By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: A Thought For Tomorrow
Author: Gilbert, Robert E., 1924-1993
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Thought For Tomorrow" ***

                         A Thought for Tomorrow

                          By ROBERT E. GILBERT

                       Illustrated by DAVID STONE

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Galaxy Science Fiction
November 1952. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the
U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

[Sidenote: _Any intolerable problem has a way out--the more impossible,
the likelier it is sometimes!_]

Lord Potts frowned at the rusty guard of his saber, and the metal
immediately became gold-plated. Potts reined his capricious black
stallion closer to the first sergeant.

"Report!" the first sergeant bellowed.

"Fourth Hussars, all present!"

"Eighth Hussars, all present!"

"Eleventh Hussars, all present!"

"Thirteenth Hussars, all present!"

"Seventeenth Lancers, all present!"

The first sergeant's arm flashed in a vibrating salute. "Sir," he said,
"the brigade is formed."

Potts concentrated on the sergeant; but, aside from blue eyes, a black
mustache, and luminous chevrons, the man's appearance remained vague.
His uniform had no definite color, except for moments when it blushed a
brilliant red, and his headgear expanded and contracted so rapidly that
Potts could not be certain whether he wore a shako or a tam.

"Take your post," Potts said. "Men!" he shouted. "We're going to charge
at those guns!"

"Oh, Oi say!" wailed a small private with scarcely any features but a
mouth. "Them Russians'll murder us!"

"Yours not to reason why," Potts said. "Draw sabers! Charge!"

The ground quaked under the beat of twenty-four hundred hoofs. As the
first puffs of smoke billowed from the entrenchments half a league away,
Potts remembered that he had forgotten to give orders to the lancers.
Should he tell them to couch lances, or lower lances, or aim lances,

       *       *       *       *       *

"P. T. boys, let's go. Out to the door," a bored voice called.

Potts opened his eyes. He sighed. Again he had failed. The dayroom had
hardly changed. The chairs were all pushed together in the center of the
floor, and two patients with brooms swept little ridges of dirt and
cigarette butts toward the door. Potts sat slouched in one of the chairs
and raised his feet as the sweepers passed.

"Orville Potts, out to the door," the bored voice said.

Potts gave Wilhart a killing look when the big attendant, immaculate in
white duck trousers and short-sleeved linen shirt, passed through to the
porch. Potts wondered why so many of the attendants resembled
clean-shaven gorillas.

He arose leisurely from the chair, shuffled around the sweepers, and
entered the hall. A pair of huge, gray, faded cotton pants draped his
spindling legs in wrinkled folds, and an equally faded khaki shirt hung
from his stooped shoulders. Potts had not combed his hair in three days.
He pushed the tangled brown mass out of his eyes and threaded between
the groups of men that jammed the hall, smoking and waiting to go to the
shoe shop, or the paint detail, or psychodrama, or merely waiting.

At the locked door to the stairs, Potts stopped and glared at the six
patients already assembled.

"Hello, Orville Potts," said another long-armed, barrel-chested
attendant. This one wore a black necktie, and, so far as Potts knew, had
no name but Joe. Potts ignored Joe.

The attendant pulled a ring of keys attached to a long heavy chain from
his pocket and unlocked the door, when Wilhart brought the rest of the
P. T. boys.

"Downstairs, when I call your name," Joe said, and read from the charts
attached to his clip-board.

When his name was called, Potts stepped through to the landing and
descended the top stairs. Joe locked the door.

Potts looked up at Danny Harris, who stood motionless on the landing.
While Joe weaved down the crowded steps, Wilhart took Harris by the arm
and pushed him.

"Let's go," he said. "Here, Orville Potts, take Danny Harris downstairs
with you."

Potts said, "Do your own dragging."

"Well!" Wilhart gasped. "Hear that, Joe? Orville Potts is talking this

Joe turned up a red, grim face. "He'll talk a lot before I'm through
with him," he promised.

The sixteen patients from Ward J descended the stairs, were counted
through another door, and formed a ragged column of twos on the concrete
walk outside. With Joe leading and Wilhart guarding the rear, the little
formation moved across the great grassy quadrangle enclosed by the
buildings and connecting roofed corridors of the hospital.

Potts tried to close his ears to Wilhart's incessant urging of Danny
Harris. Harris would do little of his own volition, but Potts was tired
of acting as his escort.

The blue morning sky supported but a few brilliant clouds. Potts wished
he were up there, or anywhere except going to P. T. He hated P. T. It
terrified him. Potts closed his eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

Major Orville Potts stood in the soft grass and rested a gloved hand on
the upper wing of his flying machine.

"Sir," he said, "with my invention, the Confederacy will soon put the
Yankees to rout."

The general stroked his gray goatee and pursed his lips. Potts felt
pleased that every detail of the general's uniform stood out in bold
clarity. The slouch hat, gray coat, red sash, and black jackboots were
more real than life. Of course the surrounding landscape was a green
blur, but increased concentration would clear that.

The general said, "Ah'm doubtful, Majah. Balloons, Ah undahstand. Hot
aiah natuahlly rises, but this contraption seems too heavy to fly."

"No heavier, in proportion, than a kite, sir," Potts explained.

The crude mountaineer captain, standing slightly behind the general,

"Hit won't work nohow," he predicted. "Jist like that there Williams
repeatin' cannon at Seven Pines. Ain't even got no steam engine fur as I
kin see."

Potts said, "This is a new type engine. It operates on a formula of my
own, which I have named gasoline. Now, if you gentlemen will excuse me,
I shall proceed with the demonstration."

Potts climbed into the cockpit. A touch of the starter set the 1,000
h.p. radial engine roaring. He waved to the gaping officers and opened
the throttle. The bi-plane whisked down the field and rocketed into the
blue morning sky.

Too late, Potts saw the buzzard soaring dead ahead. He shoved the stick
forward, but the black bird rushed toward his face in frightening

       *       *       *       *       *

Potts opened his eyes. He had walked into a wall.

"What's the matter, Orville Potts?" Joe asked. "You sleep-walking? Get
in there! I'll wake you up."

Joe shoved Potts through the door marked PHYSICAL THERAPY and into the
dressing room. With sixteen patients in the process of disrobing, the
small room presented a scene of wild, indecent activity. Potts squirmed
through the thrashing tangle to a bench against the wall. He sat down
and removed a shoe.

Potts almost felt the currents surging through the neurons of his brain
and sensed a throbbing on the inside of his skull. Twice this morning,
he had tried to break through the physical barrier and had failed. Even
with a minimum of thought, the reasons for failure became obvious.

Lack of intimate detail seemed the principle cause. In his attempt to
reach the Crimean War and lead the Charge of the Light Brigade, he had
been hampered by his ignorance of correct uniforms and commands. He did
not know at what time of day the charge had taken place, the weather
conditions, the appearance of the terrain, or even the exact date. He
believed it was about 1855, but he wouldn't risk a dime bet on his
guess. Perhaps an attempt to return to the past was certain to fail.
Surely the past had happened, was settled, inviolate. Someone named Lord
Cardigan, not Orville, Lord Potts, had led the charge.

Inventing an airplane during the Civil War also had no chance of
success. No such thing actually happened, and, if it had, the plane
would have been more crude than the Wright brothers' machine.
Furthermore, Potts was no aviator. Success, if any, lay in the future.
The future was yet to come, and Potts could mold events to his liking.
Or perhaps he could move his body in space, instead of time. He could
think himself out of the hospital.

"Orville Potts, get those clothes off!" Wilhart ordered. Potts slowly
removed his faded garments. He took his place at the end of the line of
naked men leading to the needle shower.

Joe stood in all his glory at what Potts called the P. T. machine. The
apparatus was a marble box with rows of knobs and gauges and a pair of
rubber hoses on the top. Potts felt sure that Joe took a sadistic
delight in his work. As the line moved forward, he glanced at the
attendant's florid face, tight smiling lips and squinted eyes. Potts

No member of the hospital staff had ever condescended to explain to
Potts the exact purpose of the P. T. bath, other than that it would make
him feel good. It only frightened Potts. The correct procedure was that
the patient stepped between the pipes of the needle shower and washed
himself. Then the attendant turned off the shower and sluiced the
patient with powerful streams of water from the hoses.

The routine seemed senseless and innocent enough, but Potts had heard
whispered conversations in the night that filled him with horror. The P.
T. machine, rumor said, was actually an instrument of torture and death.
The water pressure could be increased to two thousand pounds, enough to
push out a man's eyes or break his bones. Instead of water, the hoses
could spit fire like a flamethrower. Acid could spray from the shower.
Potts had even heard that Joe had killed seven men in the P. T. bath.
How much of this was true, Potts did not know. When he saw bodies turn
suddenly red under a rain of hot water, or writhe and tremble as if
being whipped, he could believe all of it.

The line advanced slowly, like a gang of criminals going to the gas
chamber. Potts grimly determined to think himself out of the hospital at
once, for who knew when fire instead of water would spout from the
hoses? If he recalled some place outside, in exact detail, Potts knew he
could become all mind and project himself there. He must recall
everything, scents, temperature, the ground beneath his feet, precise
colors. Potts concentrated.

He tried to remember the home he had not seen for three months. He
received a dim impression of a tiny crowded apartment and a wife growing
increasingly indifferent. He could not even remember the color of her
eyes, or whether the living room contained one easy chair or two. He
would have to project himself to another place, one that did not seem
like a vague dream.

Potts saw that his bath would come next. Danny Harris stood in the spray
and stared stupidly at the tile floor. Potts looked at Joe. A wide smile
that revealed two gold teeth creased the burly attendant's face. Hairy
hands turned off the needle shower, twisted two more knobs, and picked
up the twin hoses. Joe stood like the villain in a Western movie,
blazing away with two guns, and shot thin powerful streams of water
against Harris's spine. Harris shrieked, though he rarely uttered a
sound outside the P. T. bath. As the icy water raked him from head to
heels, he yelled and danced.

"Turn around," Joe commanded.

Harris pivoted and wailed, and Joe basted him on all sides with water.
Potts watched fascinated as the thin body turned alternately blue with
cold and red under the stinging water. He would not endure that again
this morning. He knew now one place he could sense and visualize in
complete detail.

"All right," said Joe, laying down his hoses. "Let's go, Orville Potts!"

Harris reeled, like a man rescued from drowning, into the dressing room,
and Potts took his place between the four vertical pipes of the needle
shower. From innumerable holes in the pipes, powerful jets of water
spouted against his body. He stood with his back turned to the machine
and made no attempt to wash. He never did--he saw no point in bathing
without soap.

Potts thought of the Ward J dayroom, the room in which he had spent much
of his time for the past three months. He visualized the maroon chairs
with metal arms and legs, the green cretonne curtains, the cream walls,
the black-and-red inlaid linoleum floor glinting with spots of old wax.
He sensed a stale odor of tobacco smoke, furniture polish, and
perspiration. He heard the talk of patients engaged in perpetual games
of rook. He felt his thighs, hips, and back pressing against one of the
chairs, and his feet on the smooth floor.

"Now, Orville Potts," Joe jeered, "let's hear you sing like Danny

But Potts wasn't there.

       *       *       *       *       *

Potts opened his eyes. He had always wondered how it would feel, but he
had felt nothing. In the same instant, he stood tensed, waiting for the
water, and he sat in a chair in the Ward J dayroom. Directly in front of
him, a nurse played rook with three of the patients grouped around a
square table. Not many patients were in the room at this hour, and no
attendant stood guard. The nurse turned her head slightly. She gasped,
shoved back her chair and ran to the porch. Nasen, the ward attendant,
charged through the door she had used.


"Orville Potts!" he cried. "Where's your clothes?"

Potts then noticed that he was completely naked and wet.

Nasen dragged Potts from the chair, applied a light hammerlock, and
marched his captive from the room. "Did you come over here from P. T.
like that?" he asked. "How'd you get out?"

Potts went along willingly enough, but without answering.

Nasen unlocked the door to the shower room and thrust Potts within.
"Stay right there," he said. As he was locked in, Potts heard the
attendant call, "Frank, go tell Dr. Bean that Orville Potts slipped out
of P. T. with no clothes on. I don't know how. He must have stolen a

Potts took a towel from the shelf, sat on the bench, and rubbed his hair
with the towel. He hoped they all went batty trying to learn how he had
escaped. He thought most of the attendants should be patients anyhow.

Clutching a pile of clothing and a pair of slippers, Nasen returned.
"Put these on," he said. "Orville Potts, you're in trouble now. What did
you do with the key?"

Potts struggled into a tight blue shirt minus most of the buttons. "I
didn't have a key."

"You're _talking_?"

"I can talk when I want to," Potts admitted. "I just never want to."

Nasen said, "That's more words than I've heard from you all at one time.
Why did you come back stark naked like that?"

"I thought my way out," Potts explained, pulling on the trousers that
had evidently been tailored for a giant.

"Oh, you thought your way out. Put those slippers on."

Joe and Wilhart, flushed and panting, charged into the shower room.

"There he is! Grab him!" Joe yelled. He seized Potts' arms and pulled
them behind in a brutal double hammerlock.

"He's not giving any trouble," Nasen said. "What happened, Joe?"

"Damn if I know. He was in the shower, and I turned my head for a
second. Next thing I knew, he was gone. What'd you find on him--a key or
a lock-pick or something like that?"

Nasen grinned. "He didn't have even that much on when I first saw him.
He came into the day room and sat down, and Miss Davis like to threw a

Wilhart tossed a bundle on the floor. "There's nothing in his own
clothes but a pack of cigarettes."

"Where's the key, Orville Potts?" Joe grated, squeezing Potts's arms.
"You know what's going to happen to you? You'll get the pack room, or
maybe Ward D. How would you like Ward D, Orville Potts?"

Nasen said, "If he had a key, he--"

"You better run along, Nasen," Joe said. "I think Dr. Bean wants to talk
to you."

"Well, I--uh--" Looking worried, Nasen left the shower room.

Wilhart handed Joe a towel.

"Leave me alone!" Potts yelled.

Joe wrapped the towel around Potts's neck. "Where's the key, Orville

"Help!" Potts cried. The towel tightened.

With rapidly dimming vision, he saw Wilhart assume a stance. A huge fist
thudded against his shrunken stomach. He tried to scream, but the towel
cut off all air and sound. Again and again, the fist struck.

Potts found himself sitting on the floor, gulping air into starved
lungs. For a moment, he hoped he had managed another transportation, but
the two white-clad human gorillas leering down at him proved he had not
left the shower room.

"Get up," Joe said.

They dragged Potts to his feet. Nasen opened the door, clamped his
teeth, and then opened his mouth to say, "Dr. Bean wants Orville Potts.

"I'll take him," Joe said.

Potts winced as spatulate fingers almost met through his biceps. His
feet barely touched the floor of the corridor when Joe marched him to
the office of Dr. Lawrence D. Bean.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dr. Bean, a thin bald man, sat behind a maple desk and peered at Potts
over spectacles attached to a black ribbon. Joe shut the door and leaned
against it.

"I've been hearing things about you, Orville," Dr. Bean said. "We'll
have a little examination. Now, hold your right arm out straight, close
your eyes, and touch the end of your nose with your index finger."

"Can't we do without the foolishness?" Potts asked. He sank into the
chair beside the doctor's desk and gently rubbed his bruised arm.

The doctor looked slightly startled, but said, "I'm pleased to hear you
speaking again, Orville. If you continue to talk to people, take an
interest in your surroundings, write home, you'll be out of here very

"He choked me," Potts said, pointing a thumb at Joe. "He choked me with
a towel, and the other one, that Wilhart, hit me in the stomach."

Dr. Bean's spectacles jumped from his nose and dangled by the ribbon. He
focused a pair of bleary eyes on Potts and said, "You know they didn't,
Orville. The attendants are here for your benefit. They would never
subject a patient to physical violence."

Potts laughed for the first time since he was hospitalized. He said,
"Why don't you ask me what I did with the key?"

"What did you do with the key, Orville?"

"Talk about monomaniacs!" Potts snickered. "You all have one-track
minds. You can't think of any way I could have escaped without stealing
a key. Is any key actually missing? Did anyone see me crossing the grass
or coming through the halls? I'll tell you how I did it. Exactly how.
You already think I'm nuts, so it won't matter."

Again, Potts pointed at Joe. "Laughing boy here can bear me out. He was
about to whip me with his ice water, and I vanished. I vanished from the
shower and materialized in the dayroom."

Dr. Bean replaced his glasses and grabbed a pad and pencil.

"That's right, Doc," Potts approved. "Write it down. I'm giving you a
better break than you ever gave me. I've been in this hospital four
times, and no doctor ever sat down and explained what was wrong with me,
or tried to learn why. There was something about combat fatigue,
whatever that is, over in Italy. Otherwise, I don't know anything. If I
so much as raise my voice or break a dish at home, my wife has me
shipped back here as dangerously psychotic, or psycho-neurotic, or
something. Which makes it nice for her.

"And what do you do when I come back? You give me electric shock
treatments and have your sadists whip me with P. T. baths, as if torture
could cure a sick mind! Maybe there's nothing wrong with my brain. Maybe
it's just different from yours, or this jerk's, if he has a brain."

"Never mind, Joe," Dr. Bean cautioned in a theatrical aside. "Just stand

Potts smiled and said, "Take it all down. Then you can check your notes
and decide if it's schizophrenia, or catatonia, or psychasthenia, or
what not. I know a little about mental diseases from reading, and I'll
explain my theory the best I can."

       *       *       *       *       *

Potts tapped his forehead with a forefinger and asked, "What is a brain?
You'll say it's an organ occupying the skull and forming the center of
the nervous system, and the seat of intellect, or some such thing. I
don't think so. It generates electricity. You know that. A nerve impulse
is a wave of electricity started and conducted by a nerve cell. You can
test it. You've made brain-wave patterns of some of the boys in the

"The brain transforms energy into thought, or thought into energy. I'm
sitting here thinking and not moving my body at all. My brain is
transforming electric energy into thought. You're writing, and your
thoughts guide the movement of your hand. Thought into energy."

Dr. Bean turned a page and continued to scribble rapidly. Potts heard
Joe move and felt the big attendant's presence behind his chair.

Potts said, "The ability to think improves with use, like a muscle
growing stronger with use. The first time you memorize a poem, it's a
hard job. If you keep on memorizing, it becomes easier, until you read a
poem a couple of times and you have it. The same goes for remembering.
I'll bet you can't even remember how your breakfast tasted and smelled
this morning. Probably not even what you ate.

"I practice remembering with all the senses. How things look and taste
and smell. Exact colors, shadows, size, impressions. Think of an
airplane, and you probably think of a little silver thing in the sky.
Actually, an airplane is much bigger than that, so your mental picture
of an airplane is all wrong. An airplane gives me a certain impression.
I have it only when looking at one. Maybe it's an unrecognized sense. I
have an entirely different impression when I'm looking at a horse."

Dr. Bean threw down his pencil, caught his falling glasses, drew a
handkerchief from his breast pocket, and polished them.

"Too deep for you, Doc?" Potts inquired. "Well, just assume that my
brain is a more powerful generator and transformer than any you ever
saw. I've developed it by memorizing, remembering, visualizing, working
problems in my head, and so on. I've been trying to make my brain take
complete control of my body. The body is composed of atoms, and the
atoms are electrical charges, protons and electrons. Therefore, you're
nothing but electricity in the shape of a man.

"By changing myself to pure thought, or pure electricity, I believed
that I could escape to the past. Get away from this age where a man is
suspected of insanity if he so much as mislays his checkbook or kicks
his dog. People didn't used to be crazy unless they went around hacking
their relatives with an ax.

"I tried to meet Columbus when he rowed ashore from the _Santa Maria_. I
tried to watch the Battle of Bunker Hill. I tried to lead the Charge of
the Light Brigade. I tried to invent an airplane during the Civil War. I
always failed, because I didn't have enough sensory knowledge of the
period, and I couldn't change the past.

"I succeeded in P. T. because I transported myself through space instead
of time. I knew every detail of the day room, so it worked. My brain
reduced my body to its elemental charges in the P. T. bath and
reassembled it in the dayroom. Something like radio, with the brain
acting as sending set and receiver. Maybe we should call it philosophy,
Doc. What is reality? If I sit here in your office but imagine I'm
sitting in the dayroom, until the chair in the dayroom becomes more real
than this, where am I actually sitting?"

Dr. Bean stood up, adjusted his glasses, and said, "Orville, I am going
to do as you asked. I am going to tell you exactly what is wrong with
you. You are suffering from distorted perception--illusions and
hallucinations, disorientation. You are also becoming an exhibitionist
and are developing a persecution complex. I thought, when you first came
in, that you had improved. But if you don't pull yourself together and
try to get well, you'll be in here a long time."

Potts's chair overturned as he thrust himself up. He placed his thin
hands on the desk and said, "You psychiatrists can't see an inch in
front of your nose! All you can do is quote a textbook. If anybody
mentions mental telepathy, or predicting the future, or a sense of
perception, you classify them as insane. You think you've reduced the
mind to a set of rules, but you're still in kindergarten! I'll prove
every word I said! I'll vanish into the future! I can't change the past,
but the future hasn't happened yet! I can imagine my own!"

Joe grabbed the fist that Potts shook under the doctor's nose and pinned
the patient's arms behind his back.

"Take him upstairs to Ward K, Joe," Dr. Bean said. "To the pack room.
That should calm him."

"So long, moron!" Potts called.

"Let's go, Orville Potts," Joe said. "We're going to fix you up just
like an ice cream soda."

"You won't pack me in ice," Potts promised. His thin body twisted in

He closed his eyes tight and concentrated.

Joe's great hands clamped into fists when Potts disappeared.

       *       *       *       *       *

Potts opened his eyes. He lay face down on a padded acceleration couch
with broad straps across his brawny back and legs. Before his face, a
second hand swept around a clock toward a red zero. Potts twisted his
head slightly in the harness and looked at the beautiful young woman
strapped to the couch on his right. A shrieking warning siren blared
through the spaceship.

The woman smiled.

"Hia, ked," she said in strange new accents. "Secure your dentures. Next
stop, Alpha Centaurus!"

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Thought For Tomorrow" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files. We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's search system for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.