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He did not move. He felt snakes coiling around his neck, slipping over his shoulder, sliding between the fingers of his hands. He did not want to open his eyes. He felt a surge of nausea.
God, he thought. I'm going to throw up.
He felt snakes under his armpit, and felt snakes slipping past his groin. He burst into a cold sweat. He fought nausea. Beth, he thought. He did not want to speak. Beth ...
He listened to the hissing and then, when he couldn't stand it any more, he opened his eyes and saw the mass of coiling, writhing white flesh, the tiny heads, the flicking forked tongues. He closed his eyes again.
He felt one crawling up the leg of his jumpsuit, moving against his bare skin.
"Don't move, Norman."
It was Beth. He could hear the tension in her voice. He looked up, could not see her, only her shadow.
He heard her say, "Oh God, what time is it?" and he thought, The hell with the time, who cares what time it is? It didn't make any sense to him. "I have to know the time," Beth was saying. He heard her feet moving on the deck. "The time ..."
She was moving away, leaving him!
The snakes slid over his ears, under his chin, past his nostrils, the bodies damp and slithering.
Then he heard her feet on the deck, and a metallic clang as she threw open the hatch. He opened his eyes to see her bending over him, grabbing the snakes in great handfuls, throwing them down the hatch into the water. Snakes writhed in her hands, twisted around her wrists, but she shook them off, tossed them aside. Some of the snakes didn't land in the water and coiled on the deck. But most of the snakes were off his body now.
One more crawling up his leg, toward his groin. He felt it moving quickly backward - she was pulling it out by the tail!
"Jesus, careful - "
The snake was out, flung over her shoulder.
"You can get up, Norman," she said.
He jumped to his feet, and promptly vomited.
He had a murderous, pounding headache. It made the habitat lights seem unpleasantly bright. And he was cold. Beth had wrapped him in blankets and had moved him next to the big space heaters in D Cyl, so close that the hum of the electrical elements was very loud in his ears, but he was still cold. He looked down at her now, as she bandaged his cut knee.
"How is it?" he said.
"Not good," she said. "It's right down to the bone. But you'll be all right. It's only a few more hours now."
"Yes, I - ouch!"
"Sorry. Almost done." Beth was following first-aid directions from the computer. To distract his mind from the pain, he read the screen.
MINOR MEDICAL (NON-LETHAL) COMPLICATIONS
7.118 Helium Tremor
7.121 Toxic Contaminants
7.143 Synovial Pain
"That's what I need," he said. "Some microsleep. Or better yet, some serious macrosleep."
"Yes, we all do."
A thought occurred to him. "Beth, remember when you were pulling the snakes off me? What was all that you were saying about the time of day?"
"Sea snakes are diurnal," Beth said. "Many poisonous snakes are alternately aggressive and passive in twelve-hour cycles, corresponding to day and night. During the day, when they're passive, you can handle them and they will never bite. For example, in India, the highly poisonous banded krait has never been known to bite during the day, even when children play with them. But at night, watch out. So I was trying to determine which cycle the sea snakes were on, until I decided that this must be their passive daytime cycle."
"How'd you figure that?"
"Because you were still alive." Then she had used her bare hands to remove the snakes, knowing that they wouldn't bite her, either.
"With your hands full of snakes, you looked like Medusa."
"What is that, a rock star?"
"No, it's a mythological figure."
"The one who killed her children?" she asked, with a quick suspicious glance. Beth, ever alert to a veiled insult.
"No, that's somebody else. That was Medea. Medusa was a mythical woman with a head full of snakes who turned men to stone if they looked at her. Perseus killed her by looking at her reflection in his polished shield."
"Sorry, Norman. Not my field."
It was remarkable, he thought, that at one time every educated Western person knew these figures from mythology and the stories behind them intimately - as intimately as they knew the stories of families and friends. Myths had once represented the common knowledge of humanity, and they served as a kind of map of consciousness.
But now a well-educated person such as Beth knew nothing of myths at all. It was as if men had decided that the map of human consciousness had changed. But had it really changed? He shivered.
"Still cold, Norman?"
"Yeah. But the worst thing is the headache."
"You're probably dehydrated. Let's see if I can find something for you to drink." She went to the first-aid box on the wall.
"You know, that was a hell of a thing you did," Beth said. "Jumping in like that without a suit. That water's only a couple of degrees above freezing. It was very brave. Stupid, but brave." She smiled. "You saved my life, Norman."
"I didn't think," Norman said. "I just did it." And then he told her how, when he had seen her outside, with the churning cloud of sediment approaching her, he had felt an old and childish horror, something from distant memory.
"You know what it was?" he said. "It reminded me of the tornado in The Wizard of Oz. That tornado scared the bejesus out of me when I was a kid. I just didn't want to see it happen again."
And then he thought, Perhaps these are our new myths. Dorothy and Toto and the Wicked Witch, Captain Nemo and the giant squid ...
"Well," Beth said, "whatever the reason, you saved my life. Thank you."
"Any time," Norman said. He smiled. "Just don't do it again."
"No, I won't be going out again."
She brought back a drink in a paper cup. It was syrupy and sweet.
"What is this?"
"Isotonic glucose supplement. Drink it."
He sipped it again, but it was unpleasantly sweet. Across the room, the console screen still said I WILL KILL YOU NOW. He looked at Harry, still unconscious, with the intravenous line running into his arm.
Harry had been unconscious all this time.
He hadn't faced the implications of that. It was time to do it now. He didn't want to do it, but he had to. He said, "Beth, why do you think all this is happening?"
"The screen, printing words. And another manifestation coming to attack us."
Beth looked at him in a flat, neutral way. "What do you think, Norman?"
"It's not Harry."
"No. It's not."
"Then why is it happening?" Norman said. He got up, pulling the blankets tighter around him. He flexed his bandaged knee; it hurt, but not too badly. Norman moved to the porthole and looked out the window. In the distance he could see the string of red lights, from the explosives Beth had set and armed. He had never understood why she had wanted to do that. She had acted so strangely about the whole thing. He looked down toward the base of the habitat.
Red lights were glowing there, too, just below the porthole. She had armed the explosives around the habitat.
"Beth, what have you done?"
"You armed the explosives around DH-8."
"Yes, Norman," she said. She stood watching him, very still, very calm.
"Beth, you promised you wouldn't do that."
"I know. I had to."
"How are they wired? Where's the button, Beth?"
"There is no button. They're set on automatic vibration sensors."
"You mean they'll go off automatically?"
"Beth, this is crazy. Someone is still making these manifestations. Who is doing that, Beth?"
She smiled slowly, a lazy, cat smile, as if he secretly amused her. "Don't you really know?"
He did know. Yes, he thought. He knew, and it chilled him. "You're making these manifestations, Beth."
"No, Norman," she said, still calm. "I'm not doing it. You are."
He thought back years ago, to the early days of his training, when he had worked in the state hospital at Borrego. Norman had been sent by his supervisor to make a progress report on a particular patient. The man was in his late twenties, pleasant and well educated. Norman talked to him about all sorts of things: the Oldsmobile Hydramatic transmission, the best surfing beaches, Adlai Stevenson's recent presidential campaign, Whitey Ford's pitching, even Freudian theory. The man was quite charming, although he chain-smoked and seemed to have an underlying tension. Finally Norman got around to asking him why he had been sent to the hospital.
The man didn't remember why. He was sorry, he just couldn't seem to recall. Under repeated questioning from Norman, the man became less charming, more irritable. Finally he turned threatening and angry, pounding the table, demanding that Norman talk about something else.
Only then did it dawn on Norman who this man was: Alan Whittier, who as a teenager had murdered his mother and sister in their trailer in Palm Desert, and then had gone on to kill six people at a gas station and three others in a supermarket parking lot, until he finally turned himself in to the police, sobbing, hysterical with guilt and remorse. Whittier had been in the state hospital for ten years, and he had brutally attacked several attendants during that time.
This was the man who was now enraged, standing up in front of Norman, and kicking the table, flinging his chair back against the wall. Norman was still a student; he didn't know how to handle it. He turned to flee the room, but the door behind him was locked. They had locked him in, which is what they always did during interviews with violent patients. Behind him, Whittier lifted the table and threw it against the wall; he was coming for Norman. Norman had a moment of horrible panic until he heard the locks rattling, and then three huge attendants dashed in, grabbed Whittier, and dragged him away, still screaming and swearing.
Norman went directly to his supervisor, demanded to know why he had been set up. The supervisor said to him, Set up? Yes, Norman had said, set up. The supervisor said, But weren't you told the man's name beforehand? Didn't the name mean anything to you? Norman replied that he hadn't really paid attention.
You better pay attention, Norman, the supervisor had said. You can't ever let down your guard in a place like this. It's too dangerous.
Now, looking across the habitat at Beth, he thought: Pay attention, Norman. You can't let down your guard. Because you're dealing with a crazy person and you haven't realized it.
"I see you don't believe me," Beth said, still very calm. "Are you able to talk?"
"Sure," Norman said.
"Be logical, all of that?"
"Sure," he said, thinking: I'm not the crazy one here.
"All right," Beth said. "Remember when you told me about Harry - how all the evidence pointed to Harry?"
"Yes. Of course."
"You asked me if I could think of another explanation, and I said no. But there is another explanation, Norman. Some points you conveniently overlooked the first time. Like the jellyfish. Why the jellyfish? It was your little brother who was stung by the jellyfish, Norman, and you who felt guilty afterward. And when does Jerry speak? When you're there, Norman. And when does the squid stop its attack? When you were knocked unconscious, Norman. Not Harry, you."
Her voice was so calm, so reasonable. He struggled to consider what she was saying. Was it possible she was right? "Step back. Take the long view," Beth said. "You're a psychologist, down here with a bunch of scientists dealing with hardware. There's nothing for you to do down here - you said so yourself. And wasn't there a time in your life when you felt similarly professionally bypassed? Wasn't that an uncomfortable time for you? Didn't you once tell me that you hated that time in your life?"
"Yes, but - "
"When all the strange things start to happen, the problem isn't hardware any more. Now it's a psychological problem. It's right up your alley, Norman, your particular area of expertise. Suddenly you become the center of attention, don't you?"
No, he thought. This can't be right.
"When Jerry starts to communicate with us, who notices that he has emotions? Who insists we deal with Jerry's emotions? None of us are interested in emotions, Norman. Barnes only wants to know about armaments, Ted only wants to talk science, Harry only wants to play logical games. You're the one who's interested in emotions. And who manipulates Jerry - or fails to manipulate him? You, Norman. It's all you."
"It can't be," Norman said. His mind was reeling. He struggled to find a contradiction, and found it. "It can't be me - because I haven't been inside the sphere."
"Yes, you have," Beth said. "You just don't remember."
He felt battered, repeatedly punched and battered. He couldn't seem to get his balance, and the blows kept coming.
"Just the way you don't remember that I asked you to look up the balloon codes," Beth was saying in her calm voice. "Or the way Barnes asked you about the helium concentrations in E Cyl."
He thought, what helium concentrations in E Cyl? When did Barnes ask me about that?
"There's a lot you don't remember, Norman."
Norman said, "When did I go to the sphere?"
"Before the first squid attack. After Harry came out."
"I was asleep! I was sleeping in my bunk!"
"No, Norman. You weren't. Because Fletcher came to get you and you were gone. We couldn't find you for about two hours, and then you showed up, yawning."
"I don't believe you," he said.
"I know you don't. You prefer to make it somebody else's problem. And you're clever. You're skilled at psychological manipulation, Norman. Remember those tests you conducted? Putting unsuspecting people up in an airplane, then telling them the pilot had a heart attack? Scaring them half to death? That's pretty ruthless manipulation, Norman.
"And down here in the habitat, when all these things started happening, you needed a monster. So you made Harry the monster. But Harry wasn't the monster, Norman. You are the monster. That's why your appearance changed, why you became ugly. Because you're the monster."
"But the message. It said 'My name is Harry.' "
"Yes, it did. And as you yourself pointed out, the person causing it was afraid that the real name would come out on the screen."
"Harry," Norman said. "The name was Harry."
"And what's your name?"
"Your full name."
He paused. Somehow his mouth wasn't working. His brain was blank.
"I'll tell you what it is," Beth said. "I looked it up. It's Norman Harrison Johnson."
No, he thought. No, no, no. She can't be right.
"It's hard to accept," Beth was saying in her slow, patient, almost hypnotic voice. "I understand that. But if you think about it, you'll realize you wanted it to come to this. You wanted me to figure it out, Norman. Why, just a few minutes ago, you even told me about The Wizard of Oz, didn't you? You helped me along when I wasn't getting the point - or at least your unconscious did. Are you still calm?"
"Of course I'm calm."
"Good. Stay calm, Norman. Let's consider this logically. Will you cooperate with me?"
"What do you want to do?"
"I want to put you under, Norman. Like Harry."
He shook his head.
"It's only for a few hours, Norman," she said, and then she seemed to decide; she moved swiftly toward him, and he saw the syringe in her hand, the glint of the needle, and he twisted away. The needle plunged into the blanket, and he threw it off and ran for the stairs.
"Norman! Come back here!"
He was climbing the stairs. He saw Beth running forward with the needle. He kicked with his foot, got upstairs into her lab, and slammed the hatch down on her.
She pounded on the hatch. Norman stood on it, knowing that she could never lift his weight. Beth continued to pound.
"Norman Johnson, you open that hatch this minute!"
"No, Beth, I'm sorry."
He paused. What could she do? Nothing, he thought. He was safe here. She couldn't get to him up here, she couldn't do anything to him as long as he remained here.
Then he saw the metal pivot move in the center of the hatch between his feet. On the other side of the hatch, Beth was spinning the wheel.
Locking him in.
The only lights in the laboratory shone on the bench, next to a row of neatly bottled specimens: squid, shrimps, giant squid eggs. He touched the bottles absently. He turned on the laboratory monitor and punched buttons until he saw Beth, downstairs, on the video. Beth was working at the main D Cyl console. To one side, he saw Harry, still lying unconscious.
"Norman, can you hear me?"
He said aloud, "Yes, Beth. I hear you."
"Norman, you are acting irresponsibly. You are a menace to this entire expedition."
Was that true? he wondered. He didn't think he was a menace to the expedition. It didn't feel true to him. But how often in his life had he confronted patients who refused to acknowledge what was happening in their lives? Even trivial examples - a man, another professor at the university, who was terrified of elevators but who steadfastly insisted he always took the stairs because it was good exercise. The man would climb fifteen-story buildings; he would decline appointments in taller buildings; he arranged his entire life to accommodate a problem he would not admit he had. The problem remained concealed from him until he finally had a heart attack. Or the woman who was exhausted from years of caring for her disturbed daughter; she gave her daughter a bottle of sleeping pills because she said the girl needed a rest; the girl committed suicide. Or the novice sailor who cheerfully packed his family off on a sailing excursion to Catalina in a gale, nearly killing them all.
Dozens of examples came to mind. It was a psychological truism, this blindness about self. Did he imagine that he was immune? Three years ago, there had been a minor scandal when one of the assistant professors in the Psychology Department had committed suicide, sticking a gun in his mouth over the Labor Day weekend. There had been headlines for that one: "PSYCH PROF KILLS SELF, Colleagues Express Surprise, Say Deceased Was 'Always Happy.' "
The dean of the faculty, embarrassed in his fund-raising, had berated Norman about that incident, but the difficult truth was that psychology had severe limitations. Even with professional knowledge and the best of intentions, there remained an enormous amount you never knew about your closest friends, your colleagues, your wives and husbands and children.
And your ignorance about yourself was even greater than that. Self-awareness was the most difficult of all. Few people attained it. Or perhaps nobody attained it.
"Norman, are you there?"
"I think you are a good person, Norman."
He said nothing. He just watched her on the monitor.
"I think you have integrity, and that you believe in telling the truth. This is a difficult moment for you, to face the reality about yourself. I know your mind is struggling now to find excuses, to blame someone else. But I think you can do it, Norman. Harry couldn't do it, but you can. I think you can admit the hard truth - that so long as you remain conscious, the expedition is menaced."
He felt the strength of her conviction, heard the quiet force of her voice. As Beth spoke, it felt almost as if her ideas were clothing being draped over his body. He began to see things her way. She was so calm, she must be right. Her ideas had such power. Her thoughts had such power. ...
"Beth, have you been in the sphere?"
"No, Norman. That's your mind, trying to evade the point again. I haven't been in the sphere. You have."
He honestly couldn't remember going into the sphere. He had no recollection at all. And when Harry had been in the sphere, he remembered afterward. Why would Norman forget? Why would he block it?
"You're a psychologist, Norman," she was saying. "You, of all people, do not want to admit you have a shadow side. You have a professional stake in believing in your own mental health. Of course you will deny it."
He didn't think so. But how to resolve it? How to determine if she was right or not? His mind wasn't working well. His cut knee throbbed painfully. At least there was no doubt about that - his injured knee was real.
That was how to resolve it, he thought. Reality testing. What was the objective evidence that Norman had gone to the sphere? They had made tapes of everything that occurred in the habitat. If Norman had gone to the sphere many hours ago, somewhere there was a tape showing him in the airlock, alone, getting dressed, slipping away. Beth should be able to show him that tape. Where was that tape?
In the submarine, of course.
It would long ago have been taken to the submarine. Norman himself might have taken it, when he made his excursion to the sub.
No objective evidence.
"Norman, give up. Please. For all our sakes."
Perhaps she was right, he thought. She was so sure of herself. If he was evading the truth, if he was putting the expedition in jeopardy, then he had to give himself up and let her put him under. Could he trust her to do that? He would have to. There wasn't any choice.
It must be me, he thought. It must be. The thought was so horrible to him - that in itself was suspicious. He was resisting it so violently - not a good sign, he thought. Too much resistance.
"Will you do it?"
"Don't push. Give me a minute, will you?"
"Sure, Norman. Of course."
He looked at the video recorder next to the monitor. He remembered how Beth had used this recorder to play the same tape, again and again, the tape in which the sphere had opened by itself. That tape was now lying on the counter beside the recorder. He pushed the tape into the slot, clicked the recorder on. Why bother to look at it now? he thought. You're just delaying. You're wasting time.
The screen flickered, and he waited for the familiar image of Beth eating cake, her back to the monitor. But this was a different tape. This was a direct monitor feed showing the sphere. The gleaming sphere, just sitting there.
He watched for a few seconds, but nothing happened. The sphere was immobile, as always. Polished, perfect, immobile. He watched a while longer, but there was nothing to see.
"Norman, if I open the hatch now, will you come down quietly?"
He sighed, sat back in the chair. How long would he be unconscious? A little less than six hours. It would be okay. But in any case, Beth was right, he had to give himself up. "Norman, why are you watching that tape?"
He looked around quickly. Was there a video camera in the room allowing her to see him? Yes: high up in the ceiling, next to the upper hatch.
"Why are you watching that tape, Norman?"
"It was here."
"Who said you could watch that tape?"
"Nobody," Norman said. "It was just here."
"Turn the tape off, Norman. Turn it off now."
She didn't sound so calm any more. "What's the matter, Beth?"
"Turn that damned tape off, Norman!"
He was about to ask her why, but then he saw Beth enter the video image, stand next to the sphere. Beth closed her eyes and clenched her fists. The convoluted grooves of the sphere parted, revealing blackness. And as he watched, Beth stepped inside the sphere.
And the door of the sphere closed behind her.
"You goddamned men," Beth said in a tight, angry voice. "You're all the same; you can't leave well enough alone, none of you."
"You lied to me, Beth."
"Why did you watch that tape? I begged you not to watch that tape. It could only hurt you to watch that tape, Norman." She wasn't angry any more; now she was pleading, near tears. She was undergoing rapid emotional shifts. Unstable, unpredictable.
And she was in control of the habitat.
"I'm sorry, Norman. I can't trust you any more."
"I'm turning you off, Norman. I'm not going to listen to - "
"--Beth, wait - "
" - you any more. I know how dangerous you are. I saw what you did to Harry. How you twisted the facts so that it was Harry's fault. Oh yes, it was Harry's fault, by the time you got through. And now you want to make it Beth's fault, don't you? Well, let me tell you, Norman, you won't be able to do it, because I have shut you off, Norman. I can't hear your soft, convincing words. I can't hear your manipulation. So don't waste your breath, Norman."
He stopped the tape. The monitor now showed Beth at the console in the room below.
Pushing buttons on the console.
"Beth?" he said.
She didn't reply; she just went on working at the console, muttering to herself.
"You're a real son of a bitch, Norman, do you know that? You feel so terrible that you need to make everybody else just as low as you are."
She was talking about herself, he thought.
"You're so big on the unconscious, Norman. The unconscious this, the unconscious that. Jesus Christ, I'm sick of you. Your unconscious probably wants to kill us all, just because you want to kill yourself and you think everybody else should die with you."
He felt a shuddering chill. Beth, with her lack of self-esteem, her deep core of self-hate, had gone inside the sphere, and now she was acting with the power of the sphere, but without stability to her thoughts. Beth saw herself as a victim who struggled against her fate, always unsuccessfully. Beth was victimized by men, victimized by the establishment, victimized by research, victimized by reality. In every case she failed to see how she had done it to herself. And she's put explosives all around the habitat, he thought.
"I won't let you do it, Norman. I'm going to stop you before you kill us all."
Everything she said was the reverse of the truth. He began to see the pattern now.
Beth had figured out how to open the sphere, and she had gone there in secret, because she had always been attracted to power - she always felt she lacked power and needed more. But Beth wasn't prepared to handle power once she had it. Beth still saw herself as a victim, so she had to deny the power, and arrange to be victimized by it.
It was very different from Harry. Harry had denied his fears, and so fearful images had manifested themselves. But Beth denied her power, and so she manifested a churning cloud of formless, uncontrolled power.
Harry was a mathematician who lived in a conscious world of abstraction, of equations and thoughts. A concrete form, like a squid, was what Harry feared. But Beth, the zoologist who dealt every day with animals, creatures she could touch and see, created an abstraction. A power that she could not touch or see. A formless abstract power that was coming to get her.
And to defend herself, she had armed the habitat with explosives. It wasn't much of a defense, Norman thought. Unless you secretly wanted to kill yourself.
The horror of his true predicament became clear to him. "You won't get away with this, Norman. I won't let it happen. Not to me."
She was punching keys on the console. What was she planning? What could she do to him? He had to think. Suddenly, the lights in the laboratory went off. A moment later, the big space heater died, the red elements cooling, turning dark.
She had shut off the power.
With the heater turned off, how long could he last? He took the blankets from her bed, wrapped himself in them. How long, without heat? Certainly not six hours, he thought grimly.
"I'm sorry, Norman. But you understand the position I'm in. As long as you're conscious, I'm in danger."
Maybe an hour, he thought. Maybe I can last an hour.
"I'm sorry, Norman. But I have to do this to you."
He heard a soft hiss. The alarm on his chest badge began to beep. He looked down at it. Even in the darkness, he could see it was now gray. He knew immediately what had happened.
Beth had turned off his air.
Huddled in the darkness, listening to the beep of his alarm and the hiss of the escaping air. The pressure diminishing rapidly: his ears popped, as if he were in an airplane taking off.
Do something, he thought, feeling a surge of panic.
But there was nothing he could do. He was locked in the upper chamber of D Cyl. He could not get out. Beth had control of the entire facility, and she knew how to run the life-support systems. She had shut off his power, she had shut off his heat, and now she had shut off his air. He was trapped.
As the pressure fell, the sealed specimen bottles exploded like bombs, shooting fragments of glass across the room. He ducked under the blankets, feeling the glass rip and tug at the cloth. Breathing was harder now. At first he thought it was tension, and then he realized that the air was thinner. He would lose consciousness soon.
He couldn't seem to catch his breath.
But all he could think about was breathing. He needed air, needed oxygen. Then he thought of the first-aid cabinet. Wasn't there emergency oxygen in the cabinet? He wasn't sure. He seemed to remember. ... As he got up, another specimen bottle exploded, and he twisted away from the flying glass.
He was gasping for breath, chest heaving. He started to see gray spots before his eyes.
He fumbled in the darkness, looking for the cabinet, his hands moving along the wall. He touched a cylinder. Oxygen? No, too large - it must be the fire extinguisher. Where was the cabinet? His hands moved along the wall. Where?
He felt the metal case, the embossed cover with the raised cross. He pulled it open, thrust his hands inside.
More spots swam before his eyes. There wasn't much time. His fingers touched small bottles, soft bandage packs. There was no air bottle. Damn! The bottles fell to the floor, and then something large and heavy landed on his foot with a thud. He bent down, touched the floor, felt a shard of glass cut his finger, paid no attention. His hand closed over a cold metal cylinder. It was small, hardly longer than the palm of his hand. At one end was some fitting, a nozzle. ...
It was a spray can - some kind of damn spray can. He threw it aside. Oxygen. He needed oxygen!
By the bed, he remembered. Wasn't there emergency oxygen by every bed in the habitat? He felt for the couch where Beth had slept, felt for the wall above where her head would have been. Surely there was oxygen nearby. He was dizzy now. He wasn't thinking clearly.
Then he realized this wasn't a regular bed. It wasn't intended for sleeping. They wouldn't have placed any oxygen here. Damn! And then his hand touched a metal cylinder, clipped to the wall. At one end was something soft. Soft ...
An oxygen mask.
Quickly he pushed the mask over his mouth and nose. He felt the bottle, twisted a knurled knob. He heard a hissing, breathed cold air. He felt a wave of intense dizziness, and then his head cleared. Oxygen! He was fine!
He felt the shape of the bottle, gauging its size. It was an emergency bottle, only a few hundred cc's. How long would it last? Not long, he thought. A few minutes. It was only a temporary reprieve.
But he couldn't think of anything to do. He had no options. He was locked in a room.
He remembered one of his teachers, fat old Dr. Temkin. "You always have an option. There is always something you can do. You are never without choice."
I am now, he thought. No choices now. Anyway, Temkin had been talking about treating patients, not escaping from sealed chambers. Temkin didn't have any experience escaping from sealed chambers. And neither did Norman.
The oxygen made him lightheaded. Or was it already running out? He saw a parade of his old teachers before him. Was this like seeing your life running before you, before you died? All his teachers: Mrs. Jefferson, who told him to be a lawyer instead. Old Joe Lamper, who laughed and said, "Everything is sex. Trust me. It always comes down to sex." Dr. Stein, who used to say, "There is no such thing as a resistant patient. Show me a resistant patient and I'll show you a resistant therapist. If you're not making headway with a patient, then do something else, do anything else. But do something."
Stein advocated crazy stuff. If you weren't getting through to a patient, get crazy. Dress up in a clown suit, kick the patient, squirt him with a water pistol, do any damned thing that came into your head, but do something.
"Look," he used to say. "What you're doing now isn't working. So you might as well do something else, no matter how crazy it seems."