The Marfans

1 Sep

Since she liked to meet her new patients as soon as possible, Dr. Lema Giten rode a space barque down to Ghain Station. She planned to introduce herself to an ailing telepath, Efo Tenaz, and come to know him in a direct, close way.

Lema mentally reviewed what she had learned about this station communicator from the file that had been psi-waved to the galleon holding the advanced psychiatric infirmary where she practiced. What did she already know about the troubled station psychic?

Efo had been born a marfan. She recalled all she knew about the condition from her wide reading in medical disks. The arachnoid-like human had evolved over eons of habitation on Earth. The hallmarks of this subspecies were elongated bones, enormous height, muscular underdevelopment, asymmetrical skulls, and hunching of the back. Medicine on Earth was familiar with this condition.

In her mind’s eye, Lema imagined what the specially gifted sensitive would look like.

How much curvature of the spine might be visible in him?

Did he possess the abnormally dislocated eye lens of a typical marfan man or woman?

She had come across only a handful of that variety of human beings in her voyages aboard the roaming hospital traveling through the void of space, from one star system to another. They were an unusual rarity that often made excellent psychic communicators.

In all her professional experience as a psychiatrist, Lema had never once provided therapy to any patient born a marfan.

The doctor was uncertain whether she could deal successfully with such a rare case.

Efo introduced himself as he stepped into a passenger module of the giant barque.

He appeared to be six and a half feet in height. His extended hands, fingers, and feet were truly spiderlike. There was a lot that was insect-like about him.

Lema noticed that his back was only slightly hunched, but beneath the black tunic there clearly was a funnel chest that slanted inward as if collapsed.

His light blue eyes had only a minor dislocation of their lenses.

“I am so happy to meet you before our ascent to the infirmary,” he said to her in a mellifluous high tenor.

“And I am glad to be here with you, Efo,” she told him with a wide smile.

The two sat down opposite each other on soft benches of the module as it began to fill up with a score of new patients for the space-crossing psychiatric hospital.

How different the marfan was from what she had expected!

He seemed pleasant and content, self-contained and in control.

“I take it that you have never before had any therapeutic treatment,” she quietly said as the barque left the surface of the station and began its slow climb back to the hospital galleon.

Efo gave a small nod. “It was only a week ago that I had to quit work as a message dispatcher. My capacity to function telepathically suddenly vanished. Try as I might, I could not restore it. The loss was immediate and total.

“Your infirmary is my only hope to restore myself to what I once was.”

Yes, smiled the psychiatrist, that is what I aspire to as well.

“The reports I have received from station medics find no physical cause or deficiency whatever in you,” she declared.

“I suffer no body pain,” confirmed the patient. “All that I have lost is in the realm of my mind and its operations. There has been no physical change at all.”

“There is no cause for alarm,” she said with confidence. “We shall get to work on the reason for what happened to you at once.”

As it moved through empty space, the hospital ship passed carracks, clippers, freighters, galiots, dromons, and frigates going in the opposite direction within the station-monitored space ways.

Lema arranged to meet with Efo as soon as he was settled in his tiny cabin. The two sat in her office at opposite ends of a lead table, on rattan chairs.

“Tell me how this problem of yours began, Efo,” softly said the small, delicate-looking psychiatrist. Her copious yellow-pink hair surrounded a round face with nutmeg eyes that had unusually sharp focus.

The patient hesitated a few moments before revealing what had happened to him.

“I worked at a station message center. My position was an important one because my receptions and transmissions had always been accurate and complete. Then, about two weeks ago, a wall hit me from all sides. Nothing could flow into my mind, nothing could leave it. I attempted telepathic connection, but that was impossible. My state was one of total psychic blockage. I was incommunicado. The pain I felt whenever I tried to send or receive was indescribable. My superiors decided to have the station medico examine me, but he found it impossible to diagnose or treat my condition. This kind of complete stoppage is not supposed to befall a born and trained psychic. Nothing else in me was injured. There was no discernible physical illness. But psychically, I was all but dead. That condition continues to the present moment.”

Lema stared into his long, thin face that held a look of pain and desperation.

“It is a profound puzzle. There is nothing like it in any of my medical disks. All the physical and neurological tests that were done come up with negative results. Are you sure that you wish to have your ability restored? There is no cure that I know of that exists, Efo.”

The latter suddenly stiffened in his face, torso, and limbs.

“My wish is to win back all that I have lost. My whole life was invested in psychic communication with other stations, planets, and space vehicles. I cannot be a whole person without all that.”

“You and I have to work together with determination toward that goal,” said the therapist with metal in her voice.

She rose to her feet and the session ended.

Ciou Sartan, General Director of the space hospital, held individual meetings with the members of his staff every hebdomad of seven days. In that way, he kept an eye on the work of the roaming infirmary for mental disorders. From the first, he had great interest in the case of Efo Tenaz. He talked in his private chamber about it with the doctor treating the new patient.

“What can we do for the unfortunate fellow, Lema? What can psychiatry accomplish in such an unusual case?”

She bit her lip, then proceeded to make a proposal she was uncertain would be accepted by him.

“As you know, I have no psychic capability at all, none whatsoever. But the notion occurred to me that some other telepathic adept might be able to explore and discover what the difficulty in his mind is. That could be the way out of the present dead end.”

Ciou, a large, fleshy figure with crew-cut blond hair and rat-like dark eyes, waited several seconds before giving her an answer.

“Perhaps you are unaware, Lema, that I was born with strong telepathic potential. But because I chose a medical career for myself, I tended to neglect that part of me.

“But my reading in that area has been long and extensive. Do you think it would be a good idea if I myself talk with your patient? We have no one else among us on this vessel who might address the poor marfan on his own level. What do you think, Lema?”

All at once, the young woman seemed relieved.

“Yes,” she replied with a smile. “That is a very good idea. When can you begin to see him, Dr. Sartan?”

There was something about the Director that bothered Efo as soon as he entered the chamber. It was impossible for him to identify what was in his mind, but the patient was immediately aware of an inner warning about this stranger who wished to question him.

The pair sat down at a silicon table and Ciou Sartan startled the infirmary patient with an unforeseeable confession.

“It interests me that you are a person with psychic capability who acted as a communicator, but whose talent struck a negative wall of some sort. Let me tell you about my own life, and my experiences in the mental realm.

“I was born with a rich sensitivity and potential. My parents sent me to a school for the psychically gifted with the hope of my becoming someday a professional in the field. What then happened was a tragedy. As soon as I reached the age of puberty, my inner capability began to atrophy. It was sudden and astounding. My instructors were at a loss to do anything. Medical treatment was attempted but had no result. The general judgment was that I had lost my telepathic potential for good, that it would never be revived.

“How wrong that sentence of defeat turned out to be!

“I chose to become a physician and attended a highly rated medical school in a distant star system. In the course of my work on a this traveling hospital, psychic sensitivity returned to me with full potency. In less than the blink of an eye, all that seemed to be lost was immediately recovered. My mind could once again operate on a telepathic level. I could transmit and receive messages. It was as if there had never been an interfering wall of silence. My gift returned in full force.”

The Director peered intently at the flabbergasted Efo. “How does what you say apply to me, sir?” asked the shaken listener.

“If I had not been journeying through the void on a hospital ship, the chances are that my mind might not have undergone its restoration. Why did it happen to me on a trajectory in space? I cannot say. It is a good bet that no one else can either.

“So, my advice to you is to continue the long trip through our galaxy that we are on. As we pass distant stars and space stations, the right combinations of conditions could occur. Where or when will it happen? No one knows. There are so many zones and sectors of the galactic filaments. It is impossible to predict because our ignorance in this field is almost infinite.

“Voyaging with us will be a gamble for you, but it should be an acceptable one.

“What do you say to my proposal?”

Efo felt a strong compulsion to accept.

“Yes,” he said, becoming a permanent member of the hospital’s community for as far ahead as he could see.

Ciou revealed the new arrangement to Lema in the dining hall of the galleon, over a meal of peccary with cassava. The Director explained his thinking on the subject of returning psychic capability to Efo Tenaz.

“The universe is a strange place. There are zones where particular illnesses occur and others where these same maladies can disappear. No one understands how and why such phenomena occur, but there is no question about their actuality. It is true on the mental level as well as the purely physical. There are star belts that can affect an individual in differing ways. In the area of the telepathic, our knowledge is not sufficient for mapping out this psychic topography. All we can say is that these variations by zone happen. That is an established fact.”

Lema decided to give her view on the matter.

“I cannot claim more knowledge than anyone else in the uncharted field where Efo was an adept who unexpectedly lost his talent. But I agree that we should keep him aboard until the unexplainable happens. Is he agreeable to that?”

“He will be given a clerical job in the recording department,” said the Director. “I am sure that will keep him busy and perhaps lift up his spirits.”

“I can continue to see him periodically in order to monitor his condition,” she said as coolly as she could. “It will make him aware of our concern and support for him.”

“And I, also, shall meet with Efo at times. I want to know what happens within his mind as we traverse various zones of our galaxy.”

A circling by the hospital vessel around a tiny rock planet resulted in taking on a dozen patients who could not be cured at home. They were brought up by barque for diagnosis and advanced psychiatric therapy. One of them happened to be a telepath with psychic blockage and entropy.

Dr. Lema Giten descended in the barque to bring these individuals to the infirmary ship. Her assigned patient was again a case of a man who had lost his telepathic capability. He was a marfan with a body of enormous length and extreme leanness.

A little over seven feet tall, Jonco Rixe possessed tiny internal organs and a small head and face. His hazel brown eyes alone were of normal size. As he rode up in the barque with the psychiatrist, he told Lema his history.

“When I was a small child, my gift was discovered by my parents. They at once obtained special tutors for me. Later, they enrolled me in our planet’s Metapsychic Academy. I specialized in air traffic control and monitoring. When I graduated, a position was found for me at our busiest aerodrome. My work was judged excellent, until my mind suddenly lost all traces of its telepathic capability.”

He gazed pleadingly at the psychiatrist.

“Do not be worried, Jonco,” she assured him. “I will see to it that you receive the treatment and therapy that you need.”

In the back of her mind, she questioned what possible care could be found for this case, so similar to that of Efo Tenaz. Their sessions were not making progress and the patient had become a hospital employee.

Her meetings with Jonco Rixe also proved to be failures, so that a second intervention by Director Ciou Sartan came about within two weeks.

“I must take charge of this new psychic marfan,” he told Lema, coming to her treatment chamber in order to deal directly with the troublesome case. “It is clear to me that we have a similar mystery here. This psychic disability has no organic cause. As with the first marfan, we cannot find out what happened within his mind.”

Sartan, furrowing his brow, thought deeply for a moment. “We will have to take the unfortunate man with us when we leave our present planetary orbit,” he said in a solemn tone. “No quick cure is possible in anything as complex as this.”

So it came about that the hospital came to have a second incapacitated telepath residing on board, again a marfan.

Was it inevitable that Efo Tenaz and Jonco Rixe would meet and become acquainted? The event occurred only days after the galleon departed for interstellar space from its orbit around a planet.

The two marfans found a private cubicle adjacent to the ship’s disk library.

“My sudden halt in transmissions and receptions was traumatic and painful,” sadly said Jonco. “I have never had such a horrible experience in my life.”

“Mine was the same,” nodded Efo. “The worst part was that I had no explanation for it and the condition remains an unsolved riddle for me.”

“Did I make a mistake in coming on this hospital ship?” said Jonco, almost to himself. “I ponder that over, all the time.”

Suddenly, a startling idea occurred to Efo. He revealed it at once to his new acquaintance.

“What if the two of us experimented by trying to communicate with each other? Both of us once exercised telepathic abilities. Here, on this vessel, we are in close proximity. Is there any possibility of somehow aiding each other?”

Jonco took a short while to consider and ruminate on the idea. The balance in his thinking swung toward cautious acceptance.

“Yes,” he said to his new partner, “we can attempt to build some net of messaging right here aboard the ship. It may turn out to be futile, but at least let us try.”

The pair quickly reached agreement on how they were to proceed.

Efo was to position himself in a small alcove beside the entrance to the navigation bridge at the front end of the vessel. All the way at the other extreme, near the tail of the enormous craft, Ionco would station himself. Each of them was to take a folding web chair and rest on it while trying to revive their inborn mental talents.

Neither of them was able to predict what the results might turn out to be.

The arrangement was for each of them to begin exercising their brain at a predetermined time. They were to continue for an hour, or until some definite event occurred, whatever it was.

Neither marfan would report results to the other until they came together again. The understanding was that they would both go immediately to the hospital dining hall and exchange notes there.

The Director and Lema Giten, neither of them aware of what the two patients were up to, were having dinner together at that site, the largest eating place on the ship.

She spoke in a troubled tone to her superior.

“As long as I have practiced psychiatry, I have had to recognize how little we know about the telesthetic powers of the human mind. Whenever that part of the spectrum arises in the course of therapy, an impenetrable wall arises. I have to admit to myself the enormous extent of my ignorance.”

Ciou Sartan opened his mouth, but nothing at all came out.

He blanched, gasped for breath as if choking. His rat-like eyes dilated. A sudden shaking struck all of the Director’s body. He trembled like a paralytic.

Lema watched in alarm. What was happening to him?

She shot to her feet in wonder at his condition.

In a single second, the large frame fell forward, onto the hard surface of the hyaline table.

Swiftly, Lema stepped up beside him and placed her hand on the top of his crew-cut head.

She heard him mumble a single sentence with difficulty.

“Look in my personal records for the answer to all this.”

With that one statement, the Director of the space hospital expired.

Efo and Jonco went to her at once to report that their telepathic abilities were restored with full force, as if there had never been any interruption. But the strange death of Ciou Sartan was the puzzle facing Lema and the outside authorities who took over the vessel to replace its top officer.

Lema at once asked for permission to delve into the personal files and papers of Sartan. She had no idea what he meant by his last words to her. It was only by the time that the galleon reached its distant destination in the Caelum Cluster that she had a complete answer. She summoned Jonco and Efo to her private office to reveal to them what she had uncovered.

The two restored psychics, sitting across the table from her, listened to what she had to say.

“It appears that a year ago the Director reacquired the psychic powers he had lost so many years before. He now enjoyed a colossal quantity of mental energy accumulated over years of disuse and the dormancy of his psychic potential. What was he to do with it? How was this reservoir to be applied?

“He found that he had forgotten the details of how to transmit and receive signals. All that his mind was able to do was to emit enormous waves of gigantic pulsation. These were so potent that they traveled long distances. They were capable of building a hermetic wall about the minds of psychics with less potency. That is what must have happened in both your cases, the Director concluded.”

“Were the two of us singled out for that?” meekly inquired Efo.

“Not as far as I can tell,” answered the doctor. “He was unable to control or stop himself. When you two came to the hospital, he was driven in two directions. His good side told him to find a cure for what he had caused, but the demon within said he should keep you two walled in and inert. By chance, both of you happened to be marfans with telepathic capabilities.

“Frustration destroyed him. The only thing he was capable of was sending out a mute wall of obstruction. He could only stifle and dampen the telepathy of others, as he did to the two of you. That was all that was possible for him, and it destroyed him.”

“The combined forces of our two minds must have overwhelmed him,” said Efo with a sigh. “Neither of us had such a tragic ending in mind. It just happened.”

“We broke the walls he had constructed around each of us,” added Jonco.

“Do not blame yourselves,” said Lema. “Being a marfan was not the cause of what happened to the two of you. It was all a matter of chance, nothing more than that.”

But both Efo and Jonco wondered whether marfan psychics were more vulnerable to sudden explosion and wave floods in other minds.

That was a mere conjecture not to be voiced before others.


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