by Bill Bowler
The old gentleman sat Jenny in an easy chair. “Still feeling OK? No bumps or bruises? You might have broken something.”
Jenny smiled. “I’m fine, thanks.” She rubbed her hip and knee. “A little sore, but I’m still in one piece thanks to you.”
“Excellent! Please make yourself comfortable and I’ll go put up a pot of tea.”
He disappeared into the rear of his shop. Jenny heard the sound of running water and the clatter of cups and saucers. She leaned back into the chair and took a look around the room: a desk covered with stacks of paper, a phone, a computer, a couple of chairs, a coffee table, bookshelves packed with books. A framed diploma hung on the wall. Sunlight streamed through the front window and Jenny studied the backwards letters on the glass.
The man came back into the room and put two china teacups on the table.
“Are you Professor Dibble?” Jenny asked.
“Yes, I am.”
“I’m Jenny Clearfield.”
“Pleased to meet you, my dear.”
“Do you mind if I ask what you do, Professor?”
“Not at all.” Preston sat down beside Jenny. “I’m something like a private detective, or at least I like to think of myself as one, a kind of Sherlock Holmes or Nero Wolfe.” Preston paused and smiled. “Of course, it’s not that exciting. I’ve conducted a great deal of research, but my field of specialization is extremely narrow. I taught for many years, first in Zagreb and then at MIT, where I was head of the Para-normal Phenomena Lab, after I came to America. I’m retired now, had to make way for the younger generation coming up through the ranks, but I continue to do consulting work for private clients. I investigate psychic phenomena.”
“I don’t believe in that stuff.”
“Neither do I, in most instances. There are, however, very significant exceptions.”
“I know. I know. The field is full of charlatans and hucksters, yet there are certain phenomena that are possible to observe and measure but very difficult to explain without recourse to the psychic arts and sciences. I’m talking about telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, astral projection, that sort of thing.”
The teapot whistled from the back room.
“I’ll be right back. You’re looking much better. Your color has returned.”
“Yes, I’m fine now,” said Jenny.
Preston left the room. When he returned and put the teapot on the table, Jenny stood up from the chair and glared at him. The color had drained from her face and her eyes were wild. The teacups began to rattle on the saucers.
“Get away from me!” she screamed. “You think you’re fooling me? I know what you’re up to! Get out of my way!”
As Jenny moved towards the door, Preston’s papers flew off the desktop. He felt a force like an invisible wind. It grew to hurricane strength, pushed him back across the room and pinned him to the wall.
Jenny stormed out, slammed the door, and the invisible force subsided. Preston slid down the wall and sat on the floor, unhurt. His papers drifted down like autumn leaves and carpeted the floor. He saw that Jenny’s groceries had spilled again. She’d forgotten them. He got to his feet, put the groceries back in the bags, and gathered up his papers.
Deep in thought, he sat at the desk and took a sip of tepid tea. He needed more factual information, of course, more direct observation, but current circumstances were pointing him in an unexpected direction. Certain inferences were inescapable, to say the least. As he recorded his impressions in a notebook, he felt a ticklish sensation and scratched the back of his neck in the vicinity of the occipital protuberance. He made note of that, as well.
Jenny stood for a moment on the street and then started up Broadway towards her apartment. Who does he think he’s kidding? she raged. What a bunch of crap! I should report that crackpot to the police!
She got as far as the corner, fuming, when she remembered she had left her grocery bags in Dibble’s shop. Oh, great! she thought, just great.
Preston closed his notebook, took another sip of tea and gazed at the shopping bags on the floor in the corner. The young woman, Jenny, he thought, was quite sympathetic but obviously under severe duress. Her behavior, as he had observed, was erratic and subject to abrupt reversals. He was puzzled as to why, but he had very little to go on. She seemed very bright but completely unaware of her own apparently rather considerable psionic potential.
Preston scratched the persistent itch on the back of his neck. The hair at the base of his skull was standing on end and bristling like a stiff brush. That was odd.
He rummaged in the back of the desk drawer for his portable psi-wave detector. He placed it on the desk, turned it on, and the needle jumped immediately into the red. Astonishing! The device indicated level 5 psi radiation: complete saturation. Preston knew of only two level 5 locations on Earth: the Bermuda Triangle and Tunguska in Siberia, where the meteor had hit.
He reached back into the drawer and pulled out a pair of psi-optic goggles. When he put them on, he was shocked to see the room was filled with a dim, reddish pulsating glow.
Preston went to the front window and looked out at the street. Broadway was bathed in the same faint pink that filled his shop. The people on the street seemed completely unaware, but through the goggles, Preston saw that powerful pulsing psionic energy waves were washing over them all.
There was a soft knock at the door, the little bells tinkled, and Jenny came back into the room. She smiled sheepishly at Preston.
“I’ll bet you didn’t expect to see me again so soon,” she laughed. “I forgot my groceries! Why are you wearing those funny glasses?”
Preston looked intently at Jenny. He realized his preliminary inferences had been too conservative. He saw clearly now that she was emanating a field of intense psychic energy that shone around the edges of her physical person.
Preston removed the goggles. “I’m so glad you’ve come back, Jenny. Please sit down. There’s something important we need to talk about.”
Across the street, Frank was on his mobile phone. He had watched Jenny come out of the shop, stand at the corner, and then turn and go back.
“I have visual contact, Nick. I’m staying close. Dibble is in the middle of it now.”
“Dibble? Who’s Dibble?”
“I took his course at MIT before I left. He ran the Para-normal Lab there twenty years ago. He was a stuffed shirt then, full of himself, and he’s a has-been now, a nobody. But it’s bad luck, Nick. She passed out on his doorstep, almost fell in his lap. Of all the people... He’s not as smart as he thinks he is, but he might start to put two and two together.”
“If you screw this up, Stone!” Nick’s faint voice faded in and out over the line.
“Nick. Nick, you there? Don’t worry. I’m on it. Sit tight and keep the wave generator on full power. I can still extract her.”
* * *
Jenny sat back down in the chair in Preston’s shop. He saw that the color had drained from her face and she was trembling. She looked furtively around the shop and towards the door, as if expecting some unpleasant surprise or unwanted visitor.
“You’re safe here, my dear. I won’t let anyone hurt you.”
“I’m frightened, Professor Dibble. Something awful is happening to me. I feel like I’m going insane. I’ve been having hallucinations, blacking out, forgetting where I’ve been and what I’ve done. I’m afraid—”
Jenny broke off and began to cry. Preston put his arm around her.
“It’s all right, my dear. You’re not losing your mind. Quite the opposite. You’re discovering parts of your mind that you may not have used before, that you may not even have been aware of. It can be unsettling. Think of it as an awakening. You’re undergoing a process of psychic transformation and rebirth. You are about to discover what great and wonderful things you are capable of accomplishing.
“But here, take a look through these. It’s quite interesting.”
Jenny took the goggles from Preston. She looked around the room, and then at her own hands and arms.
“Why is everything pink? Why am I glowing?”
“These lenses have special filters, of my own design actually. They render psi-wave radiation visible to the human eye. For some reason not yet known to us, this area has become bathed in psi-waves.”
Jenny took off the goggles. “This is crazy.”
“It’s unusual, but I have come across similar phenomena in the course of my research, though never of such magnitude and intensity. If you let me, I believe I can help you understand the nature of what you are experiencing. I can also train you in certain techniques that have been used by similarly gifted individuals to gain control of their... gifts.”
“The gift of psionic resonance. You possess that gift, my dear, that ability. It is quite rare and extremely powerful, and thus bestows a certain responsibility on the possessor.”
Jenny sat for a moment, trying to digest all this new information. It was too chaotic for her to sort through by herself. She felt overwhelmed, but she also felt the professor’s warmth and kindness. She sensed his concern and his genuine wish to help her.
“I believe you, professor? What do we do next?”
“There’s no time to lose. We must begin without delay. I’ll make the necessary preparations. Why don’t you drop your things at home, get some rest and freshen up, and come back here to my office at, say, two o’clock. Can you do that?”
“I think so, yes. I live nearby.”
“Here’s my card. If anything happens, anything at all, please call and I’ll come at once. It would be a good idea if you gave me your phone number and address, in case I have to reach you.”
Jenny wrote her contact info and stood to go. “I’m very grateful to you, Professor Dibble. You’ve already been so nice to me and I’ve been acting so crazy.”
Preston gave Jenny another hug. “I’m happy to help. You’re a remarkable young woman.”
“I’ll see you later, Professor.”
Jenny gathered up her groceries and left. Preston stood for a moment staring at the door, then sat back down at his desk, opened his notebook, and began writing.
* * *
Jenny put her groceries on the kitchen counter, collapsed on the couch, and turned on the TV. She was mentally drained and physically exhausted. The hallucinations and fainting spells were taking their toll. Professor Dibble was trying to help. He seemed like a nice man, but she didn’t understand everything he had said, all the mumbo-jumbo. She wanted to trust him, but now she wasn’t completely sure. Everything was too confusing.
Jenny suddenly felt hungry. She glanced at the clock, looked at the grocery bags on the counter, and realized she hadn’t eaten. Things had been happening too fast. She wanted to eat now, but was too exhausted to cook. She dragged herself off the couch, went down to the lobby and across the street to grab a bite at the diner, leaving the TV on in her apartment and forgetting to lock the door behind her.
When the waiter delivered her order, Jenny stared at the egg on her plate and felt a sudden wave of nausea. She pushed the plate away.
The waiter asked, “Is anything wrong, miss?”
“I can’t eat this. Please take it away.”
“Is there something wrong with it?”
“Please, just take it away.” Jenny could feel fear rising through the nausea. It was making her physically ill. She lowered her eyes to the table. The other people in the restaurant were pretending they weren’t watching her, but she knew they were. She felt them crowding her, closing in on her.
“I’m so sorry to intrude.”
Jenny looked up to see a man standing beside her. She stared at him groggily, barely able to make out his outline.
“I’m sorry if I’ve startled you. May I introduce myself?”
Jenny struggled to focus her eyes.
“My name is Frank Stone. I’ve been trying to contact you,” said Franklin gently. “Do you mind if I sit down?”
Without waiting for a reply, he settled into the booth, sitting opposite her. He was taken aback by her shaved head, but he concealed his surprise.
“I’m not feeling well,” said Jenny. Her speech was slurred. The man seemed familiar. She struggled to recall where she had seen him before.
“I know what you’re going through and I know why,” Frank said softly. “I can help you.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You have been experiencing psionically induced mood reversals. Our remote scanners picked you up as an active entity. The therapies that we are developing can certainly help alleviate your symptoms. We can make you feel better.”
Jenny was too woozy to gather her thoughts. Frank continued, “You must come to the Institute. You’re the perfect candidate for our advanced program. I’m certain we can help you.”
“I don’t know. I’m supposed to see Professor Dibble.”
“No, no, no, not Dibble. He’s a well-known crank. He can’t be trusted. Our Institute is staffed by trained professionals, fully accredited, and equipped with the absolute latest technology.” Frank’s voice was earnest and encouraging. “Please, come as my guest, just take a look around.”
“You think you can help me?”
“I know we can, but don’t just take my word for it. Let me show you. We have a new device, for example, a psionic apparatus, that should provide immediate, dramatic improvement in your equilibrium.” Frank smiled a very charming and engaging smile. “We’re just across the bridge in Jersey.” Frank looked at his watch. “I can have you back by five. My car is parked outside.”
Jenny found it impossible to focus her eyes. The cloud of anxiety that filled her body was clogging her mind. Franklin stood up and took her very gently by the arm. “Come with me,” he said softly. “I’ll help you.”
* * *
Copyright © 2012 by Bill Bowler