Good god.’

‘The narcohypnotic awakens latent faculties. I created three such prodigies using this method: a virtuoso pianist, a painter, and a philosopher.’

‘And do they all have supernatural powers?’

‘Oh no, no, no. You misunderstand. They were just controls. Jack Vallis is special. He was born with the gift.’

‘My god. You knew all along, didn’t you!’

‘Knew what?’

‘That Vallis was the real deal.’

‘I did.’

‘So when he diagnosed my bladder stone, you weren’t in the least surprised?’

‘Not really, no.’

‘But you tried to convince us it was just a trick. And you made a pretty good job of it too.’

‘I was instructed to maintain a front of plausible denial. I have to—even in front of Jack. But you must understand, I never believed in his claims of telekinesis—not until today that is.’

‘Well Pontius, you are a dark horse.’

‘Forgive me Hulme, but I had no choice.’

‘What a charade. I feel such a damn fool.’

‘You’re angry with me. And I don’t blame you. But how could I tell you? The trial was covered by the Official Secrets Act. Do you know what happens to doctors who disclose state secrets? They disappear. These are powerful people Hulme, with very long arms. Nothing is beyond them. Nothing at all.’

‘Well, you’ve gone and spilt the beans now.’

‘I really shouldn’t have told you anything. But after what happened today, perhaps it’s best that you know the truth.’

‘What about Jack’s multiple personalities? Are you responsible for those also?’

‘No. Jack was already suffering schizophrenic psychosis when he came to us.’

‘I’d like to see this basement. Can you take me there?’

‘It’s all closed up now. When the trial ended, they took all the equipment away.’

‘They?’

‘Hulme, there is a vast web of clandestine collaborations between the C.I.A. and the medical fraternity that stretches across the whole world. They are especially fond of lunatic asylums which provide a plentiful supply expendable individuals. Jack Vallis was simply a guinea pig. And now they want him neutralised. I have my orders.’

‘Orders? Do you mean to say that you work for the C.I.A?’

‘Listen Hulme, I didn’t intend to get drawn into all this, you know. I was hoodwinked. Tricked. Pressured. Never doubt my professional integrity. I work for the future of mankind; my sole aim is to unlock the potential of the human brain. And despite the accusations levelled at me by doctor Torris, I maintain a high standard of care in all my work.’

‘Of course you do Pontius, old chap. Of course you do. Calm down and drink your whisky. Repatterning. I wonder, what did that involve exactly? Of course, you cannot say. But I presume to repattern a brain, you must first depattern it. Am I correct?’

‘Yes. Don’t ask me how. There are things I want to tell you. But there are other things I dare not tell you. Depatterning is a rather sordid and distasteful affair. The less you know of it, the better. Even I was kept in the dark regarding some of the details. There was a certain intern who came to us from the American Psychological Association – doctor Selena Fulbright. Before she joined the program she was trained in hypnotic regression by the C.I.A. She had studied sexual behaviour and how it may be used to manipulate the mind. The goal was to control an individual so that he would follow commands even against his will – and even against such fundamental laws as self-preservation (ii). I have no answer to the moral questions. Nevertheless, her results with patients were quite remarkable. Simply by placing her hand on the forehead of her subject, and applying slight pressure with an imperative command, she could compel him to do anything at all; she could prevent him rising from the bed, control his speech and involuntary muscles, and cause the most vivid hallucinations. Whilst in residence, she made ten supplicants who were so responsive to her voice, that she could control them with ease. After a few additional suggestions, she could introduce a complete cataleptic state (iii). She could put them to sleep within seconds; she could fill the air with imaginary bats and mosquitoes; she made one young man believe he was a scarlet pig (iv), and another that he was a girl.’

‘But she couldn’t make Vallis believe that he was a man?’

‘Unfortunately not. His sense of identity runs too deep. According to Doctor Fulbright, any man can be programmed to believe he is a female; but it doesn’t work the other way round: very few women can be programmed to believe they are men. She didn’t cure Jack, but she did many other remarkable things. She turned six paranoid hysterics into infants, and left them playing all day long in a wooden pen. Up until that point, they were kept in restraints and on constant medication. And she did all this without E.C.T or psycho-surgery. Her final year was marked by many strange events: Vallis spent the whole summer talking with Socrates and Plato – in fluent Greek. The extra-ordinary thing was, that all her patients, even when blindfolded, could describe in detail what was happening behind them.(v) I have no explanation for this extra-sensory perception. Unfortunately this area of research is now forbidden.’

Hulme ponders the possibilities, puffing on his pipe as he twirls his moustache between finger and thumb:

‘The potential of the human mind: it never ceases to amaze me. You’re a lucky fellow Pontius – to be involved in such cutting-edge research.’

‘I wouldn’t say lucky. Sometimes I wish I’d never got involved. Personality restructuring is a dirty business. It leaves its mark on you, that sort of thing. Nothing I had researched during my years of clinical practice could have prepared me for the trial. The C.I.A flinched from nothing to achieve their goals. They gave us free reign to create merry hell. Our methods went beyond all ethical and legal limits. One of my patients gnawed off his own hand whilst high on L.S.D. I found him in his cell, grinning like an idiot as he munched on his ulna. It shook me up a bit. After that I wanted to jack it all in. But I was still under contract. I had no choice. No choice at all. When treating Vallis, I came to terms with many uncomfortable truths, not least my own self-disgust, bewilderment, and rage.’

‘You are a pioneer Pontius. A pioneer. What we might accomplish with your knowledge! When I think of all the poor fellows I treated after the war – shell shock victims – how many might have been saved by repatterning…’

‘I doubt it. The research is still in its infancy. And results are far from consistent.’ He wags a finger: ‘Don’t tell Jones. Not a word, understand? He’s such a blabber mouth. The last thing I want is Maria poking her nose in.’

‘Don’t worry Pontius. Mum’s the word. Your secret is safe with me… Between you and me though, I think it’s a great pity about Vallis. I mean, if truth be told, I would like to research his paranormal powers, wouldn’t you?’

‘What if you discovered something you didn’t like?’

‘Such as?’

‘Vallis is an extraordinary telepath. He can penetrate every nook and cranny of your mind. All those dirty little secrets that you keep hidden from the world: all your private predilections and fantasies; the woman you glimpsed on a train twenty years ago—but the one you always return to when you’re alone with yourself; the fares you dodged; the books you fiddled; every little coin and victory that you wrested from the world; all your broken promises and deceitful deeds. All those skeletons you keep locked in the cupboard.’

‘Skeletons? I don’t know what you mean.’

‘Oh come on Hulme, everyone has skeletons, even you.’

‘Do I? Well, now I come to think of it, I suppose I do. I used to spy on nanny when she was getting undressed. I stood at the keyhole and watched every night for a whole summer. I might have become a professional voyeur but my father caught me in flagrante delicto and sent me off to boarding school.’

‘Oh dear.’

‘I was only nine.’

‘Spying on nanny through the keyhole? But that’s hardly a skeleton in the closet, is it?’

‘Does that make me a boring personality? I suppose it does really… What about your skeletons?’

‘I prefer to keep them under lock and key.’

‘Very wise Pontius, very wise. One thing I don’t understand is, if Vallis is so important, why does the C.I.A. want him neutralised?’

‘He’s become too powerful. Besides, he’s too psychotic to be of any long term use. Take his second sight for example. There’s no doubt he can see things we can’t. But how do we know what’s genuine and what’s psychotic hallucination? I mean, he once told me I had a black monkey on my shoulder.’

‘A black monkey?’

‘Yes. It was whispering in my ear.’

‘No doubt he was just trying to scare you.’

‘Perhaps.’

‘Surely you don’t believe him?’

Pontius looks anxious and confesses:

‘I don’t know what to believe. Sometimes when I awake in the middle of the night, the thought disturbs me. The mind plays tricks. I have seen it in the dark: a vague shape squatting on the bed or crouched on the chair…’

‘Pure suggestion and nothing more. Vallis spoke of a monkey and you saw one. The imagination is a powerful thing. You were probably half-asleep.’

‘No. I did not lose consciousness at any time, but only experienced a sensation of heaviness in my limbs. I saw them distinctly: two green eyes glinting in the wardrobe. And I heard the chattering of teeth. Of course, by morning I had convinced myself that I was suffering from sleep paralysis. I have tried many times to banish that monkey from my mind. I thought it was gone. But now I’m not so sure. This morning I awoke early from troubled dreams, and in the gloom, I saw a hairy paw resting on my pillow… And now I am forced to ask myself: is the monkey real or a phantom of the brain? I mean, is it possible for a telepath like Vallis to produce a visual hallucination in another person by the exercise of the will?’

Hulme clenches his fist in determination:

‘Pontius! Listen to me: you must remain rational. It’s absolutely vital!’

‘It’s hard to remain rational in the face of the irrational.’

‘You cannot let yourself be infected by the insane. I’ve seen it happen a hundred times before: good men gone bad; clinicians driven potty by their patients. Look what happened to doctor Hardy. I don’t like the implications of the supernatural any more than you. No good can come of people like Jack Vallis; they cause nothing but subversive upheavals. Man is indeed a creature of Mind and Matter. But as a clinical psychologist I was taught that the mind is a product of matter, and not the other way round. All mystic, moral, social and even physical evils can be explained by the tenets of medical materialism. Any metaphysical reality that proves otherwise poses a grave threat to rationalist reductionism. Esoteric doctrine is full of seditious saints and mystics who have defied temporal authority. Bilocation, ecstasies, rapts and trances; visions and apparitions; revelations, locutions and prophecies; infused knowledge; the discernment of spirits; the gift of miracles… All these things are highly dangerous to the state. The outgrowth of esotericism and theism that would result from a paranormal reality has horrendous ramifications; it would subvert the very principles of scientific government and oligarchical collectivism. Power belongs to the body politic, not the individual.’

‘You’re right, of course you are.’

‘The sooner we finish Vallis off, the better.’

‘Agreed.’

‘I will assist with his lobotomy. A man is nothing without his frontal lobes. Nothing at all. We’ll stitch him up good and proper; reduce him to a vegetable; send him to the ranks of the living dead… They don’t call me Doctor Turnip for nothing.’

Copyright (c) Nicholas Shea 1992-2017.

i. ‘Controlled Offensive Behaviour’ USSR. Prepared by US Army Office of The Surgeon General, Medical Intelligence Office. CIA RDP96-00788R0013000120001-8. Approved for release 2003/09/10.

ii. CIA memo 1952. The aim of MK-Ultra was to find ways of “controlling an individual so that he will do our bidding even against his will – and even against such fundamental laws as self-preservation”.

iii. ‘Buchanan’s Journal of Man’, January 1888 Volume 1, Number 12. Published in ‘New York World’ by W. A. Croffut.

iv. Ibid.

v. Ibid.