THE 12-VOLT CASANOVA

by James Nathan Post

When other schools were hotbeds of social activism and Aquarian Age excess, Magoffin College was a peaceful patch of classic academia with broad lawns gracing old brick buildings. Rust-orange rather than red, the walls had stone blocks at the corners, which daring students could climb three stories to the overhanging slate roofs. Late one fine spring afternoon in the early 1970ís, one young researcher walked from married-student housing to his tiny laboratory in the old Biology building.

In rumpled brown suit and golferís cap, Gerry Speesmeyer walked quickly, head down and hands stuffed into pockets, muttering to himself. Tall and slender, he had wide, dark, and deep eyes which sometimes made people nervous, and a shy warm smile which reassured them. Another student caught his attention among the clean-cut, well-groomed, and studious young men and women. Melanie Martin, a Biology student, was dark, small, and very pretty. Her hair was longer, her shorts were shorter, and the way she moved was more...relaxed...than was usual at Magoffin. Seeing her skipping across the plaza, Gerry called out, "Mel! Hi, whatís your hurry?"

"Got a date," she replied, sprinting to catch a frisbee thrown by a sleek-muscled boy.

"Whoís the lucky stiff?" he asked.

"Heís a rat," she said, adroitly flipping the disc, "and he doesnít deserve it."

Together they went to a basement hall, where she produced a key, and opened the door to her lab, face-to-face across from his. "Come on in," she said with a flirtatious pixie grin. "This wonít take long."

The room was jammed with cages, racks of test-tubes, miles of wires, tubing, hoses, a centrifuge, peculiar devices with dials, meters, lights, chromed probes, and glass tubes that looked about ready to drip. She stepped through the tangle to a row of plexiglas boxes, each about a foot square, fitted with tubes from a bank of mixing valves, and a cluster of glass bottles and steel pressure cylinders. In each cube was a rat.

"Hell of a way to treat a rat," Gerry said, peering at one crouching in his haze-filled box, red-eyed and wheezing, old before his time. "What do you put in there?"

"That atmosphere is accurate to six percent for Burbank smog," she said with the science proís enthusiasm. "You wouldnít believe the sulfides, chlorides, diphosphorous pentoxide, cyanide -- the whole stinky magillah." She peered into another ratbox. "Aw," she said, "poor old Morgan bit the dust last night."

"A martyr to science," Gerry quipped.

"Morgan was a hell of a nice rat," she said simply. She opened the box, fished out the deceased rodent with tongs, unceremoniously dropped it into the pitcher of a kitchen blender, and added some liquid from a beaker. "That pollution kills birds in a few hours. Thatís why I use rats -- they survive the longest." She snapped on the blender, quickly reducing Morgan to a grisly paste.

"Comforting," said Gerry. "What will you do with the data?"

"Scream bloody murder! Magazine articles, or a TV special, maybe." She poured the contents of the blender into a chromed chamber in the apparatus. "There," she said with satisfaction.

"R.I.P. Morgan," he said. "Looks like good work to me, Mel."

"Yeah," she agreed happily, "But gee, itís nothing compared to what youíre doing. I get goose bumples every time I go in there. Come on, will you show me?"

Gerry smiled shyly. "Why not?"

He led the way, amused by her rapt anticipation. The paraphrenalia of his project filled the room even more fully than hers. In the middle squatted an antique operating table, fitted with huge chromed cranks and wormgears, and a pair of gleaming obstetrical stirrups. The marvelous relic was festooned with wires, a sinister Viking-crown headpiece, and ankle and wrist straps. On side benches were a keyboard from a late-'50's Hammond electric organ, an array of plug-jack wires with meters and knobs, an oscilloscope, a punch-card reader, and a computer monitor and keyboard. On one table lay a paper-strip recorder like an electro-encephalograph, a pair of reel-to-reel tape decks, and more clumsy-looking electronic assemblage. Against the back wall were two large cages, each containing a Rhesus monkey.

"Gee, Gerry," she said softly, "I always feel so historical in here, like I ought to take a picture or something, you know what I mean? The guys they give medals and big bank accounts to are all out blowing each other up, and youíre here quietly revolutionizing the whole world. I mean, a machine that will make people telepathic! Wow!"

"Aw shucks, Mel," he said with a wave, "it isnít all that new. Itís just a logical next step from the biofeedback gadgets. And thereís nothing mysterious about this thing youíre calling telepathy. It just uses less mass than what weíre used to."

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"All communication depends on patterns in mass to carry meaning. The less aware we are, the more mass we need. A message in stone satisfies people who need heavy mass to feel the meaning is real. Speech patterns in moving air are less massive, so it is easy for people to ignore the importance of words, and act like they had not heard them. This thing seems to be something like radio waves," he said. "Every human body has a kind of field around it, like a radio transmitter."

"Sure," she agreed. "Thatís the aura."

"Well, I donít know about that occult stuff," he said gruffly, "but when you change your emotional state, it makes changes in that field you can measure with electronic equipment. Thatís how a lie detector works, and that thing the Scientologists use. Since the human body generates these radiations, it seems to me others might have a reaction to them."

"You mean weíre already telepathic, but donít notice it?"

"I believe that might be true," he declared, "but these signals are so subtle, and use so little mass, they go right past us unnoticed. With everybody doing it, itís like a background of white noise. I am trying to amplify a discrete signal to the point where the receiver can clearly acknowledge it."

"Gee, that doesnít sound too hard for the average genius," said Melanie with a giggle.

"The hard part is analyzing the uh, aura, then isolating the message in a form that can be amplified. Then I transmit that to the receiver, and he can experience the same nervous signals, the same feelings, as the sender. If thatís telepathy, there it is."

"God, Gerry. For the first time in all of history, one person will really be able to feel what another feels. Itís the ultimate, and youíve done it!"

"I havenít done it yet," he confessed, "and it took a string of discoverors before me -- Faraday, Bell, Flanagan -- and thereíll be a string after me who dream up ways to use it."

For a moment her eyes were aglow as she tried to imagine what wonderful uses would be made of the new technology, then her face fell. "Donít you ever worry what would happen if the wrong people got this?" she asked.

"Sometimes," he said. "The question is morally neutral."

"How can you say that?" she gasped, truly surprised.

"Now donít burn me at the stake yet. The truth is always double-edged. If I withhold what I find, then good could lose for the want of it. If I give it to the world, evil could win by having it." He shrugged. "Morally neutral."

"There must some way to just give it to the right people," she said doubtfully.

"Whoever they might be," he chuckled. "But really, name one thing that has done more to help people than communication. Our problems would all be solved if we could just communicate with each other."

She looked at him searchingly. "I believe that with all my heart," she said. "People could talk, mind to mind, and heart to heart, and it would be impossible to lie. I guess it just seems too good to be true."

"Time will tell," he said. "Speaking of time, I have to go. Just came to feed the monkeys. Dinner party with Cyndi tonight."

"Yeah, your wife," said Melanie, looking down at the floor.

"Yep. Itís our eighteen-month anniversary, or something like that. Who can keep track?"

She put her hand on his arm. "Before you go, Gerry, would you do me a favor?"

"Sure," he said, too quickly, "what'cha need?"

"Can I have your autograph?"

He laughed, pulled a pen from the pocket of his shirt, and signed his name on her forearm. "There. Howís that?"

"Iíll never bathe again," she gushed.


. TWO

Gerryís home in married-student housing was one of many identical cinderblock squares painted in pastel blue, green, pink, and yellow. He was thankful his was green, and not the boozerís-eye yellow, nor raw-burger pink. It came furnished with floral-print plastic couch, two-step white formica end-tables, a green corderoy chair, double bed, a chest of drawers matching the end-tables, and a dining set in yellow vinyl. The living room was dominated by two large photo prints hung framed above the couch. One was of Gerryís wife Cyndi, as a high school cheerleader. The other was Cyndi as Prom Queen. Taken by a beauty-pageant paparazzo, they did credit to the tall, honey-blonde, powder-blue-eyed beauty. She was quite striking, with a long classic neck. High-breasted and lithe, she was full-figured for the style of the time, a voluptuous golden goddess. As he came into the house, Gerry heard her call from the bedroom.

"Gerry, is that you?" She stepped into the living room shrugging her shoulder straps into place. "Where in heavenís name have you been? We have reservations."

"I got hung up feeding the boys. Weíll make it." He pulled his sweater over his head and brushed past her into the bedroom, to undress quickly. "You wonít believe the things Iím finding out," he called to her.

She stood looking like a little girl wishing her Daddy would say hello. "Weíll have a good time tonight, wonít we, Gerry?"

"You bet, Cyndi kid," he said, giving her a quick squeeze and heading for the shower.

"Do you like my hair?" she asked. "I had it done special."

"Great," he replied, turning on the shower. "Looks just like you. Whoo! Aah, that feels great." After a minute, he called out, "Hey, Iím about ready to start the monkey tests."

She stuck out her tongue at him unseen as he continued over the rush of the shower. "I picked up a new research assistant, computer whiz named Brainy or something, to help me streamline my hardware."

She looked at her reflection in the mirror, pulled her slip tight against her thigh, and prodded for cellulite. "Gerry, could we join the health spa or something?" she asked him.

"What?" he garbled, head under the spray.

She stepped into the bathroom. "I said, ĎLetís join the health spa,í you know, together."

He stepped out of the shower. "You do get on the craziest tangents. I canít imagine spending fifty bucks a month on tennis and a bathtub for six people. But did you hear? A computer assistant!" Naked and dripping, he took her shoulders in his hands. "Now I can do the monkey tests. Isnít that great?"

She sighed, then smiled. "Yes, it really is. I know your project is going to work someday, and maybe youíll get to do staff research, with somebody like Dean Fogarty supporting you."

Gerry grabbed a towel and began drying himself vigorously. "Fogey? Ha. Every step with that benighted old plug is like wading through molasses -- upstream." He paused, looked at her curiously. "Your hair looks great. So come on, come on, get dressed. Donít want to be late, do you?"

In short while, they sat across a table in a little restaurant they visited when they felt they could afford a few extra dollars on luxury for its own sake. It was an attractive place, where the tablecloths were cloth, and the wines had a date on the bottle. "To the good life!" toasted Cyndi. They emptied their wineglasses, and Gerry refilled them with Sonoma Zinfandel. "Remember when splurging meant a side order of onion rings with our Ogre Burgers?" she asked.

"Yeh," he mused, sipping pensively. "I could do this a lot."

"I want us to live like this all the time, Gerry." She took his hand. "You deserve it because you work so hard. And...and youíll be Doctor Speesmeyer, and..."

He chuckled. "Youíve got me looking just like Fogarty."

"Sure," she agreed eagerly. "You can be the Dean, Gerry."

He shook his head. "What an idea...in school forever."

"Itís been pretty good so far, hasnít it?"

Detecting a pleading note in her voice, he said, "You bet it has...but I guess I could have done better by you in some ways." He shrugged apologetically. "I get pretty wrapped up in my work."

"Itís OK," she reassured him. "I know itís important."

"Youíve been a sweetheart," he said.

"I do love you, Gerry," she said wistfully. "If it werenít for...itís times like these..." She struggled for words, then just shook her head.

He reached across to touch her cheek. "Youíd better eat. Any more of this, and youíll be dripping mascara all over your steak." She laughed, and they both ate silently a few minutes.

"Donít you feel awfully alone at night in that basement by yourself?" she asked.

"Oh, Iím not usually alone," he said. Then seeing her stiffen, he added, "There are other students in the building, you know."

"Like the little rat girl across the hall?"

"Who? Oh, you mean Melanie. Well, sure, sheís down there sometimes." He popped a chunk of steak into his mouth, and reached casually for his wine.

"Do you ever use her in your work?"

"Sure," he said around the steak. "I use anybody I can get. Some people donít like being wired up and told to imagine being scared, or hungry, or something."

She sighed. "You should have married somebody who could help in your work, and be one of those great husband and wife teams, like...Burton and Taylor, or somebody."

"Sure," he chuckled. "Then Iíd never get away from the lab."

"You wouldnít have to go home."

"You mean, I wouldnít get to go home. Darling, I come home because it is home, and because youíre there. Really." He poured the last of the wine.

She smiled and nodded. "I know your work is the most important thing right now, if youíre ever going to be somebody, but sometimes I just donít understand the point of it. What do you want to say so bad you have to invent a whole new way of communicating? Why donít you just say it?"

Gerry stared at her a moment, then began to laugh. "Well, I, ah, ha-ha..."

"And if you donít have anything to say," she rushed on, "why bother making a better thing to say it with?"

He laughed again, and fat ran down his chin. "Aw, honey, youíre sweet. If only life were that simple."

After cheesecake and Manhattans, they drove home slowly, puttered around the bedroom hanging up coats, and taking off their shoes. Gerry turned on the TV at the foot of the bed. "Sure was a nice night," he said.

"Mm-hmm, it sure is," she said, sultry and boozy. "Unzip me?" She leaned against him as he unzipped her dress, and reached back to clasp his hips. He bent his head and kissed her shoulder. "I need to be naked," she said. "Want to help me?"

They turned off the lights and got into bed, leaving the TV set on with the sound turned down. On the screen, a tall honey-blonde girl walked near-naked along the deck of a sloop. Below her at the waterline lurked a scaly thing with lustful eyes and prehensile fins. Between moon-lustered ivory thighs, a suckered tenacle groped the gunwale of the little boat. "Umm," cooed Cyndi. "Ooohh, yes, do that some more. Aaah! Yes, and here. Oh! Oh, would you? Oh, oh, yes!" On screen, the tenacle rose up, thrust forward, and seized the voluptuous prize, to pull her quivering body down, down, to the rapacious mouth below, with slashing tongue, an engulfing pink maw. "Oh! Oh! Oooooh!"

"Happy anniversary, dear," said Gerry after a while.


THREE

Looking early-morning brisk, Gerry tripped lightly down the stairwell to the lab. Surprised to see the door already ajar, he cautiously stepped inside, where he saw someone squatting in front of the monkey cages. Hearing Gerry come in, the stranger stood. He had the face of a toothy cherub, a rosy-cheeked pixie about twenty years old. His hair was shorter than fashionable, an unruly shock of stiff black bristles. He was short and stocky, and wore a short-sleeved solid-color shirt, baggy blue gabardine slacks, and crepe-soled shoes. In his hand, stubby-fingered and broad-thumbed, he clutched one of the new pocket calculators. "Holt," the young man said, deep-voiced and mush-mouthed. "Brennock Holt."

"Brennock. Right. Uh...howíd you get in?"

Holt chuckled self-indulgently. "I picked the lock. Place is so old you could pick it with a shovel. Hope you donít mind. Just thought Iíd take a look at some of this stuff before class this morning. You build this equipment?"

"Yeh," said Gerry, almost apologetically. "I kind of had to teach myself as I went along."

"Some of this is good," said Brennock, without the least hint of flattery or self-consciousness. "Youíve got good hands."

"Really?" Gerry exclaimed, surprised. "Well, thanks."

Brennock stuck out his strong spatulate hands. "You could have got stuck with a pair like these -- designed for digging potatoes. But there are some shortcuts we can take here. Youíve got whole banks of stuff that could be replaced with some standard microcircuitry. I think I can wire up the necessary hardware around a couple of off-the-shelf chips. We can rig a unit that amounts to a mathematical model of all this circuitry -- patterns of relationship remain the same, but we donít need all the wire."

"Really?" asked Gerry. "You think Iíve got a worthwhile project going here?"

"Sure do. If youíre right, this could be the most important thing you or I ever do." He grinned and punched Gerry lightly on the shoulder.

They heard the door bang shut, and looked up to see Melanie bounce into the lab. "Gee, you guys at it already?" she asked.

"You know each other?" Gerry asked.

"Hi, Mel," said Brennock. "Howís the rat metropolis?"

"Putrid. Living hell. GíMorning, Professor," she said to Gerry, then without waiting for a reply, stepped close to Brennock. "So what do you think? Isnít it everything I told you, the most incredible thing you ever saw?"

"Itís revolutionary," Holt agreed.

"I can hardly wait till it works," she gushed. "I want to know what it feels like."

Brennock shivered. "Thatís one you can have. Iíll wait for the department store model before plugging one into old Holt."

Melanie laughed and brushed past them to get to the monkey cages. "Hílo fellas. Olí Gerry been treating you good? Getting enough to eat, Your Holiness?"

"Your Holiness?" inquired Brennock.

"You havenít met? Brennock, meet The Primate, Pope Simian the First, and his unholy companion, Onan the Terrible."

"Onan the Terrible?" queried Brennock. "Oh! Ha-ha, yeah, Iíll bet."

Gerry shrugged. "Yeah, but most student assistants are jerkoffs these days, so I keep him. Besides, these boys are going to get us through the next obstacle."

"Which is?" asked Brennock.

"I have to go before Dean Fogarty and the Board in two weeks to renew my grant, and get his permission to work on more advanced nervous systems."

"Meaning people," Brennock affirmed.

"Thatís the point, isnít it? If we can get the monkeys to respond to a direct input, I figure theyíll give us the go-ahead to tackle the remote transmission problem."

Brennock frowned. "You mean you havenít figured out yet how youíre going to broadcast these telepathy waves of yours?"

"Not really. I expect to create a signal that can be received just because it is greatly amplified."

"That would imply the nervous system has a built-in antenna already," said Brennock, "perhaps the brain." He dropped into a grotesque hunchback pose and groped at Gerry with a gnarled hand. "You vant brain, Master? Eeaargh! Ve go dig vun up, ja?"

"I think you may be right," said Gerry thoughtfully. "A brain in situ -- a living person as the antenna."

"God, wouldnít he really feel it -- I mean really feel -- whatever he was transmitting?" asked Melanie.

"Well, sure," said Gerry, "I guess he would. But it would get the signal out in a form that another nervous system could respond to."

"Great," said Brennock, scratching his bristled head. "This gets wierder by the minute. Now weíre going to burn some poor turkeyís brain out making him a walking TV station."

"So will it work?" asked Melanie seriously. "Can we do it?"

The three of them looked at each other a moment.

"I donít see why not," said Brennock.

"It will take a lot of time," Gerry warned Brennock. "Have you got free time?"

Brennock chuckled smugly. "Thatís the only kind of time there is. Iím in the middle of a Masters in math, a course in conversational Russian, a book of poems about colonization of space, a chess tournament -- you know, I keep myself amused. I make time."

"Good trick," Gerry said wryly.

"So? Do we do it?" asked Melanie.

"We do it," said Gerry finally.

The next two weeks Gerry spent almost entirely in the lab. The little room was a bustle of activity. The tape reels whirled, and EEG needles scribbled roll after roll of chartpaper. In their cages, the monkeys peered out anxiously, and submitted when called upon to be strapped to the table, wired, heated with lamps, chilled with dry ice, and frightened by lights and loud noises.

Brennock carried his calculator around like a growth on his hand, pecking away at the little buttons, and chuckling his approval of the results. He spent hours with his soldering gun wiring circuitboards, assembling equipment, and then writing and installing the software to make it function.

While Brennock built the analysis equipment, Gerry worked at his keyboards, trying to develop a process to synthesize the signals which the newly-computerized EEG were isolating. Again and again he spent the evenings poring over rolls of chartpaper, writing what looked something like music in a strange notation.

Melanie came in often. She particularly liked sitting on the operating table, feet in the stirrups, with straps around her wrists and forehead, wires leading to Brennockís new bank of equipment. While the stocky young computer engineer operated his switches, dials, and keyboard, and Gerry stood by with clipboard and tape recorder, she tried to feel emotions on command, graphically overacting fear, grief, and anger.

Wading through the trash overflowing the wastebaskets -- wads of paper, pieces of gutted electrical equipment, fast-food refuse -- the young researcher called home night after night. "Honey, Iím sorry...but...no, no, thereís no way I can get loose to come home until late tonight."

"Again?" came Cyndiís wail from the other end.

Finally the work was finished. The monkey lay back in their cages exhausted. Gerry stood in the middle of the room, triumphantly holding up a slim bound report. "Well, there it is," he declared. "Precise, definitive..."

Melanie interrupted him. "It doesnít look very impressive. Wait a minute." She jumped up, ran to the cabinet and brought out a large roll of chartpaper covered with lines of squiggles, notes and comments.

"Come on, Mel," said Gerry, "those are just charts of the early recordings. We read a hundred miles of that stuff to produce this." He held up the report.

"I remember something you told me once," she said, handing him the heavy roll of paper. "Mass! Weighty evidence to sway the unbelieving mind. And make sure they see at least one mile of it."

"Youíre right!" Gerry exclaimed. Raising the roll over his head with one hand, and his report in the other, he stood with feet planted firmly apart. "Now, Fogey! Now weíre ready for you."


FOUR

Like a bald British barrister, Dean Fogarty gazed down from his bench behind his small but very heavy oak desk in the Boardroom. Behind him the sun cast long beams in the pale pipe smoke rising to the high ceiling of the lofty marble and oak room.

"Well, Mr. Speesmeyer again," he intoned. "Another semester, eh? We are, of course, familiar with your, ah, project." He held up the slim bound report and waved it toward the other four people in the room, who were sitting at similar but lower tables to either side of the Dean. Gerry stood in the middle of the room, before a table bearing his tapes and rolls of chartpaper. Reading from the cover of the report, the Dean continued. "ĎMeasurement and Artificial Synthesis of Electro-magnetic and Electro-chemical Phenomena Produced By or Associated With the Nervous System of the Human Being and Other Primates.í Hmmph. Seems a reasonable subject. Ah, well, the members of the Board, I think you have met. Miss Welsheim, of course."

Gerry nodded politely to the toothy old-maid schoolteacher with the round glasses and the tight gray bun, who sat at the Deanís right. A member of the family which had founded the school, she had been on the Board since the age of twenty-two. "Nice to see you again, Miss Welsheim," he said.

"Nice to see you, Gerry," she replied, matronizingly. "A good boy, Dean Fogarty," she said. "Bit of a dreamer, but a good boy."

"Ah, yes, yes, of course he is," Fogarty agreed. "And, ah, Ms. Liz D'Amato, who has recently joined us." Sitting next to Miss Welsheim, Ms. D'Amato projected the image of an intense, overstarched "Cosmo" girl. About thirty, athletic trim and very attractive, she wore a rather severe business suit, but with a low-cut decolletage and an expression which fairly dared a man to look. She swept her heavy-rimmed spectacles from her face and peered at Gerry with the beaky intensity of a chicken stalking a bug.

"Ms. D'Amato," said Gerry.

"Speesmeyer," she said noncommittally.

Dean Fogarty continued. "This is our new Affirmative Action Coordinator -- we do try to be just as affirmative as we can be, ha-ha -- Senor Beto Camunez." To the Deanís left sat a fat balding Hispanic about forty, wearing a wide-plaid suit and several pounds of turquoise-and-silver Indian jewelry.

"Mr. Comma-nez," said Gerry.

"Thatís Ca-moon-yez," growled Camunez, cracking his knuckles.

"Ah, right," Gerry said. "Sorry."

"And of course," Dean Fogarty concluded, "you know Tony Markov, our new department staff research project director."

Markov was about thirty, handsome, with curly dark hair, athletic, well-dressed, confident, and charming. He sat relaxed at the far left, cleaning, stuffing, and smoking a pipe.

"Sure," said Gerry. "Tony, good to see you."

"Good to see you, Gerry," said Markov in a smooth chocolate-pudding baritone voice, "and I want you to know reading this report was a real pleasure. I think you may be on to one of the most important new areas of discovery in the world of science."

"Well, ah...thanks," said Gerry, surprised.

Fogarty looked askance at Markov. "Well, lets get underway then. Miss Welsheim, perhaps you would like to begin."

"Thank you, Dean," the woman said, gazing at Gerry as though he were a newborn calf. "Now, do I understand that what you are doing with these nervous measurements of yours is some kind of communication?"

"Yes, Maíam, in its final objective."

"You mean like radio and television?"

"Well, yes, in a sense," Gerry conceded carefully. "Yes, I guess it is much like those media, in practice."

"I thought so," she said, shaking her head in resignation. "A whole generation of you, dazzled by the television set. My generation went from the horse-and-buggy to the moon. With a little help from Aristotle and Isaac Newton, we invented most of what people today call science. Our sons and daughters applied it and created the modern world. But you poor children are lost in it. Let me give you a piece of advice, Gerry: donít bother re-inventing the wheel."

"Uh, thank you," replied Gerry, trying to sound grateful. "Iíll try to remember that."

"Mr. Speesmeyer," said Ms. D'Amato, "I see in your report that you have an assistant."

"Yes, thatís right," Gerry affirmed.

"He is not from this department, is he?"

"No, he is from the computer section."

Ms. Liz peered at the report, then said pensively, "You seem to have another assistant as well."

"I beg your pardon?" Gerry asked.

"I notice here on your acknowledgement page -- you thank the Dean, your parents, your wife, and so on, and one Ms. Melanie Martin for her quote: Ďinvaluable assistanceí."

"Well, yes, I..."

"Does Ms. Martin receive school credit for her assistance?" she asked, with an air of calculated innocence.

"No, she doesnít, she just..."

"Mister Holt, from another department, receives credit for helping you," she pressed, accusation creeping into her voice, "but Ms. Martin, who is from this department, receives no credit. Is that right?"

"Well, you see, Ms. Martin is not really an assistant, so much as...as..."

"So much as what, Gerry?" asked Dean Fogarty.

Gerry looked from one of them to the other, from the predatory glare of Ms. Liz, to the interested second appraisal of Beto Camunez, to the amusment of Tony Markov, watching him squirm. "Ms. D'Amato. Dean Fogarty. Melanie Martin is an undergraduate who has a project in an adjacent lab room. She has become interested and involved in my work because it has pleased her to do so. Because I have come to appreciate her viewpoint and her companionship in the lab, it has pleased me also, and for that reason I felt an acknowledgement was in order. There was a time, I believe, when the relationship was called the colleague, that is, two scientists interested in each otherís work."

"Professors have colleagues; students have fellows," said the Dean. "But the point is noted."

"And Mr. Holt is from another department," Gerry continued, "precisely because I donít need assistance in my own field."

"OK," Camunez interrupted, "this report looks pretty good. Not too clear, but OK. But weíre talking about a lot of money here, very valuable money. If you develop something, it is just going to be available to a very few privileged people." He cracked his knuckles. "Have you thought about what effect this is going to have on the disadvantaged? What are you going to do for those people, hah? Because if youíre no good to the people, youíre no good at all. Right, Dean?"

"Ah, right," said Fogarty.

"Well, Mr. Camoonus," said Gerry, "we did give that some thought. But at the level this work relates to, all of us are the same, and there is no such thing as a minority."

Camunez frowned and shook his head. "This could have been bilingual, you know," he muttered.

"Tell me, Gerry," put in Tony Markov, waving his pipe for attention, "how familiar are you with our current staff research project?"

"I worked on it during my senior year," Gerry replied.

"Begun by Dean Fogarty himself in 1948 when he was not much older than you -- about my age, isnít that right, Sir? -- ĎThe Biophysics of the Aging Process.í Now, would you tell me, please, in your own words, what direct relevance you may see in your own work to that program?"

Gerry stared at him for a moment, quite taken off-guard by the notion of associating his work with that of Dean Fogarty. "Well, Iím afraid I -- well, that is, this could become a valuable tool for studying the aging process, I would think," he said rather lamely.

"But no immediate relevance, no direct connection?" Markov persisted.

"Well, not really," Gerry admitted. Markov sat back and began to restuff his pipe.

"You seem to have some kind of evidence there on the table," said Dean Fogarty, indicating Gerryís tapes and charts.

"Evidence?" Gerry queried. "Oh. Ha-ha, I was thinking...I mean, after all, this isnít a trial, is it?" He looked from one stony face to another. "Uh, yes. Well...well, then." He walked around behind his table, put his fingertips on it and assumed a professorly air. "I propose to show you that right here at Magoffin College, we are learning to analyze the handwriting of the mind itself." He unrolled the long chart with a flourish. It steam-rollered across the table, fell of the end, and rolled across the room, revealing yard after yard of Gerryís detailed notation, and the wiggles and squiggles of the wave-reading equipment.

"These," he said, pointing to a group of markings, "are muscle activator groups. We isolated these early with the computer. Now these are more subtle, associated with the grosser emotions. And these are the delicate voices in the symphony of the mind which carry the melodies we call abstractions. Thought!"

"Amazing," said the members of the Board. "Remarkable. Oooh! Look at that big chart! Look at all those notes, all that work!"

Over his head Gerry held one of the rolls of recording tape. He began to read the titles of the tapes, raising each one and then banging it down on the table. "Second-phase analysis of autonomous system coding patterns, tape four." (Bang.)

"Isnít it something?" said Miss Welsheim.

"Engram restimulator matrix code." (Bang.)

"Imagine that!"

"Conditioned emotional response to abstract stimuli." (Bang.)

"Santo chorizo!"

"Evidence of hyperbolic function emotive patterns during peak experiences." (Bang.)

"Interesting," said Ms. Liz.

"Physio-esthetics!" (Bang.) "Abstract and implied esthetics!" (Bang.) "Physio-routing codes!" (Bang.)

"Well, I must say," said Miss Welsheim, "this certainly does look worthwhile. It certainly does. I move to support it. Liz, do you second?"

"Frankly, I find all these data and measurements interesting, but only as entertainment," said Ms. D'Amato coolly. "Iím more interested in your goals, Speesmeyer. You suggest it is possible to record phenomena in the nervous system in such a way it could be replayed so another person could experience the original recorded sensations. Is that correct?"

"Why, yes, exactly correct," said Gerry.

"Then I support it."

Beto Camunez shook his head. "Maybe the little lady sees something in there that I didnít, because if youíre trying to do what I think you are, maybe you ought to be locked up somewhere while there is still time. No, not really, but weíve got a lot of people out there in the world who have problems, very important social problems, and I donít see this is going to do any of them any good. So I donít think it is qualified." He cracked his knuckles.

Dean Fogarty looked puzzled. "You donít think the project is technically qualified?" he asked.

"Technically," said the Affirmative Action Coordinator, "I donít think he is qualified."

"Oh. Well, all right," conceded the Dean. "Thatís two and one. Tony?"

Markov lit his pipe and sucked on it meditatively, once, twice, thrice, then blew a plume into the slanting beams of sunlight coming through the high skylights. "I read your report also, Gerry, and I think this program should rightfully be given the full support of a department such as this. In fact, this work deserves to be the major research project of a unversity."

Everyone stared at him, gaping. "Well, then...." began the Dean.

"However," Markov continued, holding up his hand, "this college already has a research project of that magnitude which is minimally funded in spite of the fullest support of the department. Therefore I cannot recommend that we support this program, knowing that we must eventually abandon either it, or your program, Dean Fogarty. So I vote Ďnoí."

"So," said the Dean, nodding ponderously. "The deciding vote falls to me. Very well, itís only right." He took a deep breath, sighed, and placed his hands on his desk like a valedictorian. "Let me tell you, Speesmeyer. Something very fundamental about your work disturbs me, and donít think I am unaware of that word you use, and so wisely avoid in your report. Like perpetual motion machines and levitation, telepathy is one of those notions that have amused fantasists since long before there was science. But five thousand years of recorded history and work by experts in a dozen fields have failed to produce a single shred of evidence. And even if telepathy were possible, it would be outside the scope of any effort you might make toward a degree from this institution. However, this is a school, and your reason for being here is to learn to become a researcher. The information you accumulate could prove very useful in the hands of an advanced researcher, and you are learning techniques which will enable you to become a good staff research assistant here someday soon, Gerry. Therefore I recommend that your project be continued for the upcoming period." He placed his hands together and smiled beatifically.


FIVE

In the central square of Magoffin College, flowers were in bloom. Students stood with jaws agape as Gerry capered past them. Clutching his charts and tapes, he scampered down the stairwell to his basement lab, where he and Brennock and Melanie gleefully danced, holding hands, leaping up and down.

As the sun settled toward the west horizon, Gerry hurried home and burst into the living room. Her eyes wet with happiness for him, Cyndi greeted him, hugged and kissed him, and hung upon his arm and upon his every word. "Oooh!" she gushed. "Aaah! Oh, Gerry!" He tossed his briefcase onto the coffee table, snapped it open with a flourish, and pulled out paper after paper.

"Look!" he bubbled, waving his report. "Did you see this?" He stabbed a finger at a graph and shoved the paper into her hand. "Here! Look at this one! And look!" As he babbled faster and faster, she gushed, and smiled, and marveled, and nodded, and finally fell asleep on the couch, his report cradled in her lap. Babbling unintelligibly, he packed his papers back into his briefcase, waved his arms over his head like a boxer, and babbled right out the door, leaving her lying there alone.

Gerry hurried to his lab, where he dashed from chromed table to monkey cage, from calculator to keyboard to blackboard, to create yet another pile of papers and tapes. Then he looked at his watch in astonishment. "Where has a whole month gone?" he marveled.

When he returned to his house, he found Cyndi alone in the bedroom, sitting on the bed with the television tuned to a maudlin soap opera, a drink in one hand, and a crumpled kleenex in the other. "Well, weíre ready for the big test," he announced grandly. She looked at him with utter disbelief, then burst into tears. "Hey, whatís the matter," he asked, surprised.

"Nothing!" she wailed.

"Nothing? You look like Grandpa just stepped on your last hamster, little girl."

"Just leave me alone," she sobbed bitterly.

"All right, Iím sorry," he said contritely. "I shouldnít make fun of you. So what is it?"

She paused, slurped at her drink, then looked at him accusingly. "Tell me, Gerry. How long since the last time we made love?"

"What? Gosh, uh, too long, I guess, huh?"

"Itís been weeks!"

"Aw, come on," he said, trying to put his arm around her. "Itís just been a few days. What the hell, weíve been married almost two years now, and...but youíre right. I have been preoccupied with my work."

She dabbed at the streaks on her cheeks. "Sorry Iím such a pest, Gerry, but...but I donít see why you canít have a home life too. Life isnít supposed to be all work, is it?" She looked searchingly into his eyes.

"No, no, of course not. And sure, weíll have lots of time for all that, but after..."

"No, Gerry, you need some kind of fun now. Like maybe we could get together with the Fogartys and play bridge, or something."

"Lord!" he exclaimed, recoilling from her. "Nothing I hate worse than pointless games with people I have nothing to say to."

"Gerry! Thatís not the point. Just something we can do together," she wailed.

"All right," he conceded, "weíll find something, I promise. And Iíll spend lots more time at home, especially nights, OK?" She nodded, and he reached over and squeezed her hand "Itíll be all right," he said. Then he glanced at his watch and grimaced. "I hate to be a bore at a time like this, but Iíve got to eat and run. Weíre doing the big one tonight, and it just wonít wait. You understand, donít you?"

She bent her chin to her chest, struggled back tears, and shook her head. "No," she said in a tiny voice.

"Aw, Cyndi, come on now," he pleaded. "I really do have to go. Brennock and Melanie are down there already getting set up."

She turned on him, suddenly fierce. "If I hear one more thing about those two hippies you have down there, Iíll scream, you hear?"

"Letís not get off on them. Theyíre nice kids, and theyíre indispensible to my work. Without Brennock Iíd still be in the dark ages with my equipment."

"And Melanie? Whatís her special talent?"

"Look," he said, "have I ever tried to hide what goes on down there from you? If you think I have some kind of conspiracy or affair going on, why donít you come and see? Really, I mean it. Letís get some fried chicken and you can come see history in the making."

She sat silently for a moment, then nodded. "All right, I will. I would like to see these Ďindispensible assistantsí of yours in action. So you go get the chicken, and Iíll fix my face."

"Attagirl!" he said, taking her face in his hands and giving her a kiss.

When they walked into the lab, Brennock was talking to the two monkeys in their cages. "Youíre going to be famous, boys, right up there with Ham the Astrochimp. You know, Gerry, this..." he began, turning around as he heard them. "Cyndi! Hey, what a surprise. We donít see a lot of you down here in the crypt. To what do we owe this good fortune?"

She looked around uncomfortably for a place to sit, and wiped a finger through the dust on the top of a case. "I just wanted to see what keeps my husband so entertained down here every night," she said.

"Ah," said Brennock, nodding. "Weíre putting together the worldís first telepathic monkey act. Want to know how it works?"

"Sure," she said with a shrug. "Why not?"

"Iíve been trying to tell her that for months," said Gerry from across the room.

"Oh, you already know most of it then," Brennock conceded. "Well, just to recap, we used the computer to analyze the, uh, call it Ďbrain wavesí of the monkeys when they experience things. Then we made a machine that makes the same waves artificially. What weíre going to do now is feed our artificial waves into the monkeyís nervous system and see if we get the same reaction. Then weíve got our proof that Gerryís theories are correct, and he can collect his Nobel Prize, and we can begin working with the real thing."

"The real thing?" she queried.

"People," he replied.

She nodded silently, and walked over to rest her hand on the top of one of the cages. "Poor monkeys," she said. "I think it would be horrible, having feelings put in your head like that. Do you suppose they understand it?"

Gerry stepped beside her. "I think they understand their freedom and happiness are not much important to human beings, and theyíd rather be swinging through the trees. Beyond that..." He shrugged philosophically.

"Donít expect me to ever get onto that thing," she said with a shudder.

Brennock laughed. "Thatís exactly how I feel about it. Melanie, on the other hand, canít wait to try it. Some people, huh?"

"Uh, say, has Mel been in?" Gerry asked.

"She canít make it tonight," said Brennock.

"No? How come?"

"I dunno. Didnít ask."

"Gee, I thought sheíd be here," he said plaintively. "This is the big night! Well, letís get started then."

Cyndi glared at his undisguised disappointment. "Do I have to do anything, or sit somewhere?" she asked. "Is it all right if I smoke?"

"Sure, go ahead," Brennock reassured her. "Not many rules here. Just donít flip switches or give lighted cigarettes to the monkeys."

Leaving Onan the Terrible in his cage, Gerry and Brennock took Pope Simian across the room to a childís restraining car-seat which they had mounted on the table. While Brennock strapped in the worried-looking little primate, Gerry mounted a reel of tape and made adjustments to knobs and switches. He set up an 8mm movie camera on a tripod to record the reactions of the monkey, then nodded in satisfaction.

"What's on that tape, Gerry?" asked Cyndi.

"The first two signals are heat and cold," he replied. "We have set up a perspiration measuring device on the subject to test for those reactions. Here, Brennock, let me help you with that." He moved to help his assistant put a collar on the monkey, from which a long black cable led to the tape player.

"Will it hurt him?" she asked.

"No, dear, no pain," he assured her. "I figure if I go to the Board with data based on the use of pain, theyíll just write the whole thing off as another conditioned response demonstration like everybody else does with animals. So, no, dear, the strongest thing weíre going to use is fear."

"Itís too bad you canít use something nice, like...like love or something," she said.

Gerry chuckled. "If we figure out a way to measure love in a monkey, we might try it."

"Weíll save that for the people," Brennock put in.

"All ready?" asked Gerry. "Here goes."

He reached over and touched a button on the side of the movie camera, and it began to whirr. Then he turned to his panel and flipped up a large switch. The tape began to crawl through the reader. The monkey sat quietly for a few seconds, then began to twitch and strain against his straps. Wagging his head back and forth, he began to pant. On the front of the panel before Gerry, the guage of the perspiration measuring device rose quickly.

"Yay, all right!" cheered Brennock.

"Good," said Gerry. "A strong positive reaction. Now heíll get the cold." Pope Simian relaxed a moment, and cast Gerry a worried glance. Then quite suddenly he began to shiver violently, baring his teeth and chittering piteously. "Beautiful!" crowed Gerry. "He looks like heís freezing to death."

"Did it work, then?" asked Cynthia.

"Did it work? Honey, it worked great!" said Gerry, giving her a hug. "Weíll give His Holiness a moment to say his prayers, then weíll try the last one on him."

"You mean the scary one," she asked.

"The anxiety signal, yes," he said.

Gerry raised the level on a knob setting. The needle on one of the meters rose, and quivered. Cynthia looked from Gerryís face to Brennockís, both eager, rapt, absorbed. The monkey sat and trembled, waiting. Across the room, the second monkey crouched in the corner of his cage, looking bored and poking at a scrap of orange peel. "We should be getting something," Gerry said with a frown. "Iíll raise the amplitude some more."

As the young researcher reached for the knob, the subject monkey suddenly gasped, looked around frantically, then froze solid trembling, an all-too-human expression of bug-eyed horror on his face. Across the room, Onan the Terrible screamed!

Brennock and Gerry stood with mouths wide in amazement as the caged monkey frantically rushed from one side of his cage to the other, dashing himself in desperate horror against the bars. Gerry leaped into action to turn the camera around to face the second terrified beast. "Look! Look! Look at him!" he shouted, beside himself with excitement. "Look at that crazy ape, will you! It works! Weíve done it!" The two men grabbed each otherís arms and began to leap around the room cheering, jumping up and down and hooting like their suffering associate in the cage. "Weíve done it! Weíve done it!"

Cynthia stood aghast as they capered and crowed, while the monkey put back his head and howled like one of the damned. She put out a hand, groped uncertainly toward the switch on the tape reader, then drew it back and stood biting her fist and staring at her husband in horror.


SIX

Dean Fogarty stared at Gerry dumbfounded. "Youíre out of your mind, Speesmeyer!" he declared. "It is hardly a revelation that animals can sense fear in other animals. Anyone who has ever owned a dog could tell you that, and I donít think it proves your motherís Schnauzer is some kind of psychic. Those reactions could have resulted from any stimulation."

Gerry stared back equally dumbfounded. He had skipped, pranced into the office, prepared to share his triumph with the Dean, to permit him to make a show of welcoming the new star into the constellation of great academic researchers, Newton, Pasteur, Einstein, and Speesmeyer. "But...but, sir!" His mind raced as he groped for the words to get him through the one scenario he had not considered likely enough to rehearse. "If animals can sense emotional states in others, then why not the most highly developed nervous system on earth? Thatís why we must work with human subjects, sir. It is...it is just so obvious!"

The Dean sniffed and recoilled a foot. "It is obvious, young man, this is getting out of hand. Human experimentation is simply out of the question. Not just no, but hell no! Not at Magoffin College, not now, ever was, nor ever will be! Now you go close that laboratory of yours, and after I have had time to sort this out, we will talk about opening it again someday."

As Gerry walked woodenly across the campus plaza toward the Biology building, a drizzling summer rain began to fall. The clouds hung heavy and low in the sky, and they grumbled ominously, as though to declare the thin sibilant sheets which blew rippling across the plaza only a prelude to the autumn storms to come. Hardly feeling the cold trickle on his neck and face, hardly seeing the mud collecting on his shoes, he plodded without changing his pace.

He opened the door to his lab and stepped inside, drenched and defeated. His hair stuck out in dripping points, like the fur of a soaked alley cat, bedraggled and lost, with haunted staring eyes. Melanie sat on the edge of the table, poised to leap up to congratulate him. She took one look, and knew all. "Awww, no," she said, "he couldnít have."

Gerry nodded, opened his mouth to begin to say something very angry, then clenched his teeth and stopped himself. He shook his head and sank crestfallen into a chair. "I just donít understand," he said, his voice heavy with resignation. "He didnít see it. He just didnít see it at all. I might as well have been introducing a ghost, or a six-foot rabbit. He just dismissed the whole project as some fantasy Iím obsessed with."

Melanie stood and took his papers and things from his hands and set them aside. "Here, stand up and let me help you with your coat. Youíre soaked." She took the coat to a hook on the back of the door and hung it there to drip onto the floor. "So you mean he has just thrown the whole project out?" she asked as she brought him a clean lab towel and began to dry his neck and hair.

He shrugged, and took the towel from her hands to dry his face. "I donít know yet what he is going to let us do. In so many words he said, ĎTelepathy is not possible, so whatever it was you did, you didnít do it.í I donít know whether to scream or lie down and cry."

She opened a cabinet and took out a jar of instant coffee, lighted a bunsen burner and set up a beaker of water to boil. "But he definitely did forbid research into the human levels of consciousness?" she asked.

He nodded. "Yep. Not my field, they said. Anything they donít already know is off limits to me. I wonder how we ever got out of the stone age."

"So what are you going to do?" she asked seriously. "You arenít really going to quit, are you?"

"What can I do?" he replied bitterly. "Theirs is the power and the glory. I can still use the pattern analysis studies for my thesis. It will be pure vanilla pudding, but it should get me the degree. In the meanwhile, the real work goes on the shelf."

"Now that sounds like stone-age thinking to me, Gerry," she declared, standing before him with her fists on her hips. "Sure, the Old Fogeys of the world have never liked new ideas. But you donít have to be one of them. Do you know how old Albert Einstein was when he wrote the Theory of Relativity?"

"Einstein?" He shook his head glumly. "No, Iím afraid I donít. Fifty, maybe?"

"He was twenty-six," she declared. "He was working on a thesis paper, and when he showed it to his teachers, they told him to stick to his lessons and quit dreaming about nonsense. Gerry, when nobody will walk with you, and you know youíre right..."

"...you walk alone. Yeah, I know, I know." He paused a moment staring at his feet, then looked up at her. "Iíve known that since the very first time I felt I had to hide my true objectives in order to be able to go on. But I never thought it would come to this."

"You canít quit now, you know," she said, handing him the beaker of hot coffee. "What you have done is more important than Dean Fogarty, or the whole department. It belongs to the world now, Gerry. Youíve got to continue."

He sipped at the coffee, leaned back in the chair, and chuckled ironically. "Prometheus is reluctant to be thrown out of school, but Iím afraid youíre right."

"Great!" she said. "When do we start?"

He set the coffee down between his feet and rubbed at his temples. "Whew. Well, it is going to be...what? What do you mean, ĎWhen do we start?í"

"Gerry, why do you look so surprised? It must be obvious you canít do it alone -- you need somebody to communicate with. I told you before I wanted to try it, and here I am."

"But, Mel..."

"But nothing. Whatís your alternative? Advertise in the newspapers?"

For a moment he stared at her, then he laughed helplessly. "Gosh, I guess...."

"How long will it take to get the tape ready?" she asked, interrupting him.

He grinned sheepishly. "Actually, it has been ready for days."

"Well then, letís do it," she said simply.

"What? You mean...now?"

"Yeah, now," she said, holding out her hand. "Letís do it now."

"Golly." He reached out, a little hesitantly at first, then firmly took her hand. "All right, what the hell. Letís do it!"

"Hurrah!" she cheered, pulling him to his feet.

After a few minutes spent setting up his equipment, Gerry held up the tape with both his hands before the tape reader, like a priest presenting communion wafers. She sat on the chair watching him, hugging her knees, wild-eyed and eager, her long dark hair flowing across her shoulders and arms. He put the tape on the spool, threaded it, then nodded in solemn satisfaction.

"What do you want me to do?" she asked.

"Your part is simple," he assured her. "You just sit right up there on the operating table and tell me what you experience. Iíll have the recorder going, so you just say what you feel. Easy, huh?" He took a long black cable from a drawer, a cable with a plugjack on one end and a leather dog collar on the other. He carefully checked the tiny electrodes mounted on the inner side of the collar, then fastened it around his own neck. Giving a long shuddering sigh, he plugged the cable into the front of the tape reader. "OK," he said, "thatís it. Ready?"

A momentís doubt flashed across her face. "Uh, what did you say you put on that tape?" she inquired.

"Itís better if you donít know. Ready?"

She took a deep breath, then blew him a kiss. "Ready."

"Here goes." He flipped up the big starting switch on the tape reader, then turned it back off. "Wait a minute. I forgot something." With the cable trailing behind him from the collar around his neck, he stepped across the room and took the 8mm movie camera on its tripod from the corner where it was leaning. He set it up so that it could observe and record both of them, touched a button on the side to start it whirring, then returned to his chair. "They want evidence," he said with conviction, "Iíll give them evidence." Then he flipped the starting switch again.

For a long breathless moment, they stared at each other expectantly. Melanie giggled. Then quite suddenly, the room around them began to change. At first it was as though the texture of the light in the room had changed -- it was thicker, more tangible. The colors of everything began to appear darker, warmer, and more rich. Then the shapes and textures of things began to flow, but subtly, so that the effects and not the changes themselves were apparent. Like animated wax sculpture, the edges of things became more rounded, and took on a greasy look, as though the wax were melting just almost to the point of softening. Objects in the room seemed thick, ponderous, and too close together. The material of their clothing became heavy, coarse, like crocheted wool, and the wood of the shelves and the desk became massive, dark, and oily. Their bodies began to sweat, and appeared to become much fatter, their lips full and moist.

"Oh, my God! Itís hot as hell in here!" said Melanie in astonishment, her voice distorted, slowed, wavering and heavy in the bass.

Then the plastic hologram effect in the room changed again. The colored surfaces flattened out to crisp glossy pastels. Every line became sharp, a razor-cut. Their material of their clothing crinkled to thin, shiny sheets, and their faces grew narrow, frosted powder-white, hollow-cheeked. The room became larger and more empty, with furniture of dry, brittle wood, bleached out and pressed thin. The light became keen, glaring ice blue, and of the twinkling viscosity of chilled alcohol.

Melanie laughed, her voice a clear, high, tinkle. "Itís fantastic! But letís get on to the next one -- Iím freezing."

With a surprising jolt -- as though they had been suddenly spacially dislocated, like an ill-matched jump-cut in a film -- the room returned to normal. They both laughed nervously, astonished by the experience. Melanie rubbed her arms, sighed and relaxed a moment, then looked around suspiciously as though hearing someone behind her. "Feels like somebody is looking at me," she said. The room began to grow dark and sinister. The dirtiness and shabbiness, the old age of the building became more and more apparent. The furniture settled lower, worm-eaten and broken down; their clothes became worn and drab, wrinkled and tattered. In their cages, the scabrous monkeys stared out in silent horror from piles of garbage and excreta, and in the glaring light of an unshaded bulb, Gerry and Melanie watched each otherís faces became haggard, old before their time, with complexions sallow and pocked with sores.

"Something is wrong, Gerry," she whined. "I know it. Oh, Gerry, Iím afraid."

"Itís all right," he said through trembling lips. "Itís on the...oh, God!"

The room departed from reality completely, and became fantastically grotesque. The wood of the desks and shelves, and of the floor beneath them grew gnarled, gnomish, as though growing cancerous convolutions all over. The room began to pulse, the walls to shudder like flaccid flesh, breathing, as they grew scaly, leprous, and oozed slime. The chromed operating table gleamed in predatory surgical cold-steel blue, prehensile robotic appendages and razor-edged worm-gear mandibles poised for dissection. On all sides, surfaces slid toward them, engulfing them. The tooth-studded collar around Gerryís neck began to squeeze, and the black cable grew, writhed, and sucked. "No! No!" cried Gerry, his voice a throat-rasping screech. "Iíve gone too far!"

Before him Melanieís face was a mask of horror. As he watched, the flesh sagged to green goo holes revealing jawbone and jagged snaggle teeth. Her hair writhed like a mass of cockroach feelers, touching her, probing with restless intensity, yard-long maggot pin-worms, mindless greedy prehensile little guts. Her mouth fell open, a cavern of carrion, screaming. "Itís real! Itís all real! It isnít the machine, itís you!!"

He became a lizard man with green scales and long teeth, then a crusted crab creature with horny exoskeleton and obscene bristles. "Melanie, help me!" he cried out.

Suddenly the ugly hologram was overpowered by a brilliant light. Ringing, singing round and round and sure like Cabernet-rubbed crystal, the light gathered as a glowing mist, coalesced like ectoplasm, ringing round and round and sure. In the glow was Melanie, radiantly beautiful, translucent, eyes huge, wide, infant-innocent, her hair a sparkling mercury-pool of flowing colors, a live thing which caressed and worshipped her neck of warm vibrant ivory. Carved as she in light and flawless flesh, Gerry felt joyful tears stream down his face. Then a sureness filled him and she laughed as the light burst through the surface of him like a creature molting to emerge in new and awesome beauty. His lips grew full and sensual, eyes deep and liquid, skin rich in warm tones over smooth long muscles, and an artery pulsed in the hollow of his neck. Without volition, without reservation, they fell into one another, light exploding from the contact like two galaxies in collision. Their heartbeats collapsed withinto each other, deep-echoing together, and the sea-deep hot sub-crimson surged from them and upon them like waves submerging a grateful sucking shore. Mouth to mouth, they took the rapture, and around them shimmered caverns of crystal, forests of chime trees, vast plains below swirling clouds, a feathered hollow which cupped and caressed them.

In his office, Dean Fogarty sat at his desk and fretted. He gnawed his pencil and frowned. "Would I have been one of those professors who told Einstein to stick to his violin?" he asked himself. "Would I have told Edison to forget his science-fair projects and get an honest job? Dammit, my students are right! I am an Old Fogey, and I donít like it." Resolutely, he stood, banged his fist on his desk, and reached for his hat and coat. "I canít give that boy permission to experiment on his classmates, but I wonít be guilty of telling him to abandon his dream. Iím going down there."

In Gerryís lab, the end of the tape flapped rhythmically on the spool of the tape player. The notebooks lay scattered on the floor, amid overturned chairs and fallen equipment. In their cages, the monkeys chittered frantically. Wearing only the tattered remains of their clothing, Gerry and Melanie lay on the operating table. Drenched in sweat, hair matted, they clutched at each other, gasping and writhing wildly. Around his neck, Gerry still wore the sinister leather collar.

The doorknob turned, and the door swung open. With a clatter, Dean Fogartyís upper dental plate fell to the floor between his mud-soaked wingtip shoes. Suddenly jerked back to reality, Gerry and Melanie looked up at the same time. For an instant no one moved or breathed. Then Melanie screamed.




CONTINUE