Unus_Mundus_The_Girl_In_The_Valve

Sunhill Asylum, December 5th, 1956.

Doctor Hardy enters the cell and sits on the bed:

‘Tell me about Mullards.’

‘I’ve already told you about Mullards. It’s where I used to work.’

‘But I’ve checked with them. They have absolutely no record of your employment.’

‘Well they would say that, wouldn’t they.’

‘Why would they?’

‘Because my work was top secret.’

‘Top secret? That must have been a very important job.’

‘Don’t patronise me doctor. I know you don’t believe me.’

‘Well it sounds a little far fetched – you being a top secret employee.’

‘What’s far fetched about it? Mullards developed thermionic valves for Colossus at Bletchley Park during the war. But you won’t know about that either. It’s top secret, see?’

‘Colossus? And what was that for?’

‘Cracking Nazi codes.’

‘Is that what you worked on? Cryptography?’

‘No.’

‘I suppose you can’t tell me – because it’s top secret.’

‘Well, I could tell you – but you wouldn’t believe me.’

‘Try me. If you’re an electronic engineer, I’d like to know about it.’

‘Would you?’

‘Yes. Tell me about Mullards and what you did there. Describe the factory.’

‘Mullards is the biggest valve factory in Europe. It’s so vast, you need a bicycle to get about. I can’t describe it. It would take all day.’

‘Give me an outline then. What area did you work in?’

‘I worked in “D” building.’

‘And was that secret too?’

‘Yes, absolutely. “D” building is Research and Development.’

‘How many other buildings are there?’

‘Eight.’

‘And you know about them too?’

‘Do you think I’m telling porkies? “A” building is the valve grid manufacturing plant (the main office is on the mezzanine floor). “B” and “C” buildings are the valve finishing plants. “E” building is the glass envelope plant. “F” is the glass manufacturing plant. “H” is the press shop and metal forming plant. “J” and “L” buildings are the wire processing plants…’

‘Hmm. Interesting. You’ve described it perfectly.’

‘Well I should do. I worked there, didn’t I?’

‘But you’re a Borstal boy; you left school at fifteen; you’re unqualified; you never went to university.’

‘I was self-taught.’

‘And such a whizz-kid, that Mullards decided to take you on?’

‘Something like that.’

‘So what did you do there, exactly?’

‘I started off developing heptodes.’

‘Heptodes?’

‘Yes. But the boss took credit for all my work. He was a proper divvy.’

‘What’s a heptode Jack? Forgive me, but I have no knowledge of electronics.’

‘A heptode is used as a mixer valve. It has five grids. The first two grids form a local oscillator. The control grid is of conventional design but the second grid is just two support rods and functions as the anode for the oscillator. The local oscillator introduces an electrode stream of varying amplitude into the remaining grids. Grid three and grid five act as screen grids to provide signal isolation. Between them is a second control grid – grid four – that acts as the input point for the signal. But for maximum isolation, grid four is often taken to the top cap. The oscillator, mixer and amplifier functions all take place in the same electron stream, so a high degree of coupling between them is inevitable. One result is that the oscillator frequency pulls strongly in favour of powerful signals, and away from weaker ones. But for receivers intended to only receive strong local signals, this is sold as an advantage, because they are very easy to tune. Another consequence is that the oscillator frequency is coupled to the signal input grid and leaks out of the aerial unless an efficient tuned filter is interposed. A further problem is that it is difficult to apply AGC to a pentagrid without adversely affecting oscillator performance…’

Hardy scratches his head in puzzlement:

‘Well, you seem to know all about electronics.’

‘I should do. It was my job, remember? Can I go home now?’

‘Not yet. You’re still very ill. You need treatment.’

‘I’m perfectly sane. There’s nothing wrong with me. Where’s my corset?’

‘Forget that for a moment. This top secret work – what did it entail exactly? Don’t worry, you can tell me Jack: this is all perfectly confidential. What did you work on? Hmm?

‘I worked on all sorts of things: satellite-communications, magnetrons, cyclotrons…’

‘What’s a cyclotron?’

‘A cyclotron is an accelerator in which charged particles describe a spiral path flowing at right angles to a magnetic field.’

‘And what were these cyclotrons for?’

‘I don’t know. I was never told. Everything was compartmentalised. You never see the full picture. That’s how they maintain security. My job was to design cyclotrons that operated within specified limits. It was very mundane.’

‘Mundane? On the contrary, it sounds exciting.’

‘For the girl in the valve maybe. But not for me.’

‘Girl in the valve?’

‘I saw her in an advert for Mullards when I was young.’

‘How young?’

‘Five or six. I can’t remember. My uncle was a radio ham. His attic was littered with issues of Practical Wireless.’

‘And the girl in the valve? Who was she? A radio star?’

‘I don’t know. Just a woman’s face. She was very pretty.’

‘She inspired you to work at Mullards?’

‘Of course. But I confused wanting to be the girl in the valve with becoming an electrical engineer.’

‘I see.’

‘She was like a faery. Do you believe in faeries, doctor Hardy?’

‘No Jack. Children believe in faeries.’

‘I’d look for her inside the radio set. I’d turn off the lights, creep round the back, peer through the grill – and watch all the valves, glowing like rush-lights in the darkness…’

‘And did you ever see her?’

‘ – If I was lucky, she’d be there, peering from her tube, like a genie in a bottle. Perhaps she’d grant my wish.’

‘Wish?’

‘You know. To become a girl.’

‘The imagination is a powerful thing. But tell me, did you ever actually see this faery?’

‘Why? Do you think I suffer schizophrenic hallucinations?’

‘Hallucinations are very common – even in normal people.’

‘Do you hallucinate doctor?’

‘No Jack. I don’t.’

‘How do you know?’

‘Answer the question: did you ever see this faery? Be honest. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Hallucinations are just the emergence of subconscious processes. Did you see her? The girl in the valve? Ever?’

‘To tell the truth is to be condemned.’

‘There’s nothing wrong in having hallucinations Jack. We can treat you for that.’

‘She wasn’t an hallucination. She was real. No treatment necessary.’

‘Hallucinations can appear very real. But they’re just autonomous phenomena – processes which occur below the threshold of consciousness – dispositions, impulses and obsessions – projected outward. A kind of functional psychosis. What you saw wasn’t a real faery – she was just inside your head. But your mind made her real.’

‘What would you know about faeries? Nothing. Faeries are very rare this day and age; but in the Old World, faeries are very common indeed.’

‘Tell me, when did you first see this faery? How old were you?’

‘Seven.’

‘You saw her often?’

‘Yes. In the meadow; in the woods; above my bed at night; and sometimes in church. I saw her many times.’

‘And the last time?’

‘I can’t remember.’

‘But you saw her throughout childhood. Correct?’

‘Yes.’

‘So when did you stop seeing her? In adolescence? Did you see her as an adult? Have you ever seen her in this hospital?’

‘No. But she will come. She won’t forsake me.’

‘I see.’

‘Stop saying that: I see. You don’t see. You don’t see anything.’

‘Tell me about the first time you saw this faery.’

‘I was cutting rushes.’

‘Rushes?’

‘In the Old World. I cut rushes for a living – with my stepmother.’

‘The Old World is a fantasy, Jack. An illusion. A dream.’

‘Not it’s not. It’s real.’

‘You believe it’s real, but its just a sensory world pertaining to subconscious ideas: a mirage of subliminal companions. These hallucinations are peripheral processes of a pathological nature; they are caused by altered states of dissociation and double thinking; but your body thinks they’re real because they excite secondary sensory and ideomotor elements. Do you understand?’

‘Thank you for your perceptive analysis and illuminating consideration of my condition: the nature and structure of my illusions; my flawed perceptions and hallucinations; their relationship to dreams, reality, functional psychosis, double thinking and dissociation. What a wonderful shrink you are.’

‘That’s very rude Jack. Why mock my profession? I’m trying to help you.’

Jack jumps off the bed and exclaims:

‘But faeries are real I tell you! I saw her! She spoke to me!’

‘Oh? And what did she say, this girl in the valve?’

‘She spoke of magic.’

‘Well, electronics is a kind of magic isn’t it?’

‘That’s Mullard Magic. But Mullard Magic isn’t the same as Faery Magic… Faery Magic is higher than Mullard Magic.’

‘My grandfather thought the radio was magic: disembodied voices, floating through the ether. And now we have pictures too. We have television.’

‘Well I’ve got my own receiver – inside my head. See?’

‘No Jack, you haven’t.’

‘Yes I have. I tune into things.’

‘What things?’

‘People; places; spirits.’

‘Spirits? Tell me about it.’

‘Why? So you can frame me with a Freudian indictment?’

‘You talk to spirits?’

‘This place is full of them. The dead outnumber the living. You can’t walk down the corridor without bumping into a ghost. A spirit began rapping in the house after my mother’s death. The disturbance only came at night. I followed the noise downstairs. Then I saw her in the parlour. She was stark naked, banging on the wall with her fists. Like a sleepwalker. She was lost. In Limbo.’

‘Hallucinations, Jack. Clairaudience and clairvoyance are hysterical states of mind. These spirits are nothing but projections of repressed complexes. They rise automatically out of the depths.’

‘Repressed complexes? Don’t make me laugh.’

‘You saw your mother in Limbo because subconsciously you believe she deserves it – as punishment for her neglect.’

‘That’s absolute rubbish. I loved my mother.’

‘I’m sure you did. But was your love reciprocated? Did she love you back?’

‘Of course she did. In her own way. Anyway, you can’t explain it away like that.’

‘Well, did anyone else see your mother’s ghost?’

‘No. But the neighbours heard her banging. Ask them.’

‘I don’t need to ask them. Houses make all sorts of noises. Water pipes knock; timbers creak; mice scratch. Ghosts don’t exist Jack. Except in story books. Just like faeries.’

‘If you say so doctor.’

‘So you accept that these phenomena are nothing but hallucinations?’

‘I accept that you are mistaken.’

‘Your persistent denial will only delay your recovery.’

‘Is there a pill for belief in faeries?’

‘We have pills for all sorts of things.’

‘Faery pills? What does it say on the bottle? This medication is for the relief of faeryitis. Faeryitis is an inflammation of the brains and causes an unpleasant burning sensation when gazing into mirrors. Take one pill three times a day, until the faeries vanish. If faeries persist after the six week course, please consult your doctor or pharmacist. Do not exceed the stated dose. Do not take if pregnant or breast feeding. Active ingredients: atheist powder 4.0 grams. Also contains extract of sceptic fruit, 6.0 grams. Please see your doctor if you have an intolerance to medical materialism. Do not take this product if you have been prescribed lithium for manic depression.’

‘Very funny Jack. Tell me, do you get a burning sensation when gazing into mirrors?’

‘Yes. I’m on fire. Except when dressed. That’s why I need my corset. Give it back. I am to suffer a divine transformation. As the grub becomes a butterfly.’

‘The girl in the valve constitutes a transsexual complex which is unsusceptible to society as a whole, so its existence leads to a form of inner conflict and self-reproach. Your personality avoids this conflict by projecting the offending complex outward onto a make-belief faery, where it can be accepted without the painful emotions and consequences of facing forbidden impulses.’

‘Oh give Freud a rest will you? I’m sick and tired of it.’

‘Sit back down. Stop pacing about.’

‘I’m restless. It’s them faery pills you give me; they make me anxious – a side-effect of anti-psychotic medication: it drives you bloody mad.’

‘Your pills can be changed. We’ll try something else.’

‘You don’t understand. I’ve got to get out of here.’

‘That’s impossible. You’re not well.’

‘Why was I committed? For dressing in women’s clothes?’

‘There were many reasons.’

‘What reasons? Feebleness of intellect? Sexual derangement? Immoral life? Self abuse? Over study of religion? Nymphomania? Dissolute habits? Congestion of the brains?’

‘You jumped from a train. Remember? ’

‘That was the last time.’

‘Well you say that now, but if I release you without treatment, you might have another episode and try it again. Then I’d have your death on my hands. That would be unacceptable Jack. I’d never forgive myself. You still have suicidal tendencies. That’s why you must remain here until you’re better.’

‘No, I mean, that was the last time I saw her. The faery. Just before I jumped.’

‘Did she tell you to jump?’

‘She wanted me to go away with her.’

‘Where to?’

‘Faery-land, of course. Let me go doctor Hardy, please. I don’t belong here.’

‘You can’t leave Jack. You need treatment.’

‘Why don’t you just come out and say it? Why beat around the bush? Say it doctor Hardy. Say it.’

‘Say what?’

‘Jack Vallis, you’re a certified lunatic.’

‘Do you think you’re mad, Jack?’

‘No more crazy than you. How many skeletons have you got locked in the cupboard?’

‘I don’t talk to faeries, Jack. Faeries are imaginary creatures; they have no basis in objective reality.’

‘You haven’t got the imagination for reality. There are hidden dimensions you cannot see. The faery is real. She gave me a vision.’

‘Vision? Describe it.’

‘I don’t want to talk about it.’

‘Why not?’

‘It was too terrible.’

‘Tell me. Tell me what you saw.’

‘I heard a deep rumbling outside; the walls were shaking. I started floating toward the ceiling and above the roof. I saw dark clouds rolling in. A violent storm covered the whole Earth. The sun was swallowed up and the sky turned black. I knew The End had come. The Rapture. Scoffers say it will never happen, but I saw the Antichrist coming out of Eastern Europe. There was Death and mutilation everywhere. A plague of fear and violence. Epileptic violence. I saw the Louvre explode in a great wall of flame; all the paintings were incinerated. Madonna of the Rocks; The Lacemaker; The Fortune Teller; The Mona Lisa; Saint John The Baptist; Bathsheba at Her Bath… Incinerated. Raphael. Michelangelo. Caravaggio. Vermeer. Leonardo da Vinci. Rembrandt. All wiped from the face of the Earth. I yelled to the people: “Jesus is coming!” I cried out: “Jesus, take me with you!” Mark my words, He’ll bring fire and brimstone. This whole asylum will go up in flames. Whoever remains is doomed.’

‘It was just a dream Jack.’

‘No, it was a vision. I saw giants coming out of the sea.’

‘Giants?’

The Nephilim. They came from the depths. I saw them climbing the white cliffs of Dover. And the giants were tearing the heads off children, and eating them, see? This is a warning. You need to come to Jesus Christ, right now. You must turn from your wicked ways. You must not be worldly; you must come out of the world. We live in the world, but we must not be a part of the world… There are giants in the land. Giants. The Rapture awakens them all. They come out of the hills! They come out of the sea in their flying saucers! There is no salvation but in Jesus Christ. You must know that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins. If you believe it in your heart, and confess it with your mouth, you shall be saved. Otherwise you will burn in hell. The Nephilim will slaughter you! They’ll string you up and disembowel you! Grind your bones for bread! Listen to me! It’s sexual! Sexual! The giants will rape you! Rape and kill you! As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be at the coming of the Son of Man. This land will be burnt up, just like Sodom and Gomorrah! He’s coming soon. Any day now. So you’d better get your house in order. Repent. Repent of your wicked ways and turn to Jesus, before it’s too late… Don’t look at me like that!’

‘Like what?’

‘Like I’m hysterical.’

‘Well, are you hysterical?’

‘No. But you think I’m hysterical, right? Hysterical. Well I’m not hysterical. I saw these things. I saw them. The Nephilim. Coming out of sea. The rapture is going to happen. There’s nothing you can do about it. The angels told me. Jesus is coming soon. Amen.’

‘Hysterics often have visions which express their faith, or hear voices which speak their subconscious thoughts.’

‘It was from the Lord, I tell you.’

‘How do you know? Are you His prophet?’

‘Why ask? You’re an atheist. Atheists always malign the prophets. Look at you, with your clipboard and your pen; your neat bow-tie and polished brogues. You’re so nicely adjusted to the New World: to your own narrow strip of reality. Such a parochial little man.’

Copyright © Nicholas Shea 1992-2020.