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0500 HOURS

The sphere gleamed in the light. Norman saw himself reflected in its perfectly polished surface, then saw his image break up, fragmented on the convolutions, as he moved around to the back.

To the door.

It looked like a mouth, he thought. Like the maw of some primitive creature, about to eat him. Confronted by the sphere, seeing once again the alien, unhuman pattern of the convolutions, he felt his intention dissolve. He was suddenly afraid. He didnt think he could go through with it.

Dont be silly, he told himself. Harry did it. And Beth did it. They survived.

He examined the convolutions, as if for reassurance. But there wasnt any reassurance to be obtained. Just curved grooves in the metal, reflecting back the light.

Okay, he thought finally. Ill do it. Ive come this far, Ive survived everything so far. I might as well do it.

Go ahead and open up.

But the sphere did not open. It remained exactly as it was, a gleaming, polished, perfect shape.

What was the purpose of the thing? He wished he understood its purpose.

He thought of Dr. Stein again. What was Steins favorite line? Understanding is a delaying tactic. Stein used to get angry about that. When the graduate students would intellectualize, going on and on about patients and their problems, he would interrupt in annoyance, Who cares? Who cares whether we understand the psychodynamics in this case? Do you want to understand how to swim, or do you want to jump in and start swimming? Only people who are afraid of the water want to understand it. Other people jump in and get wet.

Okay, Norman thought. Lets get wet.

He turned to face the sphere, and thought, Open up.

The sphere did not open.

Open up, he said aloud. The sphere did not open.

Of course he knew that wouldnt work, because Ted had tried it for hours. When Harry and Beth went in, they hadnt said anything. They just did something in their minds.

He closed his eyes, focused his attention, and thought, Open up.

He opened his eyes and looked at the sphere. It was still closed.

I am ready for you to open up, he thought. I am ready now.

Nothing happened. The sphere did not open.

Norman hadnt considered the possibility that he would be unable to open the sphere. After all, two others had already done it. How had they managed it?

Harry, with his logical brain, had been the first to figure it out. But Harry had only figured it out after he had seen Beths tape. So Harry had discovered a clue in the tape, an important clue.

Beth had also reviewed the tape, watching it again and again, until she finally figured it out, too. Something in the tape

Too bad he didnt have the tape here, Norman thought. But he had seen it often, he could probably reconstruct it, play it back in his mind. How did it go? In his mind he saw the images: Beth and Tina talking. Beth eating cake. Then Tina had said something about the tapes being stored in the submarine. And Beth said something back. Then Tina had moved away, out of the picture, but she had said, Do you think theyll ever get the sphere open?

And Beth said, Maybe. I dont know. And the sphere had opened at that moment.

Why?

Do you think theyll ever get the sphere open? Tina had asked. And in response to such a question, Beth must have imagined the sphere open, must have seen an image of the open sphere in her mind

There was a deep, low rumble, a vibration that filled the room.

The sphere was open, the door gaping wide and black.

Thats it, he thought. Visualize it happening and it happens. Which meant that if he also visualized the sphere door closed-

With another deep rumble, the sphere closed.

or open-

The sphere opened again.

Id better not press my luck, he said aloud. The door was still open. He peered in the doorway but saw only deep, undifferentiated blackness. Its now or never, he thought. He stepped inside.

The sphere closed behind him.

There is darkness, and then, as his eyes adjust, something like fireflies. It is a dancing, luminous foam, millions of points of light, swirling around him.

What is this? he thinks. All he sees is the foam. There is no structure to it and apparently no limit. It is a surging ocean, a glistening, multifaceted foam. He feels great beauty and peace. It is restful to be here.

He moves his hands, scooping the foam, his movements making it swirl. But then he notices that his hands are becoming transparent, that he can see the sparkling foam through his own flesh. He looks down at his body. His legs, his torso, everything is becoming transparent to the foam. He is part of the foam. The sensation is very pleasant.

He grows lighter. Soon he is lifted, and floats in the limitless ocean foam. He puts his hands behind his neck and floats. He feels happy. He feels he could stay here forever.

He becomes aware of something else in this ocean, some other presence.

Anybody here? he says.

I am here.

He almost jumps, it is so loud. Or it seems loud. Then he wonders if he has heard anything at all.

Did you speak?

No.

How are we communicating? he wonders.

The way everything communicates with everything else.

Which way is that?

Why do you ask if you already know the answer?

But I dont know the answer.

The foam moves him gently, peacefully, but he receives no answer for a time. He wonders if he is alone again.

Are you there?

Yes.

I thought you had gone away.

There is nowhere to go.

Do you mean you are imprisoned inside this sphere?

No.

Will you answer a question? Who are you?

I am not a who.

Are you God?

God is a word.

I mean, are you a higher being, or a higher consciousness?

Higher than what?

Higher than me, I suppose.

How high are you?

Pretty low. At least, I imagine so.

Well, then, thats your trouble.

Riding in the foam, he is disturbed by the possibility that God is making fun of him. He thinks, Are you making a joke?

Why do you ask if you already know the answer?

Am I talking to God?

You are not talking at all.

You take what I say very literally. Is this because you are from another planet?

No.

Are you from another planet?

No.

Are you from another civilization?

No.

Where are you from?

Why do you ask if you already know the answer?

In another time, he thinks, he would be irritated by this repetitive answer, but now he feels no emotions. There are no judgments. He is simply receiving information, a response. He thinks, But this sphere comes from another civilization.

Yes.

And maybe from another time.

Yes.

And arent you a part of this sphere?

I am now.

So, where are you from?

Why do you ask if you already know the answer?

The foam gently shifts him, rocking him soothingly.

Are you still there?

Yes. There is nowhere to go.

Im afraid I am not very knowledgeable about religion. I am a psychologist. I deal with how people think. In my training, I never learned much about religion.

Oh, I see.

Psychology doesnt have much to do with religion.

Of course.

So you agree?

I agree with you.

Thats reassuring.

I dont see why.

Who is I?

Who indeed?

He rocks in the foam, feeling a deep peace despite the difficulties of this conversation.

I am troubled, he thinks.

Tell me.

I am troubled because you sound like Jerry.

That is to be expected.

But Jerry was really Harry.

Yes.

So are you Harry, too?

No. Of course not.

Who are you?

I am not a who.

Then why do you sound like Jerry or Harry?

Because we spring from the same source.

I dont understand.

When you look in the mirror, who do you see?

I see myself.

I see.

Isnt that right?

Its up to you.

I dont understand.

What you see is up to you.

I already know that. Everybody knows that. That is a psychological truism, a cliche.

I see.

Are you an alien intelligence?

Are you an alien intelligence?

I find you difficult to talk to. Will you give me the power?

What power?

The power you gave to Harry and Beth. The power to make things happen by imagination. Will you give it to me?

No.

Why not?

Because you already have it.

I dont feel as if I have it.

I know.

Then how is it that I have the power?

How did you get in here?

I imagined the door opening.

Yes.

Rocking in the foam, waiting for a further response, but there is no response, there is only gentle movement in the foam, a peaceful timelessness, and a drowsy sensation.

After a passage of time, he thinks, I am sorry, but I wish you would just explain and stop speaking in riddles.

On your planet you have an animal called a bear. It is a large animal, sometimes larger than you, and it is clever and has ingenuity, and it has a brain as large as yours. But the bear differs from you in one important way. It cannot perform the activity you call imagining. It cannot make mental images of how reality might be. It cannot envision what you call the past and what you call the future. This special ability of imagination is what has made your-species as great as it is. Nothing else. It is not your ape-nature, not your tool-using nature, not language or your violence or your caring for young or your social groupings. It is none of these things, which are all found in other animals. Your greatness lies in imagination.

The ability to imagine is the largest part of what you call intelligence. You think the ability to imagine is merely a useful step on the way to solving a problem or making something happen. But imagining it is what makes it happen.

This is the gift of your species and this is the danger, because you do not choose to control your imaginings. You imagine wonderful things and you imagine terrible things, and you take no responsibility for the choice. You say you have inside you both the power of good and the power of evil, the angel and the devil, but in truth you have just one thing inside you-the ability to imagine.

I hope you enjoyed this speech, which I plan to give at the next meeting of the American Association of Psychologists and Social Workers, which is meeting in Houston in March. I feel it will be quite well received.

What? he thinks, startled.

Who did you think you were talking to? God?

Who is this? he thinks.

You, of course.

But you are somebody different from me, separate. You are not me, he thinks.

Yes l am. You imagined me.

Tell me more.

There is no more.

His cheek rested on cold metal. He rolled onto his back and looked at the polished surface of the sphere, curving above him. The convolutions of the door had changed again.

Norman got to his feet. He felt relaxed and at peace, as if he had been sleeping a long time. He felt as if he had had a wonderful dream. He remembered everything quite clearly.

He moved through the ship, back to the flight deck, and then down the hallway with the ultraviolet lights to the room with all the tubes on the wall.

The tubes were filled. There was a crewman in each one. Just as he thought: Beth had manifested a single crewman-a solitary woman-as a way of warning them. Now Norman was in charge, and he found the room full.

Not bad, he thought.

He looked at the room and thought: Gone, one at a time. One by one, the crew members in the tubes vanished before his eyes, until they were all gone.

Back, one at a time.

The crew members popped back in the tubes, materializing on demand.

All men.

The women were changed into men.

All women.

They all became women.

He had the power.


0535 HOURS | Sphere | 0200 HOURS



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