Chapter III.

31 May

The Director and the two psychiatrists ordered large bowls of anemone chowder in the small staff dining room behind the cafeteria of the Photonic Clinic.

“Imported food is too expensive for us,” explained Gand Halsing. “That is the reason we on the icecap have had to turn to the algid sea about us. It is the source of the delicious victuals that out tourists have come to love as much as we do. We have created a unique Bifrost cuisine that is distinctive and delicious.”

Bingen raised his cup of hot theobroma and took a long, slow sip.

“I did not know that so many different edibles were in the polar sea,” he said almost musing. “It reminds someone like me of the human subconscious.”

Hekla Knax looked up at him from her plate. “The water under the ice is our hidden memory. I have never thought of it that way. But that is an accurate metaphor for the mind. Yes, a good metaphor, indeed. The two areas are very much like each other.”

“The advanced beamers in the workshop are most interesting,” went on Cam. “I am eager to see their operation on the neurons of a brain as soon as possible. That holds enormous promise in the field of therapy.”

Dr. Knax’s hazel eyes grew distant and misty.

“There is an ancient Bifrostian legend about the Vanirs, the gods and goddesses who inhabited the icecap before the arrival of our ancestors. When their cares and troubles grew too great to bear, they used a special substance called storax, a drug that bestowed forgetfulness upon them. That will be what this Clinic will be offering those who suffer inner torture, a sort of neural erasure that wipes away all their bad memories. The mind can then go on without that harmful baggage.”

“Patients will flock to Bifrost City from all regions of the Continent,” predicted Director Halsing. “This breakthrough can take us all the way to the front of the medical parade. I have no doubt of that. Our Clinic will become the most renowned psychiatric institution anywhere. We shall rise to the top.”

Bingen stared intently at Hekla Knax and asked her a question in the back of his mind.

“How did your session with the young woman go today? I saw her entering your office as I was leaving for the workshop.”

The other made a sour facial expression.

“So far, she has refused to undergo any brain treatment. Her profession is music and she fears damaging her skills. I advised her to visit her parents in Urth and discuss the matter with them. The results turned out good. This morning, she gave her agreement to have therapeutic treatment using our new beamer. It shall be given to her very soon. I foresee good results for her from concentrated photic treatment.”

“When does it begin?” asked Cam with keen interest.

Hecla Knax gave him a steady, stern look.

“In a couple of days, you yourself should be ready to guide her through therapy. I have decided to assign the singer, Miss Sunda Vipur, to you for psychiatric care. You shall be the therapist in charge of her case.

“We two have not been too compatible as individuals. Our personae are opposites, I fear. That is not at all a good curative situation. I have decided that she needs a different doctor for the next phase of her clinical treatment. Having her as a patient can provide you a wealth of experience in photonic therapy, Dr. Bingen.”

Cam continued to keep secret his earlier acquaintance with the young woman. There was no reason to reveal their prior contacts. There was no need for anyone else to be aware of it, he decided.

“Does she know yet of this change?” he inquired with curiosity.

“No. I wished to have your consent to it first.”

“There is no objection on my part,” he said with a smile.

“Good,” nodded Knax. “I will give you her file to read this afternoon. You can prepare to meet with Sunda tomorrow morning when she has a scheduled appointment.”

“Where can I consult with her?”

“An office is available across from mine, fully equipped and ready to use.”

“Fine,” replied the new staff member.

Director Halsing suddenly had an unexpected question for the head psychiatrist.

“I had a call this morning from the police about Naze Thun. He has again drawn their attention with his odd behavior. They are worried about what he may do.”

Hekla turned to Bingen and gave him a brief explanation of what they were talking about.

“He is a former patient who claims to have psychic visions. His diagnosis is one of severe, chronic paragnosis.”

She turned again to the Director and continued.

“Thun is now beyond our reach, therefore out of our hands. We no longer have any legal or moral responsibility toward him. He is no longer our patient. There is nothing that anyone here can do about the unfortunate fellow.”

“I am still worried about what he might do,” darkly muttered Halsing. “The fellow is a kind of spiritual enthusiast and unwilling to accept any therapy. He may become violent. His future behavior is entirely unpredictable.”

Knax turned and spoke to Cam.

“Naze Thun was about to undergo photonic treatment to erase his overwhelming guilt feelings, but he refused to show up. I have not seen him since the quarrel we had over his taking the light therapy. He is now out on his own, as far as our Clinic is concerned. We have no more responsibility in his case.”

Bingen chose to stay mum about his encounter with the paragnostic singer, Sunda.

“I plan to concentrate on a limited number of candidates for memory wiping and neurohormonal regulation and rebalancing,” revealed the head of the institution. “They shall serve as the focus of my time and attention.”

“That will be the center of my attention, too,” admitted Hekla. “As well as getting our newest colleague in step with his his first patient.”

Cam used an electronic console to read over the file of Sunda Vipur, then walked across the hallway to the office of the chief psychiatrist.

He had taken no notes at all, memorizing the main facts about her case, going over her symptoms in his mind.

From early childhood, Sunda had a propensity to flee the world of the present.

Withdrawn, introverted to an extreme degree, she had discovered asylum in ancient Urthian music. Deep study by her had meant saturation in what had once been. The past had come to envelope her mind completely. She came to feel that she actually dwelled back there, that she was part of that earlier world.

Rapid success came at the Bifrost School of Music, where her parents sent the girl at a tender age. She gave several public concerts and was discovered by the cognoscenti who loved old folksong. Much of high society started to flock to her performances. But there soon appeared in her an unusual neurasthenia, with repeated cycles of painful depression and melancholy. Often she became too ill to sing in public and had to take long rests. Her life became one of endless pain. She suffered continuously.

Though she was hired to sing at the Hiberna Hotel, her periods of mental exhaustion grew deeper and more frequent. Finally, at the suggestion of her employer, Sunda went to the Photonic Clinic for help with her chronic condition. Mr. Kvaloz, owner of the hotel, paid all of her medical expenses.

At times, she was unable to distinguish her own life from the mythic events she sang about in her songs. The young woman seemed to live in and for her folk music. She appeared to have no separate emotional life beyond or outside of her art. Her mind concentrated upon that alone.

Sunda never gave any hint of having a romantic interest with anyone. Her life was lived alone, in a reclusive mood and manner.

She was finally convinced to take optical therapy for nostomania, the pathological hiding in an imagined past from which she suffered so severely. That was the diagnosis and the treatment decided upon.

With all that in his mind, Bingen knocked on the door to his superior’s office.

“Come in,” said Dr. Knax. When he had done so, she asked him a question.

“Did you finish with your patient’s records?”

“Yes. I think I have never come across such a strange case before.” He placed the linkcard to the memory files on the yellow desk of Dr. Knax.

“Keep it,” she told him. “You may need to use the linkcard to review her file again in the future.”

He picked up the thin silicon wafer. “Thank you,” he murmured.

“I’m tired out,” confessed Hekla. “My last patient was a new one, here for the first time. He is the son of an important businessman in Bifrost City, the owner of the Hiberna Hotel. The big casino there is his. It is an enormously wealthy family. Have you heard or read about Mr. Aar Kvaloz, our number one tycoon?”

“No, not at all,” answered the Landian.

“His ancestors were pioneers in the algoid industry and made their initial fortune there. It was Aar who first envisioned the possibility of mass tourism to the icecap from the entire Continent. He was the one who convinced the Bifrost government to legalize gambling and allow him to open his famous casino. He remains the leading operator in that lucrative area of business. His wealth has reached incredible heights.”

Cam, standing at the edge of her desk, mused for a moment.

“The Hiberna and its gambling casino could be a breeding ground and hotbed of neurosis, couldn’t it?”

“Indeed,” agreed the chief psychiatrist, nodding her head yes.

I think that I shall explore that place, decided Cam Bingen as he took leave of his squat, square-headed supervisor.

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