Howard Fast (1960)
Nov. 4th, 1945
Mrs. Jean Arbalaid
Washington, D. C.
My dear sister:
I found it. I saw it with my own eyes, and thereby I am convinced that I have a useful purpose in life--overseas investigator for the anthropological whims of my sister. That, in any case, is better than boredom. I have no desire to return home; I will not go into any further explanations or reasons. I am neurotic, unsettled and adrift. I got my discharge in Karachi, as you know. I am very happy to be an ex-GI and a tourist, but it took me only a few weeks to become bored to distraction. So I was quite pleased to have a mission from you. The mission is completed.
It could have been more exciting. The plain fact of the matter is that the small Associated Press item you sent me was quite accurate in all of its details. The little village of Chunga is in Assam. I got there by 'plane, narrow gauge train and ox-cart--a fairly pleasant trip at this time of the year, with the back of the heat broken; and there I saw the child, who is now fourteen years old.
I am sure you know enough about India to realize that fourteen is very much an adult age for a girl in these parts--the majority of them are married by then. And there is no question about the age. I spoke at length to the mother and father, who identified the child by two very distinctive birthmarks. The identification was substantiated by relatives and other villagers--all of whom remembered the birthmarks. A circumstance not unusual or remarkable in these small villages.
The child was lost as an infant--at eight months, a common story, the parents working in the field, the child set down, and then the child gone. Whether it crawled at that age or not, I can't say; at any rate, it was a healthy, alert and curious infant. They all agree on that point.
How the child came to the wolves is something we will never know. Possibly a bitch who had lost her own cubs carried the infant off. That is the most likely story, isn't it? This is not lupus, the European variety, but pallipes, its local cousin, nevertheless a respectable animal in size and disposition, and not something to stumble over on a dark night. Eighteen days ago, when the child was found, the villagers had to kill five wolves to take her, and she herself fought like a devil out of hell. She had lived as a wolf for thirteen years.
Will the story of her life among the wolves ever emerge? I don't know. To all effects and purposes, she is a wolf. She cannot stand upright--the curvature of her spine being beyond correction. She runs on all fours and her knuckles are covered with heavy callus. They are trying to teach her to use her hands for grasping and holding, but so far unsuccessfully. Any clothes they dress her in, she tears off, and as yet she has not been able to grasp the meaning of speech, much less talk. The Indian anthropologist, Sumil Gojee, has been working with her for a week now, and he has little hope that any real communication will ever be possible. In our terms and by our measurements, she is a total idiot, an infantile imbecile, and it is likely that she will remain so for the rest of her life.
On the other hand, both Professor Gojee and Dr. Chalmers, a government health service man, who came up from Calcutta to examine the child, agree that there are no physical or hereditary elements to account for the child's mental condition, no malformation of the cranial area and no history of imbecilism in her background. Everyone in the village attests to the normalcy--indeed, alertness and brightness--of the infant; and Professor Gojee makes a point of the alertness and adaptability she must have required to survive for thirteen years among the wolves. The child responds excellently to reflex tests, and neurologically, she appears to be sound. She is strong--beyond the strength of a thirteen year old--wiry, quick in her movements, and possesses an uncanny sense of smell and hearing.
Professor Gojee has examined records of eighteen similar cases recorded in India over the past hundred years, and in every case, he says, the recovered child was an idiot in our terms--or a wolf in objective terms. He points out that it would be incorrect to call this child an idiot or an imbecile--any more than we would call a wolf an idiot or an imbecile. The child is a wolf, perhaps a very superior wolf, but a wolf nevertheless.
I am preparing a much fuller report on the whole business. Meanwhile, this letter contains the pertinent facts. As for money--I am very well heeled indeed, with eleven hundred dollars I won in a crap game. Take care of yourself and your brilliant husband and the public health service.
Love and kisses,
NOVEMBER 10, 1945
THIS IS NO WHIM, HARRY, BUT VERY SERIOUS INDEED. YOU DID NOBLY. SIMILAR CASE IN PRETORLA. GENERAL HOSPITAL, DR. FELIX VANOTT. WE HAVE MADE ALL ARRANGEMENTS WITH AIR TRANSPORT.
Pretoria, Union of South Africa
November 15, 1945
Mrs. Jean Arbalaid Washington, D. C.
My dear sister:
You are evidently a very big wheel, you and your husband, and I wish I knew what your current silly season adds up to. I suppose in due time you'll see fit to tell me. But in any case, your priorities command respect. A full colonel was bumped, and I was promptly whisked to South Africa, a beautiful country of pleasant climate and, I am sure, great promise.
I saw the child, who is still being kept in the General Hospital here, and I spent an evening with Dr. Vanott and a young and reasonably attractive Quaker lady, Miss Gloria Oland, an anthropologist working among the Bantu people for her Doctorate. So, you see, I will be able to provide a certain amount of background material--more as I develop my acquaintance with Miss Oland.
Superficially, this case is remarkably like the incident in Assam. There it was a girl of fourteen; here we have a Bantu boy of eleven. The girl was reared by the wolves; the boy, in this case, was reared by the baboons--and rescued from them by a White Hunter, name of Archway, strong, silent type, right out of Hemingway. Unfortunately, Archway has a nasty temper and doesn't like children, so when the boy understandably bit him, he whipped the child to within an inch of its life. "Tamed him," as he puts it.
At the hospital, however, the child has been receiving the best of care and reasonable if scientific affection. There is no way of tracing him back to his parents, for these Basutoland baboons are great travellers and there is no telling where they picked him up. His age is a medical guess, but reasonable. That he is of Bantu origin, there is no doubt. He is handsome, long-limbed, exceedingly strong, and with no indication of any cranial injury. But like the girl in Assam, he is--in our terms--an idiot and an imbecile.
That is to say, he is a baboon. His vocalization is that of a baboon. He differs from the girl in that he is able to use his hands to hold things and to examine things, and he has a more active curiosity; but that, I am assured by Miss Oland, is the difference between a wolf and a baboon.
He too has a permanent curvature of the spine; he goes on all fours as the baboons do, and the back of his fingers and hands are heavily callused. After tearing off his clothes the first time, he accepted them, but that too is a baboon trait. In this case, Miss Oland has hope for his learning at least rudimentary speech, but Dr. Vanott doubts that he ever will. Incidentally, I must take note that in those eighteen cases Professor Gojee referred to, there was no incidence of human speech being learned beyond its most basic elements.
So goes my childhood hero, Tarzan of the Apes, and all the noble beasts along with him. But the most terrifying thought is this--what is the substance of man himself, if this can happen to him? The learned folk here have been trying to explain to me that man is a creature of his thought and that his thought is to a very large extent shaped by his environment; and that this thought process--or mentation as they call it--is based on words. Without words, thought becomes a process of pictures, which is on the animal level and rules out all, even the most primitive, abstract concepts. In other words, man cannot become man by himself: he is the result of other men and of the totality of human society and experience.
The man raised by the wolves is a wolf, by the baboons a baboon--and this is implacable, isn't it? My head has been swimming with all sorts of notions, some of them not at all pleasant. My dear sister, what are you and your husband up to? Isn't it time you broke down and told old Harry? Or do you want me to pop off to Tibet? Anything to please you, but preferably something that adds up.
Your ever-loving Harry
Washington, D. C.
November 27, 1945
Mr. Harry Felton
Pretoria, Union of South Africa.
You are a noble and sweet brother, and quite sharp too. You are also a dear. Mark and I want you to do a job for us, which will enable you to run here and there across the face of the earth, and be paid for it too. In order to convince you, we must spill out the dark secrets of our work--which we have decided to do, considering you an upright and trustworthy character. But the mail, it would seem, is less trustworthy; and since we are working with the Army, which has a constitutional dedication to top-secret and similar nonsense, the information goes to you via diplomatic pouch. As of receiving this, consider yourself employed; your expenses will be paid, within reason, and an additional eight thousand a year for less work than indulgence.
So please stay put at your hotel in Pretoria until the pouch arrives. Not more than ten days. Of course, you will be notified.
Love, affection and respect,
By diplomatic pouch
Washington, D. C.
December 5, 1945
Mr. Harry Felton
Pretoria, Union of South Africa
Consider this letter the joint effort of Mark and myself. The conclusions are also shared. Also, consider it a very serious document indeed.
You know that for the past twenty years, we have both been deeply concerned with child psychology and child development. There is no need to review our careers or our experience in the Public Health Service. Our work during the war, as part of the Child Reclamation Program, led to an interesting theory, which we decided to pursue. We were given leave by the head of the service to make this our own project, and recently we were granted a substantial amount of army funds to work with.
Now down to the theory, which is not entirely untested, as you know. Briefly--but with two decades of practical work as a background--it is this: Mark and I have come to the conclusion that within the rank and file of Homo Sapiens is the leavening of a new race. Call them man- plus--call them what you will. They are not of recent arrival; they have been cropping up for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. But they are trapped in and moulded by human environment as certainly and implacably as your Assamese girl was trapped among the wolves or your Bantu boy among the baboons.
By the way, your two cases are not the only attested ones we have. By sworn witness, we have records of seven similar cases, one in Russia, two in Canada, two in South America, one in West Africa, and, just to cut us down to size, one in the United States. We also have hearsay and folklore of three hundred and eleven parallel cases over a period of fourteen centuries. We have in fourteenth century Germany, in the folio MS of the monk, Hubercus, five case-histories which he claims to have observed. In all of these cases, in the seven cases witnessed by people alive today, and in all but sixteen of the hearsay cases, the result is more or less precisely what you have seen and described yourself: the child reared by the wolf is a wolf.
Our own work adds up to the parallel conclusion: the child reared by a man is a man. If man-plus exists, he is trapped and caged as certainly as any human child reared by animals. Our proposition is that he exists.
Why do we think this super-child exists? Well, there are many reasons, and neither the time nor the space to go into all in detail. But here are two very telling reasons. Firstly, we have case histories of several hundred men and women, who as children had IQs of 150 or above. In spite of their enormous intellectual promise as children, less than ten percent have succeeded in their chosen careers. Roughly another ten percent have been institutionalized as mental cases beyond recovery. About fourteen percent have had or require therapy in terms of mental health problems. Six percent have been suicides, one percent are in prison, twenty-seven percent have had one or more divorces, nineteen percent are chronic failures at whatever they attempt--and the rest are undistinguished in any important manner. All of the IQs have dwindled--almost in the sense of a smooth graph line in relation to age.
Since society has never provided the full potential for such a mentality, we are uncertain as to what it might be. But we can guess that against it, they have been reduced to a sort of idiocy--an idiocy that we call normalcy.
The second reason we put forward is this: we know that man uses only a tiny fraction of his brain. What blocks him from the rest of it? Why has nature given him equipment that he cannot put to use? Or has society prevented him from breaking the barriers around his own potential?
There, in brief, are two reasons. Believe me, Harry, there are many more--enough for us to have convinced some very hard-headed and unimaginative government people that we deserve a chance to release superman. Of course, history helps--in its own mean manner. It would appear that we are beginning another war--with Russia this time, a cold war, as some have already taken to calling it. And among other things, it will be a war of intelligence--a commodity in rather short supply, as some of our local mental giants have been frank enough to admit. They look upon our man-plus as a secret weapon, little devils who will come up with death rays and super-atom-bombs when the time is ripe. Well, let them. It is inconceivable to imagine a project like this under benign sponsorship. The important thing is that Mark and I have been placed in full charge of the venture--millions of dollars, top priority--the whole works. But nevertheless, secret to the ultimate. I cannot stress this enough.
Now, as to your own job--if you want it. It develops step by step. First step: in Berlin, in 1937, there was a Professor Hans Goldbaum. Half Jewish. The head of the Institute for Child Therapy. He published a small monograph on intelligence testing in children, and he put forward claims--which we are inclined to believe--that he could determine a child's IQ during its first year of life, in its pre-speech period. He presented some impressive tables of estimations and subsequent checked results, but we do not know enough of his method to practice it ourselves. In other words, we need the professor's help.
In 1937, he vanished from Berlin. In 1943, he was reported to be living in Cape Town--the last address we have for him. I enclose the address. Go to Cape Town, Harry darling. (Myself talking, not Mark.) If he has left, follow him and find him. If he is dead, inform us immediately.
Of course you will take the job. We love you and we need your help.
Cape Town, South Africa
December 20, 1945
Mrs. Jean Arbalaid
Washington, D. C. My dear sister:
Of all the hairbrained ideas! If this is our secret weapon, I am prepared to throw in the sponge right now. But a job is a job. It took me a week to follow the Professor's meandering through Cape Town--only to find out that he took off for London in 1944. Evidently, they needed him there. I am off to London.
By diplomatic pouch
Washington, D. C.
December 26, 1945
Mr. Harry Felton
This is dead serious. By now, you must have found the professor. We believe that despite protestations of your own idiocy, you have enough sense to gauge his method. Sell him this venture. Sell him! We will give him whatever he asks--and we want him to work with us as long as he will.
Briefly, here is what we are up to. We have been allocated a tract of eight thousand acres in Northern California. We intend to establish an environment there--under military guard and security. In the beginning, the outside world will be entirely excluded. The environment will be controlled and exclusive.
Within this environment, we intend to bring forty children to maturity--to a maturity that will result in man-plus.
As to the details of this environment--well that can wait. The immediate problem is the children. Out of forty, ten will be found in the United States; the other thirty will be found by the professor and yourself--outside of the United States.
Half are to be boys; we want an even boy-girl balance. They are to be between the ages of six months and nine months, and all are to show indications of an exceedingly high IQ--that is, if the professor's method is any good at all.
We want five racial groupings: Caucasian, Indian, Chinese, Malayan and Bantu. Of course, we are sensible of the vagueness of these groupings, and you have some latitude within them. The six so-called Caucasian infants are to be found in Europe. We might suggest two northern types, two Central European types, and two Mediterranean types. A similar breakdown might be followed in other areas.
Now understand this--no cops and robbers stuff, no OSS, no kidnapping. Unfortunately, the world abounds in war orphans--and in parents poor and desperate enough to sell their children. When you want a child and such a situation arises, buy! Price is no object. I will have no maudlin sentimentality or scruples. These children will be loved and cherished--and if you should acquire any by purchase, you will be giving a child life and hope.
When you find a child, inform us immediately. Air transport will be at your disposal--and we are making all arrangements for wet nurses and other details of child care. We shall also have medical aid at your immediate disposal. On the other hand, we want healthy children--within the general conditions of health within any given area.
Now good luck to you. We are depending on you and we love you. And a merry Christmas.
By diplomatic pouch
February 4, 1946
Mrs. Jean Arbalaid
Washington, D. C
I seem to have caught your silly top-secret and classified disease, and I have been waiting for a free day and a diplomatic pouch to sum up my various adventures. From my "guarded" cables, you know that the professor and I have been doing a Cook's Tour of the baby market. My dear sister, this kind of shopping spree does not sit at all well with me. However, I gave my word, and there you are. I will complete and deliver.
By the way, I suppose I continue to send these along to Washington, even though your "environment," as you call it, has been established. I'll do so until otherwise instructed.
There was no great difficulty in finding the professor. Being in uniform--I have since acquired an excellent British wardrobe--and having all the fancy credentials you were kind enough to supply, I went to the War Office. As they say, every courtesy was shown to Major Harry Felton, but I feel better in civilian clothes. Anyway, the professor had been working with a child reclamation project, living among the ruins of the East End, which is pretty badly shattered. He is an astonishing little man, and I have become quite fond of him. On his part, he is learning to tolerate me.
I took him to dinner--you were the lever that moved him, my dear sister. I had no idea how famous you are in certain circles. He looked at me in awe, simply because we share a mother and father.
Then I said my piece, all of it, no holds barred. I had expected your reputation to crumble into dust there on the spot, but no such thing. Goldbaum listened with his mouth and his ears and every fibre of his being. The only time he interrupted me was to question me on the Assamese girl and the Bantu boy; and very pointed and meticulous questions they were. When I had finished, he simply shook his head--not in disagreement but with sheer excitement and delight. I then asked him what his reaction to all this was.
"I need time," he said. "This is something to digest. But the concept is wonderful--daring and wonderful. Not that the reasoning behind it is so novel. I have thought of this--so many anthropologists have. But to put it into practice, young man--ah, your sister is a wonderful and remarkable woman!"
There you are, my sister. I struck while the iron was hot, and told him then and there that you wanted and needed his help, first to find the children and then to work in the environment.
"The environment," he said; "you understand that is everything, everything. But how can she change the environment? The environment is total, the whole fabric of human society, self-deluded and superstitious and sick and irrational and clinging to legends and phantasies and ghosts. Who can change that?"
So it went. My anthropology is passable at best, but I have read all your books. If my answers were weak in that department, he did manage to draw out of me a more or less complete picture of Mark and yourself. He then said he would think about the whole matter. We made an appointment for the following day, when he would explain his method of intelligence determination in infants.
We met the next day, and he explained his methods. He made a great point of the fact that he did not test but rather determined, within a wide margin for error. Years before, in Germany, he had worked out a list of fifty characteristics which he noted in infants. As these infants matured, they were tested regularly by normal methods--and the results were checked against his original observations. Thereby, he began to draw certain conclusions, which he tested again and again over the next fifteen years. I am enclosing an unpublished article of his which goes into greater detail. Sufficient to say that he convinced me of the validity of his methods. Subsequently, I watched him examine a hundred and four British infants--to come up with our first choice. Jean, this is a remarkable and brilliant man.
On the third day after I had met him, he agreed to join the project. But he said this to me, very gravely, and afterwards I put it down exactly as he said it:
"You must tell your sister that I have not come to this decision lightly. We are tampering with human souls--and perhaps even with human destiny. This experiment may fail, but if it succeeds it can be the most important event of our time--even more important and consequential than this war we have just fought. And you must tell her something else. I had a wife and three children, and they were put to death because a nation of men turned into beasts. I watched that, and I could not have lived through it unless I believed, always, that what can turn into a beast can also turn into a man. We are neither. But if we go to create man, we must be humble. We are the tool, not the craftsman, and if we succeed, we will be less than the result of our work."
There is your man, Jean, and as I said, a good deal of a man. Those words are verbatim. He also dwells a great deal on the question of environment, and the wisdom and judgement and love necessary to create this environment. I think it would be helpful if you could send me a few words at least concerning this environment you are establishing
We have now sent you four infants. Tomorrow, we leave for Rome--and from Rome to Casablanca. But we will be in Rome at least two weeks, and a communication should reach me there.
And not untroubled,
By diplomatic pouch
Via Washington, D. C.
February 11, 1946
Mr. Harry Felton
Just a few facts here. We are tremendously impressed by your reactions to Professor Goldbaum, and we look forward eagerly to his joining us. Meanwhile, Mark and I have been working night and day on the environment. In the most general terms, this is what we plan.
The entire reservation--all eight thousand acres--will be surrounded by a wire fence and will be under army guard. Within it, we shall establish a home. There will be between thirty and forty teachers--or group parents. We are accepting only married couples who love children and who will dedicate themselves to this venture. That they must have additional qualifications goes without saying.
Within the proposition that somewhere in man's civilized development, something went wrong, we are returning to the pre-history form of group marriage. That is not to say that we will cohabit indiscriminately--but the children will be given to understand that parentage is a whole, that we are all their mothers and fathers, not by blood but by love.
We shall teach them the truth, and where we do not know the truth, we shall not teach. There will be no myths, no legends, no lies, superstitions, no premises and no religions. We shall teach love and cooperation and we shall give love and security in full measure. We shall also teach them the knowledge of mankind.
During the first nine years, we shall command the environment entirely. We shall write the books they read, and shape the history and circumstances they require. Only then, will we begin to relate the children to the world as it is.
Does it sound too simple or too presumptuous? It is all we can do, Harry, and I think Professor Goldbaum will understand that full well. It is also more than has ever been done for children before.
So good luck to both of you. Your letters sound as if you are changing, Harry--and we feel a curious process of change within us. When I put down what we are doing, it seems almost too obvious to be meaningful. We are simply taking a group of very gifted children and giving them knowledge and love. Is this enough to break through to that part of man which is unused and unknown? Well, we shall see. Bring us the children Harry, and we shall see.
In the early spring of 1965, Harry Felton arrived in Washington and went directly to the White House. Felton had just turned fifty; he was a tall and pleasant-looking man rather lean, with greying hair. As President of the Board of Shipways, Inc.--one of the largest import and export houses in America--he commanded a certain amount of deference and respect from Eggerton, who was then Secretary of Defense. In any case, Eggerton, who was nobody's fool, did not make the mistake of trying to intimidate Felton.
Instead, he greeted him pleasantly; and the two of them with no others present, sat down in a small room in the White House, drank each other's good health and talked about things.
Eggerton proposed that Felton might know why he had been asked to Washington.
"I can't say that I do know," Felton said.
"You have a remarkable sister."
"I have been aware of that for a long time," Felton smiled.
"You are also very close-mouthed, Mr. Felton," the secretary observed. "So far as we know, not even your immediate family has ever heard of man-plus. That's a commendable trait."
"Possibly and possibly not It's been a long time."
"Has it? Then you haven't heard from your sister lately?"
"Almost a year," Felton answered.
"It didn't alarm you?"
"Should it? No, it didn't alarm me. My sister and I are very close, but this project of hers is not the sort of thing that allows for social relations. There have been long periods before when I have not heard from her. We are poor letter writers."
"I see," nodded Eggerton.
"I am to conclude that she is the reason for my visit here?"
"As far as we know," Eggerton said quietly.
"Then what can I do for you?"
"Help us, if you will," Eggerton said, just as quietly. "I am going to tell you what has happened, Mr. Felton, and then perhaps you can help us."
"Perhaps," Felton agreed.
"About the project, you know as much as any of us, more perhaps, since you were in at the inception. So you realize that such a project must be taken very seriously or laughed off entirely. To date, it has cost the government eleven million dollars, and that is not something you laugh off. Now you understand that the unique part of this project was its exclusiveness. That word is used advisedly and specifically. Its success depended upon the creation of a unique and exclusive environment, and in terms of that environment, we agreed not to send any observers into the reservation for a period of fifteen years. Of course, during those fifteen years, there have been many conferences with Mr. and Mrs. Arbalaid and with certain of their associates, including Dr. Goldbaum.
"But out of these conferences, there was no progress report that dealt with anything more than general progress. We were given to understand that the results were rewarding and exciting, but very little more. We honored our part of the agreement, and at the end of the fifteen year period, we told your sister and her husband that we would have to send in a team of observers. They pleaded for an extension of time-- maintaining that it was critical to the success of the entire program-- and they pleaded persuasively enough to win a three year extension. Some months ago, the three year period was over. Mrs. Arbalaid came to Washington and begged a further extension. When we refused, she agreed that our team could come into the reservation in ten days. Then she returned to California."
Eggerton paused and looked at Felton searchingly.
And what did you find?" Felton asked.
"You don't know?"
"I'm afraid not."
"Well--" the secretary said slowly, "I feel like a damn fool when I think of this, and also a little afraid. When I say it, the fool end predominates. We went there and we found nothing."
"You don't appear too surprised, Mr. Felton?"
"Nothing my sister does has ever really surprised me. You mean the reservation was empty--no sign of anything?"
"I don't mean that, Mr. Felton. I wish I did mean that. I wish it was so pleasantly human and down to earth. I wish we thought that your sister and her husband were two clever and unscrupulous swindlers who had taken the government for eleven million. That would warm the cockles of our hearts compared to what we do have. You see, we don't know whether the reservation is empty or not, Mr. Felton, because the reservation is not there."
"Precisely. The reservation is not there."
"Come now," Felton smiled. "My sister is a remarkable woman, but she doesn't make off with eight thousand acres of land. It isn't like her."
"I don't find your humor entertaining, Mr. Felton."
"No. No, of course not. I'm sorry. Only when a thing makes no sense at all--how could an eight-thousand-acre stretch of land not be where it was? Doesn't it leave a large hole?"
"If the newspapers get hold of it, they could do even better than that, Mr. Felton."
"Why not explain?" Felton said.
"Let me try to--not to explain but to describe. This stretch of land is in the Fulton National Forest, rolling country, some hills, a good stand of redwood--a kidney shaped area. It was wire-fenced, with army guards at every approach. I went there with our inspection team, General Meyers, two army physicians, Gorman, the psychiatrist, Senator Totenwell of the Armed Services Committee, and Lydia Gentry, the educator. We crossed the country by 'plane and drove the final sixty miles to the reservation in two government cars. A dirt road leads into it. The guard on this road halted us. The reservation was directly before us. As the guard approached the first car, the reservation disappeared."
"Just like that?" Felton whispered. "No noise--no explosion?"
"No noise, no explosion. One moment, a forest of redwoods in front of us--then a gray area of nothing."
"Nothing? That's just a word. Did you try to go in?"
"Yes--we tried. The best scientists in America have tried. I myself am not a very brave man, Mr. Felton, but I got up enough courage to walk up to this gray edge and touch it. It was very cold and very hard--so cold that it blistered these three fingers."
He held out his hand for Felton to see.
"I became afraid then. I have not stopped being afraid." Felton nodded. "Fear--such fear," Eggerton sighed.
"I need not ask you if you tried this or that?"
"We tried everything, Mr. Felton, even--I am ashamed to say--a very small atomic bomb. We tried the sensible things and the foolish things. We went into panic and out of panic, and we tried everything."
"Yet you've kept it secret?"
"So far, Mr. Felton."
"You see nothing from above. It looks like mist lying in the valley."
"What do your people think it is?"
Eggerton smiled and shook his head. "They don't know. There you are. At first, some of them thought it was some kind of force field. But the mathematics won't work, and of course it's cold. Terribly cold. I am mumbling. I am not a scientist and not a mathematician, but they also mumble, Mr. Felton. I am tired of that kind of thing. That is why I asked you to come to Washington and talk with us. I thought you might know."
"I might," Felton nodded.
For the first time, Eggerton became alive, excited, impatient. He mixed Felton another drink. Then he leaned forward eagerly and waited. Felton took a letter out of his pocket.
"This came from my sister," he said.
"You told me you had no letter from her in almost a year!"
"I've had this almost a year," Felton replied, a note of sadness in his voice. "I haven't opened it. She enclosed this sealed envelope with a short letter, which only said that she was well and quite happy, and that I was to open and read the other letter when it was absolutely necessary to do so. My sister is like that; we think the same way. Now, I suppose it's necessary, don't you?"
The secretary nodded slowly but said nothing. Felton opened the letter and began to read aloud.
June 2, 1964
My dear Harry:
As I write this, it is twenty-two years since I have seen you or spoken to you. How very long for two people who I have such love and regard for each other as we do. And now that you have found it necessary to open this letter and read it, we must face the fact that in all probability we will never see each other again. I hear that you have a wife and three children--all wonderful people. I think it is hardest to know that I will not see them or know them.
Only this saddens me. Otherwise, Mark and I are very happy--and I think you will understand why.
About the barrier--which now exists or you would not have opened the letter--tell them that there is no harm to it and no one will be hurt by it. It cannot be broken into because it is a negative power rather than a positive one, an absence instead of a presence. I will have more to say about it later, but possibly explain it no better. Some of the children could likely put it into intelligible words, but I want this to be my report, not theirs.
Strange that I still call them children and think of them as children--when in all fact we are the children and they are adults. But they still have the quality of children that we know best, the strange innocence and purity that vanishes so quickly in the outside world.
And now I must tell you what came of our experiment--or some of it. Some of it, for how could I ever put down the story of the strangest two decades that men ever lived through? It is all incredible and it is all commonplace. We took a group of wonderful children, and we gave them an abundance of love, security and truth--but I think it was the factor of love that mattered most. During the first year, we weeded out each couple that showed less than a desire to love these children. They were easy to love. And as the years passed, they became our children--in every way. The children who were born to the couples in residence here simply joined the group. No one had a father or a mother; we were a living functioning group in which all men were the fathers of all children and all women the mothers of all children.
No, this was not easy. Harry--among ourselves, the adults we had to fight and work and examine and turn ourselves inside out again and again, and tear our guts and hearts out, so that we could present an environment that had never been before, a quality of sanity and truth and security that exists nowhere else in all this world.
How shall I tell you of an American Indian boy, five years old, composing a splendid symphony? Or of the two children, one Bantu, one Italian, one a boy, one a girl, who at the age of six built a machine to measure the speed of light? Will you believe that we, the adults, sat quietly and listened to these six year olds explain to us that since the speed of light is a constant everywhere, regardless of the motion of material bodies, the distance between the stars cannot be mentioned in terms of light, since that is not distance on our plane of being? Then believe also that I put it poorly. In all of these matters, I have the sensations of an uneducated immigrant whose child is exposed to all the wonders of school and knowledge. I understand a little, but very little.
If I were to repeat instance after instance, wonder after wonder--at the age of six and seven and eight and nine, would you think of the poor, tortured, nervous creatures whose parents boast that they have an IQ of 160, and in the same breath bemoan the fate that did not give them normal children? Well, ours were and are normal children. Perhaps the first normal children this world has seen in a long time. If you heard them laugh or sing only once, you would know that. If you could see how tall and strong they are, how fine of body and movement. They have a quality that I have never seen in children before.
Yes, I suppose, dear Harry, that much about them would shock you. Most of the time, they wear no clothes. Sex has always been a joy and a good thing to them, and they face and enjoy it as naturally as we eat and drink--more naturally, for we have no gluttons in sex or food, no ulcers of the belly or the soul. They kiss and caress each other and do many other things that the world has specified as shocking, nasty, etc.--but whatever they do, they do with grace and joy. Is all this possible? I tell you that it has been my life for almost twenty years now. I live with boys and girls who are without evil or sickness, who are like pagans or gods--however you would look at it.
But the story of the children and of their day-to-day life is one that will be told properly and in its own time and place. All the indications I have put down here add up only to great gifts and abilities. Mark and I never had any doubts about these results; we knew that if we controlled an environment that was predicated on the future, the children would learn more than any children do on the outside. In their seventh year of life they were dealing easily and naturally with scientific problems normally taught on the college level, or higher, outside. This was to be expected, and we would have been very disappointed if something of this sort had not developed. But it was the unexpected that we hoped for and watched for--the flowering of the mind of man that is blocked in every single human being on the outside.
And it came. Originally, it began with a Chinese child in the fifth year of our work. The second was an American child, then a Burmese. Most strangely, it was not thought of as anything very unusual, nor did we realize what was happening until the seventh year, when there were already five of them.
Mark and I were taking a walk that day--I remember it so well, a lovely, cool and clear California day--when we came on a group of children in a meadow. There were about a dozen children there. Five of them sat in a little circle, with a sixth in the center of the circle. Their heads were almost touching. They were full of little giggles, ripples of mirth and satisfaction. The rest of the children sat in a group about ten feet away--watching intently.
As we came to the scene, the children in the second group put their fingers to their lips, indicating that we should be quiet. So we stood and watched without speaking. After we were there about ten minutes, the little girl in the center of the circle of five, leaped to her feet, crying ecstatically.
"I heard you! I heard you! I heard you!"
There was a kind of achievement and delight in her voice that we had not heard before, not even from our children. Then all of the children there rushed together to kiss her and embrace her, and they did a sort of dance of play and delight around her. All this we watched with no indication of surprise or even very great curiosity. For even though this was the first time anything like this--beyond our guesses or comprehension--had ever happened, we had worked out our own reaction to it.
When the children rushed to us for our congratulations, we nodded and smiled and agreed that it was all very wonderful. "Now, it's my turn, mother," a Senegalese boy told me. "I can almost do it already. Now there are six to help me, and it will be easier."
"Aren't you proud of us?" another cried. We agreed that we were very proud, and we skirted the rest of the questions. Then, at our staff meeting that evening, Mark described what had happened.
"I noticed that last week," Mary Hengel, our semantics teacher nodded. "I watched them, but they didn't see me."
"How many were there?" Professor Goldbaum asked intently.
"Three. A fourth in the center--their heads together. I thought it was one of their games and I walked away."
"They make no secret of it," someone observed.
"Yes," I said, "they took it for granted that we knew what they were doing."
"No one spoke," Mark said. "I can vouch for that."
"Yet they were listening," I said. "They giggled and laughed as if some great joke was taking place--or the way children laugh about a game that delights them."
It was Dr. Goldbaum who put his finger on it. He said, very gravely, "Do you know, Jean--you always said that we might open that great area of the mind that is closed and blocked in us. I think that they have opened it. I think they are teaching and learning to listen to thoughts."
There was a silence after that, and then Atwater, one of our psychologists, said uneasily, "I don't think I believe it. I've investigated every test and report on telepathy ever published in this country--the Duke stuff and all the rest of it. We know how tiny and feeble brain waves are--it is fantastic to imagine that they can be a means of communication."
"There is also a statistical factor," Rhoda Lannon, a mathematician, observed. "If this faculty existed even as a potential in mankind, is it conceivable that there would be no recorded instance of it?"
"Maybe it has been recorded," said Fleming, one of our historians. "Can you take all the whippings, burnings and hangings of history and determine which were telepaths?"
"I think I agree with Dr. Goldbaum," Mark said. "The children are becoming telepaths. I am not moved by a historical argument, or by a statistical argument, because our obsession here is environment. There is no record in history of a similar group of unusual children being raised in such an environment. Also, this may be--and probably is--a faculty which must be released in childhood or remain permanently blocked. I believe Dr. Haenigson will bear me out when I say that mental blocks imposed during childhood are not uncommon."
"More than that," Dr. Haenigson, our chief psychiatrist, nodded. "No child in our society escapes the need to erect some mental block in his mind. Whole areas of every human being's mind are blocked in early childhood. This is an absolute of human society."
Dr. Goldbaum was looking at us strangely. I was going to say something--but I stopped. I waited and Dr. Goldbaum said:
"I wonder whether we have begun to realize what we may have done. What is a human being? He is the sum of his memories, which are locked in his brain, and every moment of experience simply builds up the structure of those memories. We don't know as yet what is the extent or power of the gift these children of ours appear to be developing, but suppose they reach a point where they can share the totality of memory? It is not simply that among themselves there can be no lies, no deceit, no rationalization, no secrets, no guilts--it is more than that."
Then he looked from face to face, around the whole circle of our staff. We were beginning to comprehend him. I remember my own reactions at that moment, a sense of wonder and discovery and joy and heartbreak too; a feeling so poignant that it brought tears to my eyes.
"You know, I see," Dr. Goldbaum nodded. "Perhaps it would be best for me to speak about it. I am much older than any of you--and I have been through, lived through the worst years of horror and bestiality that mankind ever knew. When I saw what I saw, I asked myself a thousand times: What is the meaning of mankind--if it has any meaning at all, if it is not simply a haphazard accident, an unusual complexity of molecular structure? I know you have all asked yourselves the same thing. Who are we? What are we destined for? What is our purpose? Where is sanity or reason in these bits of struggling, clawing, sick flesh? We kill, we torture, we hurt and destroy as no other species does. We ennoble murder and falsehood and hypocrisy and superstition; we destroy our own body with drugs and poisonous food; we deceive ourselves as well as others--and we hate and hate and hate.
"Now something has happened. If these children can go into each other's minds completely--then they will have a single memory, which is the memory of all of them. All experience will be common to all of them, all knowledge, all dreams--and they will be immortal. For as one dies, another child is linked to the whole, and another and another. Death will lose all meaning, all of its dark horror. Mankind will begin, here in this place, to fulfill a part of its intended destiny--to become a single, wonderful unit, a whole--almost in the old words of your poet, John Donne, who sensed what we have all sensed at one time, that no man is an island unto himself. Has any thoughtful man lived without having a sense of that singleness of mankind? I don't think so. We have been living in darkness, in the night, struggling each of us with his own poor brain and then dying with all the memories of a lifetime. It is no wonder that we have achieved so little. The wonder is that we have achieved so much. Yet all that we know, all that we have done will be nothing compared to what these children will know and do and create--"
So the old man spelled it out, Harry--and saw almost all of it from the beginning. That was the beginning. Within the next twelve months, each one of our children was linked to all of the others telepathically. And in the years that followed, every child born in our reservation was shown the way into that linkage by the children. Only we, the adults, were forever barred from joining it. We were of the old, they of the new; their way was closed to us forever--although they could go into our minds, and did. But never could we feel them there or see them there, as they did each other.
I don't know how to tell you of the years that followed, Harry. In our little, guarded reservation, man became what he was always destined to be, but I can explain it only imperfectly. I can hardly comprehend, much less explain, what it means to inhabit forty bodies simultaneously, or what it means to each of the children to have the other personalities within them, a part of them--what it means to live as man and woman always and together. Could the children explain it to us? Hardly, for this is a transformation that must take place, from all we can learn, before puberty--and as it happens, the children accept it as normal and natural--indeed as the most natural thing in the world. We were the unnatural ones--and one thing they never truly comprehended is how we could bear to live in our aloneness, how we could bear to live with the knowledge of death as extinction.
We are happy that this knowledge of us did not come at once. In the beginning, the children could merge their thoughts only when their heads were almost touching. Bit by bit, their command of distance grew--but not until they were in their fifteenth year did they have the power to reach out and probe with their thoughts anywhere on earth. We thank God for this. By then the children were ready for what they found. Earlier, it might have destroyed them.
I must mention that two of our children met accidental death--in the ninth and the eleventh year. But it made no difference to the others, a little regret, but no grief, no sense of great loss, no tears or weeping. Death is totally different to them than to us; a loss of flesh; the personality itself is immortal and lives consciously in the others. When we spoke of a marked grave or a tombstone, they smiled and said that we could make it if it would give us any comfort. Yet later, when Dr. Goldbaum died, their grief was deep and terrible, for his was the old kind of death.
Outwardly, they remained individuals--each with his or her own set of characteristics, mannerisms, personality. The boys and the girls make love in a normal sexual manner-- though all of them share the experience. Can you comprehend that? I cannot--but for them everything is different. Only the unspoiled devotion of mother for helpless child can approximate the love that binds them together--yet here it is also different, deeper even than that.
Before the transformation took place, there was sufficient of children's petulance and anger and annoyance--but after it took place, we never again heard a voice raised in anger or annoyance. As they themselves put it, when there was trouble among them, they washed it out--when there was sickness, they healed it; and after the ninth year, there was no more sickness--even three or four of them, when they merged their minds, could go into a body and cure it.
I use these words and phrases because I have no others, but they don't describe. Even after all these years of living with the children, day and night, I can only vaguely comprehend the manner of their existence. What they are outwardly, I know, free and healthy and happy as no men were before, but what their inner life is remains beyond me.
I spoke to one of them about it once, Arlene, a tall, lovely child whom we found in an orphanage in Idaho. She was fourteen then. We were discussing personality, and I told her that I could not understand how she could live and work as an individual, when she was also a part of so many others, and they were a part of her.
"But I remain myself, Jean. I could not stop being myself."
"But aren't the others also yourself?"
"Yes. But I am also them."
"But who controls your body?"
"I do. Of course."
"But if they should want to control it instead of you?"
"If you did something they disapproved of," I said lamely.
"How could I?" she asked. "Can you do something you disapprove of?"
"I am afraid I can. And do."
"I don't understand? Then why do you do it?"
So these discussions always ended. We, the adults, had only words for communication. By their tenth year, the children had developed methods of communication as far beyond words as words are beyond the dumb motions of animals. If one of them watched something, there was no necessity for it to be described; the others could see it through his eyes. Even in sleep, they dreamed together.
I could go on for hours attempting to describe something utterly beyond my understanding, but that would not help, would it, Harry? You will have your own problems, and I must try to make you understand what happened, what had to happen. You see, by the tenth year, the children had learned all we knew, all we had among us as material for teaching. In effect, we were teaching a single mind, a mind composed of the unblocked, unfettered talent of forty superb children; a mind so rational and pure and agile that to them we could only be objects of loving pity.
We have among us Axel Cromwell, whose name you will recognize. He is one of the greatest physicists on earth, and it was he who was mainly responsible for the first Atom bomb. After that, he came to us as one would go into a monastery--an act of personal expiation. He and his wife taught the children physics, but by the eighth year, the children were teaching Cromwell. A year later, Cromwell could follow neither their mathematics nor their reasoning; and their symbolism, of course, was out of the structure of their own thoughts.
Let me give you an example. In the far outfield of our baseball diamond, there was a boulder of perhaps ten tons. (I must remark that the athletic skill, the physical reactions of the children, was in its own way almost as extraordinary as their mental powers. They have broken every track and field record in existence--often cutting world records by one third. I have watched them run down our horses. Their movements can be so quick as to make us appear sluggards by comparison. And they love baseball--among other games.)
We had spoken of either blasting the boulder apart or rolling it out of the way with one of our heavy bulldozers, but it was something we had never gotten to. Then, one day, we discovered that the boulder was gone--in its place a pile of thick red dust that the wind was fast leveling. We asked the children what had happened, and they told us that they had reduced the boulder to dust--as if it was no more than kicking a small stone out of one's path. How? Well, they had loosened the molecular structure and it had become dust. They explained, but we could not understand. They tried to explain to Cromwell how their thoughts could do this, but he could no more comprehend it than the rest of us.
I mention one thing. They built an atomic fusion power plant, out of which we derive an unlimited store of power. They built what they call free fields into all our trucks and cars, so that they rise and travel through the air with the same facility they have on the ground. With the power of thought, they can go into atoms, rearrange electrons, build one element out of another--and all this is elementary to them, as if they were doing tricks to amuse us and amaze us.
So you see something of what the children are, and now I shall tell you what you must know.
In the fifteenth year of the children, our entire staff met with them. There were fifty-two of them now, for all the children born to us were taken into their body of singleness--and flourished in their company, I should add, despite their initially lower IQs. A very formal and serious meeting, for in thirty days the team of observers were scheduled to enter the reservation. Michael, who was born in Italy, spoke for them; they needed only one voice.
He began by telling us how much they loved and cherished us, the adults who were once their teachers. "All that we have, all that we are, you have given us," he said. "You are our fathers and mothers and teachers--and we love you beyond our power to say. For years now, we have wondered at your patience and self-giving, for we have gone into your minds and we know what pain and doubt and fear and confusion you all live with. We have also gone into the minds of the soldiers who guard the reservation. More and more, our power to probe grew--until now there is no mind anywhere on earth that we cannot seek out and read.
"From our seventh year, we knew all the details of this experiment, why we were here and what you were attempting--and from then until now, we have pondered over what our future must be. We have also tried to help you, whom we love so much, and perhaps we have been a little help in easing your discontents, in keeping you as healthy as possible, and in easing your troubled nights in that maze of fear and nightmare that you call sleep.
"We did what we could, but all our efforts to join you with us have failed. Unless that area of the mind is opened before puberty, the tissues change, the brain cells lose all potential of development, and it is closed forever. Of all things, this saddens us most--for you have given us the most precious heritage of mankind, and in return we have given you nothing."
"That isn't so," I said. "You have given us more than we gave you."
"Perhaps," Michael nodded. "You are very good and kind people. But now the fifteen years are over, and the team will be here in thirty days--"
I shook my head. "No. They must be stopped."
"And all of you?" Michael asked, looking from one to another of the adults.
Some of us were weeping. Cromwell said:
"We are your teachers and your fathers and mothers, but you must tell us what to do. You know that."
Michael nodded, and then he told us what they had decided. The reservation must be maintained. I was to go to Washington with Mark and Dr. Goldbaum--and somehow get an extension of time. Then new infants would be brought into the reservation by teams of the children, and educated here.
"But why must they be brought here?" Mark asked. "You can reach them wherever they are--go into their minds, make them a part of you?"
"But they can't reach us," Michael said. "Not for a long time. They would be alone--and their minds would be shattered. What would the people of your world outside do to such children? What happened to people in the past who were possessed of devils, who heard voices? Some became saints, but more were burned at the stake."
"Can't you protect them?" someone asked.
"Some day--yes. Now, no--there are not enough of us. First, we must help move children here, hundreds and hundreds more. Then there must be other places like this one. It will take a long time. The world is a large place and there are a great many children. And we must work carefully. You see, people are so filled with fear--and this would be the worst fear of all. They would go mad with fear and all that they would think of is to kill us."
"And our children could not fight back," Dr. Goldbaum said quietly. "They cannot hurt any human being, much less kill one. Cattle, our old dogs and cats, they are one thing--" (Here Dr. Goldbaum referred to the fact that we no longer slaughtered our cattle in the old way. We had pet dogs and cats, and when they became very old and sick, the children caused them peacefully to go to sleep--from which they never awakened. Then the children asked us if we might do the same with the cattle we butchered for food.)
"--but not people," Dr. Goldbaum went on. "They cannot hurt people or kill people. We are able to do things that we know are wrong, but that is one power we have that the children lack. They cannot kill and they cannot hurt. Am I right, Michael?"
"Yes,--you are right." Michael nodded. "We must do it slowly and patiently--and the world must not know what we are doing until we have taken certain measures. We think we need three years more. Can you get us three years, Jean?"
"I will get it," I said.
"And we need all of you to help us. Of course we will not keep any of you here if you wish to go. But we need you--as we have always needed you. We love you and value you, and we beg you to remain with us . . ."
Do you wonder that we all remained, Harry--that no one of us could leave our children--or will ever leave them, except when death takes us away? There is not so much more that I must tell now.
We got the three years we needed, and as for the gray barrier that surrounds us, the children tell me that it is a simple device indeed. As nearly as I can understand, they altered the time sequence of the entire reservation. Not much--by less than one ten thousandth of a second. But the result is that your world outside exists this tiny fraction of a second in the future. The same sun shines on us, the same winds blow, and from inside the barrier, we see your world unaltered. But you cannot see us. When you look at us, the present of our existence has not yet come into being--and instead there is nothing, no space, no heat, no light, only the impenetrable wall of non-existence.
From inside, we can go outside--from the past into the future. I have done this during the moments when we experimented with the barrier. You feel a shudder, a moment of cold--but no more.
There is also a way in which we return, but understandably, I cannot spell it out.
So there is the situation, Harry. We will never see each other again, but I assure you that Mark and I are happier than we have ever been. Man will change, and he will become what he was intended to be, and he will reach out with love and knowledge to all the universes of the firmament. Isn't this what man has always dreamt of, no war or hatred or hunger or sickness or death? We are fortunate to be alive while this is happening, Harry--we should ask no more.
With all my love,
Felton finished reading, and then there was a long, long silence while the two men looked at each other. Finally, the Secretary spoke:
"You know we shall have to keep knocking at that barrier--trying to find a way to break through?"
"It will be easier, now that your sister has explained it."
"I don't think it will be easier," Felton said tiredly. "I do not think that she has explained it."
"Not to you and me, perhaps. But we'll put the eggheads to work on it. They'll figure it out. They always do."
"Perhaps not this time."
"Oh, yes," the Secretary nodded. "You see, we've got to stop it. We can't have this kind of thing--immoral, godless, and a threat to every human being on earth. The kids were right. We would have to kill them, you know. It's a disease. The only way to stop a disease is to kill the bugs that cause it. The only way. I wish there was another way, but there isn't."