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

lightning Copyright © 2005 by Eric C. Biemiller

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The chapter links are located at the end of each chapter.
Chapter 9

They were in Dr. Bailiff’s private office with the door locked. Woodie was quite aware of his own power and equally aware of Dr. Bailiff’s. There were some experiments involving the power, which Dr. Bailiff did not choose to expose to his students, associates and the open laboratory facilities of the university’s Department of Parapsychology.

“I am what I am,” said Dr. Bailiff. “I am also a neuro-scientist and a psychologist investigating man’s last frontier in the knowledge of himself, the human brain. What I am is one, but it is also two, if you follow me. So what goes on in here from time to time does not go on out there.”

He waved the black mace, which was his hand toward the laboratory.

“Now tell me again about the night you got out of Woodie and visited, what’s his name, ah, that Appleton Osbert Innsberhoff. Obviously he was in shock, confused from anesthesia, certainly some pain … and panic because he was, as you say, lost …”

“He was lost. He didn’t know himself, and he was very frightened. I just put the part that was lost with the part that knew so all of him would know.”

“I understand that, but be patient with me, Woodie,” said Dr. Bailiff. “He didn’t know who he was. You had never seen him before or knew him before you found him. Right?”

Woodie nodded.

“Then you must have found a memory of himself which you read … ?”

“And I joined him to his memory. So?”

“So a miracle, I think, but when I think, everything’s a miracle. Woodie, you can read an active thought. We do it, you and I. You can read an active thought of a past memory, and for all I know, you may be able to read the future … maybe … But until now I didn’t think that a memory that wasn’t linked to an active thought could be read.

“You realize that science doesn’t even know how the brain learns? Or even how and where within that three and a half pounds of oatmeal floating around in your skull it remembers?”

“I don’t know I did what I did. If you say that a memory all by itself alone can’t be read, maybe something I did sort of set off something active that, in turn, set off his memory. I don’t know how anybody with a name like Appleton Osbert Innsberhoff could forget it?”

“Ho, ha, hm ho and zummmmm …”

“It might work. We can try it,” said Woodie.

“Okay, oh neophyte of great force … I am going to blank completely … in some parts of the world like Indonesia they call it trance stasis … Go in and find me a memory and read it. Any old memory although I expect you to be a gentleman about it.”

“There will be no active thoughts to aid you and no instructions. And you can range my entire life span, this one, that is. It is possible that there may be others. I have programmed myself to leave the trance state in five seconds. You will then tell me one of my memories, old or new, if you can. Is that clear?”

Woodie grunted. He laughed.

“Oh, boy,” he said. “You’re in a big ventilation duct, a long pipe that runs along sort of an attic over the second floor of your high school building. You got in through a little door set into the wall at the end of a corridor for the workmen. Two fellows are crawling behind you in the duct. You are headed for the high school auditorium where the pipe ends in a grillwork right next to the auditorium stage. You have a big alarm clock in your hand. You and your buddies are going to put it next to the grillwork. It is set to sound the alarm when the school principal calls for the flag salute in the morning assembly. That’ll be in three minutes and the clock is set.

“You’re at the grillwork and you reach down to place the clock. You slip in the pipe and skid into the grillwork. You knock it out of the wall. You’re half out of the pipe hanging into the auditorium in front of the whole school already seated. And the clock goes off… all you can hear are your buddies scrambling back up the duct and about six hundred kids laughing, roaring at you and stamping their feet. You hear something else too. You hear the principal. He says, “I know what time it is, Reginald. When you pick yourself up off the floor go to my office.”

“Zap! Right in the brisket! That was Frankie’s idea, and I thought it would be a howler. It was. But not for me. My, my, that has to be forty years ago mebbe …”

“And you’re walking into the coach’s little office at the end of the locker room, and he’s hanging an alarm clock around your neck with a piece of string, and telling you to time the game you can’t play in because you’re suspended from school for two weeks. And you lose that game and maybe the championship because it’s the only one your team lost all year, and maybe it’s because you couldn’t play …

“That memory’s hanging up there all bright and shiny and as new as a minute ago,” continued Woodie softly. “It’s funny and sad.”

“All right, son. Wipe it. I think I just learned something big. There are many things you should learn, and as soon as possible. Some of them concern what your dad might call good manners …”

There was a long silence in Dr. Bailiff’s private office. Outside the sky had turned to lead and a few flurries of snow like advance scouts for a storm fall twisted across the campus and off into the streets of town. The flurries blew from the land to the sea. They would vanish there in water still warmer than the sky above it. The main body of the snowstorm would never know that it moved toward ambush.

White power was limited only by the sources which generated it, although it could be extended by an alliance of sources. It was controlled by, and it controlled to a great extent the person who held the gift. White power was used sparingly and unselfishly. The key operating word was unselfishness. It could be used in self-defense. It was used by the gifted to protect, not rule, all of the congress of life.

There was dark power, black power. It was white power reversed by ambition obsessed with self. It was evil, and it was hard to fight because ambition in the world of men often took the form of good. But white power unselfishly used could make black power used for self, self-defeating. Black power sought always to defeat all power including its own in others, as ambitions feed upon the ambitions of others. It seeks always to know where power lies that it may be used or destroyed.

“You’re a football player, Woodie. You’re going to learn some new blocking,” said Dr. Bailiff.

“That’s neat,” said Woodie.

“Offensive blocking, most offensive, dangerous, too, depending … There are thoughts that can kill.”

Outside of the window the real armies of snow had made their move, and the slate sky grew strangely lighter as it borrowed brightness from the falling flakes.

“As I told you, the am I am in here is not necessarily the am I am out there,” said Dr. Bailiff. “Out there, perhaps, I’d be talking about the two kinds of nerve cells, the neurons and the glia. There are about 100-billion neurons in your brain and about 1,000-billion glia. All of them are connected by dendrites. The neurons receive all sensory impulses, process information and transmit messages.

“In here the am I am is going to talk about blocking intrusions on your essential self, white power against black power.

“Man’s senses, many more than five, are crude compared to those of his jungle forebears. Primitive man depended upon perfection in sight, hearing, touch, and especially in his smelling ability to survive. Nature made sure his physical gifts were sharp, just as nature made sure to dull the same senses for modern man. How else could he endure the noises, smells and dangers of civilization and the beast of internal combustion, electricity and sciences bearing death? Nature permits man to block most such hazards from his essential self.

“Those with the power learn to block more skillfully, and particularly against power used against them,” said Dr. Bailiff.

Thus Woodie learned to shut a thousand doors, close a million channels, and erect a billion shields. He learned to admit entries of his choice wholly or partially or not at all. He learned to sift and screen. He learned to defend and attack when attack was defense.

“Try me,” said Reginald B. Bailiff rising from his chair and walking to the window where his hulk diminished the snowfall.

Woodie tried. He found all entries sealed. He probed, circled, touched and withdrew. There was nothing. At age fourteen, there are times when good manners, instruction and knowledge are over come by rudeness, show-off-in-ess, and even the sort of humor that is more cruel than funny. Woodie remembered his grandmother telling his mother about the night his grandfather borrowed the trolley car from the Public Service Company without asking because, it seemed, that he just wanted a trolley car of his own for a change. “The dear man,” said his grandmother, “always had more juices than would fit in a jar.”

Woodie felt the surge mounting. He felt it peak. He let it go. He knew a crumbling, felt a strong, stone hard resistance that held for a millionth of a second. He was inside Dr. Bailiff and in the midst of panic which vanished. He felt warmth, even a loving and an admiration. He did not stay to read. He withdrew.

Dr. Bailiff’s black-moon face was beaded with sweat. The gray light from the window gave it a greenish tinge. He leaned against the window frame as though asking support form the wall before he straightened up and faced Woodie. His amethyst eyes were purple flames.

“My God, boy,” he said. “Be careful. I thought my power was great and, indeed, know it to be so. Further, it is trained, as that incredible, utterly wild force of yours is not as yet. Let me sit for a moment …”

Woodie uncoiled, organized his lanky length and sauntered over to watch the snow. Christmas was coming. In a town like Marterville there might be a dollar or two in that snowfall. He wasn’t getting much exercise anyhow and shoveling a few walks or digging out a driveway or two wouldn’t kill him. Maybe Tinker would give a hand or Tick Lennon or Scraggle Thomas if he wasn’t afraid of icing up his nursing beard.

Tick, he thought. Tinker would be chasing around at basketball practice and still half miffed at him because he decided not to go out for the freshman squad. He didn’t know why he hadn’t. He just hadn’t, although he thought he might at first. He had this ESP stuff with Dr. Bailiff a couple of afternoons a week and the work was interesting, particularly the lab chores and the experiments that really didn’t concern him as they did the rats and mice and guinea pigs and college students. He was taking more pains with his school work too, discovering that he really liked thinking at it, especially some of the social studies which lumped a lot of stuff under one label, and biology and some of the math. But he didn’t really feel much like charging around that basketball court listening to the coaches’ yammer and banging into picks set by Tinker and those ten-foot tall Morris brothers who must eat sky-corn in their mush to grow six inches a year. It never occurred to him that he was a hair under six feet himself and sprouting at a rate which dismayed his parents.

He felt Dr. Bailiff reaching for him, and turned.

“Who can find a boy in a day-dream?” said the big dark man softly. “Woodie, I was going to talk a little about people, particularly strangers, who seem to show an interest in your work with me, or even new people you might meet that seem to want to know you better …”

“Watch ‘em a little?” asked Woodie.

“I’d say so.”

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five
Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight 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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