The operation was a very serious one and Bart Neely
was willing to put himself into Dr. Morton's hands.
But if things turned out badly, Bart was going to
teach them a lesson. He was going to refuse to die.
Bart Neely was fighting
the hypo. They'd slipped
that over on him. Now he had to
struggle to keep his brain ready
for plan B. The alternate plan.
He nodded feebly at his reflection
in the mirror over the white
enamel dresser. This throat-trouble
wasn't going to lick him.
He lay back on the cool white
pillow. Medical men always
thought theirs was the final answer;
well, psychologists like
himself knew there was a broader
view of man than the anatomical.
There was a vast region
of energy at man's disposal;
the switch to turn it on, located
in the brain.
Rubber-soled shoes squished
across the bare floor as Dr.
Jonas Morton came into Bart's
room. His hair was hidden by a
sterile cap, his arms bare to well
above the elbows.
Looks like a damned butcher,
"Bart, I want you to reconsider
the anesthetic. I think you
ought to be out for this one,
completely out." The doctor's
voice became a shade less professional.
"I don't tell you how
to run your perception experiments,
I think you ought to let
me judge what's best in the surgical
"No," Bart whispered hoarsely.
It was hell squeezing the
words out. Lifting his voice these
days was harder than lifting a
half-ton truck. "Must be conscious,
able to decide." Jonas
had to lean down to catch all the
words. "Not going to let you
take my voice while I'm unconscious
... helpless ..."
Dr. Morton shook his head.
"You're the boss."
"Twenty minutes." The professional
tone became pronounced
again. "Your wife's outside
waiting to see you. Don't get
emotional, I don't want your
endocrine system in an uproar."
The doctor stepped out into the
Emotional. He mustn't think
about it. He might weaken, consent
to linger on, an invalid, just
to be with Vivian a few extra
years. Extra years of indignities
calculated to twist the man-woman
relationship into an ugly
distortion. How romantic it
would be, he and Vivian locked
in an embrace, the silky softness
of her hair falling across his
arm, the pressure of her fingers
on his back. And then, instead of
placing his mouth against her
ear and whispering the familiar
intimacies, he would switch on
the light, disengage himself so
that he could whip out a pad
and pencil and ...
skipped at the sound pattern of
high heels on the corridor. Vivian,
Vivian. Her perfume pricked
his senses and it took effort to
shut out the emotional response.
"Remember the need for an
alternate plan," he reminded himself
fiercely and then looked up
into his wife's clear green eyes.
Without a word she bent down
and lay her face next to his. He
was struck with the warmth of
her. He gently pushed her head
away. "Vi." (My Lord, his eyes
were wet ... what a schoolboy
performance!) "Vi, you know I
don't want to go on here ... if
radical surgery is necessary. I
want you to remember me as a
whole man, not a ... dummy."
"Bart, oh Bart." There was a
frown of apprehension on her
forehead. She sighed heavily
and whispered, "Can it make so
much difference when I love you
"But don't you see, Vi? It may
not be Bart Neely they wheel
back here after the operation."
He motioned for her to bend
closer for the sound of his voice
was becoming weaker. "In my
field I've seen a lot of crazy reactions
to loss of basic ability.
Personality reversals brought
about by loss of hearing, impotency,
or even the inability to
bear a child." He stroked the
back of her hand with his finger.
"Bart Neely without a voice-box
might be a stranger. I'm not
sure you'd like him. I don't think
I'd even like him."
An intern backed into the
room followed by a gurney. Bart
shot a look at Vi. "This is plan
Vi's eyebrows arched in a
"Exploration and ..." he paused;
the nurse tucked a dark gray
blanket all around him. He raised
his thin white hand and crossed
two fingers ... "and we hope, a
There was no pain. Whatever
the anesthetist had worked out
was doing nicely. The overhead
light, however, was giving him
a headache and the operating
room was damned cold. Jonas
and Holsclaw weren't talking
much, and what they did say
wasn't loud enough for Bart to
get. He studied their faces. "I'll
know by their faces," he assured
himself, "and if it's widespread
malignancy I'll proceed with
The sweat was heavy on Jonas'
forehead. The sterile mask hid
his nose and mouth, but his eyes,
behind the lenses of his glasses,
looked moist and tired. The surgeon's
gloved fingers manipulated,
probed, cut. Finally, he turned
to a waiting nurse.
"Get this analyzed right
away." That was it, the tissue
... was it cancerous or not?
The atmosphere grew heavy.
Bart watched the second hand
on the large wall-clock swing
slowly around its perimeter, and
then around again and again.
The nurse reentered and spoke
softly to the doctor. The two
doctors whispered, explaining to
each other with hand motions
what they were going to do.
This is it. Bart was certain.
Well, he'd fool the hell out of the
know-it-all doctors. He closed his
eyes and thought. The years he
had spent sharpening his perception,
his ability to transfer
his thoughts, were just the
groundwork for this greatest experiment
of all. He had transferred
thought waves in all
forms to all corners of this world
with the highest percentage of
accuracy. Now Plan B, the alternate
plan, was to transfer himself!
He was willing himself out
of his own body. He could feel
the perspiration trickle down his
arms with the effort. It had to
work. He had to cheat them out
of their mutilation. No, he
couldn't fail. He strained against
the confines of his body, burdening
his brain with thought, and
suddenly he was free. Bart wanted
to shriek with laughter. He'd
outwitted them. There stood
gray-faced Jonas working over
that shell, not even realizing that
it was an empty body. It was like
a television play or something;
everyone clustered around a poor
stiff on the operating table, repeating
the litany of the saw-bones.
"Scalpel ... sponge ...
Bart mentally chuckled and
fluttered himself upwards; above
the square-shaped hospital with
its rows of tiny windows. Beyond
the polluted air of the city.
Up and up, until there was nothing
to look back on. Nothing.
Now Bart perceived something
ahead. It appeared to be a body
of land. It looked marvelously
appealing, dark greens, bright
yellows, and all the shades in between.
He hurried forward, eager
to explore what lay ahead.
But as he drew closer, becoming
more excited over its possibilities,
he struck a cold hard surface
which repelled him. It was
like glass and through it Bart
could see a poorly defined figure
some distance away. Bart was
intrigued. This was a mental
barrier thrown up by the fellow
on the other side. Well, he'd give
the guy some competition. Bart
concentrated on cracking the
wall, building a visual picture of
the break-through in his mind.
"It's useless. You can't enter
"Why do you oppose me?"
Bart tested the unseen wall, but
found no weakness in its structure.
"We don't care for your sort."
"Is that so. And how have you
"As a coward. A suicide. A
man of meager resources."
"I'm nothing of the kind. In
the first place, I did not commit
suicide." Bart wished he could
kick at the invisible wall. "I willed
myself away from an imperfect
shell. I severed the mind
from the body."
"Because I had cancer of the
larynx, and I'd never have been
able to talk again. I'd be less
than a man."
"You are less than a man
now." There was a long period of
no exchange. Bart decided he had
not made himself clear. "I didn't
want to live without being able
to communicate with other men
There are a million ways to
communicate. Michelangelo communicated,
Bach, Beethoven, yes,
Elvis Presley communicates.
Hemingway, Martha Graham,
actors, dancers, even a baby
"But speech ..."
"Speech is the least dependable
method of all. Few people
can explain their love, their pain,
their innermost feelings in
words. And often a man speaks
his thoughts, and having spoken
them, finds he really thinks the
opposite. No, this is second-rate
expression and my opinion of you
has not been altered by your
The other fellow's thoughts
came over the wall, pounding
against Bart's sub-conscious.
"You consider yourself a man of
great intelligence," it went on,
"but your lack of imagination
makes you less than mediocre.
And as for your mind-power,
well, you see you cannot cross
my mental barrier."
"That's not entirely conclusive.
There may be a catalyst here in
this area which works in conjunction
with your thought-processes
and not mine. You're
familiar with conditions here,
while I only know the earth."
"You are hardly a challenge
to me. However, to satisfy you
that you have practically no control,
let us make a test on your
"All right. You propose the
"Let us see ... if you can re-enter
your former body while I
am willing you to stay here, on
the other side of that wall."
"Ahah. You're trying to trick
"I knew before I proposed my
plan you would make exactly that
excuse in order to escape my
challenge. Even in excuses you
"Okay, it's a deal." Bart was
mad. "Start concentrating. I'll
show you the power of my mind,
both now and after I resume
that shell." Bart was furious. He
tried to leave the place by the
wall. He seemed stuck. There
were waves like laughter vibrating
against the glass. Bart
strained and saw that he had
come away a little. He tried
again and again. There was a
little more distance gained. He
tried to build the picture of the
operating-room in his mind and
while he was doing this a flash
of Vivian exploded his mind.
With that quick image, he felt
himself free to drift downward.
There indeed was the hospital.
Bart hurried to the operating-room,
hovering near the ceiling
light, watching the operating
"He's gone, doctor." The anesthetist
looked at Jonas. "Respiration's
No, thought Bart. Don't close
me out now.
"Let's open the chest and massage
"I think it's futile, doctor."
"We can try."
Good old Jonas. Bart floated
to the table and forced
himself into the shell which lay
white and unmoving under the
penetrating light from above. It
wasn't easy, Bart tried to move
the heavy hand, but it was quite
"Not a thing. Might as well
Holsclaw's in a hurry. Damn
"I'll massage a little longer."
Bart pushed at the leaden eyelid.
No go. Come on, come on.
He felt a convulsive chill, a
throbbing in his head.
"I'm getting a pulse." Jonas'
voice was excited.
Bart knew there was a searing
pain in his throat, but shutting
it out of his consciousness was
the steady, thumping beat of his
Produced by Greg Weeks, Stephen Blundell and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
This etext was produced from Amazing Science Fiction Stories September
1958. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and
typographical errors have been corrected without note.