“Yes, Mr. Iii told me.” The psychologist laughed out of the carved, smiling mouth. “A good joke. Where was I? Secondary hallucinations, yes. Women come to me with snakes crawling from their ears. When I cure them, the snakes vanish.”

“We’ll be glad to be cured. Go right ahead.”

Mr. Xxx seemed surprised. “Unusual. Not many people want to be cured. The cure is drastic, you know.”

“Cure ahead! I’m confident you’ll find we’re all sane.”

“Let me check your papers to be sure they’re in order for a ‘cure.’” He checked a file. “Yes. You know, such cases as yours need special ‘curing.’ The people in that hall are simpler forms. But once you’ve gone this far, I must point out, with primary, secondary, auditory, olfactory, and labial hallucinations, as well as tactile and optical fantasies, it is pretty bad business. We have to resort to euthanasia.”

The captain leaped up with a roar. “Look here, we’ve stood quite enough! Test us, tap our knees, check our hearts, exercise us, ask questions!”

“You are free to speak.”

The captain raved for an hour. The psychologist listened.

“Incredible,” he mused. “Most detailed dream fantasy I’ve ever heard.”

“God damn it, we’ll show you the rocket ship!” screamed the captain.

“I’d like to see it. Can you manifest it in this room?”

“Oh, certainly. It’s in that file of yours, under R.”

Mr. Xxx peered seriously into his file. He went “Tsk” and shut the file solemnly. “Why did you tell me to look? The rocket isn’t there.”

“Of course not, you idiot! I was joking. Does an insane man joke?”

“You find some odd senses of humor. Now, take me out to your rocket. I wish to see it.”

It was noon. The day was very hot when they reached the rocket.

“So.” The psychologist walked up to the ship and tapped it. It gonged softly. “May I go inside?” he asked slyly.

“You may.”

Mr. Xxx stepped in and was gone for a long time.

“Of all the silly, exasperating things.” The captain chewed a cigar as he waited. “For two cents I’d go back home and tell people not to bother with Mars. What a suspicious bunch of louts.”

“I gather that a good number of their population are insane, sir. That seems to be their main reason for doubting.”

“Nevertheless, this is all so damned irritating.”

The psychologist emerged from the ship after half an hour of prowling, tapping, listening, smelling, tasting.

“_Now_ do you believe!” shouted the captain, as if he were deaf.

The psychologist shut his eyes and scratched his nose. “This is the most incredible example of sensual hallucination and hypnotic suggestion I’ve ever encountered. I went through your ‘rocket,’ as you call it.” He tapped the hull. “I hear it. Auditory fantasy.” He drew a breath. “I smell it. Olfactory hallucination, induced by sensual telepathy.” He kissed the ship. “I taste it. Labial fantasy!”

He shook the captain’s hand. “May I congratulate you? You are a psychotic genius! You have done a most complete job! The task of projecting your psychotic image life into the mind of another via telepathy and keeping the hallucinations from becoming sensually weaker is almost impossible. Those people in the House usually concentrate on visuals or, at the most, visuals and auditory fantasies combined. You have balanced the whole conglomeration! Your insanity is beautifully complete!”

“My insanity.” The captain was pale.

“Yes, yes, what a lovely insanity. Metal, rubber, gravitizers, foods, clothing, fuel, weapons, ladders, nuts, bolts, spoons. Ten thousand separate items I checked on your vessel. Never have I seen such a complexity. There were even shadows under the bunks and under everything! Such concentration of will! And everything, no matter how or when tested, had a smell, a solidity, a taste, a sound! Let me embrace you!”

He stood back at last. “I’ll write this into my greatest monograph! I’ll speak of it at the Martian Academy next month! Look at you! Why, you’ve even changed your eye color from yellow to blue, your skin to pink from brown. And those clothes, and your hands having five fingers instead of six! Biological metamorphosis through psychological imbalance! And your three friends.—“

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray