PSI FOR PSURVIVAL
Seranimu wanted to be a Mental Giant—in fact it was the only way he
could impress his nagging wife. Then he spotted that ad on a pack of Earth-made matches: Clip the coupon—first easy lesson free. He clipped
the coupon—and the psychic chain reaction was on!
by MANLY BANNISTER
SERANIMU fingered the book of matches and reflected upon its advertising message. Naturally, the matches bore advertising. They had come from Earth.
Everybody in the galaxy made matches, but only the Earthmen made matches like these. Frail paper things, you could strike them under water. If you brought the match out quickly enough, it would continue to burn. Remarkable people, the Earthmen, and the artifacts of their culture were remarkable.
The message, though, was even more remarkable than the matches. It was printed neatly, briefly, in the cramped space, in Morforese, the principal idiom of Zingu, Seranimu's home world in the Galactic Federation.
You can become a Mental Giant! Study at home for only 7 shrilr a month. Study, Learn the powers of Mind. Free sample Lesson; No cost, No obligation. Fill out coupon inside and return to Home Study Mind Power, Inc. Earth. (Send Cover Only—Not Matches!)
Earth, a fabled place, thought Seranimu. If the galaxy weren't so overpopulated that everyone's place of residence was irrevocably fixed, he would change his to the planet Earth. There, better things were made in better ways, of better materials, by better workmen. Was it not all true, just as it said in the Earth-men's ads? Of course it was. Just look at the refrigerator in his own kitchen—a Frigitemp from Earth.
It was far and away superior to that fright Korisu had had reprofaxed in from Bolangus. Seranimu sneered.
But that was Korisu. A trifle blunt, mentally. Could Korisu become a mental giant? Not likely. He would not be interested. Korisu was an ideal example of the devitalized culture of the Federation. He was happy on Zingu ... happier than he should be, at any rate, even with such a lovely, personable wife as Anisel.
Well, let Korisu be happy, poor fellow. He had not read and studied like Seranimu. He knew nothing about what life might be like if there were not so many people in the galaxy.
Seranimu looked back at the matches in his hand. Free Yourself From the Shackles of Boredom, it said there. Well, he would. With a firm hand, he filled in the coupon, slipped it into an envelope and addressed it to the Earth corporation.
Stepping across the room to the self-powered, apartment model reprofax, he dropped the envelope into the slot for email and twisted a dial. There, it was gone. At this instant, within or without the province of Einsteinian simultaneity of events in the space-time continuum, the envelope and its contents were materializing on the planet Earth, three thousand light-years away. There would be an extra charge on his reprofax bill at the end of the month, in view of the long distance transmission.
Reprofax was basic to galactic culture. It provided instantaneous communication between far-flung worlds; even allowed personal travel, if a man could afford it. Local transportation, however, was cheaply had by reprofax, and all Seranimu had to do was stand on the platform on the other side to be whisked to his job in the government offices of Morfors, or to the market, or the theater, or wherever it was, locally, he desired to go.
"There," said Seranimu. "I have taken the first step toward becoming a Mental Giant!"
"Becoming a what?" asked Pimo, Seranimu's pretty wife, stepping in from the kitchen.
"A Mental Giant," said Seranimu, unconsciously capitalizing the words in imitation of the matchbook ad. "I have answered an ad of the Earthmen. They teach you, like school, but at home."
"If Earthmen are behind it," sniffed Pimo, "it costs money. What do they teach you at home?"
"How to become a mental giant," repeated Seranimu. Furthermore, they do it very cheaply—only seven shrilr a month."
"Seven shrilr! My God and Zingu, Seranimu, are you made of money?"
"It does not become a lady to curse," said Seranimu firmly. He gazed fondly into Pimo's dark, tip-tilted eyes from his eight-foot height. "Wouldn't you like to have a mental giant for a husband?"
"I certainly would," she agreed, "except I already have you, lover."
"And soon," replied Seranimu, "you shall also have the other!"
A CULTURE, roughly speaking, is an agglomeration of social groups, each with its own little ax to grind. Galactic culture fitted the definition, but all the axes were the same size, shape, and degree of temper. And the edges of all were dull. Earth, that remarkable planet, was the only exception. It was not a member of the Federation. It retained freedom and independence for its people. If anything big came to pass, you knew it had originated on Earth.
To Seranimu, galactic culture, outside of Earth, represented a vast, wriggling blob of protoplasm, rather than a civilization. There was nothing attractive in being jammed nose-to-tail as they were in cramped living quarters, in swarming so thickly in their city streets that you brushed your way through traffic. There was nothing inspiring in being chained to a government job, a mere occupation designed to keep you out of mischief and nothing else.
Take Seranimu's job, for instance. He was a looker. That is, his job consisted purely and simply of looking. Every day, from eight to four-thirty, Seranimu looked, with that detached interest of a government employee out of love with his job. Once a week, he turned over to his superiors a written report on his looking. That is all there was to it. The theory behind the job was simple. If a man looked long enough and hard enough, you never could tell what he might see. And why did he look, day after day, year in and year out? Well, the government had a corps of experts who did nothing but look into that, and so far, they had come up with neither the head nor the tail of it. Seranimu suspected that they never would.
Now, he thought, things would be different. Becoming a mental giant
opened up a totally new kind of life, that might lead to...what?
The free sample lesson, when it came, was a little disappointing. But what could you expect for nothing?
"What is that, now?" asked Pimo, over his shoulder. She had responded as soon as he to the buzz of the reprofax and the lighted screen announcing, Incoming Transmission.
"It is my free lesson from Home Study Mind Power," said Seranimu.
"I know that, silly. I can read the return address on the envelope. Open it and see what's inside."
Seranimu opened it and shook assorted papers into his broad palm.
"A half a gram of iron filings, a magnet and a booklet of instructions," he said, irritated with Pimo. "Also, an application for enrollment and an easy payment plan prospectus. What more do you want?"
"Seven shrilr a month should buy more than that, Seranimu!"
"I haven't paid any seven shrilr! I haven't even decided to take the course."
"Seven shrilr a month for how many months?" harped Pimo.
"It doesn't say."
"You had better find out," Pimo warned darkly. "You know about the Earthmen!"
"We Zinguans can still learn from them," Seranimu returned loftily.
"Such as how to become a mental giant," encouraged Pimo, baiting him.
"Exactly. What I shall do depends on the outcome of the experiment outlined here. So please stop bothering me."
"What are you supposed to do with that—if you don't mind my saying
so—junk?" asked Pimo.
"Sprinkle the iron filings on a sheet of clean paper,' " read Seranimu. " 'Hold the magnet under the paper and watch the filings arrange
themselves along the lines of magnetic force as the paper is shaken lightly.' "
"That's kid stuff," scoffed Pimo. "Why don't you do it?"
"Because it says here that the magnet loses its magnetism going through the reprofax. I have to remagnetize it first."
He followed directions, re-magnetized the magnet and held it under the paper, on which he had sprinkled the filings.
"There," he said. "Isn't that pretty? Elementary, of course, but it illustrates quite well how a force can control matter."
"I hope," sniffed Pimo, "you aren't going to pay seven shrilr a month for that!"
"Certainly not. There is more. It says, 'As soon as the filings are arranged along the lines of magnetic flux, remove the magnet, straight downward.' There, I've removed the magnet. See how the filings stay in place?"
"Shake the paper," sneered Pimo, "and they will not stay long."
"That is just what I shall do. First, though, I have to look at the pattern and memorize it."
He did so, looking with the accomplished verve of a professional. When he had the location of every last particle firmly in mind, he shook the paper.
"IT SAYS to lay the paper on a table." He frowned. "They should know we don't have tables on Zingu."
He moved over to his "desk," which was a cleared space in a corner, with slots in the floor for paper, pencil and other bits of bookkeeping paraphernalia. He laid the paper carefully down and squatted beside it. Pimo watched without audible comment, but her expression needed no words.
"So what do you do now, you mental giant, you?"
"Now," said Seranimu with a trace of annoyance, "I rearrange the particles with the power of mind into exactly the same pattern the magnet produced."
He read the instructions twice, carefully. Then he fixed his glance on the particles and concentrated. His head felt unaccustomedly queer. With a barely audible rustle, the particles moved, hurrying so many microscopic black bugs, and arranged themselves exactly—or nearly so—as
they had been.
"You did that very well, lover," Pimo observed with satisfaction. "Now that you have had your trouble's worth, forget the whole business."
"Forget it? Why, this is marvelous! You saw what I did! I didn't touch it or anything!"
"Yes," said Pimo. "I saw. It was interesting, but not seven shrilr a month interesting, if you understand me. I need a new dress, and our percolator hasn't worked right in ages, and—"
"Telekinesis," Seranimu interrupted gravely, "is worth seven shrilr a month. It is worth going without a new dress and living with a malfunctioning percolator."
"I go without! I live with!" complained Pimo bitterly.
"This is only a free sample lesson," he said severely. "This they teach me for nothing. How much more for seven shrilr a month? Use your imagination! Listen to what it says here. 'If you do not at first succeed in making the particles move, do not worry. Further lessons in this course contain valuable information that will make the feat easy for you.' They don't expect me to do it right off, like I did. Wait till I tell them. I'll write..."
"Seven shrilr," murmured Pimo sadly. "Seven shrilr a month!"
Home Study Mind Power, Inc., Earth, in the person of Mr. Flanagan, Seranimu's correspondence instructor, seemed unimpressed by the claim of success. Flanagan replied, writing with a note of weariness, urging Seranimu to study, to become adept, to let no amount of failure dismay him. He sounded, Seranimu thought, as if he had not even read the letter Seranimu wrote. He had noticed the seven shrilr, though. The reply also brought Lesson Two.
Months went by, and seven shrilr with each of them. Lesson followed lesson. Telepathy was the one that bothered Seranimu. Not that it was hard. It was very easy, but the course warned against using it. A good way to keep your friends, said the text, is not to practice this ability on them. In spite of the warning, Seranimu dared to read Pimo's mind. After that, he kept his mindreading to himself, feeling somewhat injured. Pimo's opinion of his investigations was bad enough when tempered with verbal expression.
There were lessons in precognition, dowsing, crystal gazing, transmutation of elements, levitation and teleportation. Some were complex, tricky subjects, and had several lessons devoted to them.
Seranimu not only studied, he learned. His studies opened up a whole new plane of existence. Flanagan of Home Study Mind Power, Inc., Earth, remained .unimpressed, showered him with exhortations to study, learn, become adept in spite of all apparent failure.
SERANIMU'S friend Korisu lived across the hall in the communal pletsch that was home to thousands of their kind. Sometimes, Seranimu asked himself what he saw in Korisu. The man kept his eyes shut and his mind absolutely closed. Of course, he played a good hand of prej, and Anisel, Korisu's wife, was no mean antagonist in the game, either. Moreover, Seranimu thought Anisel quite pretty. He enjoyed having her in their prej games.
They played this time in Seranimu's apartment. Korisu dealt out the plastic disks while Pimo marked up the preceding hand on the scare sheet.
"I think," said Korisu with typical stolidity, "that you often let yourself be carried away by the Earthmen's advertising, Seranimu. You have let those people work on your mind until you think you are doing the things they claim they can teach you. Rot, I say."
"Have it your way," shrugged Seranimu. "I tried to prove it to you. I teleported a book in your own apartment, and you just laughed. You said either I had hypnotized you, or your eyes showed you the impossible and therefore lied."
"I would rather believe my good sense than my eyes any day," murmured Korisu. The prej halted their clicking round. Seranimu leaned forward, scooped his from the floor.
"You have a closed mind," he said. "You will not believe the Earthmen have developed psi powers any more than you will believe that Earth-made refrigerators are better than that piece of junk you bought on Bolangus. You would rather lie with a broken leg than admit a physician might heal it for you."
"I know about broken legs," said Korisu serenely. "The treatment for them is accomplished fact. You forget, Seranimu, that I am a temperament analyzer. I know my job well. Even without resort to laboratory paraphernalia, I can analyze your temperament without difficulty. You are a self-centered dreamer with overtones of exhibitionism."
"Thank you," said Seranimu, coldly polite. "Consider your fee my next loss at prej."
"Korisul" said Aniself. "If Seranimu believes, it is his business. Remember that you are a guest."
"Thank you, Anisel," said Seranimu gratefully. "When you tire of that stupid oaf for a husband, you may come live with Pimo and me."
Pimo, sitting tailor-fashion beside him, pinched him.
Later, when Korisu and Anisel had gone, Seranimu said to Pimo, "Korisu is an idiot. That is all I can say for him."
"I know you are accomplished, lover," said Pimo graciously. "Why seek admiration outside our family circle?"
Seranimu felt that Pimo had put a double meaning there, but he ignored it.
"Korisu is my friend," he said crossly. "I should like to convince him."
"Friend," sniffed Pimo. "Well, all right as a friend, I suppose. But don't take too much for granted, lover. He was in the other day, while you were gone. He suggested analyzing my temperament."
"Korisu thinks of nothing but his job."
"And your job is looking. Do you spend your free time looking at Korisu's wife? I should hope not. Anisel would slap you to sleep."
"You misjudge Korisu. He has zeal."
"Not to mention a few other things, more apparent to a woman's eyes. Still, I would not shatter your illusions about the fellow. I can take care of myself."
"You doubtless have dishes waiting in the kitchen," Seranimu said coldly. "Go attend to them. I have some writing to do before going to bed."
Invoking husbandly prerogative was the best Seranimu could do to defend himself. He had slipped, he admitted, in bragging to Korisu. The lessons had warned him. How about Korisu, now? He sighed. Women sometimes imagine men are chasing them. Again, didn't Korisu often act a little odd around Pimo, making with a sort of simpering attitude, having a little of bowing and scraping in it? He tried to wash his mind of the implication.
"DON'T COMPLAIN to me," said Pimo, when Seranimu protested that not even Flanagan, of Home Study Mind Power, Inc., Earth, paid any attention to his claims of success.
"It would seem," grumbled Seranimu, "that my own instructor thinks I'm lying to him. He just writes back, recommending more study, more hard wdrk. He never pats me on the back, saying, 'You have done very well, Seranimu.' I like recognition for my work."
"Aren't you getting your seven shrilr a month worth?" asked Pimo drily.
Exasperated, Seranimu teleported a vase of flowers across the room and smashed it against the wall.
"Shame!" said Pimo, picking up the pieces. "Not satisfied with your accomplishments, you must have recognition, too. Well, why don't you show this Flanagan you can do as you say?"
Seranimu gave her a contemptuous look. "I should have to go to Earth to do that. Three thousand light-years, woman! Have you any idea what it would cost to reprofax a man of my bulk that far?"
"You are a mental giant," said Pimo. "Why depend on reprofax? Teleport yourself!"
The import of her words dazed Seranimu. He staggered. Why hadn't he
thought of that? He knew why he hadn't. The very thought made sweat break out all over him in stinging little globules. Teleport himself three thousand light-years? Hit exactly a tiny grain of sand at the other end of the trajectory? He shuddered. The possibility was fraught with error.
"Well, it's your problem," said Pimo airily. "All I did was suggest. Do as you please, but don't bother me with your gripes. As you are fond of noting, I have dishes to do—why can't I get a government stipend
as a dishwasher?"
"Woman's place is in the home," rebuked Seranimu. "You may thank God it has not yet been turned into a government job!"
"If it were," said Pimo slyly, "it would undoubtedly be departmented, with a rate of pay for each department. In some departments, Seranimu, I could get rich off you!"
She went out, slamming the door.
As little as any man wants to admit it, his wife occasionally has an idea almost as good as one he could think up himself. Seranimu wrote to Flanagan, baring his abused state of mind and concluding, Furthermore, Mr. Flanagan, since you do not believe I tell the truth, I shall visit you on Earth three days from now and prove it. Shame on you. You should have more faith in me. Respectfully, Seranimu; Morfors, Zingu.
He sealed the letter and reprofaxed it.
First, he had to wangle a leave from his job. He had vacation time coming. That disposed of, he went about the other preparations. Three days later, he kissed Pimo goodby, settled himself and tried to concentrate. He could not at all seem to get into the proper frame of mind, until he realized what it was that worried him.
He got up from his squat, crossed the hall and knocked at Korisu's door.
Anisel answered, smiling at him. She's very pretty, thought Seranimu, daring to think so as he looked at her. Doubtless, she secretly admires me.
He said, fawning, "Is Korisu at home?"
"Yes," she said, with a trace of what seemed like reluctant assent.