There were psychological studies of emotional stress that produced stagnate hysteria and mental aphasia, conditions which also resulted in partial or total loss of memory. Amnesia.
There are no rules,' said the dark-haired man, rubbing his eyes in the inadequate light of the table lamp. 'It's a geometric puzzle; it can happen in any combination of ways. Physically or psychologically - or a little of both. It can be permanent or temporary, all or part. No rulesl'
'Agreed,! said Washburn, sipping his whisky in a chair across the room. 'But I think we're getting closer to what happened. What I think happened.'
'Which was?' asked the man apprehensively.
'You just said it: "a little of both". Although the word "little" should be changed to "massive". Massive shocks.'
'Massive shocks to what?'
'The physical and the psychological. They were related, interwoven - two strands of experience, or stimuli, that became knotted.'
'How much sauce have you had?'
'Less than you think; it's irrelevant.' The doctor picked up a clipboard filled with pages. 'This is your history - your new history - begun the day you were brought here. Let me summarize. The physical wounds tell us that the situation in which you found yourself was packed with psychological stress, the subsequent hysteria brought on by at least nine hours in the water, which served to solidify the psychological damage. The darkness, the violent movement, the lungs barely getting air; these were the instruments of hysteria. Everything that preceded it - the hysteria - had to be erased so you could cope, survive. Are you with me?'
'I think so. The head was protecting itself.'
'Not the head, the mind. Make the distinction; it's important We'll get back to the head, but we'll give it a label. The brain.'
'All right. Mind, not head ... which is really the brain.'
'Good.' Washburn flipped his thumb through the pages on the clipboard. These are filled with several hundred observations. There are the normal medical notes - dosage, time, reaction, that sort of thing - but in the main they deal with you, the man himself. The words you use, the words you react to; the phrases you employ - when I can write them down - both rationally and when you talk in your sleep and when you were in coma. Even the way you walk, the way you talk or tense your body when startled or seeing something that interests you. You appear to be a mass of contradictions; there's a subsurface violence almost always under control, but very much alive. There's also a pensiveness that seems painful for you, yet you rarely give vent to the anger that pain must provoke.'
'You're provoking it now,' interrupted the man. 'We've gone over the words and the phrases time and time again ...'
'And we'll continue to do so,' broke in Washburn, 'as long as there's progress.'
'I wasn't aware any progress had been made.' 'Not in terms of an identity or an occupation. But we are finding out what's most comfortable for you, what you deal with best It's a little frightening.'
'In what way?'
'Let me give you an example.' The doctor put the clipboard down and got out of the chair. He walked to a primitive cupboard against the wall, opened a drawer and took out a large automatic hand gun. The man with no memory tensed in his chair; Washburn was aware of the reaction. 'I've never used this, not sure I'd know how to, but I do live on the waterfront.' He smiled, then suddenly, without warning, threw it to the man. The weapon was caught in midair, the catch clean, swift, and confident 'Break it down; I believe that's the phrase.'
'Break it down. Now.'
The man looked at the gun, and then, in silence, his hands and fingers moved expertly over the weapon. In less than thirty seconds it was completely dismantled. He looked up at the doctor.
'See what I mean?' said Washburn. 'Among your skills is an extraordinary knowledge of firearms.'
'Army? ...' asked the man, his voice intense, once more apprehensive.
'Extremely unlikely,' replied the doctor. 'When you first came out of coma, I mentioned your dental work. I assure you it's not military. And, of course, the surgery, I'd say, would totally rule out any military association.' 'Then what?'
'Let's not dwell on it now; let's go back to what happened. We were dealing with the mind, remember? The psychological stress, the hysteria. Not the physical brain but the mental pressures. Am I being clear?' 'Goon.'
'As the shock recedes, so do the pressures, until there's no fundamental need to protect the psyche. As this process takes place your skills and talents- will come back to you. You'll remember certain behaviour patterns; you may live them out quite naturally, your surface reactions instinctive. But there's a gap and everything in those pages tell me that it's irreversible.' Washburn stopped and went back to his chair and his glass. He sat down and drank, closing his eyes in weariness. 'Go on,' whispered the man.
The doctor opened his eyes, levelling them at his patient. 'We return to the head, which we've labelled the brain. The physical brain with its millions upon millions of cells and interacting components. You've read the books; the fornix and the limbic system, the hippocampus fibres and the thalamus; the callosum and especially the lobotomic surgical techniques. The slightest alteration can cause dramatic changes. That's what happened to you. The damage was physical. It's as though blocks were rearranged, the physical structure no longer what it was.' Again Washburn stopped.
'And,' pressed the man.
'The recessed psychological pressures will allow - are allowing - your skills and talents to come back to you. But I don't think you'll ever be able to relate them to anything in your past.'
'Why? Why not?'
'Because the physical conduits that permit and transmit those memories have been altered. Physically rearranged to the point where they no longer function as they once did. For all intents and purposes, they've been destroyed.'
The man sat motionless. 'The answer's in Zurich,' he said.
'Not yet. You're not ready; you're not strong enough.'
'I will be.'
'Yes, you will.'
The weeks passed; the verbal exercises continued as the pages grew and the man's strength returned. It was mid-morning of the nineteenth week, the day bright, the Mediterranean calm and glistening. As was the man's habit he had run for the past hour along the waterfront and up into the hills; he had stretched the distance to something over twelve miles daily, the pace increasing daily, the rests less frequent. He sat in the chair by the bedroom window, breathing heavily, sweat drenching his undershirt. He had come in through the back door, entering the bedroom from the dark hallway that passed the living-room. It was simply easier; the living-room served as Washburn's waiting area and there were still a few patients with cuts and gashes to be repaired. They were sitting in chairs looking frightened, wondering what le medecin's condition would be that morning. Actually, it wasn't bad. Geoffrey Washburn still drank like a mad Cossack, but these days he stayed on his horse. It was as if a reserve of hope had been found in the recesses of his own destructive fatalism. And the man with no memory understood; that hope was tied to a bank in Zurich's Bahnhof-strasse. Why did the street come so easily to mind? The bedroom door opened and the doctor burst in, grinning, his white coat stained with his patient's blood.