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     Some things never change.
     "Don't worry, Dr. Zinovia. I'm back."
     "Where did you go?"
     I opened my eyes. What could I say?
     "I was listening to my Gain-Radio," I began, clear even at the start that I could never put into words the least part of my experience. "I felt good, here in the linden grove, and I found that all the Musik seemed to agree with me. Whatever I dialed, it fit in with these trees."
     Dr. Zinovia said, "But you disappeared."
     "To you," I said, "I guess I did. But to me, it was as if---no, I left my body in the Mystical Seven, and when I got up to 'Canopus'---
     "I haven't been able to hear anything above 'God'," said Dr. Zinovia softly.
     "When I got up to 'Canopus'," I continued, barely hearing her, "I realized it was the Musik which had killed me, when Dr. Bantellian gave it to me on Dr. Cetch's Gain-Radio."
     "Dr. Cetch," repeated Dr. Zinovia, and shuddered.
     "Then I realized that Canopus is a star, just as our Sun is a star, and---and I wondered, just for a second, what it would be like at the center of the Sun---"
     My words had become so laggard that Dr. Zinovia added words of her own: "You went to the center of the Sun?"
     I concluded simply, "Yes, I went to the center of the Sun."
     "And?" She sounded almost petulant.
     "And then you called me, and I was back."
     "But what happened at the center of the Sun?"
     I couldn't answer her.
     "You don't want to tell me," she persisted.
     "I want to tell you, but I can't."
     "You mean that you're forbidden to?"
     "No, I mean that I'm not able to!"
     "You were unconscious?"
     "No, I---but it wasn't I." I had to try again. "It---but it was alive!"
     "The Sun was alive?"
     "No, the experience---no, not the experience itself, but the sound---the sound was---wasn't---I can't, I'm sorry, Dr. Zinovia, but I'm just not able to---" and I found myself weeping with tears of ecstasy, tears beyond the joy of happiness, tears that threw me into her waiting arms, to cry through the impossibility of curing her disappointment in my lack of ability to put it into words.


     The experience brought us closer together as it separated us. Though she was invaluable for her implanted encyclopedic knowledge, she could not help but feel crushed by her lack of experience. I heard ranges far higher and far lower on my Gain-Radio than she could on hers, even though it displayed the same range of frequency-bands.
     I even tried to describe the technique of leaving my body, but the look on her face when I described how I'd first thought of it---as yearning toward Dr. De'Evilam---prevented me from mentioning it to her again.
     When I praised her physical stamina in being able to keep up with me, whom she had trained to such a peak of physical endurance, she had at first smiled. Then I blundered and said the wrong thing---I didn't even remember what it was---and she turned her red face toward me and shouted with rage, "Oh, yes, there are just loads of benefits to being a nineteen-year-old virgin!"
     My beginning to think of her as a younger sister didn't help matters any. It helped me, I had to admit, when I woke with my morning erection and saw her standing over me, needing to pretend she didn't notice.
     It was then that I recalled one of Dr. Dar's statements just before we left the hospital, when I was expressing concern about the many ways in which I considered life to be impossible while enmeshed in impermeable plastic. "I suppose you should know," Dr. Dar had said, "that Dr. Zinovia doesn't experience the menstrual cycle. She's mature in all other ways, but she's infertile because she hasn't reached the age of menarche. No woman born in the hospital, as Dr. Zinovia was, has become fertile. We don't know why." I was relieved when he later told me that Dr. De'Evilam had not been born in the hospital.
     We needed each other constantly and completely, Dr. Zinovia and I, but I was beginning to get the terrible suspicion that Dr. Zinovia actually disliked me for being so different from her. When I tried to talk about it, she refused to continue the conversation. Eventually, her discomfort compelled me to stop. It was difficult to spend every minute of the day and night together, knowing there were many areas about which neither of us could talk.
     As a result, I spent more time walking enwrapped in my Musik; I just hoped that it wasn't as impermeable as Dr. Zinovia's protective covering.
     I continued to make connections between different bands on the Gain-Radio. It was almost like learning a language: at first I had despaired of making any progress at all. As I gained more and more "vocabulary," I found myself performing the Gain-Radio equivalent of punning with words: finding correspondences between the most inapposite frequencies. Dr. Zinovia confessed that listening in that way had never occurred to her.
     More and more, I began to see the wisdom of throwing me out of the hospital into the outside world. At the simplest level, the outside world had so many more components than the hospital did. Endless combinations of circumstances that just didn't exist in the hospital helped form our experience.
     For the first time, I began to wonder if I would ever again be content in the hospital's narrow confines. But of course I had to return. As Dr. Dar had said, the future of the civilized world depended on my progress for the benefit of she who lay in coma back at the hospital deep under Roosevelt Island in what had once been New York City.


     As the days passed, the excitement of walking through the land that had once been Pennsylvania diminished to the commonplace. Without the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical challenges that the doctors in the hospital had placed before me, I felt that I was sinking into a stagnation of repeated thoughts and stereotyped actions.
     During the first days, while I was learning about this strange outside world, it excited and stimulated me. But now what I was learning had become incorporated into a routine that quickly became stale.
     On a typical day, I would wake to find Dr. Zinovia quietly regarding me. She would point out locally growing plants of the pink family, like bouncing bet, or shrubs related to the balloon vine, whose berries and leaves could be crushed in water to form a lathery, cleansing soap. I would pick fruit or berries for breakfast, varied by small supplies of root-vegetables I would gather as we walked through abandoned farms.
     Dr. Zinovia produced a tiny sewing kit from her backpack, as if she had foreseen that I would gash my clothing in ways that would destroy the self-repairing power of its velcro-like material. Her bodysuit remained impermeable; I never saw her eat.
     With the morning sun behind and slightly to our left, we walked west until we rested at midday for my largest meal of the day, occasionally supplemented by meat from a fresh kill I had made. Our walk would continue until twilight darkness forced us to halt near a pond or stream where I could wash off the sweat of the day's march.
     We avoided cities or towns, sometimes using roads and highways that had not yet been overgrown to the point of impassability. There were no vehicles to avoid, and no sounds of transportation, manufacturing, or industry of any kind. Amid rows of corn or other vegetables growing on distant hills we could sometimes spot moving dots that were people, but the survivors seemed content to remain in their rough villages, which we also avoided.
     The land flourished. Sunlight reflected off leaves of such vivid colors that the landscape seemed formed from flowers rather than from trees and bushes. Scatterings of jewels that were birds were flung from tree to tree, breaking the silence with their cries and calls. The understory of vegetation rustled with small mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. Bees, butterflies, ants, and other insects were everywhere, but Dr. Zinovia pointed out another plant whose leaves, when crushed onto exposed skin, formed an effective insect repellant. The renewed world was almost too perfect. How had it gotten so bad, before the epidemics? Could mere people have been responsible for so much destruction? Were people really that evil?
     To help me find answers to my questions, I insisted on meeting some of the survivors. Dr. Zinovia wanted to avoid them, but I finally convinced her that, as the doctors had sent me into the countryside to get away from their preconceived notions of my progress, she had to let me contradict her wishes that our travels avoid survivors.
     At last she relented, but only on the condition that I let her remain hidden. I had to agree that her appearance, her bodysuit, and her precise manner of talking would cause too much comment. It would be like throwing a high-strung, purebred poodle into a pack of mongrels.
     Dr. Zinovia seemed to consult an inner map and steered us somewhat south for a day, to get to an area that she said was likely to be inhabited by survivors from Amish communities. These, she said, had traditionally lived closer to nature. Possibly they had more easily made the necessary transition from industry to farming.
     Topping a small hill the next morning, we saw two campfires in the valley below, circled by small huts which were in turn surrounded by cultivated fields. Dr. Zinovia pointed to a hill on the west side of the valley and said that she would skirt the community and meet me at the top of the opposite hill at sundown. For the first time since we left the hospital two weeks ago, we parted.


     The villagers were aware of my presence long before I saw the small group of men standing close to the nearer fire. Their skins were dark from the sun and earth-caked from their morning's work in the fields.
     Then the wind shifted and I smelled them. Their odors became a wall surrounding them that I found almost impossible to pass without my face wrinkling into an obviously unpleasant, disgusted, sickened expression.
     "I'll get used to it in a bit," I thought, consoling myself, promising my stomach that it could relax its contorted knot in a short time. If they hadn't gotten used to it, no social encounters would have been possible. The odors of excrement, urine, rotted sweat, and unclean buccal fluids mingled in a symphony of nausea that I struggled against. My entrance would be ludicrous if I vomited before I spoke a single word.
     Not trusting myself to open my mouth yet, I opened my empty palms to their narrow gazes, hoping that I picked a signal of peaceful intentions. Their glances flicked from my face to my hands and back to my face. Their postures remained immobile.
     Within ten feet of the nearest man I had to stop, not trusting the elusive smile on my face to remain intact if I got any closer to the group stench. "Hello," I managed to push through my clenched teeth.
     "Unhk!" A gorilla might have made an equal sound of greeting.
     "My name is Frank."
     An incredible babble of sounds rose from three or four mouths and finally, from the rear of the group, an old man pushed forward.
     "You are not welcome here," he said, moving his tongue with care, as if avoiding marbles in his mouth.
     The gargling noises now erupted from almost every mouth in the group. I drew back, afraid for my safety and my sanity. Or had the outside world gone insane? While I struggled to think of a response, the old man lifted his head a bit higher and took a step forward, saying in a louder voice, "Can you understand me? You are not welcome here."
     "Why?" My question was almost involuntary; I felt I was in an environment totally foreign to any I'd encountered before in my life.
     "You speak the old words---the old words that killed the old world." And then he uttered more syllables, slowly, as if hoping I might grasp their meaning. When I could only gape, motionless, at him, he shook his head, "Only the new words are trusted in this new world."
     "But how can I learn these new words?" I felt my voice was that of a resentful child being told he couldn't join the grownups for dinner, but if the words I used were truly obsolete, possibly the very emotions I felt were no longer current.
     "You must be born into the tribe," he said more quietly, as if fearful to add weight to his use of the obsolete syllables. During our halting conversation, the other men began backing away, eyeing us mistrustfully, taking each other by the arm and whispering words I had never had a chance to learn.
     "How can I---"
     "You must stop talking; your words bring terrors back to us; they will kill you if you don't leave quickly." He turned his head slowly back and forth, indicating the loose group behind him, as he stepped slowly backward into its embrace. As if in final dismissal, he uttered more unintelligible words. The group members murmured their agreement.
     A unison chorus shouted one syllable that sounded like "Wah!" The force of the shout pushed me backward almost physically. Gathering courage at my retreat, the group repeated their excommunicating "Wah!", taking a menacing step toward me with raised arms that ended in closed fists.
     The old man, secure in his group, took advantage of a silence to raise an open palm in a kind of benediction, and his uttered "Gah!" contrasted with the menace of the rest of the group. Others of the group turned to shout at him; others turned to each other to rattle away with their new words. Not only was I unwelcome, I was making the old man, who had obviously tried to help me, more and more unpopular. I took a few tentative steps backward to evaluate their effect. The arguments stopped; all eyes turned toward me to see that I continued my retreat.
     As I took an exploratory step forward again, the old man shook his head, an unmistakable look of sorrow on his face, and he raised his fist above his head and shouted "Wah!" I had no possible chance of hearing another old word from his mouth. Silently, shaking my head slowly as if hoping to hypnotize them into stasis, I backed away from the group until their smells became distant and their faces were indistinct. As I turned and ran back into the woods, I had to brush tears from my eyes so that I could see where I was going.


     "Does that mean you could have told me what would happen?" Frustrated with my encounter with the "new people," I told Dr. Zinovia my story. I was equally frustrated with her total lack of surprise.
     "We weren't sure," she began. "We'd had some contact with the outside world after the illnesses subsided, and it appeared that the survivors increasingly distrusted anyone who survived with any civilization left. Then extremists strengthened their positions in the post-illness chaos, and the next explorers who left our hospital never returned."
     I didn't say anything. She had to continue: "We feared the worst." I remained silent. "It seems we were right to do so." An inarticulate sound guttered in my throat.
     "Are you speaking with new words now?" Dr. Zinovia's eyes peered up at me from a lowered head that concealed her amusement.
     "Why did we have to come all the way out here, travel this far---couldn't we have tested this after two days, rather than after---?" I waved my hands furiously and ineffectually, faintly hoping that she would dodge into my hands so that I could hit her, however inadvertently. Something about her composure made me stop.
     "We had to see Dr. Cetch," she stated.
     "Who? What?" For I recalled the echo from a faraway day: "Dr. Cetch is dead."
     "We," she said, as if talking to a three-year-old, pointing at herself and me, "had to see Dr. Cetch," she said, pointing past me to the fires we had just left.
     I almost lost my balance with the violence of thrusting my outstretched finger behind me. "That was Dr. Cetch?"
     Her amusement played with her lips as she simply nodded her assent.
     Suddenly, I reached out and shook her shoulders hard. "Tell me what's going on!"
     Her amusement changed to little-girl hurt. She genuflected out of my grasp and took two steps backward, her arms on her breasts as she massaged her crushed shoulders with her contralateral hands. "We had to know whether Dr. Cetch was here or somewhere else," she said petulantly. "We at the hospital didn't know whether he was alive or dead."
     I shouted angrily, "I think you're lying. You knew he was alive, but you didn't know something else. What!"
     "You sound like Dr. Bantellian; I'll tell you!" she hurried in one breath as I planted a menacing foot closer to her. I was in no mood for guessing games; she knew that.
     "We didn't know if he was here or not," she said slowly.
     "If he weren't here, where would he be?"
     "He'd be gone; he wouldn't be here; he would have moved his body somewhere else---" her voice rose in panic as I lunged forward to grip her angular shoulders in my fists. I had realized neither that my hands were so large nor that her shoulders were so small. I felt I could crush her body between my hands, and I felt that Dr. Zinovia sensed that very thought. "---just as you can move your inner body where you wish, we feared that Dr. Cetch could move his physical body anywhere he wanted---"
     "Where?" I roared, not letting her wriggle away.
     "Anywhere---." Her panic turned to fear. "Off this world---." Her fear increased as my pressure increased. "To another planet we may have had communication with---." I froze in astonishment; her voice rose to a scream: "---you---are---HURTING---me!"
     My hands separated; she fell to the ground. I spoke to the empty air in front of me: "Another planet?"


     "We don't know where it is. We're not even sure that it exists. We don't know if Dr. Cetch and Dr. De'Evilam were hallucinating when they reported hearing words from the other planet." Her words rose from the sobbing heap that lay below my notice. My blurred eyes tried focusing on individual trees, but my whirling thoughts only permitted me the reversed phrase "I can't see the trees for the forest."
     I thought of my journey to the heart of the sun. It lay, like a central neuron in my brain, indisputably there yet impossible of my direct realization. I knew it was there, but I couldn't think of how to hold it in my mind---I laughed: yet surely I was holding it in my mind.
     Dr. Zinovia's voice went on, describing theories, possibilities, experiments, double-blind tests concocted by the fertile imaginations of Dr. Cetch and Dr. De'Evilam. Yet as their imaginations expanded, the possibilities of their imaginations deluding them increased exponentially.
     "Another planet!" Theoretically ever-possible, yet tantalizingly eluding scientific verification. "Communication from another planet!" Life outside the earth! Or communication, perverted, from the underside of the brain. Then the thread of Dr. Zinovia's communication caused my brain to race into a parallel thought: could I in any way guarantee that my own thoughts were not from another planet?
     She was saying: "When Dr. De'Evilam said that she followed Dr. Cetch's instructions to the 'other place,' as they called it half in jest, she found only Chaos: a total lack of any discernible order. She suspected that Dr. Cetch imposed his own order on the Chaos, in effect made his own world---"
     The parallel thoughts in my brain diverged, then reconverged with giddy exhilaration: if Dr. Cetch could do that, I could do that! I could create my own world.
     My Self leaped from my body, permitting it to sink gently to the ground in a silent heap next to the sobbing Dr. Zinovia. I flew off into a parallel world which I had always known was there, and now my conviction made it real: the world of mathematics.
     When studying back at the hospital, I had had the idea that mathematics must have an existence independent of any one mathematician. Euler and Greene and Blazac didn't invent their mathematics from their own heads, they merely drew segments of it from the pre-existing mathematical world and gave their own formulations to ever-real mathematical truths. A million items---the reality of a grouping of a million items---surely that reality existed before a mathematical mind intelligent enough postulated such an existence.
     I created a reality: I erased the blankness of my mind and substituted the contents of the world of mathematics. The formulae and equations were there, expanded and solved, with the coefficients determined and the summations explicit. The equation of motion of my mind was this set of symbols, and the equation of motion of the Earth was that set of symbols, and the resultant diverging vector indicated the velocity of my mind fleeing the Earth.
     I investigated the field of Dr. Cetch's mind, and I isolated his equations of his motion on the earth. I verified that he was where his equations said he was on the Earth, and I read the coordinates of his disputed "other place." It was easy to transform my coordinates into his n-space and solve the equations for my mind's translation to the "other place." And I went there.
     And it was Chaos. When I tried to impose my order on it, I saw that I became blinded by my own order and only thought that the Chaos became my order. It held its own immutability: the "other place" was only a projection of fantasized desires.
     But I knew better how to create a world---and my mind laughed---no, not a world, but an entire universe! I again "unerased" the blackboard of my mind, and Einstein's field equations appeared, with the Cosmological Constant set to its proper value of Planck's Time Wavelength: vanishingly close to zero, yet not precisely zero.
     That made all the difference in the solution to the equations of mass of the universe. I ordered, both with the demand of my mind and with the ordering property of my brain, that the exact values of the parameters be substituted into the equations, and the cosmic computer ground out the results. The blackboard showed the infinitesimal weight required to offset the balance between an infinitely expanding, diffusing, thus dying, universe, and a universe that would, through the requirements of gravity, collapse again on itself in a Big Crunch that would rebound into the Big Bang of an ensuing universe---the truest "other place" there could ever be.
     I studied that infinitesimal weight required. As I ran through the table of weights of elementary particles, it was smaller than the smallest. As I ran through the charts of the tiniest detectable energies, it remained smaller than the smallest. It was a nonce, a mote---it was a thought!
     And I thought: "Let there be light!" The weight of that thought, created new at the critical moment, changed the last number in the last decimal place on my mental blackboard. As that single thought added the least perceptible iota of mass to the mass of the universe, a critical inequality sign in the pivotal equation on the blackboard shifted from < to > as the existing matter in the universe exceeded that required for closure.
     I, myself, by that one thought, had become the reason behind the creation of the universe which would ineluctably follow the Big Crunch that would climax the closure I had personally caused.
     As the lungs of the universe, which had expanded to the maximum with the impulse of the momentum of the Big Bang, reached their greatest inflation, various graphs on my mental blackboard peaked, leveled, and paused. Then, like a twinkling of stars, all the signs of the second derivatives changed as the lines on the graphs changed directions: the velocities of expansion changed from a positive outward velocity to a negative inward velocity; the measure of the radius of the universe changed from an increasing number to a decreasing number; the slope of the great Equation of Time began to close in on itself; the measure of the density of the universe, which could have dwindled to zero over infinities of time had the universe continued to expand without limit, now began to get larger as the master-force of gravity gained absolute dominion over each particle of mass and quantum of energy.
     That measure, the density of the universe, would continue to increase, while the radius of the universe---the radius of spacetime itself---would decrease to the unthinkably small: the Big Crunch.
     I could follow the progress of the universe through its reduction to a point. As the universe collapsed, the parameters of the equations on the blackboard shifted in their dance of relationships. In some equations, quantum limits were exceeded and entire spectra of energies winked out of existence. In other equations, the exponents grew so great that energy was transformed into matter, and the universe became a solid: surrounded neither by a vacuum, nor by the near-vacuum of space, but by sheer Nothingness, non-existence. Not even time remained as a residue outside the smooth sphere of the collapsing solid universe.
     Geometry itself swallowed its tail, like Ouroboros, permitting no points to exist, even in theory, outside the closed ball that contained the remains of all the art, literature, politics, lives, deaths, hopes, dreams, and even souls of the dying universe.
     Equations of motion vanished from the blackboard as only the nonrotating inward momentum remained. Density measures soared toward positive infinity; radius measures dwindled toward negative infinity. Only one indefinable complex of mass-time remained, described in three terse equations, and then the limits of two equations were reached and they disappeared as if they'd never existed.
     My thought rushed inward, contained within the central mass, yet at the same time removed and observant.
     All vanished below any awareness.
     Big Crunch.


     Big Bang!
     Equations reappeared on the board: first one, then three, but the last of the three was different in one decimal place from what it had been before.
     The new universe would not be the same as the old.
     This would be my universe; I had created it.
     I was the new Mother-Father Creator-God.
     Aeons passed while I watched the blackboard fill up with new equations that were subtly different from what they had been the last time around.
     Around! I took thought again: the universe just ended, the universe just begun: these were not the only two universes. The start of the one only happened to synchronize with the end of the other. In some ungraspable way "around" these universes were others, countless others, accessible to the thought that could get "around" to those others. The universe I was watching was as fully mine as each other universe was as fully someone else's.
     I left the universe that I had called mine and "thought through" other universes as a gigantic thumb would flip through single pages of a Catalog of Universes.
     Organisms---animals, sentient beings, cloud-brains, fire-amoebas, God-oceans---colonized planets of iron, ice, vapor, plasma, and earth. Galaxies of computer-libraries exhausted all possible data. Cosmic jitter-bugs evanesced in instants while lethargic leviathans lounged through millennia while moving the distance of their own width.
     Hells and heavens passed by my perusing gaze as I indulged my curiosity outside the constraints of time.
     There was justice for those who wished justice, and there was agony for those who were comfortable only with pain.
     Lives of joy, existences of frustration, and empyrean realms of solidified glory alternated with inchoate darkness and blazing energies.
     All that ever could be, was.
     Everything anyone could desire, is.
     I saw; I see.


     Time reclaimed me at last.
     Reluctantly, sated, I resettled into the universe that I had left after I created it. On a whim I followed it backward in time, and I was not surprised to find that all the appearances, all the equations, all the manifestations of that expanding-universe-viewed-backward were precisely those of my own contracting-universe-viewed-forward.
     Time was symmetric about its crux-points in the birth-deaths of the universes.
     New chords of Gain-Music played in my mind, and the walls in my Room of Understanding were painted completely, down into the tiniest corners of inquiry.
     I averted my mind as I zoomed from the end of this universe to the point where I'd left it. I was never the type to read the last page of a detective novel before I had read all the pages leading up to it. Perhaps in another lifetime---
     Like a touch by a chrysalis from which my imago had taken flight, my body caressed me and arrested my mind-flight through spacetime.
     For some moments I lay, re-entering the systems of my physical body, as if reconnecting my mainframe into my portable computer. Then I opened my eyes and saw Dr. Zinovia trying to remain calm as she watched my inert body. When she saw that my eyes had opened, she furtively brushed away the remnants of her tears.
     "Where did you go?" Her voice tried for a calmness she didn't feel.
     Thumbing through possible answers as I'd recently thumbed through universes, I responded, "I checked out Dr. Cetch's planet; it wasn't there: he was hallucinating."
     "How did you find out where to go?" She looked so frightened, so helpless, that I couldn't resist a rather sick joke.
     "I found the coordinates in your memory banks."
     Her reaction couldn't have been more extreme had I ripped off all her clothing. She scrambled frantically for something to say: "You---you can't change your brainprint!"
     "My memory's protected! It was designed to be closed to your probing. You can't have gotten in!" She clutched the sides of her head as if I'd been poking about in her ears. "How did you gain access?"
     I couldn't give up my chance for learning something: "Perhaps you could tell me that yourself?"
     "I didn't let you in!" Her statement was a scream for mercy. "Dr. Dar couldn't have given you the subtenders; Dr. De'Evilam---." Her eyes rolled up in her head so that only the whites showed. "Dr. De'Evilam? Did---"
     My statement was a roar of anger: "She's here!"
     "She---," and then Dr. Zinovia's eyes returned with a blaze of fury: "You tricked us; you've had no access and yet you've learned---"
     "You've not the slightest idea what I've learned!" I could feel my face contort with my determination for action. Reaching forward with my arms, I roughly drew Dr. Zinovia to my chest. Straining forward with my mind, I reconstructed the equations of spacetime and inserted our coordinates into the matrix on the blackboard. Blindly manipulating the controls of this universe, I translated our physical coordinates back to the hospital under the bedrock of New York City.
     The observer outside my body saw my mouth gape into a howl of command as Dr. Zinovia moaned and rolled herself into a tighter ball to escape the pressures of my arms. A breathless discontinuity brought a moment of silence, and my howl and her moan resumed and ended abruptly, encompassed by a familiar set of white walls with indistinct edges. We had returned to the hospital.


     My complex reflexes continued to hold her small body tightly, but as the extent of my growing mastery blossomed, I let my arms relax to my sides and she tumbled onto the floor. So many questions and possible answers cascaded through my mind that I could only breathe, deeply, again and again.
     "Frank, you are a sight!" Dr. De'Evilam materialized inside the door-wall, her expression conveying equal amounts of pleasure and astonishment.
     "Maybe you can tell Dr. Zinovia how I brought her here," I said with an attempt at sarcasm.
     "That trick won't work twice, Frank," said Dr. De'Evilam, her face relaxing into a genuine smile of welcome. "You surprised even me when you led Dr. Zinovia to think you'd breached her memory guards. And that in turn led Dr. Zinovia to lower her inhibition to communicate with me in your presence."
     "Tell me how you are!"
     Laughing, ignoring her support structures, I scooped Dr. Bantellian's tiny body out of her wheelchair, causing her enormous head to whiplash dangerously on her spindly neck, and I cautiously pressed her to my chest with love. "I can't tell you how much I've missed hearing that from you."
     "But I can, and you won't listen to me, but you have to listen to me." Dr. Andressin was talking even as the door opened to admit him. "And you are listening to me," he concluded happily, scurrying out of the way of my off-balance kick.
     I returned Dr. Bantellian to her wheelchair, giving Dr. Zinovia something to occupy her hands and mind: making sure that the support structure wasn't poking into the tender underflesh of Dr. Bantellian's head.
     "How many of you were out there with us?" I demanded this of the room in general, thinking that even Dr. Dar was somehow present.
     Dr. De'Evilam alone responded: "I wasn't there mentally; I was there physically. None of the others, not even Dr. Cetch, as you've found out for us, can be in more than one place at the same time."
     "Why couldn't you have located Dr. Cetch yourself, without sending me through those maddening forests?"
     "We have an aversion to each other," she replied. "As you've learned how strongly the physical desires can affect emotional and mental states, you can accept how our mutual aversion could affect my coming into contact with him in the wide outside world."
     Dr. Andressin laughed: "They're like those magnetized dogs that attract or repel each other. Except that each of the one's poles repels all of the other's poles." He laughed louder: "They just slide past each other, never coming into contact, never even realizing they've come close." He shouted with laughter: "Come close!"
     Dr. Andressin could very quickly wear out the feeling of welcome I'd had in seeing him again.
     "How was my progress through the outside world?", I enquired of Dr. De'Evilam.
     "Truly astounding," she said seriously. "I had hoped you would resonate more fully with the agricultural communities. I saw that you intellectually grasped the importance of subsistence farming: that the handling and husbanding of the earth truly lay under most concepts of productive living."
     "She wanted to farm you out," chortled Dr. Andressin.
     Dr. De'Evilam ignored him. "I was also sorry that you didn't avail yourself more of the lessons to be learned from Dr. Zinovia."
     "No, don't," pleaded Dr. Zinovia.
     Dr. De'Evilam placed a steadying hand on Dr. Zinovia's shoulder. "You have much to learn from your first teacher, Frank. Because you think, possibly correctly, that you have outgrown what Dr. Andressin has to teach, that doesn't mean that you have exhausted the resources of Dr. Zinovia."
     "Please," cried Dr. Zinovia, "let my part in this be finished."
     "This," I pushed in, "what is the 'this' that may be started or finished?"
     "This is your life," laughed Dr. Andressin.
     "This is what you are!" commanded Dr. Bantellian.
     "This is anything you would like it to be," said Dr. Dar quietly, having entered so silently that he seemed to materialize like Dr. De'Evilam.
     "But he can't materialize as I can," corrected Dr. De'Evilam. "And I can read only the thoughts," she went on, cutting off my protest before it could start, "that you have taken no pains to sequester from me. However, you choose to sequester many thoughts even from yourself, which effectively denies them from me. To answer your related question: brainprints, which not even you know how to change, are effective only on Dr. Zinovia's computer-implant memory, not on anyone's personal thoughts and memories."
     "Tell me about Dr. Cetch."
     As I uttered these words, all in the room looked to Dr. De'Evilam for a response. But her response was to wrinkle her nose, much as I had when I'd met the entire group of men in the far-off forest. And, like a Cheshire Cat, she faded out, leaving her disgusted nose to vanish last.


     Dr. Andressin stopped laughing long enough to give his explanation: "When all of us turned our thoughts to Dr. Cetch, we all repelled Dr. De'Evilam so literally that she left."
     Dr. Dar took up the explanation: "Dr. Cetch and Dr. De'Evilam had improved their productivity by indulging in competition with each other. Even you participated in this competition by receiving the Mystical-Seven Gain-Radio band from Dr. De'Evilam, even though Dr. Cetch had actually done the basic formulation of that band."
     "What difference does it make in the Gain-Radio band when someone other than the formulator gives it to you?" Though I wasn't interested in the actual formulation of the Gain-Radio bands, I had to admit that my spiritual progress---I no longer flinched at the word "spiritual"---was directly attributable to the Gain-Radio.
     "We don't know precisely, but we believe that each 'output' from a band---that is, each person that benefits from a band---subtly changes the 'input' to the band itself, so that each band of the same name changes slightly as each additional person hears the band."
     I protested, "This seems infinitely complex."
     Dr. Dar continued, "Sadly, it cannot be infinitely complex because we don't have an infinite number of people capable of taking the training to hear the bands."
     "What happened to the woman in coma?"
     "She remains in stasis."
     Dr. De'Evilam's voice floated through the room from no particular source: "But she cannot remain there forever."
     Dr. Andressin giggled: "Dr. Cetch's smell must have faded."
     "To return to Dr. Cetch," said Dr. Dar, and I felt a rustle of the air, signalling Dr. De'Evilam's departure. "He helped me formulate the Elemental-Seven band, and then he turned his attention to the Seven Above Mystical.
     "Now, Frank, you must become more accustomed to hearing what you might not wish to understand. You've mastered my Elemental-Seven band more thoroughly than I, its formulator, have managed to do. It hasn't been through my lack of desire or effort, but I haven't had the experiences in the outside world that you have relished and based new growth upon.
     "You've entered upon the Seven Above Mystical. I can only name the names of the levels; I can't describe the effects because," Dr. Dar cleared his throat of his gathering emotions, "because I haven't experienced them. Dr. Cetch died, much as you did in your premature exposure to the Mystical Seven, in 'Ground', the lowest of the Seven Above Mystical. A living duplicate of the dead Dr. Cetch then appeared, claiming that he'd been communicating with another planet of sentient beings.
     "Dr. Zinovia believed him, but Dr. De'Evilam, risking her life on the experiment, listened to Dr. Cetch's formulation of the 'Ground' frequency, and proved, as you did, that his planet was only an hallucination. Enraged, Dr. Cetch tried another formulation, whereupon he vanished from the hospital. Dr. De'Evilam used her own mastery of the 'Ground' frequency to attempt locating Dr. Cetch, but her aversion to him had been so reinforced that she could not tolerate being in the same area with him. That left you as our last hope of finding Dr. Cetch."
     "Why was it so necessary to find him?"
     "We had to make sure he hadn't secretly relocated here, in the hospital, and that he wasn't using the frequency-generating equipment to combat Dr. De'Evilam or even to destroy the hospital itself. Your finding him, as Dr. De'Evilam had verified through Dr. Zinovia, proved to us that his rage had rendered him impotent for further Gain-Radio research: he had burned through---consumed---his genius. He could neither contribute to additional frequencies nor interfere with the effects of the contributions of others."
     "So Dr. Cetch is truly dead as far as we are concerned," I said gloomily.
     Dr. Dar held my gaze in his as he said, "You have so far led a charmed life when it comes to your progress using the Gain-Radio. Your death," his smile showed his incapacity for holding in his wonderment, "catapulted you far ahead of most of us."
     A look of professorial grimness replaced his smile. "But you must keep in mind the dangers of the Gain-Radio. So far, you have experienced mainly advances; beware: setbacks are possible, even likely, as you continue up the ladder of frequencies. Let me now, however, continue with the chronicle of your accomplishments.
     "Dr. De'Evilam told me, because she has experienced it, that you progressed through the 'Ground' frequency as you traversed the spindle of symmetrical time forward and back between Big Bang and Big Crunch. You moved up, incredibly quickly, to the 'Fantasy' frequency when you thumbed through what you termed the Catalog of Universes."
     As Dr. Dar talked on, I was barely aware that Drs. Zinovia, Andressin, and Bantellian, wrapped in sad silence, had left the room. I knew without being told that their lack of progress upward on the Gain-Radio frequency-bands, despite their intense desires to advance, so depressed them that they couldn't bear to tantalize themselves with even the names of these unreachable frequencies.
     "And you attained---." Dr. Dar stopped, speechless with his emotions, in which I could detect bitterness, jealousy, and the most intense sadness. He turned and left the room. The presence of Dr. De'Evilam whispered in to fill his place.
     "And you attained 'Ecstasy', Frank, at the moment of your conviction that you could manipulate the fabric of spacetime and transport yourself and Dr. Zinovia back to this place."
     Dr. De'Evilam began to reappear as she continued: "I can return to you now that Dr. Cetch is truly dead for all of us here."
     "Why did you hate him so completely?"
     "Our emotions do not flow in one direction only. To know the heights of love, we must experience the depths of hatred. Only when we have cried under the most intense sorrow can we recognize and appreciate the summits of joy. To say that we can have joy without sadness is like saying we can have light without dark or a mountaintop without a valley for contrast."
     As Dr. De'Evilam coalesced more concretely, I could feel my love for her glowing more intensely.
     "Your feelings, Frank, couldn't reach their present level of closeness to me unless you had felt an equal level of despair over the loss of your wife and son." I searched futilely for remnants of that past pain. "And one of the blessings of being in physical form is that your brain and even your body have developed barriers, cushions, and forgetfulnesses that shelter you from your former anguish. But the truth remains that your heart can hold only as much pleasure as pain has hollowed it out."
     I couldn't speak. I wanted to argue, to say it wasn't true, but my unspoken emotions verified that what Dr. De'Evilam said was true. "I'm not sure I want to go on," I choked hoarsely.
     "I won't pity you," said Dr. De'Evilam coolly, "but how would you respond if I begged for your assistance in the construction of the rest of the Gain-Radio frequency-bands for the Seven Above Mystical?"
     Though my physical body shrank from the thought, my mind and emotions leaped to acquiesce: "I'd love it!"
     Dr. De'Evilam smiled, "Another manifestation of that most elusive of words: love."


     I didn't smile much during the next couple of days. I worked to assimilate the concentrated instructions for the frequency-generating equipment from Dr. De'Evilam. The peripheral equipment was simple enough: sound synthesizers that could take any input and produce the sounds of any instruments playing the input frequencies.
     But the central, analytical equipment eluded my comprehension.
     "Frank," said Dr. De'Evilam, "you can understand, I think, the theory of tonal extrapolation: any melodic passage can be extended and elaborated by chromaticism, modulation, polytonality, and serialization, all of which can be used in canonic, fugal, or variational combinations."
     "The musical aspects are not my problem," I said. "I don't understand how the brainprint structures are probed to determine how to advance the frequency-band to the next higher level."
     "An analogy might help you, Frank. Think of each lobe of your brain as a bell, each with its specific structural characteristics. These bells have no fixed clappers; they can be struck with any intensity from any direction with any kind of impact.
     "The sound from each bell changes depending on how hard the bell is struck, where on the bell the impact comes, the material used in striking the bell, and particularly on the intensity-curve of the impact itself."
     "How is that intensity-curve controlled?"
     "Frank, when a physical object strikes a physical bell, you can only pad or sharpen the impacting object, strike the bell more or less directly, and strike with greater or lesser force. But with the analog signals generated by our control levers and wheels, each impact can be tailored for a precise effect.
     "Each impact might be followed by the same, or a different, impact a millisecond later, in effect hitting the bell much faster than any physical agent could possibly move. The gamut of sound-input is virtually unlimited."
     "I can see how these possibilities require large computational resources, but why are the auxiliary memory banks so enormous?"
     "I'm hoping that the previous advances from frequency to frequency can be analyzed to reveal subtle patterns of development, so that guesswork can be eliminated from our process. When five of us were working to develop the frequencies, there was a synergistic effect, especially at the lower frequencies. Now there are only two of us, working toward the more difficult higher frequencies."
     "What are the banks of brain simulators doing now?"
     "I've suggested a few million possible frequency combinations, but I must first test them against our stored brainprints for lethality."
     "The wrong step may literally kill us. You died when you prematurely experienced part of an octave higher than your brain could endure. That was the Mystical Seven. But in this Seven-Above-Mystical band, each step is as radical a change in power as each octave was before. To return to my analogy with bells: the wrong impact could freeze the entire carillon---the brain---or shatter its supporting structures, or melt the bells closest to the impact point, or rupture the fabric in other ways that we can't predict. The brain simulators have saved us from death thousands of times as I'm speaking to you."
     "What happens with the impacts that don't destroy our brains?"
     "They're relayed to the physiological simulators. Impacts that may not damage the brain may be transmitted along the neural networks to destroy other parts of the physical body. Those that qualify for further checking are passed on to the emotional and mental simulators."
     "But only those impacts that don't damage the brain are transferred to the physiological simulators; why test the brain again?"
     "Frank, the mental simulator checks the functional damage that might be done: it checks, in a sense, for damage to what you think. The brain simulator checks for any structural damage that might affect how you think. We need to eliminate changes of both kinds before we can even begin to try them."
     "How do you try those that pass all the tests?"
     Dr. De'Evilam laughed: "Very carefully! We don't have the luxury, as in the past, of determining the minimum lethal dosage. We've gotten to the point where our brains might be destroyed to such a massive extent that no amount of rescue-work by Dr. Dar or Dr. Bantellian could restore our functioning."
     I hoped I didn't detect any condescension in Dr. De'Evilam's statement. Not for the first time, I felt a chill of apprehension, standing on our distant peak of accomplishment with the Gain-Radio frequency-bands. We were moving farther and farther from any hope of rescue if anything catastrophic happened to us during our testing.
     Dr. De'Evilam had tried a few test-frequencies on me over the past few days. One had made me physically ill for three unpleasant hours, another had caused a headache so severe that only microsurgery with Dr. De'Evilam's laser wand had relieved my agony.
     She had experienced somewhat more of the test-frequencies, administered at my hands, but she took great care to shield her reactions from my awareness. She merely shook her head and said that the effect was no advancement over the previous band of 'Ecstasy'.
     My anxiety had peaked at the moment I'd heard we were working on the frequency of 'Dreaming': another of those damned D-frequencies! I was also disappointed because she had told me before I left for the outside world that she had been working on this frequency. Though I was impatient for more, I had to resign myself to the enormity of the work we had undertaken.
     Each morning we ran through the gamut up from the Middle Seven. How familiar these seemed, compared with their foreignness when I'd first heard them so long ago. Dr. Andressin was usually present for our progress through the Higher Seven. As their formulator, his manic energy embellished that frequency-band each time we traversed it.
     Even Dr. De'Evilam was not yet entirely comfortable with the Mystical Seven, which made my mistrust of some of its echoes and terrors easier to bear: 'God', 'Freya', 'Enkidu', 'Dor', 'Canopus', 'Baal', and 'Agni' swept through our systems as we experienced them together in the hopes of synergizing their assimilation.
     "Your trouble with 'Dor' seems reflected in my difficulty with 'Canopus'," whispered Dr. De'Evilam when we writhed on our couches as the frequencies rose inexorably higher. "I almost wish Dr. Cetch were here to help us out with it."
     I chose to interpret Dr. De'Evilam's mention of Dr. Cetch as a positive step in her coming to terms with his so-called death. "You just want another guinea pig to help with our tests," I murmured back to her.
     Each time we listened to the Mystical Seven, the frequencies became at the same time more familiar and more mysterious. We learned about their interactions without really knowing the extent of their power. Dr. De'Evilam refused to tell me where she got the name, 'Dor', of the frequency I had most difficulty with. I tried helping with Dr. De'Evilam's assimilation of 'Canopus', but I made a mistake when I observed aloud that Dr. Cetch's name started with the same difficult letter.
     That was when I panicked about further progress: if Dr. De'Evilam finally formulated 'Dreaming', it would be despite my fear and aversion to that frequency. How could I possibly tackle the unnamed frequency above that when Dr. De'Evilam was uncomfortable with the very idea of its first letter. We put the approach of the subsequent B and A frequencies of the Seven Above Mystical out of our thoughts. We might never live to finish 'Dreaming'.


     Dr. De'Evilam almost died on her next test of the formulation of the 'Dreaming' band. My guilt was intense because I'd become enwrapped in my own rich memories of the Big Bang and the Big Crunch as we ascended through the Gain-Radio frequencies to the level of 'Ground' in the Seven Above Mystical. I recalled my awe of the Catalog of Universes as we soared through 'Fantasy', and I felt tempted to alter spacetime with the sheer joy of my capability of doing so as we listened to the frequencies in the 'Ecstasy' band.
     And then Dr. De'Evilam began screaming. She threw herself off her couch, spewing blood which I couldn't determine was internal or from a superficial mouth-wound. Again and again she screamed; Dr. Zinovia rushed in to see if she could help after I turned off the experimental sound of 'Dreaming', faintly audible from Dr. De'Evilam's earphones.
     Dr. Zinovia gave me a look that bordered on hatred, then dashed out of the room to return with Dr. Dar. As Dr. De'Evilam's pain subsided, the three doctors banded together to force me to promise not to try any more experiments for at least a week.
     I was pushing too fast, I feared.
     Over the following days, the melody from "The Student Prince" that contained a soaring phrase ending with "filling all the air with dreaming" never seemed to be far from my mind.
     Denied the use of the sound generators, I pored over graphs of my own making, trying to capture the nature of the parameters that enabled the sounds from the Gain-Radio to force the physiological brain into new territories.
     Then, in a dream, I found the clue to 'Dreaming'.
     I had so filled my brain with the tonal puzzles I'd set for myself that my sleeping mind began figuratively regurgitating unneeded data: I dreamed myself in the middle of the laboratory, destroying equipment and tearing notebooks of tonal data to tatters.
     No rage impelled my actions: they followed the cool illogic of my dream-rapt mind. All the mechanical, technical, and graphical aids vanished as I insisted on a clean sweep, as if the blackboard of my mind were being erased to allow room for insights not based on past information.
     Emptied, I waited. Nothing filled the void.
     I lost patience with nullity, so I began to review pages of theories neatly enumerated by Dr. De'Evilam. Theory after theory, graph after graph, equation after equation spooled through my memory. Words and figures became a blur like the whirling reels of symbols seen through the windows of a slot machine.
     It was such a gamble: coming up with the right formulation out of the infinity of possibilities.
     The odds were astronomical: ten to the tenth to the tenth to the---and in my dream the ascending ladder of an impossibly enormous number threaded out to a simple alternation of the numbers one and zero. All numbers were representable in the binary code of the computer, either on or off. An electrical charge or no electrical charge: yes or no.
     On or off, yes or no. And "on" was just "no" backward. "0" the number was exactly like "o" the letter. "0" and "n"; "n" and "0". And "n" was any number, and any number was just "1" and "0" in sufficient number---enough numbers---had I had enough numbers?
     Now "I" was also "1", interchangeable with "I". WAS I interchangeable with a number---even with the simplest number, one? Of course, I was either I or not-I: either 1 or 0. Here or not-here. Existent or non-existent. Like everyone else. The earth was a computer-memory bank stippled with ones and zeros: here a person, here not a person.
     If the volume of "here" were small enough, that stipple of ones and zeros could equally well denote the presence or absence of elephants, horses, dogs, mice, fleas, microbes, viruses, molecules, atoms, quarks---and even the components of quarks which were the ultimate building-blocks of matter. And they were merely there or not there, 1 or 0, present or absent; and that was what the universe was---a scatter of blips and not-blips, things and no-things.
     This or that: that's all there was! Not even these and those, because "these" was simply a collection of "this and this and this" as far as existing.
     "This or that" encompassed "dreaming or not-dreaming" in my dream which now flickered into a seeming-reality. Though I still dreamed, I dreamed of waking and writing down the dream, and the words of the dream were no more or less real than the dream itself. I who was dreaming was no more or less real than the dream or the "reality" I was living.
     What if I, Frank (and I wondered, in my dream, if I'd ever dreamed of my name before), only existed in somebody else's dream, and that somebody only a dream in a larger dream---the dream of the God I had once been. What if I were dreaming me, dreaming the stream of numbers one and zero that comprised the universe, dreaming the stream of letters which were the books that I had read and the letters which comprised the letters that I had written and mailed into the universe that was merely a succession of zeros and ones that I myself had dreamed.
     The initial O of Ouroboros had curled around the word itself and was now firmly clasped in the teeth of the s at the end, forming a circle of letters that became a simple O, and every other word became a pure bubble of nothingness: O! And the exclamation point became a 1, so that O! became 01 and it turned, or I circled it (with another O): and now it became 10; that duplicated and reduplicated, becoming a multiplicity of infinite number: 10 to the tenth to the tenth....
     I struggled in my sleep, with my sleep, with my sleeping I. My previous experiences were only a dream! I had not died, had only dreamed of the Gain-Radio, would wake next to my wife---I struggled to remember her name---it couldn't have been so long ago: I only dreamed of the passing time---my wife was named---is named---Anna!
     With a jolt I woke, yet still in a dream---or in THE dream---and she was there beside me (why couldn't I remember her face clearly?)---and then she was gone, dissolved into another layer of dream, into multiple layers of dreams that enveloped me like a shroud.
     That's what death was! Death was only a dream---or was it the obverse: a waking from the dream of life into the real, true existence. The real, true existence? The words glowed before my eyes in the dream of a dream---or in A dream of THE dream---and shifted like smoke into a string of zeros and ones that flew off into the nonexistent void.
     How could a void be nonexistent? Some cosmic Gertrude Stein laughed "A void is a void is a void" and I laughed back "Avoid is avoid is avoid" which alternated with "A woid is a woid is a woid." All words and voids were to be avoided. All voids were full of nonexistent words from Brooklyn.
     I lay helpless. Could I ask for help? I wanted Dr. De'Evilam, who appeared, then opened her mouth into an O of a laugh that stretched to swallow her face and then the rest of her body. Everyone else is as unreal as I! As unreal as 1! As unreal as !
     Sentences with "ten" removed were "sences" that became "nonsences." The universe became an anagram: sunivere, veriesun; or eeinrsuv, in alphabetical order. The alphabet! How arbitrary! When I thought "alphabet," I thought a mere 26 characters. How inferior to the Japanese with hundreds, the Chinese with thousands! The universe was an alphabet of quintillions of individual letters, all different---yet mere alternations of zero and one.
     How could I get out of this? Wake up? Into what? Fall into a deeper sleep---into the same what or a different what? All whats are the same: 1 and 0, on and off, one and none. N-ONE.
     Timeless (the most intricate dream of all!) I floated in dream or non-dream. I'd experienced all the apotheoses there were to experience. Where could I go when (there was nowhen) there was nowhere to go?
     I willed myself awake and woke up and willed myself awake and woke up and willed myself awake and woke up until I lost count. Count!? Three was only one and one and one. There was no need for three; even the two words "there" and "three" were the same except for a transposition of two letters. And the only two letters needed were I and O, 1 and 0.
     I, the 1, had painted myself into a corner which was an all-encircling 0 in the middle---not in the middle: the 0 WAS the universe. And the 0 shrunk-fit to the form of the 1 and there was nothing to distinguish from anything else.
     Yet I, in or out of dream, continued.
     I was getting tired of getting nowhere.
     I woke and I woke and I woke and I woke and I woke...
     I slept and I slept and I slept and I slept...
     I dreamed that I dreamed that I dreamed that...


     I had fallen asleep to dream on a cot in the frequency-generating chamber. I wondered whether the electromagnetic variances in the room had adversely affected my brain, producing the convolutions of last night's dreams.
     Blindly, not fully cognizant of what I was doing, I stumbled to the knobs of the central generator and, it seemed at random, dialed them in series to maximum-on or maximum-off: 1s and 0s. Like a pained drunk with an implacable hangover I vented my nausea on the frequency-generating computer.
     I switched, dialed, connected, and disconnected, exhausting my exhaustion on the controls.
     Utterly drained, totally hopeless, I performed the emotional equivalent of kicking the machines that I blamed for bringing me to this state.
     The memory of that fetid old man back in the "real" world boiled up in my mind like vomit in my throat.
     "Gah!" he had said.
     As I turned on the sound of the resultant frequency that my stupor had generated, my mind filled with the sound of "Gah!"
     A tone shook the room. I'd neglected to designate a decay-time, so the tone rumbled endlessly. My knees unlocked and I sat down, hard, on the floor. "Gah!"
     The tone continued, indomitable.
     I had never heard such a tone before, neither in all the frequencies of the Gain-Radio nor in any natural occurrence. It was the sound of the ground opening in an earthquake, of the world-tree groaning as it is felled, and of the soul as it is slain: the sound moaned unyieldingly.
     Yet it was the embodiment of the sound of yielding, the sound of collapse, dissolution, and despair.
     Not violent, it partook of sadness and termination. It continued, proclaiming utter darkness and the void.
     "Stop that!" thundered Dr. De'Evilam, appearing in the midst of the tone. "Stop that now!" she shrieked. Turning her unsolidified body to the control panels, she raked her ghostly fingers unavailingly over the knobs. "Stop that!" she howled, vanishing in retreat.
     Startled by my reluctance to obey her, I staggered to my feet and stopped the tone. Its remnant pulsed solidly in the air like a stormcloud. Overtones died away slowly as my view of the room, which had been quivering before my eyes, stabilized. My eyes glazed over as I felt backward for the enfolding arms of a chair into which I sank, drained.
     Dr. De'Evilam's voice poured from the direction of the ceiling: "What were you trying to do?"
     "I don't know," I responded as honestly as I could. "I'd wakened from a dream, trying to work on the frequencies for 'Dreaming', and---and did that," I whispered, waving weakly at the computer-bank in front of me.
     "But what was it?" Her form, at the lower limit of my vision, took shape between me and the computer.
     "Gah!" It was the only possible answer to her impossible question.
     For a moment she stared at me, her face coalescing around her stern eyes, her body following in solidness below her face. Then she reached for her Gain-Radio around her neck and twisted it toward me as she tapped the panel to show Elemental Seven. She began at 'Ground', the Earth, and that tone filled the room.
     Slowly but steadily, staring into my eyes, she tuned her Gain-Radio to lower and lower frequencies: 'Fire', 'Ether', 'Drowning', 'Chaos', 'Beyond', 'Absolute'. That last tone, the lowest yet formulated, vibrated in the room with crushing finality. Dr. Dar's last, best effort, the bottom of the Elemental Seven range, had seemed truly unsurpassable.
     Dr. De'Evilam pointed commandingly at the console, her eyes never loosening her gaze on mine. I understood. I returned to the controls and unleashed my tone into the room once more. Unquestionably it followed, fell below, the lowest range of the Elemental Seven.
     "STOP it!" pleaded Dr. De'Evilam. I shut if off at once, but we both knew what I had done.
     "I can't stand that tone for more than a moment," she said softly, then in an amused tone, "You even named it properly."
     "Named it?" I felt as if I had still not wakened from the dream that had produced this tone.
     "The highest frequency of the Seven Below Elemental, as I've thought of it---but if you don't like that name, you can choose your own."
     "The Seven Below Elemental!" In fact, I had thought of the same nomenclature for the unsought frequency-band that would eventually take its place below Dr. Dar's Elemental Seven, mirroring the name of Dr. De'Evilam's Seven Above Mystical that took its place above Dr. Cetch's Mystical Seven.
     Dr. Dar had sacrificed his researches into additional frequencies when he was unable to assimilate even the lowest of the Seven Above Mystical. He had thought it fruitless to work on additional frequencies without a comprehension of the existing frequencies. He worked now solely to support the efforts of myself and Dr. De'Evilam.
     Into my continuing stunned silence Dr. De'Evilam projected the word I had used: "Gah!" she said, "starts with the letter G, which is what the name of the highest frequency of the Seven Below Elemental would start with, if you choose to maintain the previous convention."
     "If I choose---?" My mind struggled as in a nightmare, striving to keep up with a conversation that seemed ever to run just ahead of its maximum exertions.
     "You've gone ahead of me," Dr. De'Evilam said with sadness in her voice. "I've not yet finished, even with your help, the Seven Above Mystical," she paused for effect, "and you've already begun with the Seven Below Elemental."


     My feelings of dread did not abate. I felt that I had reached my zenith of creativity at the precise instant I reached my nadir of despair as I created the first frequency of the Seven Below Elemental. Never again could I feel so exalted and so depressed at the same time. I could never produce another tone. My usefulness was finished. My dread increased.
     Dr. De'Evilam noted my dread without addressing it. She and I passed through our days attempting to find the 'Dreaming' frequency as before, but we both knew my soul wasn't cooperating. My meals with Dr. Zinovia were taken in silence. Dr. Andressin suspended his attempts at humor after a few murderous glances from me.
     "Tell me how you are!" But not even Dr. Bantellian could get a coherent response from me.
     "I am just as you see me," I retorted.
     "That tells me nothing!"
     "You see nothing?"
     "I see darkness, lack of enthusiasm, and a dearth of ideas. That is worse than nothing if you give me no further data," riposted Dr. Bantellian, leaning dangerously forward in the wicker supports of her wheelchair.
     "Any data I could give you would be worse than the nothing you have now!" I shouted at her, forbidding myself to feel sorry for all these people wishing me well and not able to dig me out of my pit of depression. "Why don't you leave me alone?"
     "That is not in my nature," she shouted back at me, then glared and whirled about to wheel herself from my room.
     "But you expect me to change my nature," I hollered at her departing back.
     She spun to face me, whispering in such a fierce intensity that I involuntarily leaned forward to listen to her words: "I expect you to return to the nature you had before you changed your nature---for the worse!"
     "I've changed?"
     "Yes," she hissed, "ever since we permitted you to withdraw our control over your actions. You have not progressed nearly as rapidly as you had at the beginning."
     I had to come to my defense: "But progress is easy in the beginning; I started knowing nothing: I had to learn quickly or else I wouldn't have been able to function."
     "You are not functioning now," she said, using the rhythm of a metronome for a dirge. To that I had no response. "Can you tell me why!", she demanded after waiting for me to volunteer anything at all.
     "Yes," I shouted, "I'm tired! I've worked solidly here since I got back from the outside world. I've wanted to advance but I feel that I'm breaking my head against an unbreakable wall!"
     "When did you last feel that way?"
     I thought for a moment and replied with the beginning of calmness: "When I first woke up here; I didn't realize that it had been so long since I felt I was making no advancement."
     Dr. Bantellian's voice was more gentle than I'd ever heard it before: "Then perhaps you ought to talk with Dr. Zinovia."


     Two days of talking to Dr. Zinovia elapsed before I could actually communicate with Dr. Zinovia.
     My first attempt at conversation resulted in incoherent reproaches and tears from Dr. Zinovia. Only gradually did I realize that I was speaking with a woman feeling an intense hurt that had become embittered. And finally the hurt resolved itself into the jealousy and hatred that Dr. Zinovia felt toward Dr. De'Evilam and me. At length the conversation became bearable for both of us.
     "I know I was thoughtless; I was stupid to do what I did," I admitted to Dr. Zinovia. "You must forgive me."
     "It's too late; it's already been done; we can't go back," she said sullenly. "I can't forgive you."
     "But you must," I said too quickly.
     "I must, must I?" Dr. Zinovia gave a harsh laugh. "I thought you were the only one who must do anything around here. You---oh, you're our savior!"
     "No, no," I breathed, trying to touch her before she jumped from her chair and moved across the room from me. "We all have our work to do."
     "My work is to support you," she spat back at me. "When you don't need me, I must do nothing but wait until you do need me."
     "But I need you now," I pleaded.
     "Now it's too late," she sneered. "You can't ignore me for weeks, not after we'd been together for so long---out there!" She flung out her arm as if to bludgeon the outside world.
     "But---but nothing happened between us out there."
     "Did it ever occur to you that that might be the problem?" Dr. Zinovia turned to face me, reflections glinting off the parallel rows of tears beneath her facemask. "Did you ever think that I might have wanted something to happen?"
     "But you---." I said before I knew how to finish what I'd started. "You didn't---I never---"
     "I didn't what? You never what?" Venom tinged her voice, venom that stung me to total silence. "What!" she demanded.
     Finding me unable to respond, she waited, facing me, for perhaps ten second before lifting her right hand to her left shoulder. A slight puff of expelled air was the only sound as her hand opened a vee in the material of her bodysuit. Pulling her hand diagonally down across her body, the suit peeled away from her breasts and the right half of her torso. Without a word she moved her left hand to her right waist, grasped the material there, and pulled her left arm back to her left side, opening a lower panel that bared her groin.
     As I stood unmoving, she reached with both her hands between her legs and ripped both leggings down their inner seams, which tore down to the soles of her feet, lifting the material from the tops of her feet from her insoles to her outside ankles. Her breasts lifted along with her arms as she hooked her thumbs under her facemask, and with one motion she raised the suit's helmet from her head, with the rest of the suit's material hanging limply from its base, and threw it away from her.
     I had never seen anyone naked in the past twenty years. Her nakedness seemed more complete because the hair on her head was somehow held away from her face, and the hair on her groin was fair to the point of invisibility. Except for her breasts, she looked prepubescent. "Did you ever want this?" she asked.
     "I---," I began, not knowing what to say.
     Her entire body seemed to sag as if slightly deflated through an invisible valve as she said, "You couldn't even say 'yes' to be kind to me." She fell to her knees, twisting her head to the side so I couldn't see her sudden rush of tears as she tried to stifle her sobs.
     "Oh, no," I gasped, as I rushed to lift her from the floor to erase my impression that she had knelt to plead with me to take her. But she misunderstood.
     "Oh, you do want me," she breathed, and she threw her arms around my neck and pressed her lips against my own. I tried to struggle upward, to lift her off the floor, and she used that force as a lever to raise us from the floor and to wrap one strong leg firmly around mine. "You do want me," she murmured.
     I couldn't remove my lips from hers because she had grappled the back of my head toward hers with her hands. She interpreted my twisting to free myself as my growing passion until, to my shame, I felt my own passion growing: almost despite myself, I felt my penis stiffening against the inside of my clothing.
     "Yes," she breathed on her exhale, and somehow as she inhaled she simultaneously parted my suit on one side. She stepped back slightly so that she could pull the cloth from between us. The brush of the fabric was so erotic that my testicles rose against the base of my penis in a spasm of pleasure.
     "Yes," she whispered, now on an inhale, and she reached down so quickly that my penis was inside her before the sibilance of her word had died in my ear.
     Perversely, I found myself wondering how she could be so expert at movements she theoretically had no experience with. Even more perversely, I found such thoughts, and the conclusions I drew from them, powerfully stimulating.
     "Yes," she growled, arching her back as she pushed against me with her mouth and her groin at the same time. Her skin slipped so silkily through my hands that I found myself pulling that flesh toward me rather than pushing it away from me. I fiercely wanted what I should not want!
     She's like a daughter to me, I thought, attempting to stop myself, but even that barbarous thought sauced our sensuality. The next "Yes" was uttered by both of us in tandem, and then I heard my own rough sounds rasping through my vocal cords as I felt my own illicit fluids rocketing through my penis. And from her there came one, final, triumphant "Yes!" as she felt the influx of my orgasm.


     The next moment was a whirl of confusion. Dr. De'Evilam materialized inside the door as it slid open to admit a red-faced Dr. Dar and an unusually solemn Dr. Andressin. Instinctively, I backed away from Dr. Zinovia, but it was to her that they hurried, wordlessly grabbing her by the arms to rush her out of the room as she fought them, screaming, "No, no, no!"
     Dr. De'Evilam remained, flickering in and out of corporeality with the fluctuations of what I took to be her disgust. She hissed, "How could you," and then to my total surprise began to weep. I had not believed her capable of such a human emotion.
     "How could you," she whispered helplessly, and then drew herself upright to address me directly---and then could not. "I must see if I can save her," she muttered, dismissing me completely, and she began to move toward the closed door as she vanished.
     If only she had left me truly alone in the room. My guilt and my disgust at my own actions battled for superiority in my brain against a lingering sense of intense pleasure. My mind repeated the echo of the statement: "How could I."
     She was so young. I had thought she was a virgin, but though I cursed myself with the casualness of my examination, I could find no traces of blood on my body. One primitive level of my animal brain sneered and said, "She was a slut because she was begging for it." The higher levels of my brain promptly slapped the primitive back down where it belonged. "How could I."
     But I had. In all my experiences in and out of dreams, this was the one that I most wished I could awake from. Not only did I not awaken, but the bad dream turned into a nightmare. Dr. De'Evilam coalesced smokily in the corner of the room farthest from where I sat in my chair. "We could not save her," she said simply. "Dr. Zinovia is dead."


     My choked cough dribbled saliva down my chin. My attempt at some question---any question---produced a strangled cry of pain, resentment, and denial.
     "We couldn't be sure this would happen," Dr. De'Evilam went on, "but perhaps it would have been better had we warned you about the possibility."
     I croaked out "Warned?"
     "Your semen," Dr. De'Evilam began, and then she paused; I had never heard her at a loss for words. She concluded, "poisoned her."
     "Do you want to hear this now or later?" inquired Dr. De'Evilam, watching me closely.
     Dr. De'Evilam's flat statement affected me little: "You didn't feel very deeply for her."
     "I thought not; it was a pity that Dr. Zinovia didn't know that. She wouldn't have thrown herself at you."
     "While Dr. Andressin and Dr. Dar were attempting to withdraw your semen from Dr. Zinovia, I reviewed the circumstances of the last few minutes in this room." Dr. De'Evilam gestured briefly toward my ceiling.
     I gagged in the back of my throat as I tried to pierce the opaque ceiling to discern the video monitor, then looked down at Dr. De'Evilam with unspeakable fury: "You?"
     She gazed at me, fascinated: "You're more disturbed about being spied upon than you are about Dr. Zinovia's death."
     "I---." That single syllable rose to a tortured shriek of rage as emotions tore at me from every side: anger at being spied upon, disgust with myself at my anger, sorrow at Dr. Zinovia's death, and a shocked loathing of myself at the order in which I recognized these emotions. I intended to shout "Go!" to psychically push Dr. De'Evilam away from me so that I could sort out my emotions myself, but an involuntary syllable tore from my throat.