Any comments or questions about this site, please contact Bob Zolnerzak at





     There was a sun in the sky, but the orange of its rim blended imperceptibly with the orange of the sky toward sunset. It was as if the sun had bled out the sky.
     A city in the distance lay in jumbled shapes under a gently undulating transparent sheet. The entire city wore a facemask like the doctors in the hospital.
     Nothing moved that was living; gentle gray waves from the river about twenty yards away brush-brushed a shore that looked like it had been paved with tar. A slight wind pulled my clothes toward the river and toward the city on the other side. That same wind breathed the death-sheet of the city, gently, up and down, like an expiring breast.
     "My God!" I breathed.
     "If you don't believe in the Soul, how can you believe in God!" Dr. Bantellian reverted to declamation.
     "How did this happen?"
     "Disease! People died. People who thought they were safe took sick and died. People who fled from the city to the country took sick and died. There was not one disease; there were many diseases. If you escaped one, you fell to the next. Soon there were very few left to bury the dead. Then began the riots. Some few felt that the doctors knew how to cure themselves but were withholding treatment from the masses of the people. In some cases it was true. But with five new diseases, and then fifty new diseases, and then so many new diseases there weren't people to count them, it was not true.
     "The dead polluted the rivers; the rivers polluted the ocean; the ocean poisoned the sky. Rain poisoned all on which it fell. People fled to the Moon, but they took their diseases with them. Some buried themselves to hide in the ground. That ground became their graves." She paused.
     I shook my head. A meaningless syllable: "God---"
     "Are you praying!" I didn't answer her.
     "How---how did you survive?"
     "I didn't!"
     "But you're---you must be---"
     "Old! No, I am not old! I was born fifteen years ago! But years are not the years you knew. From being born fifteen years ago, I am now---this!" She grasped slats with bones of fingers and rattled them dryly. "They," she waved behind us as Dr. Andressin and Dr. Zinovia entered from the hospital hallway into what had become my porch on the outer world, "were born six," pointing to Dr. Andressin, "and five," pointing to Dr. Zinovia, "years ago."
     "How long have I been---"
     "You! You! Always you! Forget about you! Your body isn't what's important here. You want to know; what do you want to know now?"
     At such an accusation I could only remain silent.
     "Aren't you being overly harsh with him?" asked Dr. Zinovia.
     "He wants it!"
     "Couldn't you have prepared him for it?" asked Dr. Andressin.
     "How!" Silence. We stood, staring into an unsetting sun. Light glints reflected orange from the facemasks of the three doctors.
     I sighed. "How could it have ended like this?"
     "Ended!" demanded Dr. Bantellian.
     "Could any of us have done anything differently?" I pleaded.
     "Yes!" from the brass trumpet of Dr. Bantellian.
     Dr. Zinovia mused quietly: "People will do anything to retain their comforts. People will ignore any suffering that isn't directly on their doorsteps. Sight is so short; charity is so self-enclosed. The me-generation thought they were being fresh and new by emphasizing 'everything for the self'. But it was only a protective device to prevent them being torn apart by the hungers and needs of those all around them. They buried their heads in the sands, and the sands became their graves."
     Dr. Andressin began to weep, beating his hands against the sides of his head. "It's all so stupid, stupid, stupid! I tried to warn them, even at the end, but no one would listen to me, no one would heed my words. I tried so hard; I tried so hard; no one would listen. There's nothing left but to end it all. There's hardly anything left to end. Just finish with it; stop it, stop it, stop it!" Sobs tore hoarsely through each word, until Dr. Andressin's knees buckled and he sat helplessly on the black surface, head bobbing lower onto his chest with each gasped phrase.
     "These are facts!" trumpeted Dr. Bantellian. "Nothing can change the facts!"
     "Not true," calmly interjected a soft voice from behind the four who were staring westward. Dr. Zinovia turned and gasped, "Dr. Dar."


     "How do you do, I'm Doctor Dar." He extended his hand toward me. Dredging up some semblance of sociability from my dejection, I clasped his hand---and was startled to feel flesh, and not the soft cloth of the protective garments that the other doctors wore.
     "He never knows what to say!" Could Dr. Bantellian be making an outrageous joke? "Tell him what he needs," she continued.
     "Show me your Radio," said Dr. Dar. I handed it to him. He pressed once, paused, then pressed twice more. He looked up in alarm. "Dr. Bantellian," said Dr. Dar in surprise, "his Radio doesn't have your Lower Seven."
     "No! He wanted to see this!"
     "Are you quite sure he wanted to see this?" Dr. Dar's voice had to be forced to remain steady.
     "He wanted out! I showed him out!"
     "You showed him---excuse me, Frank. Would you please set your Gain-Radio on 'Death' in the Higher Seven. You need to expand beyond 'Expansion' before you can be given the Lower Seven by Dr. Bantellian. You need to become familiar with the Lower Seven before Dr. Bantellian can 'show you out'. It might be good for you all to listen to me now: Frank, I'd like you to forget as much as you can of this unfortunate afternoon. We try to do our best for your progress, but you must understand that we are not infallible." He smiled. I was entranced by the first sight of naked human flesh, other than my own, that I had seen since my awakening. He shook his handsome head to reinforce his utterance: "No, we are not infallible." There was a pause. "Frank?"
     "Oh, yes, yes Dr. Dar. I'll go back to my room and listen to---" as much as I wanted to remain objectively calm, I couldn't say the word without a clutch in my throat, "'Death'."
     Dr. Dar said "Thank you," and I turned away from that white heart-flutter over the distant city, turned away from the unmoving bleeding sun in the orange sky, and walked toward my room. When I turned to take a last look at the four doctors on the black shore of the gray river, I found only the solid white wall of my room.
     I didn't listen to 'Death' that night; I fell asleep, sobbing, with the comforting sounds of 'Fullness' filling my ears with greater sadness than my heart could hold. It comforted me to know there was more sadness in the world than my personal share of it.


     The next morning I woke to find Dr. Bantellian looking across at me on my bed. Her eyes were only a few inches above the level of my body.
     "You slept!" It was hard for me not to take it as an accusation. When I said nothing for too long a time, I heard again that dreaded phrase: "Tell me how you are."
     I felt that I had made some short-sighted mistake last night; rather, I felt that I had permitted Dr. Bantellian to make some short-sighted mistake. I glanced down at my Radio and found that the setting was on 'Groundwork'. Somehow the setting had been reduced one step from the 'Fullness' that I had set it on before sleeping.
     'Groundwork', clearly that was what I needed. "I need more 'Groundwork'."
     "Yes, but you don't need 'Groundwork' in Musik, you need more practice on your Gain-Radio. Take this. Give me that." She held out one skeletal hand empty; in the other she proffered a Gain-Radio indistinguishable from the one I wore. "Take this. Give me that." She waggled a bony finger at the Gain-Radio around my neck.
     "What are you giving me?" Could I be blamed for having some mistrust of Dr. Bantellian? But then I had to ask myself why I so trusted Dr. Dar. Was the sight of bared human flesh so important to me? Maybe Dr. Dar had made a mistake in criticizing Dr. Bantellian. Certainly I had wished to see the world outside. Were there, somehow, different worlds outside?
     "Lower Seven frequencies on your new Gain-Radio," she waggled the earphones as if that were self-explanatory. I took the new Radio from her and pressed three times. Seven words stood out from A to G: 'Atomic', 'Basic', 'Chemical', 'Drugged', 'Energy', 'Fundamental', and 'Gonads'. I couldn't resist.
     "You're giving me 'Gonads'?"
     "Ha," she said, "Ha." I waited for her to say something useful. "Frank," she went on---I couldn't remember if she'd ever said my name before, but she made it sound like a singularly indigestible stone in her throat. "You have a talent for saying the right things at the right times. But don't push it."
     "Why didn't you give me this before?"
     "You weren't ready. You didn't ask. I didn't want to. Your Radio had to be retuned."
     "We couldn't make you tune into 'Death'. You needed to tune into 'Death'. So, only for the time being, I've tuned 'Death' into the Lower Seven. As you used to say so long ago, 'There's more than one way to skin a cat'."
     "I'll be listening to 'Death' anytime I listen to any of the Lower Seven?" I asked with a great deal of misgiving.
     "You'll be listening to the Lower Seven but learning about 'Death'."
     "Isn't that the same thing?"
     "About the same as vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce is the same as chocolate mousse with a vanilla bean on top. Not the same at all."
     I decided not to argue with her. I felt like I'd stepped into the middle of a chapter of "Alice in Wonderland."


     My next days were agony. Anytime I asked Dr. Zinovia to tell me whatever she knew about "outside," so that I could come to terms with what I'd seen, she rebuffed me by marveling at my continued physical progress.
     Dr. Andressin would fly into a rage at the slightest provocation. Dr. Bantellian infuriated me by demanding to know how I was when I couldn't tell how I was. I hadn't seen Dr. Dar since that few minutes beside the destroyed city.
     I re-examined every inch of the wall that had given me entrance to the outside world, but it gave no clue of how it operated, or, indeed, if it had opened at all.
     I re-studied every foot of the corridor outside, trying to guess what kind of views would be visible from either end, both of which were featureless white walls. I had long ago stopped shouting to see if any other voice would return my shouts.
     Listening to my new frequency-band, the Lower Seven, I felt more depressed than ever. Was I being too sensitive to the idea that I was dealing with "lower" frequency-bands? The bands had nothing to do with physical frequency: each band was different, but they differed from each other in different ways, none of which involved the high or low pitch of the notes themselves. Where once only the 'Auditory' band of the Middle Seven sounded like "ordinary music," now the entire band seemed part of me, each individual band enhancing the sense associated with it, yet affecting all the other senses in some subtle way, as if the smells of sounds became tactile to the sight, or the tastes of plastics became perfumed by looking at the sounds of the Musik.
     I quickly found how the lowest of the Middle Seven, 'Gustatory', was related to the highest of the Lower Seven, 'Gonads'. Even in what I began thinking of laughingly as my "former life," my sexual appetites had been connected with my digestional appetite. And 'Gonads', which symbolized all organs, connected easily with 'Fundamental' (ignoring the 'Gonads' in the "fundament"), symbolizing all the cells.
     I felt an aversion for 'Drugged' until I noticed a harmony, a sense of wellbeing, when I played the mysterious D-Musik of the Middle Seven: 'Depth', the mysterious Sixth Sense, on my Gain-Radio while my room was playing the 'Drugged' Musik of the Lower Seven.
     Then I remembered the other D-word: 'Death'. I'd kept away from it as much as I could, but I kept returning to the thought of it, as water keeps flowing to that hole which is the center of a whirlpool. I seemed in some way to be proving to myself that the longer I avoided listening to the 'Death' band itself, the longer I would be denied the truth that I sought to learn from the doctors, and, through them, of the outside world. It began to affect all my conversations.
     "Dr. Bantellian, tell me about the dictionaries that Dr. Zinovia refers to in her head."
     "Encyclopedias! All knowledge! Why look in a book when you can look in your mind!"
     But what does that make of knowledge but a commodity to be stored and distributed like grain. Wouldn't having all knowledge make the gaining of knowledge a useless labor? Yet knowing something doesn't give experience of it. It's not the knowing that's valuable, it's the experience.
     "But you can't have experience without actually knowing you have experience!" Dr. Bantellian waited for my response. I continued to move thoughts around in my head.
     "Just as good as a dictionary. Only thoughts; no experience!"
     I felt like an egg chasing its own chicken.
     "What do you get when you get!"
     "Now I've got a Jewish grandmother?"
     "No jokes! What is it that you get when you get something!"
     "It's not what you get; it's what you lose! You can get anything you can get, but when you die, that's the end of it! It isn't anything then!"
     "Words. Just words."
     "Of course it's all just words. We can't talk without words."
     "Don't talk!"
     The silence became oppressive. Thoughts of death kept knocking for entrance. By denying 'Death' its proper place on my Radio's dial, I felt I was immersing the entire Lower Seven, my entire life, in death.
     "And what is life in death!"
     "I don't know---maybe it's the same as death in life!" I felt I was shut up for eternity with a Zen Master who would refuse to give me a straight answer. But I couldn't accuse Dr. Bantellian of that: everything that I asked directly---or at least as well as I could put it directly---she answered. "Why didn't anyone prepare for all the diseases that were coming?"
     "Everyone knew everything! Physicists knew what the smallest particle was. Astronomers knew what the largest structure in the universe was. Philosophers knew that no one could know anything without philosophers telling them that they couldn't know anything. Doctors knew that they'd developed a perfect system of viral vaccines: they'd thought they'd conquered AIDS. Then prions threw the curve of causing disease by a mere protein---a simple amino-acid chain---at last a simple sugar. Diseases were no longer caused by disease-causing entities, they were caused by molecules that everyone had. Remember to tune in on your 'Chemical' band in the Lower Seven: that corresponds to the molecular level. Listen, experience, and learn."
     I tried. Words meant less and less. Even my drawing closer to Dr. Zinovia was chilled by thoughts of her death, my death, death itself. It was becoming a phobia, an obsession. "I want to kill death," I shouted one day.
     "Progress," approved Dr. Bantellian. "Provided, of course, you know what you mean!"
     How could I know what I meant?
     "Tell me how you are!"
     One day, almost as a joke, I threw back at her, "How can I tell you how I am when I don't know how I would be when I was not!"
     "More progress!"
     I started playing 'Death' on the Higher Seven frequency-band. Then the Higher Seven frequency-band of 'Death' went silent. "Tell me how you are!" I couldn't stand it. I shouted four words.
     "It's about time!"
     "What did I say?"
     "You know what you said!"
     "No, honest. Honest, Dr. Bantellian. I got so mad at you I just couldn't stand it. I wanted to get it all over with---I wanted to---
     "Say it!"
     I felt chills over my body. My emotions flattened out and I knew clearly what I had shouted. Was it a fluke? Was this from my Inner Viewer? Was this from my Soul?
     "I want to die."
     "If you mean it, and you do it; it's simple!"
     "No, of course I don't mean it. Death is the end of everything."
     "So you say!"
     "Why get to the end when nothing comes after?"
     "You're getting away from it!"
     "I'm getting out of here."
     "Yes, you got out before; look what good it did you!"
     "Can't you help me?"
     "It's only you yourself who must help you now. I've told you all I can."
     "This could go on forever?"
     "The answer to your question is YES! Do I make myself clear!"
     "Stop shouting!"
     "Stop running away!"
     "You've got to run away from death!"
     "So you say!"
     "You keep saying that!"
     "No worse than what you keep saying!"
     "How can this end?"
     "Tell me how you are!"
     "Then stop it."
     "Die?!" The Musik played in the background. The Musik became the foreground. The Musik from my Gain-Radio began reinforcing the Room-Musik. Would it be possible that it wouldn't be so bad? The Musik seemed to approve. "Could the world actually get on without me?"
     "You're asking!"
     How silly. My mind didn't so much give in as---melt under. Could I blame it on the Musik? It got painfully discordant. I had to take responsibility for myself. The Musik harmonized. I had to take responsibility for my life. The Musik became lyrically beautiful. I had to take responsibility for my death. The Musik blended the D-levels: the Middle Seven 'Depth' merged with the Lower Seven 'Drugged' which resonated with the Upper Seven 'Death'. Words left me as my experience changed.
     The world could get along without me as I could get along without the world. What was outside was what was inside. The Musik soared to new heights.
     "Listen!" commanded Dr. Bantellian, thrusting another Gain-Radio toward me.
     "What is this?" I could hardly form words with my lips. She thrust it toward me again. "There's a nameplate on this Gain-Radio." She waggled the headphones toward my head. I looked at the nameplate. How do you say that name?"
     "It rhymes with FETCH: CETCH!"
     "Who is Cetch?"
     "You haven't met Dr. Cetch! Put these on!"
     "What if you're making another mistake?"
     "Another mistake!"
     "Dr. Dar said---"
     "Dr. Dar is dead!"
     "I must go to him!"
     "Put these on and you will!"
     I put them on. Tones---Musik---intensity---sounds different from any bands I'd heard before. "What are these?" I shouted above the sounds intensifying in my head.
     "You ask the damnedest questions! They're the Mystical Seven, if you must know!"
     "The Mystical Seven?" Even as I uttered these words, my head began to split with the sounds building up in it.
     "'Agni', 'Baal', 'Canopus', 'Dor', 'Enkidu', 'Freya', 'God'!"
     "'Agni', the Hindu God of Fire," I remembered.
     "'Baal', the source of all gifts of nature, the patron of all growth and fertility," intoned Dr. Bantellian.
     "'Canopus'---Canopus is a star," I floundered.
     "'Dor': Hidden; the Unknown; the D-level here in the Mystical Seven." Dr. Bantellian seemed in a trance.
     "'Enkidu', the wild man, friend of Gilgamesh," I dug out of my classical readings.
     "'Freya'!" she went on, "Friia, Frea, Freya, Frigg, wife of the god Odin, Woden, Wotan."
     "'God'!" I shouted, at the end of my wits, and my tether, and my life.
     "But not in the masculine form of the Christians!" shouted Dr. Bantellian, "God in the neuter form of the Teutonic peoples before Christ: God as It is."
     Her voice roared in my ears. The Musik roared in my ears. "I can't go on!" I screamed.
     "DIE!" screamed Dr. Bantellian, rapt in her frenzy.
     I---let go. Past holding on; I let go. Released. I released and was released. Death.


     "Where are you?"
     "Who, then, are you?"
     "I---I don't know."
     "Why did you answer when I called 'Frank'?"
     "I---I was Frank."
     "And now?"
     "I'm dead."
     "Yes, but who are you?"
     More silence.
     "You are Frank."
     "Who are you?"
     "Dr. Dar."
     "But you're dead!"
     "So you say!"


     "Dr. Dar?"
     "Yes. How are you?"
     "I have a headache."
     "A small price to pay."
     "Price? For what?"
     "For dying."
     "I died?"
     "Dr. Dar?"
     "Are you dead?"
     "Were you dead?"
     "Were you?"
     "Someone else was dead. Not I."
     "Was I dead?"
     "Am I alive now?"
     "Thank you, Dr. Dar."


     "Dr. Dar?"
     "Who are you?"
     "Dr. Cetch."
     I had to open my eyes. "Are you Dr. Cetch?"
     The bright-eyed little figure nodded. "You listened to my Gain-Radio."
     "Dr. Bantellian handed it to me."
     "Nevertheless, you listened to my Gain-Radio."
     "Did it help you?"
     I thought about it. "Yes."
     "Did I do wrong?"
     "Not if it helped you."
     "What could have happened?"
     "It could have killed you."
     I thought about that. "Did it kill me?"
     "Yes." I thought some more.
     "Can I trust you?"
     "No, Frank. The only one you can trust is yourself."
     I looked more closely at the bright-eyed, hairless little figure sitting next to me on my bed. Behind the clear facemask I could see no trace of any kind of hair, so Dr. Cetch looked oddly androgynous. "Are you a man or a woman."
     "I'm neither a man nor a woman."
     "That can't be."
     "Are you calling me a liar?"
     "You must be either a man or a woman."
     "Who's that?"
     "Dr. Zinovia. Wake up, Frank."
     "I am awake. I'm talking to Dr. Cetch."
     "No, Frank, you're not awake. You're dreaming."
     "I'm dreaming?"
     "Frank, wake up, you're dreaming!"
     "I'm dreaming!"
     "Frank, please wake up; please, Frank, wake up, I love you."
     I opened my eyes. Dr. Zinovia's tears were running down the inside of her facemask. "I was dreaming?"
     "Yes, yes, Frank, you were dreaming. You are the first person that I've ever seen having a dream."
     "That's the first dream I had since I woke up!"
     "Frank, something's happening to you; I can't tell if it's good or bad."
     "Dr. Zinovia, you must tell me the truth. Did I die?"
     "Yes, Frank, you died."
     "Can you prove it to me?"
     "No, Frank, only you can prove it for yourself."
     "How can I do that?"
     "Frank, here's your Gain-Radio." I took it. "Put it on." I did so. "Now press 'Death'." I pressed 'Death'. "Now listen."
     I listened. I knew. I had died. The Musik had been totally changed by my experience. The experience had totally changed me. I had died. I knew it.


     I dreamed. I realized I was dreaming. I tried to induce Dr. Cetch to appear in my dream again. I failed.
     "Tell me how you are!" Dr. Bantellian woke me.
     "I've been dreaming!"
     "Why is that so good?"
     "You'd dreamed before!" Another of Dr. Bantellian's demands.
     "Yes, before I---before my coma."
     "No one else here had ever had a dream before. We'd read about them, but none of us had ever had one."
     "What does that mean?"
     "What does dying mean!"
     I decided to change the subject. "Can I see Dr. Cetch?"
     "Why not."
     "Dr. Cetch is dead."
     "You told me that Dr. Dar was dead, and he's alive."
     "That was a lie. This is the truth. Dr. Cetch is dead."
     "How can I trust you?"
     "You can't!"


     "Dr. Zinovia, is Dr. Cetch here?"
     "No, Frank, he's dead."
     "Could I see Dr. Dar?"
     "Why do you want to see Dr. Dar?"
     "I want to ask him if Dr. Cetch is dead."
     "Frank, don't you trust me?"
     "Frank, have I ever lied to you?"
     I thought about it. "I don't know."
     "I haven't."
     "Do you believe me?"
     I thought about it. "I don't know."
     "You should."
     "I understand."
     "But you don't believe me."
     "I don't know."
     I listened to my Gain-Radio. I felt like crying. I didn't know whom to trust, and it made me miserable. How could I prove anything?
     "You can't."
     "Dr. Dar! I've wanted to see you."
     "Why did you want to see me?"
     "I wanted to ask you if Dr. Cetch were dead."
     "Yes, Frank, Dr. Cetch is dead."
     "Do you believe me, Frank?"
     "Frank, do you believe me?"
     I started to cry. Dr. Andressin came to sit beside me on my bed. Huge sobs wracked my body as I cried harder. Dr. Zinovia came to sit on the other side of my bed. She reached out to hold me gently in her arms. Dr. Dar sat at the foot of my bed. Tears stung down my cheeks, and my throat filled with saliva so that I coughed between my sobs.
     Dr. Andressin leaned forward and put one arm around me and one arm around Dr. Zinovia, who had completely enfolded me in her embrace. My sobs became half-screams, half-shouts; I sounded like an animal in a slaughterhouse. Dr. Dar leaned in and wrapped my legs in his arms and lay his head on my knees. I was crying so hard I had to struggle for breath.
     I thought I detected a trace of sadness in Dr. Bantellian's voice as she stated, "Crying is good!" And I started to laugh. With tears still streaming from my eyes, I started to shake with uncontrollable laughter. Dr. Zinovia began to laugh with relief next to me, and that infected Dr. Andressin, who began to roar with pleasure. I had never heard Dr. Dar laugh, and now I heard Dr. Dar laughing. The Musik in the room grew louder and laughed with us. Maybe even Dr. Bantellian was laughing, but she was so far away I couldn't tell for sure.
     If I thought dying was a revelation, laughing became an even greater learning experience. The Musik was literally beside itself with laughter: all the earphones came out of all the ears, and all the Gain-Radios played the same fugue in canon, rippling from Lower through Middle through Higher up to Mystical Seven, with some tones that I had never heard before. I erupted into a paroxysm of laughter that tumbled all of us off the bed onto the floor at the foot of Dr. Bantellian's wheelchair.
     Unbelievably, she pressed a button and her supporting slats withdrew, and she tumbled out of her chair among us, the two red strings that were her lips separating and curling into enormous howls of laughter. We became wet with tears, Dr. Zinovia and Dr. Andressin and Dr. Bantellian inside their facemasks, Dr. Dar and I on ourselves and on the outsides of the facemasks.
     Suddenly, there was a gasp as Dr. Zinovia released me and drew back in alarm. I had gotten an erection.
     I didn't yet know that it was the first erection on Earth in twenty years.


     Though very little happened in the next few days, I felt they were highly productive. I ran through my Radio's three bands of frequencies with increasing familiarity. As I had, previously, completely incorporated the range of the Middle Seven into my senses, I now completely incorporated the range of the Higher Seven into my totality.
     'Groundwork' was a condensation and expansion of the entire Middle Seven.
     'Fullness' heightened my understanding of my emotions. My mental faculties grew by means of the frequency-band 'Expansion'.
     'Death' now seemed a natural entryway to 'Cosmic'. I still avoided using the word Soul, associated with the 'Death' frequency-band. But what if the actual act of thinking of the Soul, or of working with the Soul, or of acting as if the Soul were real: what if these acts themselves created the Soul? Since I wanted, in essence, everything, was I doing myself a disservice by denying that I even had a Soul?
     Certainly I had had a death. Since I was now alive, did that mean that I had to have a Soul? Again I felt sadness when I realized that I trusted no one to act as an authority to tell me the answers to my questions.
     The 'Cosmic' band I treasured: I associated it with my memory of the powerful flash of insight I had gained when Dr. Bantellian had shouted "Completeness!" at me---it seemed so long ago.
     'Beyond' had been silent then. Now it was not silent. Faint murmurs and rustlings when I used that frequency-band suggested whispers from an expectant crowd more than it suggested any kind of Musik.
     'Absolute', the highest band of the Higher Seven, remained silent for me. Above that were only the head-splitting sounds from Dr. Cetch's Gain-Radio that had induced my own death---sounds which I remembered with the same lack of fullness that the memory of a lick of lemon compares with the tongue-explosion at an actual lemon-lick.
     The Lower Seven, which Dr. Bantellian had given me, were less clear, though I continued to work with them.
     'Gonads' seemed more active since my erection had caused such consternation.
     'Fundamental' and 'Energy' seemed indistinguishable from each other, but I told myself that I was making progress. 'Drugged' remained a mystery.
     'Chemical' for the molecular substructure of every substance seemed more intellectually understandable than actually experienced. 'Basic' for the atomic level was just a word to me, though that frequency-band on my Gain-Radio gave off pings and clicks that made me think of a geiger counter. 'Atomic', the word associated with the most elementary particles, had become distasteful since Dr. Bantellian had blamed the final outcome of the world on the purported complete knowledge of physicists, astronomers, and philosophers.
     Dr. Dar, he had told me, would eventually give me the next-lower, Elemental Seven, but he said they would affect me more strongly than the Mystical Seven had affected me when I had died. I couldn't bring myself to ask him what would affect me more than my own death.
     "Tell me how you are!"
     Whenever I felt complacent, Dr. Bantellian's command would shake me toward seeking new progress.
     And then there were my dreams.
     I was feeling more normal now that my usual dream-frequency returned; however, the doctors around me looked on them as if they were manifestations of some abnormality. The more Dr. Andressin tried to convince me that I was losing my mind, the more firmly I held to the opinion that I was finally regaining a part of the mind that I had lost since awakening from my coma.
     But it made me feel more isolated than ever; I began to feel lonely.


     Dr. Dar still refused to give me a Gain-Radio that contained the Elemental Seven. He said, "You've made astounding progress with your Gain-Radio in a very short time. But each additional frequency-band is tens and hundreds of times more powerful, more encompassing, than the bands you've already gotten. Remember what happened to you when you heard tones for which you were not trained."
     I felt like a child, still needing to be told that there was a Santa Claus. "Tell me what happened to me."
     As if explaining to a child, Dr. Dar said slowly, "You listened to tones of the Mystical Seven, the frequency-band above the Higher Seven that you had already heard and assimilated. Those tones produced resonances in your brain that your brain could not process, could not chemically accept, with your current faculties. That resulted in overheating the actual tissues of your brain so that you physically died. We had to reconstitute that part of your brain which had boiled away. We brought you back to the life you enjoy today."
     "The Gain-Radio actually changes the chemical composition of my brain?"
     "Changes? Reinforces would be a better word. Your body produces hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hormones. We've known about adrenal, pituitary, gastrointestinal, gonadal, thyroidal, and dozens of other large classes of hormones. Adaptive hormones, such as corticotropin, which is increased during times of stress, are secreted during adaptation to unusual circumstances.
     "The resonances produced by the Gain-Radio are considered 'unusual circumstances' by your body, which reacts by producing other adaptive hormones, some of which we haven't been able to chemically identify yet, both in the brain and throughout your body. Some of these hormones, we know, were produced in microscopic quantities before. Others, we suspect, are new to the body. Some may even be poisonous in large quantities. We're talking about the frontiers of science at this time."
     I thought about it. "Do you mean there could be substances, hormones, which the Gain-Radio is producing in my body which might eventually poison me?"
     Dr. Dar laughed. "Not that we know of. But with any technology which is relatively new, and the twenty years of the Gain-Radio is a relatively short time, there are possible ill effects we have not yet identified. The three sets of bands that you now know---these have been used for more than fifteen years. The Elemental Band, for which I'm preparing you, was found ten years ago. We're quite sure we know all of its effects.
     "Dr. Cetch formulated the Mystical Band five years ago. Dr. Cetch died while experimenting with one formulation of the Mystical Band. We found a slight modulation of that band which seemed to negate its lethality."
     "How many bands are there?"
     "We don't know. The argument of symmetry would postulate seven sets, since each set has seven frequencies. But we don't know. Elementary-particle physicists had thought that there might be four or five 'generations' of elementary particles, but then in the early 90s it was theoretically proven and experimentally verified that there were only three generations of elementary particles.
     "Is anyone working on sets lower than the Elemental Seven or higher than the Mystical Seven?"
     Dr. Dar shook his head: "Now I'm beginning to see why your progress has been so rapid. You keep pushing at the boundaries of what you know. That can be admirable---"
     "But it can also be a pain in the posterior?"
     "Now that you put it that way---." Dr. Dar continued to laugh as he left the room. Only when he had gone did it occur to me that he hadn't answered my question.


     I continued on my treadmill. Though the Pace-Viewer had ceased to engage me completely when I learned that it reflected a world that no longer existed, I became absorbed in the images of Central Africa. I had passed my original destination, Istanbul, and had continued my computerized walk south through Turkey, past the ruins of Troy and Ephesus, and down through Syria, Lebanon, and Israel.
     I didn't want to know what had happened in this part of the world. Selfishly, I wanted to indulge my own fantasies in the world I had known twenty years ago. Knowing what might have happened in this tinderbox, fearing it had flashed into flame, I preferred to remain in ignorance so that my own pleasure would be unfettered by mere historical facts. Dr. Zinovia supported my lack of knowledge, while Dr. Andressin changed his opinion every other day. I found it impossible to talk sensibly with him.
     Dr. Bantellian tried to shake my complacency. "Now you're crossing the Red Sea. You're doing it on foot, as Moses did!"
     "No, I didn't part the Red Sea to cross it. I'm on a boat." I focused my eyes on the lower part of the Pace-Viewer, and the image on the screen panned downward to show the car-ferry which was transporting me from Port Fouad, on the Asiatic Continent, to Port Said, on the African Continent. I didn't tell her that the same thoughts had crossed my mind earlier in my walk. She left me to my promenade.
     I continued south along the Nile until its predictability bored me, then I headed east into the deserts of Sudan and Ethiopia. I'd always wanted to see this most dramatic Rift Valley, where the plates on which the continents rode were being torn asunder, literally creating new land through the millennia. The desolation of the pictures on my Pace-Viewer matched my thoughts.
     My feet were staying in the same place and, as an echo to that stasis, my mind was traveling in circles.
     Dr. Zinovia had refitted my treadmill once already. I'd gradually increased the resistance on the machine until I'd reached its maximum setting. To continue the challenge, I started spending more time on it, until Dr. Zinovia said that she could adjust the mechanism so that it became not so much a walk as a climb, exercising my entire body as I pulled with my arms and torso and dug in with my feet as if climbing a steep slope with the assistance of hanging vines.
     The transition was a real challenge, but I surmounted that to the point where I could increase my settings and still spend five hours exercising without exhausting myself. But with no one except myself to measure myself against, it was becoming an increasingly empty exercise.
     Why did I need such enormous endurance? It's true that I felt better when working against physical challenges, but there seemed to me to be a limit, fast approaching, when sheer repetition would produce no further increase in capability.
     Then the Musik changed. I'd been traveling in 'Cosmic', exulting in the feeling of skimming like an angel---while sweating pints of water!---over what looked like Biblical terrain. Then the Musik modulated, I don't know how, upward into 'Beyond', which I seldom used because it seemed limiting, rather than expanding. Then I heard a sequence of new sounds---
     My wife was walking toward me, carrying our son! I fell headlong into the Pace-Viewer screen, so that my exertion-wracked body seemed to contact the desert sands. I pushed my body forward with the agonizing slowness of running in a dream. "Listen to me, Frank."
     "Yes!" My heart, my body, my love strained toward her. But as I struggled, she seemed to remain at the same distance.
     "Listen to me, Frank!"
     "Yes, yes!" My mind knew that she was dead, that my son was dead. But, I finally admitted to myself, I'd begun to dream about her. I'd withheld that knowledge even from myself, fearing that the doctors would take it away from me.
     But then her image changed. Her face changed into my mother's face, and the child she was holding was me, when I had been my son's age. My wife? My mother? The image changed again: I, as I had been twenty years ago, stood with my son in my arms.
     I, holding my son, changed into my father, holding me, and, as I looked, I saw my grandfather's face replace my father's face, and my father's face replace his son's face. The faces changed more rapidly, changing character as the ages sped backward: father replacing son, father before father before father. And the figure, steady now, became the figure of all fathers. The son was all sons. I saw, and I knew, and the Musik of 'Beyond' rang in my ears, and I saw, I experienced, that this was the Archetype of Fatherhood, embodied before me. The Archetypal, symbolized by the Musik-band of 'Beyond', crystallized before me.
     I stared. I reached. I became the Archetype. I myself was the eternal father; I myself the son. My mother, my wife, was every mother, every wife. The Musik-band filled out, completed its harmonies. My mind throbbed, reached some apex of realization, could take no more, and I collapsed on my treadmill as my Pace-Viewer went blank.


     I opened my eyes; I couldn't decide if my head or my body gave me the more agony. Dr. Dar smiled down on me, dangling a Gain-Radio as a father would dangle a rattle over his infant son. He said, "You've earned the Elemental Seven. Your realization of the Archetypal has come about in record time. We might have to watch out for you, Frank. You might take over the whole hospital."
     I closed my eyes. If this were a dream, I wanted the dream not to be so painful. If this were a hallucination, I didn't need it now, so close to what I had feared might have been a hallucination of my wife. I opened my eyes.
     But it had to be a hallucination of my wife. She was dead! There were no filmed images that they could have superimposed upon my Pace-Viewer image. They must have, somehow, gotten her image out of my mind. Isn't that what a hallucination is? My head hurt even more.
     Archetypal! I wasn't even sure what the word meant. Then I stopped myself. I had to trust, at least, myself. I had realized what the Archetypal was. The Musik proved it, and I had proved it with the Musik. The worst I could do was to minimize my very real progress.
     A stab of pain forced thought from my mind. I had to give my body and my mind a rest. Almost as an instinct, I touched myself lightly on the ear. I slept before I could ask myself how I slept.


     "Have you had any other dreams?"
     I'd finally gotten the courage to tell Dr. Dar about my dreams of my wife and son. Grounded, as they now were, in a known state of existence I had come to accept as the Archetypal, they couldn't be taken away from me.
     "I don't know what you mean by 'other dreams'."
     Dr. Dar looked down at me as I recuperated in bed. "Your painful experience was probably caused by the resonant pressures, built over time, reinforced by your repression of dream-content concerning your wife, and your emotions connected with what you think of as guilt about killing your own wife and child. Someone---your room sensors, perhaps---sensed your nearness to a breakdown, and used that critical state of conflict---conflict on the physical level with your treadmill, conflict on the emotional level with your memories and dreams about your wife and child, conflict on the mental level with your repressions and guilts, conflict on the Soul level about your own presence, alive, here---this critical state of conflict was used as a lever to impel you to your astounding progress."
     "Are you saying that my progress---might not be entirely my own doing?"
     "No, not that," smiled Dr. Dar, "but you may have been having dreams of another person, another Archetype perhaps, a figure with some kind of authority, possibly?"
     I truly didn't know what he was talking about. But if I could, somehow, have hidden from myself the fact that I had been dreaming about my wife and child, could I be hiding other dreams? "This seems like madness." I surprised myself by speaking aloud.
     "Madness is one of those words whose meanings have changed," said Dr. Dar. "No brain can be called sick merely because it has thoughts that most other brains wouldn't have. There is no such thing as a normal brain; equally, there is no such thing as an abnormal thought. Because your thoughts are different---different from mine---that doesn't mean that your brain is sick, or that you have gone mad. You are actually, in some ways---" Dr. Dar paused, considering. "In some ways your brain is actually ahead of mine."
     He went on: "Another phrase that has been called into question---we don't know that it's valid at this time---is 'The Survival of the Fittest'. In some ways the epidemics of the past selected the fittest to kill off.
     "The fittest, actually, were the ones who were causing the most damage, procreating the most, waging the fiercest wars, bullying and terrorizing and manipulating and using the less fit. It looked for a time as if 'The Survival of the Fittest' would mean the destruction of civilization. Some people, realizing this ahead of their time, tried to make the point and were ignored or, worse, punished and in some cases imprisoned and killed. 'The Fittest' didn't want their monopoly taken away from them.
     "Governments tried---in the worst of cases they acted directly out of self-interest---to equalize the situation, but it seemed to get worse. 'The Fittest' got more and more fit at the expense of the less fit. It would have been a disaster had it continued. It was a disaster---a series of disasters---that ended the situation."
     "You've never told me---how many people were left after the epidemics?"
     Dr. Dar paused. "You haven't answered my question. Have you been dreaming about anyone you don't know from your past or your present?"
     "No, who would I be dreaming about? Someone from my future?"
     I thought I detected some evasion when Dr. Dar said, "Well, you had dreamed about Dr. Cetch."
     "No, I haven't dreamed about---it!" I said this testily, since everyone refused to say a word about Dr. Cetch's gender, past or present.
     "How are you coming with the Elemental Seven on your Gain-Radio?" Dr. Dar wanted to talk about more positive topics. I'd been playing 'Ground', 'Fire', and 'Ether'.
     "'Drowning' seems to be another loaded D-level word for me, like 'Depth', 'Death', and 'Drugged'. I don't like the sounds of the words and I don't like the Musik associated with those levels. I can't get anything at all out of the lowest three: 'Chaos', 'Beyond', or 'Absolute'."
     "I just hope you're not progressing too rapidly," said Dr. Dar. "I hope---"
     "What do you hope, Dr. Dar?" Silence. "When I went too fast, in the past, it's helped my progress. I wouldn't have reached this point if I hadn't died from listening to Dr. Cetch's Mystical Seven before I was ready for that frequency-band. What are you afraid---might happen to me?"
     Dr. Dar said with a sigh, "You might encounter Dr. De'Evilam."


     Through adding clues from various doctors---my merely knowing the name of Dr. De'Evilam widened their eyes and shook information from their tongues---Dr. De'Evilam was currently in charge of adding frequency-bands to the Gain-Radio.
     Dr. Zinovia finally admitted to me that not even she had access to the Mystical Seven. She had more experience with the Elemental Seven than I did, and she was permitted to help me live through the insights into that level of Musik. She actually seemed afraid when asked about other parts of the hospital. "I don't even like going downstairs," she said. "Sometimes experimental sounds leak out of the soundproof laboratories. I can't help it; but sometimes I think Dr. De'Evilam's life has become too wrapped up in the investigation of new frequency-bands. I just don't like it," Dr. Zinovia said helplessly.
     "How long has Dr. De'Evilam been working on the frequency-bands?"
     "Oh---forever, it seems."
     "How many years have you been working in this hospital?"
     Dr. Zinovia looked at me sharply, "Why do you ask that?"
     I decided to take the risk: "Dr. Bantellian told me that you had been born five years ago."
     Dr. Zinovia stared at me for a moment, unbelieving, and then burst into laughter. "She may think of me as five years old, but I know I'm older than that."
     "And Dr. Andressin was six years old!" I added in desperation.
     "Well," said Dr. Zinovia with a straight face, "that does happen to be the truth." And then once again she burst into laughter. "Dr. Andressin is six years old!" she sputtered, wetting the inside of her face-mask. "Oh, yes," she said between gasps of laughter, "Dr. Bantellian was certainly telling you the truth then!"
     "But why would she lie to me?"
     "She wasn't lying to you, exactly," said Dr. Zinovia, totally serious as far as I could tell. "We all have to test you, to evaluate where you are so that we can determine how far and how fast you can progress."
     "But progress toward what final end?"
     "Didn't Dr. Bantellian tell you that it was completeness?"
     "That magic formula lost its potency weeks ago. And sometimes I think that everything Dr. Bantellian has told me has been a lie---or a test, as if I were a guinea pig to be prodded to death. But why are they doing that? Sometimes I feel more complete than any of you!"
     My voice had become louder and louder. The door to my room slid open and Dr. Andressin entered, grinning at my anger.
     I shouted on: "You," I pointed at Dr. Zinovia, "only want to add another hundred pounds to the weight I can carry on my back while I climb hills on that damned treadmill! And you," I shouted at Dr. Andressin, "just want to drive me insane with your conflicting orders," and Dr. Andressin's grin exploded into maniacal laughter. I couldn't tell if he were genuinely amused or egging me into greater anger.
     "And you," I screamed, whirling to confront Dr. Bantellian who had just whirred her wheelchair into the room, "I can't believe anything you tell me, anything at all."
     "Tell me how you are!" Dr. Bantellian out-shouted me easily.
     "I told you before: I can't tell you how am I if I don't know myself. How can I tell if you can't tell me?"
     "But you wouldn't believe us even if we'd tell you," interjected Dr. Dar, completing the quintet that, as far as I knew, were the sole survivors on the earth.
     "I did believe you, Dr. Dar. But then they said you were dead, and you weren't dead!"
     "Are you saying it was my fault that I wasn't dead?" inquired Dr. Dar gently.
     "No," I shouted desperately, but I didn't know who to believe. I didn't know who to trust. "I wanted to trust all of you, but you lied, and pushed me, and pulled me, and tested me. I want to know why. I want you to tell me now!"
     "But you won't believe us even if we tell you!" shouted Dr. Bantellian, and the Musik seemed to underline what she was shouting.
     "I can't believe you because you're all so one-sided!" I pointed to each of them in turn. "You care only about my body. You care only about my emotions. You care only about my mind. You, Dr. Dar, you tell me that you only care about my Soul, whatever that is."
     "I think you experienced it, once."
     "I can't even believe myself! I see my wife; but I know she's dead, so I have to be hallucinating!" And I feared I was hallucinating now, because as I was shouting, the others seemed to visibly shrink before me, to visibly reduce in size.
     For a mad moment I wanted to sweep them all aside, shouting, "You're nothing but a pack of cards."
     "My body," I pleaded with Dr. Zinovia. "Let me have my body back."
     "My emotions," I pleaded with Dr. Andressin. "Let me rule my emotions myself."
     "My mind," I pleaded with Dr. Bantellian, "Let me keep my mind to myself!"
     "My soul---" but as I turned to Dr. Dar, he, in turn, seemed to expand before my eyes, to grow larger, to become indistinct around the edges, to encompass the whole room, while the others continued to shrink and become caricatures of their functions. Dr. Zinovia took the form of my body; Dr. Andressin curled in on himself and took the form of my heart in Dr. Zinovia's---in my body; and Dr. Bantellian's head peeled away from her brain, becoming my brain in my body. My body was now completely surrounded by my soul, formed from Dr. Dar, while I looked down at myself and saw---nothing at all.
     "Without my body, without my emotions, without my mind, without my soul---even that awful word was becoming acceptable---where am I, what am I?"
     Dr. Zinovia shook my head. Dr. Andressin beat with my heart. Dr. Bantellian wracked my brain. Dr. Dar wept with my soul. And I?
     Waves seemed to wash over me. I was drowning! The Musik changed within me to 'Drowning', the next dreaded D-level word. But drowning didn't mean death. I had gone beyond death. Now I was separated from my soul.
     Chaos! Yes, 'Chaos' was the next level on the Gain-Radio, the Chaos of the plasma-state, beyond earth and air and fire and water. I became not-I, yet the not-I still experienced the Musik modulating from 'Drowning' through 'Chaos' to 'Beyond'---to the Vacuum, the utter emptiness of space.
     Still the Musik changed, and not-I became more deeply negated, until even the space of the vacuum collapsed in upon itself, into the utter void of 'Absolute'.
     I cried without a mouth with which to cry; I cried tears that had no direction in which to fall.
     I was lost and alone. Lost in 'Absolute', lost without hope of recovery. This was worse than death. This was never having been, no chance to be, never will be.
     The Musik vanished when I had no ears, no brain, no body, no soul with which to hear.
     Utter void.
     Dr. De'Evilam had come.


     "Dr. Zinovia?"
     "No, Frank. But tell me how you are?"
     "Dr. Bantellian?"
     "No, Frank."
     "But your voice. You're a woman!"
     "Yes, Frank."
     "Am I dreaming? Are you a hallucination?"
     "No, Frank, you've never met me before."
     "Who are you?
     "Dr. De'Evilam."


     I woke, trembling with the memory of a dream. I'd written a set of notes to record the frightening aspects of that dream, knowing that if I let them slip away from my immediate memory, I'd not be able to reconstruct them afterwards.
     But when I woke again, I couldn't find the notes. I could only recall the shock that made me tremble, something to do with "They who see with the Eyes of God," but I couldn't remember the details. As I remembered that phrase, "They who see with the Eyes of God," the trembling returned.
     The Musik was in a soothing frequency-band when Dr. Zinovia came upon me looking under my bed. She asked, "Are you looking for more monsters?"
     "Yes," I grunted, swiveling my head out from under the edge, "there's something here, but I can't tell if it's coming or going."
     Her frown-wrinkles returned as she scanned her inner computer-implants. I hastened to her assistance by saying, "I don't think, even in the intervening twenty years, that there's been much progress in the computer-storage of jokes. But when her frown-wrinkles deepened even more, I decided to let the subject drop.
     Dr. Zinovia asked, "What were you looking for?"
     "I'd written notes, about a dream I'd had, and I can't find them."
     "You had another dream," she said uncertainly, as if accusing me of lying to make her jealous of the fact that she never dreamed.
     "Yes," I said, absently scratching my leg, "and you've got to do something about the mosquitoes in here."
     "Mosquitoes," said Dr. Zinovia blankly.
     I was getting annoyed with her echoing me. "Yes, I had a dream last night, and I was bitten by a mosquito last night. Here's the bite, right here." I paused. "Yes, it's a mosquito bite, right there," I added maliciously, imitating her soft voice.
     She looked at me, a light-reflection off her facemask obscuring her reaction as she said, "There are no mosquitoes in here."
     "Well, of course there are---" and then I stopped, not wanting to be accused of echoing her. "How do you know there are no mosquitoes in here?"
     "There just aren't. There are no insects, or even microbes, of any kind here in the hospital. After the diseases we had to make sure we were curing the people brought here, rather than imprisoning them with other deadly organisms."
     I stopped to consider. I had never seen any form of insect life in the hospital. They didn't even allow flowers or unprocessed food in the hospital. From its dead taste, I was sure that the water was reconstituted from its elements rather than merely purified or filtered from the outside environment. I asked the only question possible: "Then how did I get a mosquito bite?"


      My mosquito bite occupied everyone completely for the next few days. Their only possible solution seemed totally alien to me: somehow I had gotten outside the hospital.
     "I've wanted to get outside the hospital, but I've been afraid to ask, fearing that it might be, somehow, the wrong time---as it was before!"
     "You can't get it inside the hospital. You must get it outside the hospital!" Dr. Bantellian had no doubts at all.
     "It really is a mosquito bite," laughed Dr. Andressin, "so we can't even fall back on the idea that it's only psychosomatic, like hives."
     "How do you know that it really is a mosquito bite?" I asked.
     Dr. Bantellian responded: "Because your bed took a sample of the fluid inside the bump, analyzed it, and found that it contained a specific inflammatory agent carried only in the saliva of the Aedes mosquito!"
     "So I couldn't be making it up," I mused.
     "But you haven't been out of the hospital," protested Dr. Zinovia. This started a familiar merry-go-round: My room-sensors said that I had never left the room, everyone agreed I couldn't have created the bump in any psychosomatic way, there were no insects in the hospital, so I had to have left the hospital, yet I had never left the hospital.
     Dr. Dar was finally forced to the idea that I had had an out-of-body experience while dreaming. "It's simple," he said. "Your physical body didn't leave the hospital, so your---." He fumbled for a word that wouldn't close my ears to his argument. "Some part of your body---some part of your body that wouldn't register with the room-sensors---left the hospital while you were dreaming last night. That part of your body got a mosquito bite---"
     "So my left leg leaves my body when I dream, and my left leg, leaving the hospital, isn't detected by my room-sensors? So my left leg is bitten by a mosquito?"
     Dr. Dar laughed. I would have been concerned for his mental state if he hadn't. He said, "I can't say that your 'astral body' left, because you'd mutter 'theosophy' and close your mind to me. I can't say that your 'pneuma' left, because you'd scoff at my 'Hindu mysticism'. I can't say that your 'human' left, because you don't understand what Richard Gain meant when he used that word. I can't say that your 'ba' left because, in your opinion, the Egyptians weren't very scientific." I was sorry as I admitted to myself that he was correct.
     "When I talk about a part of your body, I mean some---I can't even say 'level' because you'd want me to point to it---some quality of your body is thought to leave your body when you dream, and some people who have---in actuality, even though you might not believe it, Frank---left their bodies have verified that it's more like dreaming than waking---and we all know that it might just be a figment of their imaginations. Ah, maybe I have it here---Frank, will you at least agree that some people have greater imaginations than others?"
     There was no way I could say "No," but why did I say "Yes" so reluctantly?
     "Good! People have different---can I call them degrees?---of imagination?"
     "OK." I still felt I'd lost control of the direction of the conversation.
     "So some people might imagine things that others would not---could not?---imagine?"
     "Ye---ess," I said, not wanting to.
     "And some people might even do things that others would not---could not---do? Speak the Latvian language, for example?"
     "I guess I have to say yes," I said, not wanting to say yes.
     "So maybe a person could have a skill that you don't have---being double-jointed, for instance?"
     I protested, "I don't like where this is leading. There's no use talking about something that you can't measure or prove or---"
     Dr. Bantellian snapped, "You talked about imagination!"
     I responded lamely, "But you can set up a test, a scale, that measures a more imaginative imagination against a less imaginative imagination. But you can't say that this person's 'astral body' leaves during dreaming more easily than that person's 'astral body' leaves."
     "I hear your quotes around 'astral body'," said Dr. Dar triumphantly, "but since you used the term, wouldn't you entertain the possibility that my 'astral body' might be more flexible than, say, Dr. Bantellian's 'astral body'?"
     I sputtered, "That's like saying Dr. Bantellian is more likely to have six toes than you are!"
     Dr. Bantellian shouted, "I've seen photographs of people with six toes!"
     "No one has an astral body!" I shouted.
     Dr. Dar pointed at me, "Because you don't know you have an astral body, you insist that no one has an astral body."
     It was a long time before I was forced to break the silence that centered on my discomfort.
     "What did cause my mosquito bite?"
     "A mosquito."
     "Outside the hospital?"
     "Where else?"
     I could think of nothing more to say.