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Книга The Dead Zone. Содержание - CHAPTER THIRTEEN

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Johnny hesitated.

The room seemed very still. The TV lights were warm on his face, like a tropical sun. “No,” he said.

Another barrage of questions. Johnny looked helplessly at Weizak again.

“Stop! Stop!” He bellowed. He looked at Johnny as the roar subsided. “You are done, Johnny?”

“I'll answer two more questions,” Johnny said. “Then… really… it's been a long day for me… yes, Ma'am?”

He was pointing to a stout woman who had wedged herself in between two young reporters. “Mr. Smith,” she said in a loud, carrying, tubalike voice, “who will be the Democrats” nominee for president next year?”

“I can't tell you that,” Johnny said, honestly surprised at the question. “How could I tell you that?”

More hands were raised. Johnny pointed to a tall, sober-faced man in a dark suit. He took one step forward. There was something prim and coiled about him.

“Mr. Smith, I'm Roger Dussault, from the Lewiston Sun, and I would like to know if you have any idea why you should have such an extraordinary ability as this… if indeed you do. Why you, Mr. Smith?”

Johnny cleared his throat. “As I understand your question… you're asking me to justify something I don't understand. I can't do that.”

“Not justify, Mr. Smith. Just explain.”

He thinks I'm hoaxing them. Or trying.

Weizak stepped up beside Johnny. “I wonder if I might answer that,” he said. “Or at least attempt to explain why it cannot be answered.”

“Are you psychic, too?” Dussault asked coldly.

“Yes, all neurologists must be, it's a requirement,” Weizak said. There was a burst of laughter and Dussault flushed.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the press. This man spent four-and-a-half years in a coma. We who study the human brain have no idea why he did, or why he came out of it, and this is for the simple reason that we do not understand what a coma really is, any more than we understand sleep or the simple act of waking. Ladies and gentlemen, we do not understand the brain of a frog or the brain of an ant. You may quote me on these things… you see I am fearless, nuh?”

More laughter. They liked Weizak. But Dussault did not laugh.

“You may also quote me as saying I believe this man is now in possession of a very new human ability, or a very old one. Why? If I and my coleagues do not understand the brain of an ant, can I tell you why? I cannot. I can suggest some interesting things to you, however, things which may or may not have bearing. A part of John Smith's brain has been damaged beyond repair-a very small part, but all parts of the brain may be vital. He calls this his “dead zone”, and there, apparently, a number of trace memories were stored. all of these wiped out memories seem to be part of a “set” that of street, road, and highway designations. A subset of a larger overall set, that of where it is. This is a small but total aphasia which seems to include both language and vizualization skills.

“Balancing this off, another tiny part of John Smith's brain appears to have awakened. A section of the cerebrum within the parietal lobe. This is one of the deeply grooved sections of the “forward” or “thinking” brain. The electrical responses from this section of Smith's brain are way out of line from what they should be, nuh? Here is one more thing. The parietal lobe has something to do with the sense of touch-how much or how little we are not completely sure-and it is very near to that area of the brain that sorts and identifies various shapes and textures. And it has been my own observation that John's “flashes” are always preceded by some sort of touching.”

Silence. Reporters were scribbling madly. The TV cameras, which had moved in to focus on Weizak, now pulled back to include Johnny in the picture.

“Is that it, Johnny?” Weizak asked again.

“I guess…”

Dussault suddenly shouldered his way through the knot of reporters. For a bemused moment Johnny thought he was going to join them in front of the doors, possibly for the purpose of rebuttal. Then he saw that Dussault was slipping something from around his neck.

“Let's have a demonstration,” he said. He was holding a medallion on a fine-link gold chain. “Let's see what you can do with this.”

“We'll see no such thing,” Weizak said. His bushy salt-and-pepper eyebrows had drawn thunderously together and he stared down at Dussault like Moses. “This man is not a carnival performer, sir!”

“You sure could have fooled me,” Dussault said. “Either he can or he can't, right? While you were busy suggesting things, I was busy suggesting something to myself. What I was suggesting was that these guys can never perform on demand, because they're all as genuine as a pile of three-dollar bills.”

Johnny looked at the other reporters. Except for Bright, who looked rather embarrassed, they were watching avidly. They looked like the nurses peering at him through the glass; Suddenly he felt like a Christian in a pitful of lions. They win either way, he thought. If I can tell him something, they've got a front-page story. If I can't, or if I refuse to try, they've got another kind of story.

“Well?” Dussault asked. The medallion swung back and forth below his fist.

Johnny looked at Weizak, but Weizak was looking away, disgusted.

“Give it to me,” Johnny said.

Dussault handed it over. Johnny put the medallion in his palm. It was a St. Christopher medal. He dropped the fine-link chain on top of it in a crisp little yellow heap and closed his hand over it.

Dead silence fell in the room. The handful of doctors and nurses standing by the lounge doorway had been joined by half a dozen others, some of them dressed in streetclothes and on their way out of the hospital for the night. A crowd of patients had gathered at the end of the hallway leading to the first-floor TV and game lounge. The people who had come for the regular early evening visiting hours had drifted over from the main lobby. A feeling of thick tension lay in the air like a humming power cable.

Johnny stood silently, pale and thin in his white shirt and oversized blue jeans. The St. Christopher medal was clamped so tightly in his right hand that the cords in his wrist stood out dearly in the glare of the TV light bars. In front of him, sober, impeccable, and judgmental in his dark suit, Dussault stood in the adversary position. The moment seemed to stretch out interminably. No one coughed or whispered.

“()h,” Johnny said softly… then: “Is that it?”

His fingers loosened slowly. He looked at Dussault.

“Well?” Dussault asked, but the authority was suddenly gone from his voice. The tired, nervous young man who had answered the reporters” questions seemed also to be gone. There was a half-smile on Johnny's lips, but there was nothing warm about it. The blue of his eyes had darkened. They had grown cold and distant. Weizak saw and felt a chill of gooseflesh. He later told his wife that it had been the face of a man looking through a high-powered microscope and observing an interesting species of paramecium.

“It's your sister's medallion,” he said to Dussault. “Her name was Anne but everyone called her Terry. Your older sister. You loved her. You almost worshiped the ground she walked on.”

Suddenly, terribly, Johnny Smith's voice began to climb and change. It became the cracked and unsure voice of an adolescent.

“It's for when you cross Lisbon Street against the lights, Terry, or when you're out parking with one of those guys from E. L. Don't forget, Terry… don't forget…”

The plump woman who had asked Johnny who the Democrats would nominate next year uttered a frightened little moan. One of the TV cameramen muttered “Holy Jesus!” in a hoarse voice.

“Stop it,” Dessault whispered. His face had gone a sick shade of gray. His eyes bulged and spittle shone like chrome on his lower lip in this harsh light. His hands moved for the medallion, which was now looped on its fine gold chain over Johnny's fingers. But his hands moved with no power or authority. The medallion swung back and forth, throwing off hypnotic gleams of light.

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