by Carl L. Biemiller,
edited by C. J. Carnahan and Eric Biemiller

lightning Copyright © 2005 by Eric C. Biemiller

Please respect the copyrights.
The chapter links are located at the end of each chapter.
Chapter 6

Reginald B. Bailiff shooed away the little day nurse with an arm motion that created a jet stream of over-heated hospital air, and closed the door behind her so he didn’t see her cross herself in the corridor.

“What did you do to your mother? We spoke in the hallway, and she seemed a trifle hasty.”

“Nothing, sir,” said Woodie.

“Stop doing it then. How do you feel?”

Woodie stared at him.

“Like that, eh? Well, maybe you’ll improve with this game I brought with me.”

“What’s a Zener card?” asked Woodie.

“Your mother told you, eh? Well, they’re cards invented by a Dr. Zener hence the name. He used them in psi experiments. There are twenty-five of them in a full deck with five suits of symbols. You dig?”

Woodie nodded.

“Five cards have circles, five have squares, and another five have stars, another have three squiggly lines, and five have plus signs.” Dr. Bailiff conjured up a deck of Zener cards and showed them. “I shuffle them, thus.” The cards vanished somewhere within the moving maw of Dr. Bailiff’s hands. “I strew ‘em around like so.”

The cards hissed across the table top, faces down. “You guess what card I’m going to pick up and tell me.”

“Some thrill,” said Woodie coldly.

“You get the smarts with me, boy, and I’ll handle you like I did that big mouth Detroit lineman a year or so back. This is a valid psi experiment, according to some experts. The probability rate or the chance expectancy is that you’ll be able to guess correctly five times out of the twenty-five by chance.

“If you guess, say, seven out of the twenty-five, that would be nothing too much, but if you got twenty out of twenty-five, that would indicate that something more than chance was operating, perhaps one of the psi talents.”

Woodie suddenly knew what Dr. Bailiff was thinking. He could have walked in and read him without half trying. He also knew that his power was not exclusive in all the world; that others too owned varying degrees of it. He knew that Dr. Bailiff not only had great power, but was skilled in its use.

“Start now?” he asked moodily. He still felt sullenly puckish, and queerly enough half angry. He knew very well that the huge and gentle man seated beside him had allowed him to make his discovery. He was being treated like a baby.

“Start now,” answered Reginald B. Bailiff impassively.

One of the Zener cards rose from the table. It swooped around the room in dizzying circles and pancaked into a landing at Dr. Bailiff’s feet. “That’s a circle,” said Woodie as the card landed face up, and it was. Three cards rose from different places in the deck and inscribed perfect squares in mid-air before descent. “Squares” said Woodie. The remainder of the deck zipped from the tabletop and flew formation like jet fighters from a Navy carrier deck before they collapsed in collision with the door to the room just as the little day nurse opened it. “I don’t want to play anymore,” said Woodie.

“You sadden me, boy,” rumbled Bettle Bailiff.

The little nurse jumped back into the corridor. That room and that boy made her feel followed somehow, as though something breathed down her neck. She crossed herself and re-entered.

“Sorry, sir,” she said. “But Dr. Todd sent word that he was on his way here, and I thought you’d like to know.”

“Thank you, nurse,” said Dr. Bailiff using a bass note borrowed from an invisible pipe organ. “And you might come back later. We’ll put the light on when we want you.”

He turned and impaled Woodie with a glance that carried a sting. Beetle Bailiff did not believe in excessive debate of the obvious.

“It may be soon in your condition,” he said softly. “But there is a duty.”

Ballard Kynwood Junior fell into the dark and spongy warmth. It held him gently. He knew discipline and instruction. Power was not a toy. It was a responsibility and a grave one. White power was dedicated to the perfectibility of man always a victim of his own imperfections. It was a gift to be used only with faith that its use expanded that Light which first sundered Darkness that life itself might exist in all its forms.

It was a gift of some danger. A dark power opposed it which was white power turned inside out and manipulated by those conquered by their flaws who, frustrated and jealous, hated all who aspired. Sometimes the black approached victory and white fought for a balance of forces until the best in man could again be nurtured.

Woodie Junior knew discipline and the outlines of instruction. He would gain understanding, perhaps with pain, over the years.

“What did you say, Doctor?” he asked.

“Just that Decker Todd ought to be here any second.”

Decker Todd was. He came sucking a lollipop with two others stuck in the breast pocket of his borrowed white jacket where he kept a thermometer.

“Whenever I see a closed door on a private room,” he said. “I think of a crap game. But I see you’ve been playing cards. What’s the game? Pick up?”

He flipped a lollipop at Dr. Bailiff, skinned the paper off another which he stuck into Woodie’s mouth where it turned out to be the thermometer. He felt the back of Woodie’s neck and peeled back sheets and checked his chest. He hitched up his jacket and took off a stethoscope, which he had hanging from a belt on his trousers. He jabbed it at Woodie’s rib cage and listened. He straightened up, removed the thermometer from Woodie’s thin lips, stared at it, and frowned.

Decker Todd was not pleased.

“Get out of here, Beetle,” he said, straining words between his teeth. “I don’t know what you’ve been doing, but get out and do it somewhere else. Damn kid’s running a fever.”

He tweaked Woodie’s nose ever so gently.

“What are you doing to me, damn kid? Are you fiddling around with a relapse, you damn kid, Woodie?”

Woodie Junior couldn’t help it. He grinned.

“I feel pretty good, Dr. Todd,” he said

“I’ll tell you when you feel good,” snapped Decker Todd. “And you won’t feel good until I say so. Further, until I feel good, you don’t have a chance of feeling good, and believe me, Mr. Kynwood, I do not feel good.

“Out, Beetle, I said out, and throw a net over that nurse who’s skating round out there on the floor of wax. I want her.

“Woodie, I’m going to give you a needle and a pill, and don’t expect your mother and father tomorrow. You’re going to rest while you’re resting and not running wind sprints. The pill’s got some funky-phony laboratory opium in it so you may see a Technicolor movie when you fall asleep. Don’t worry. I’ll have the nurse bring you a bag of popcorn so you won’t have to go out to the lobby. Ain’t I a nice doctor?”

“You don’t run this hospital,” said Woodie. “And when can I go home?”

“I hire people to run it for lollipops. And when I feel real, real good, that’s when. You want a sharp stab with the needle or not?”

Ballard Kynwood Junior did not see a Technicolor movie in his sleep, although one might have played in his head.

He left his body instead.

There was a calling, a crying, an anguish. Something was lost that knew its loss but not its identity. There was a wandering entity without a name and a location, and it wailed of fear and desperation and the drift into nothingness.

Woodie found its source in the hospital’s recovery room, went to it and matched entity with an identity. He left peace as a departure token.

He found an old, old man alone and beyond care and past caring and slipped into him while the old man dreamed a child’s dream of apple orchards and showers of white blossoms and a brown dog barking at the sound of a mother’s dinner-time summons. He stayed with him until it was time for the old man to leave.

He saw a young mother thirty seconds after childbirth, touched a glory and fled, frightened at the foolhardiness of such trespass, back to the haven of his own being. He sought safety from his wildness in an imprint of discipline and instruction, made a subconscious promise to tell Dr. Bailiff … tell Dr Bailiff… and made a snorting snore as he slept.

One of the night nurses going off duty from the recovery room which had a sudden rush of emergency activity during the past few hours stopped by to say hello to Mrs. Willoughbee also leaving her duties with the Kynwood patient.

“Had a funny one last night,” she said. “Thought we were going to lose a customer, but he snapped out. First thing he said was for us to thank the skinny boy with the bandage ‘round his head for stopping by to tell him who he was.”

“Who was he?” asked Mrs. Willoughbee shuffling her shoulders into a prissy sniff position.

“Patient named Appleton Osbert Innsberhoff.”

“I can see how he’d like to forget who he was. But not him. Who was the boy?”

“There wasn’t any boy, Mrs. Willoughbee. At least none seen by two doctors and three nurses, including me, in that room.”

“They pay those fellows too much anyhow, messing around with fancy anesthesia … Good morning to you.”

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five
Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Chapter Twenty Three Chapter Twenty Four Chapter Twenty Five Chapter Twenty Six
Chapter Twenty Seven Chapter Twenty Eight Chapter Twenty Nine Chapter Thirty
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