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One of the first things that Susan had done
after her conversation with Dan Samples had
been to check him out on the Net. On the
first search engine she tried, his name brought
up over thirty references; on the second
and third even more - mostly articles written
by him about the usual grab bag of paranoid
In a way, she felt, the sources carefully
indexed at the end of his various pieces
said it all. Titles like: ‘OPERATION
MIND CONTROL' ; ‘THE ZAPPING OF AMERICA'
; ‘THE MIND MANIPULATORS' ; ‘WERE
To be honest, one among them gave her pause
for thought: ‘INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS AND
THE FEDERAL ROLE IN BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION'
- Prepared by the Staff of the Sub-committee
on Constitutional Rights of the Committee
of the Judiciary, United States Senate (Washington:
Government Printing Office, 1974).
However, that impressive effect was diminished
by the acknowledgement that followed it: ‘BEEPERS
IN KIDS' HEADS COULD STOP ABDUCTORS', Las
Vegas Sun, Oct. 7, 1987.
And she thought that before making up her
mind she would have to know more about ‘THE
CONTROL OF CANDY JONES' (Playboy Press, 1976).
The obsessions of Samples and those like
him centred on the idea that some amorphous
and shadowy group of power-brokers were intent
on establishing control of what George Orwell
called ‘the space between our ears'.
Samples differed from some of his peers in
that he believed these would-be controllers
to be entirely human, whereas others remained
convinced they were at least partially made
up of visitors from space.
Susan found it hard to believe (despite
pictures) in people being radio-controlled
by implants in the head. Or radiation discs
hidden (though seldom found) under the dash
of victims cars to give them cancer. Or the
idea of bombardment by high-frequency waves
from helicopters, or from some truck next
to your car in a traffic jam.
She sat back with a sigh, as she had earlier
in the restaurant, putting a distance between
herself and the world Dan Samples lived in.
She didn't want any part of it. The worst
thing about it, and perhaps the hardest part
to believe, was the degree of institutionalized
evil it implied within not just dictatorships
and fanatical cults, but equally in so-called
She was going to need powerful proof.
As the days went by and no call came from
Samples, her conviction grew that he was
just a harmless crank with insufficient evidence
to back up his fantasies. With this came
a growing sense of outrage that he should
have intruded into her private tragedy to
gratify his taste for paranoid invention.
She decided she wasn't just going to let
the matter drop. Genuine science had enough
prejudice and ignorance to overcome without
neurotics and charlatans like Dan Sample
obscuring the real issues with crude superstition.
She decided to go after the man.
In one of his articles he listed a number
of organizations which he accused of being
fronts for the channeling of money, public
and private, into illegal experiments. Many
of them were august and widely respected
bodies. One of them was the Pilgrim Foundation.
She didn't know whether this reference had
ever come to the knowledge of anybody in
the foundation, but she decided to make sure
that it did. Their lawyers would doubtless
take over from there.
Latimer West, who ran the Pilgrim Foundation
- officially he was its General Administrator,
with a seat on the board of trustees but
no voting powers - received the news of Samples
libel with equanimity. ‘It's something
that happens from time to time', he told
her. ‘Eruptions of confabulatory nonsense
like pimples on the face of an adolescent.
Most people grow out of it. It's rarely worth
suing - for one thing they don't have any
money. And if you use the law to close them
down, you just make yourself look like the
kind of bogeyman they say you are. But you're
right, I'll have this looked into. Sometimes,
when they go too far, you have to fire a
warning shot across their bows'.
Susan had never been sure if she liked Latimer
West. There was an unappealing plump sleekness
about the man. He managed somehow to be both
unctuous and condescending at the same time,
and he wore an eternally hovering smile behind
which she was sure lurked a killer instinct.
He had degrees in medicine and business administration,
and clearly relished the entrée into
the higher levels of both social and intellectual
chic that his position afforded him. Nonetheless,
the idea of his being in any way an evil
man struck her as patently absurd. Samples
charges against the Pilgrim Foundation just
didn't make sense on any level. The people
behind it as well as the people supported
by it included some of the country's elite.
Only paranoid fools - and embittered losers
- could convince themselves that there was
a rottenness at the heart of such a thing.
Aside from whatever the foundation might
do, she felt an urge to confront Samples
himself and demand an apology for involving
John's death in his infantile games. He wasn't
going to get away with his hit-and-run treatment
of her. However, one of his claims that proved
true was his boast of being a hard man to
find. There was no e-mail or any other kind
of address for him on the Net. As she didn't
even know where he lived, she didn't know
where to begin searching for the possibility
of a phone number, though the likelihood
of his being listed anywhere was remote.
When she spoke with her father on the phone,
his advice was to let the whole thing drop.
No real harm had been done, and provided
the man didn't harass her further she should
just forget about him.
Yet she couldn't. She went back through
the stuff on the Net. This time she found
a publisher's name listed at the end of one
of Samples articles, along with an address
- in Baltimore - to which you could write
for further material or for copies of some
of the books quoted. It was probably, she
imagined, a desktop operation working out
of somebody's apartment over a Chinese take-out.
She checked, and discovered they had a phone
number. She dialed it, and after several
rings a youngish male voice answered.
‘I wonder if you can help me', she
said, having established she was talking
to the right place. ‘I m trying to
get in touch with a man called Dan Samples.
I know he writes for you sometimes'.
There was a silence at the other end of
the line. She could hear the man breathing,
so she knew he hadn't hung up. But the space
between them was charged with mistrust.
‘What d'you want with him?' the voice
‘He came to see me a few days ago.
I'd like to talk some more with him about
something we discussed'.
There was another brief silence, then the
man said, ‘I m afraid that's not going
to be possible. Dan Samples died yesterday'.
He made himself so small that nobody would
have noticed, at a casual glance, that he
was there. The cart bumped and swung along
like a children's ride at the funfair. They
were heading, Charlie calculated, for the
residential part of the estate.
When the movement suddenly stopped and he
heard the motor die, he moved fast, and was
in the cover of nearby bushes before the
driver came around to start unloading. He
watched as the pictures were carried inside,
three or four at a time, about a dozen of
Somewhere above a light went on. He looked
up. It was an apartment block that looked,
he thought, as though a lot of expensive
television sets had been stacked together
at slightly odd angles. The windows had curved
edges and looked out on to the world like
screens, yet the whole effect was softened
by carefully cultivated ivy and other climbing
plants. What could easily have been forbidding
and strange became merely suburban.
The thing he noticed in this particular
window where the light had just gone on,
the thing that kept him watching, was the
sight of one of his paintings being held
up to be examined. He could see only one
hand, and no sign of the person it belonged
He could either go in and ring the bell
or break the door down, or he could do the
sensible thing. Some days, he found, and
this was one of them, his climbing skills
came in more useful than others. There wasn't
much in the way of finger - or toe - holds,
and any attempt to use the climbing plants
would be rash, but he managed, going carefully,
to get there. Each apartment had its own
small terrace; in this case it was just around
the corner from the window Charlie had observed.
He pulled himself up and flipped over the
rail. Now he could see into the room fully.
It was a comfortable, conventional living
room. It obviously belonged to someone interested
in books and art generally, and particularly
the art of Charlie Monk.
Kathy Ryan was going through his pictures,
pausing to look at each of them for a few
moments. When she'd gone through them once,
she started again, spending longer over some
this time, less over others. Charlie had
the feeling she'd already done this repeatedly.
The glass door from the balcony into the
apartment was open slightly, but Charlie
checked his impulse to walk in unannounced.
Instead he took a step closer so that she
would see him if she turned. Then he spoke
her name quietly.
She didn't jump. She just stopped what she
was doing and looked at him. There was no
fear in her face.
‘Come in, Charlie', she said. ‘I
was told you'd probably get here sooner or
He reached out and pushed open the door,
then took a step inside the room, and waited
for her to speak. She looked at him with
a strange kind of sadness that touched and
troubled him. Something, he knew now for
sure, was badly wrong with her life.
‘Kathy', he said softly, ‘just
tell me what's going on, please'.
She looked down, as though she found it
difficult to answer his question. She was
playing with something in her hand, something
small and black, though he didn't pay it
much attention for the moment.
He waited a while for her answer, then said, ‘Kathy,
She looked at him.
‘I'm not Kathy', she said. Her voice
was flat, drained of emotion. ‘There
is no Kathy Ryan. My name is Susan - Doctor
He could feel the puzzlement gather on his
face like a hot flush. He opened his mouth
to protest at this nonsense. But she - Kathy,
or Susan as she now chose to call herself
- lifted the small black object in her hand
slightly, and suddenly he remembered the
thing he had seen marijuana shirt pointing
in his direction before that truck had come
between them, and after which Charlie had
lost consciousness for several seconds.
This time nothing came between him and the
small black object that she aimed straight
at him. Charlie's world came to an end.
A strip of light opened horizontally across
the centre of his vision. He tried to focus,
but everything was strangely blurred, as
though he had suddenly become short-sighted.
He could see movements and what looked like
reflecting surfaces, but he could make out
‘That was quite a game you played
there, Charlie', someone said. It was a man's
voice, a voice he didn't know. And somehow
it didn't seem to be addressing him quite
as directly as the words implied.
‘He must be feeling wiped out', another
voice said, also male, also unknown.
‘He'll be okay in a couple of minutes',
said the first voice. They were talking about
him, Charlie realized, not to him. He tried
to ask where he was and what was happening,
but found he couldn't speak. All he heard
was a strange sound coming from his mouth,
as though he was half-drugged.
Then an extraordinary thing happened. The
strip of light he'd been staring at shot
upwards suddenly and disappeared from view.
There was a brief passage of blackness, then
the whole of his field of vision opened up.
He realized that something had been lifted
off his head. It was a kind of helmet. He
could see it now in the hands of one of the
men who had spoken. It had a dull metallic
colour and several strange-looking leads
coming out of it. The man holding it wore
a white lab coat. So did the other man with
him. Charlie had never seen either of them
‘He's awake', one of them said. ‘Look,
he's watching us - be careful'.
‘It's okay, he can't move'.
The one who'd just spoken reached out a
hand towards Charlie's neck. Charlie made
a superhuman effort to pull himself together
and say something. But the sound that escaped
his lips was no more coherent than before,
just louder and with an edge of frustration
‘Jesus Christ, he tried to bite me!'
The man who'd reached out to Charlie snatched
his hand back in alarm.
‘I told you to be careful. He can
take your fingers off with those teeth'.
Charlie heard all this with a strange sense
of detachment. He was beyond shock or even
surprise now. This was simply absurd. Someone
had to tell him what was going on, and soon.
Or maybe he just needed to wake up.
‘Listen, we'll pull the seal and let
him get the damn thing off himself. If he's
pissed off, we'll be out of here'.
This was said by the man whom Charlie had
- allegedly - tried to bite. ‘Okay,
fine', the other man said, sounding nervous
and relieved in equal parts.
Both men then reached cautiously around
the back of Charlie's neck, jumping slightly
as he twisted in whatever kind of harness
it was that held him. Once again he tried
to speak; once again without success. This
time he managed only a curious, rough-edged
What had happened to his voice?
There was a hissing sound, like a vacuum
being punctured. It didn't come from him
but from something he was wearing. He felt
a curious kind of pressure change all over
his body. Not uncomfortable, just strange.
He looked down.
His whole body was encased in some kind
of silvery suit, like a spaceman. Cables
of differing thickness were attached to various
parts of it, snaking away across the floor.
He heard a muffled clang and looked in its
direction, and saw the two white-coated men
pulling a door to after them. It was a cage
door made of vertical bars. They were on
the outside, and Charlie was inside.
In a cage!
He struggled to get to his feet, but something
still encumbered him. It was the spacesuit.
But as he moved and tried to free himself,
it fell away, just sliding down his torso
first of all, then falling with a surprisingly
heavy thud to the bare concrete floor. He
continued to look down.
But it wasn't the spacesuit that held his
attention now. It was his own body. He was
naked, and yet not naked. Every inch of him
- broad chest, long powerful-looking arms,
muscular legs and feet - was covered in thick,
black, coarse-textured hair.
His head spun. He thought for a moment that
he might pass out. But of course he didn't.
Because this wasn't possible. This was some
kind of aberration, some brief hallucination.
A hand rose towards his face. His own hand.
Without consciously willing it to move, he
brought it up and held it before him, examining
it, turning it over in wonderment.
It wasn't his hand at all. Not Charlie's
hand. Not Charlie Monk's. It was an ape's
He stared in silence, as though hypnotized.
The hand grew larger, filling his field of
vision. Unknowingly, instinctively, he brought
it to his face to feel what was there.
The hardness of the hand itself, the texture
and thickness of the skin, made feeling anything
at all difficult. Like wearing gloves. Except
that these weren't gloves. This was a living
And the face that it was feeling - his face
- was similarly rough and covered in hair,
and strangely rounded. He felt his lips.
They were wide and thin, but with a leathery
edge. And where he should have felt his nose,
there was none: just a small mound in the
middle of his face.
Something moved on the floor by his feet.
He looked down and saw the discarded silvery
suit being towed by its various attachments
towards a recess in the wall. When it had
been pulled all the way in, the recess swivelled
and disappeared, leaving only a smooth wall.
He looked around him now, taking in a wider
aspect of his surroundings. It was true:
he actually was in a cage. Two sides were
bars, two sides concrete wall. Beyond the
bars he couldn't see much. A passage went
past one side; there was nobody in it for
the moment. On the other side was a more
open space with a brightly lit area visible
in the distance. It looked like a high-tech
lab. There were benches with microscopes
and computer screens, and people working
at them. Nobody was paying him any attention
There was a movement in the corner of his
vision. He swung to his right - and found
himself looking into some thing he hadn't
noticed before. On the far wall of the corridor,
opposite his cage, was a full-length mirror.
He could see a reflection in it - a reflection
of whoever was in the cage.
He raised one arm, and then another. Then,
just to be sure, he took a step forward and
another step back.
There could be no doubt about it.
The reflection was himself. He was a full-grown