"We'll work together," said the doctor's voice. "You've been ill, but so have others. With your help, we can make you well."
The traveler made a tremendous effort. He urged Mersey to say: "I'll help, doctor. I want to find peace."
But then Mersey's voice went on: "I must find a new home. We need a new home. We can't stay where we are."
The traveler was shocked at the words. He hadn't intended them to come out that way. Somehow Mersey had voiced the underlying thoughts of his people. The traveler sought the doctor's reaction, but Mersey wouldn't look at him. The man's gaze was fixed on the ceiling above the couch.
"Of course," the doctor said. His words were false, the visitor realized; he was humoring the madman.
"We had so much, but now there is no future," Mersey said. The visitor tried to stop him. He would not be stopped. "We can't stay much longer. We'll die. We must find a new world. Maybe you can help us."
Dr. Cloyd spoke and there was no hint of surprise in his voice.
"I'll help you all I can. Would you care to tell me more about your world?"
Desperately, the visitor fought to control the flow of Mersey's words. He had opened the gate to the other world--how, he did not know--and all of his knowledge and memories now were Mersey's. But the traveler could not communicate with the disordered mind. He could only communicate through it, and then involuntarily. If he could escape the mind ... but he could not escape. Mersey's eyes were fixed on the ceiling. He would not look at the doctor.
"A dying world," Mersey said. "It will live on after us, but we will die because we have finished. There's nothing more to do. The Change is upon us, and we must flee it or die. I have been sent here as a last hope, as an emissary to learn if this world is the answer. I have traveled among you and I have found good things. Your world is much like ours, physically, but it has not grown as fast or as far as ours, and we would be happy here, among you, if we could control."
The words from Mersey's throat had come falteringly at first, but now they were strong, although the tone was flat and expressionless. The words went on: "But we can't control. I've tried and failed. At best we can co-exist, as observers and vicarious participants, but we must surrender choice. Is that to be our destiny--to live on, but to be denied all except contemplation--to live on as guests among you, accepting your ways and sharing them, but with no power to change them?"
The traveler shouted at Mersey's mind in soundless fury: "Shut up! Shut up!"
Mersey stopped talking.
"Go on," said the doctor softly. "This is very interesting."
"Shut up!" said the traveler voicelessly, yet with frantic urgency.
The madman was silent. His body was perfectly still, except for his calm breathing. The visitor gazed through his eyes in the only possible direction--up at the ceiling. He tried another command. "Look at the doctor."
With that glance, the visitor told himself, he would flee the crazed mind and enter the doctor's. There he would learn what the psychiatrist thought of his patient's strange soliloquy--whether he believed it, or any part of it.
He prayed that the doctor was evaluating it as the intricate raving of delusion.
Slowly, Mersey turned his head. Through his eyes, the visitor saw the faded green carpet, the doctor's dull-black shoes, his socks, the legs of his trousers. Mersey's glance hovered there, around the doctor's knees. The visitor forced it higher, past the belt around a tidy waist, along the buttons of the opened vest to the white collar, and finally to the kindly eyes behind gold-rimmed glasses.
Again he had commanded this human being and had been obeyed. The traveler braced himself for the leap from the tortured mind to the sane one.
But his gaze continued to be that of Mersey.
The gray eyes of the doctor were on his patient. Intelligence and kindness were in those eyes, but the visitor could read nothing else.
He was caught, a prisoner in a demented mind. He felt panic. This must be the mind-screen he'd been warned about.
"Look down," the visitor commanded Mersey. "Shut your eyes. Don't let him see me."
But Mersey continued to be held by the doctor's eyes. The visitor cowered back into the crazed mental tangle.
Gradually, then, his fear ebbed. There was more likelihood that Cloyd did not believe Mersey's words than that he did. The doctor treated hundreds of patients and surely many of them had delusions as fanciful as this one might seem.
The traveler's alarm simmered down until he was capable of appreciating the irony of the situation.
But at the same time, he thought with pain, "Is it our fate that of all the millions of creatures on this world, we can establish communication only through the insane? And even then to have only imperfect control of the mind and, worse, to have it become a transmitter for our most secret thoughts?"
It was heartbreaking.
Dr. Cloyd broke the long silence. Pulling at his ear, he spoke calmly and matter-of-factly: "Let me see if I understand your problem, Mersey. You believe yourself to be from another world, from which you have traveled, although not physically. Your world is not a material one, as far as its people are concerned. Your civilization is a mental one, which has been placed in danger. You must resettle your people, but this cannot be done here, on Earth, except in the minds of the mentally ill--and that would not be a satisfactory solution. Have I stated the case correctly?"
"Yes," Mersey's voice said over the traveler's mental protests. "Except that it is not a 'case,' as you call it. I am not Mersey. He is merely a vehicle for my thoughts. I am not here to be treated or cured, as the human being Mersey is. I'm here with a life-or-death problem affecting an entire race, and I would not be talking to you except that, at the moment, I'm trapped and confused."
The madman was doing it again, the traveler thought helplessly--spilling out his knowledge, betraying him and his kind. Was there no way to muffle him?
"I must admit that I'm confused myself," Dr. Cloyd said. "Humor me for a moment while I think out loud. Let me consider this in my own framework, first, and then in yours, without labeling either one absolutely true or false.
"You see," the doctor went on, "this is a world of vitality. My world--Earth. Its people are strong. Their bodies are developed as well as their minds. There are some who are not so strong, and some whose minds have been injured. But for the most part, both the mind and the body are in balance. Each has its function, and they work together as a coordinated whole. My understanding of your world, on the other hand, is that it's in a state of imbalance, where the physical has deteriorated almost to extinction and the mind has been nurtured in a hothouse atmosphere. Where, you might say, the mind has fed on the decay of the body."
"No," said Mersey, voicing the traveler's conviction. "You paint a highly distorted picture of our world."
"I theorize, of course," Dr. Cloyd agreed. "But it's a valid theory, based on intimate knowledge of my own world and what you've told me of yours."
"You make a basic error, I think," Mersey said, speaking for the unwilling visitor. "You assume that I have been able to make contact only with this deranged mind. That is wrong. I have shared the experiences of many of you--a man, a boy, a woman about to bear a child. Even a cat. And with each of these, my mind has been perfectly attuned. I was able to share and enjoy their experiences, their pleasures, to love with them and to fear, although they had no knowledge of my presence.
"Only since I came to this poor mind have I failed to achieve true empathy. I have been shocked by his madness and I've tried to resist it, to help him overcome it. But I've failed and it apparently has imprisoned me. Whereas I was able to leave the minds of the others almost at will, with poor Mersey I'm trapped. I can't transfer to you, for instance, as I could normally from another. If there's a way out, I haven't found it. Have you a theory for this?"
In spite of his distress at these revelations, the traveler was intrigued, now that they had been voiced for him, and he was eager to hear Dr. Cloyd's interpretation of them.
The psychiatrist took a pipe out of his pocket, filled it, lighted it and puffed slowly on it until it was drawing well.
"Continuing to accept your postulate that you're not Mersey, but an alien inhabiting his mind," the doctor said finally, "I can enlarge on my theory without changing it in any basic way.
"Your world is not superior to ours, much as it may please you to believe that it is. Nature consists of a balance, and that balance must hold true whether in Sioux City, or Mars, or in the fourth dimension, or in your world, wherever that may be. Your world is out of balance. Evidently it has been going out of balance for some time.
"Your salvation lies not in further evolution in your world--since your way of evolving proved wrong, and may prove fatal--but in a change in course, back along the evolutionary path to a society which developed naturally, with the mind and the body in balance. That society is the one you have found here, in our world. You found it pleasant and attractive, you say, but that doesn't mean you're suited to it.
"Nature's harsh rules may have operated to let you observe a way of life here that you enjoy, but to exclude you otherwise--except from a mind that is not well. In nature's balance, it could be that the refuge on this world most closely resembling your needs is in the mind of the psychotic. One conclusion could be that your race is mentally ill--by our standards, if not by yours--and that the type of person here most closely approximating your way of life is one with a disordered mind."
Dr. Cloyd paused. Mersey had no immediate reply.
The traveler made use of the silence to consider this plausible, but frightening theory. To accept the theory would be to accept a destiny of madness here on this world, although the doctor had been kind enough to draw a distinction between madness in one dimension and a mere lack of natural balance in another.
Mersey again seized upon the traveler's mind and spoke its thoughts. But as he spoke, he voiced a conclusion which the traveler had not yet admitted even to himself.
"Then the answer is inescapable," Mersey said, his tone flat and unemotional. "It is theoretically possible for all of our people to migrate to this world and find refuge of a sort. But if we established ourselves in the minds of your normal people, we'd be without will. As mere observers, we'd become assimilated in time, and thus extinguished as a separate race. That, of course, we could not permit. And if we settled in the minds most suitable to receive us, we would be in the minds of those who by your standards are insane--whose destiny is controlled by the others. Here again we could permit no such fate.
"That alone would be enough to send me back to my people to report failure. But there is something more--something I don't think you will believe, for all your ability to synthesize acceptance of another viewpoint."
"And what is that?"
"First I must ask a question. In speaking to me now, do you still believe yourself to be addressing Mersey, your fellow human being, and humoring him in a delusion? Or do you think you are speaking through him to me, the inhabitant of another world who has borrowed his mind?"
The doctor smiled and took time to relight his pipe.
"Let me answer you in this way," he said. "If I were convinced that Mersey was merely harboring a delusion that he was inhabited by an alien being, I would accept that situation clinically. I would humor him, as you put it, in the hope that he'd be encouraged to talk freely and perhaps give me a clue to his delusion so I could help him lose it. I would speak to him--or to you, if that were his concept of himself--just as I am speaking now.
"On the other hand, if I were convinced by the many unusual nuances of our conversation that the mind I was addressing actually was that of an alien being--I would still talk to you as I am talking now."
The doctor smiled again. "I trust I have made my answer sufficiently unsatisfactory."
The visitor's reaction was spoken by Mersey. "On the contrary, you have unwittingly told me what I want to know. You'd want your answer to be satisfactory if you were speaking to Mersey, the lunatic. But because you'd take delight in disconcerting me by scoring a point--something you wouldn't do with a patient--you reveal acceptance of the fact that I am not Mersey. Your rules would not permit you to give him an unsatisfactory answer."
"Not quite," contradicted Dr. Cloyd, still smiling. "To Mersey, my patient, troubled by his delusion and using all his craft to persuade both of us of its reality, the unsatisfactory answer would be the satisfactory one."
Mersey's voice laughed. "Dr. Cloyd, I salute you. I will leave your world with a tremendous respect for you--and completely unsure of whether you believe in my existence."
"I am leaving, you know," Mersey's voice replied.
The traveler by now was resigned to letting the patient be his medium and speak his thoughts. Thus far, he had spoken them all truly, if somewhat excessively. The traveler thought he knew why, now, and expected Mersey to voice the reason for him very shortly. He did.
"I'm leaving because I must report failure and advise my people to look elsewhere for a new home. Part of the reason for that failure I haven't yet mentioned: "Although it might appear that I, the visitor, am manipulating Mersey to speak the thoughts I wished to communicate, the facts are almost the opposite. My control over either Mersey's body or mind is practically nil.
"What you have been hearing and what you hear even now are the thoughts I am thinking--not necessarily the ones I want you to know. What has happened is this, if I may borrow your theory: "My mind has invaded Mersey's, but his human vitality is too strong to permit him to be controlled by it. In fact, the reverse is true. His vitality is making use of my mind for its own good, and for the good of your human race. His own mind is damaged badly, but his healthy body has taken over and made use of my mind. It is using my mind to make it speak against its will--to speak the thoughts of an alien without subterfuge, as they actually exist in truth. Thus I am helplessly telling you all about myself and the intentions of my people.
"What is in operation in Mersey is the human body's instinct of self-preservation. It is utilizing my mind to warn you against that very mind. Do you see? That would be the case, too, if a million of us invaded a million minds like Mersey's. None of us could plot successfully against you, if that were our desire--which, of course, it is--because the babbling tongues we inherited along with the bodies would give us away."
The doctor no longer smiled. His expression was grave now.
"I don't know," he said. "Now I am not sure any longer. I'm not certain that I follow you--or whether I want to follow you. I think I'm a bit frightened."
"You needn't be. I'm going. I'll say good-by, in your custom, and thank you for the hospitality and pleasures your world has given me. And I suppose I must thank Mersey for the warning of doom he's unknowingly given my people, poor man. I hope you can help him."
"I'll try," said Dr. Cloyd, "though I must say you've complicated the diagnosis considerably."
"Good-by. I won't be back, I promise you."
"I believe you," said the doctor. "Good-by."
Mersey slumped back on the couch. He looked up at the ceiling, vacantly.
For a long time there was no sound in the room.
Then the doctor said: "Mersey."
There was no answer. The man continued to lie there motionless, breathing normally, looking at the ceiling.
"Mersey," said the doctor again. "How do you feel?"
The man turned his head. He looked at the doctor with hostility, then went back to his contemplation of the ceiling.
"Drop dead," he muttered.
By THERESE WINDSER
A morality tale--1960 style.
Legend had it, that many thousands of years ago, right after the Great Horror, the whole continent of the west had slowly sunk beneath the West Water, and that once every century it arose during a full moon. Still, Captain Hinrik clung to the hope that the legend would not be borne out by truth. Perhaps the west continent still existed; perhaps, dare he hope, with civilization. The crew of the Semilunis thought him quite mad. After all, hadn't the east and south continents been completely annihilated from the great sky fires; and wasn't it said that they had suffered but a fraction of what the west continent had endured?
The Semilunis anchored at the mouth of a great river. The months of fear and doubt were at end. Here, at last, was the west continent. A small party of scouts was sent ashore with many cautions to be alert for luminescent areas which meant certain death for those who remained too long in its vicinity. Armed with bow and arrow, the party made its way slowly up the great river. Nowhere was to be seen the color green, only dull browns and greys. And no sign of life, save for an occasional patch of lichen on a rock.
After several days of rowing, the food and water supply was almost half depleted and still no evidence of either past or present habitation. It was time to turn back, to travel all the weary months across the West Water, the journey all in vain. What a small reward for such an arduous trip ... just proof of the existence of a barren land mass, ugly and useless.
On the second day of the return to the Semilunis, the scouting party decided to stop and investigate a huge opening in the rocky mountainside. How suspiciously regular and even it looked, particularly in comparison to the rest of the countryside which was jagged and chaotic.
They entered the cave apprehensively, torches aflare and weapons in hand. But all was darkness and quiet. Still, the regularity of the cave walls led them on. Some creature, man or otherwise, must have planned and built this ... but to what end? Now the cave divided into three forks. The torches gave only a hint of the immensity of the chambers that lay at the end of each. They selected the center chamber, approaching cautiously, breath caught in awe and excitement. The torches reflected on a dull black surface which was divided into many, many little squares. The sameness of them stretched for uncountable yards in all directions. What were these ungodly looking edifices? The black surface was cold and smooth to the touch and quite regular except for a strange little hole at the bottom of each square and a curious row of pictures along the top.
They would copy these strange pictures. Perhaps back home there would be a scholar who would understand the meaning behind these last remains of the people of the west continent. The leader took out his slate and painstakingly copied: Safeguard your valuables at ALLEGHANY MOUNTAIN VAULTS Box #4544356782 THE END.