Shelly felt hesitant. There really was a lot of exotic looking equipment scattered around the room, and she recalled the entire department was isolated in the locked basement of this remote building. There was nobody around to help her if things got out of hand. Would anyone hear her scream in this heavily insulated windowless basement room? “Are you still here,” she asked Allen, for once hoping he was.
“Yes. Are you okay?” He sounded gentler, concerned.
Dr. Lasker smiled. “I guess you didn’t like my evil laugh? I always do that the first time with newbies. It makes them squirm a bit.”
“I’m squirming enough, thank you,” Shelly said.
“He has a bit of the sadist in him if you ask me,” Allen said.
“Like you didn’t scare me when you yelled, “Boo!” Shelly glared at him. Allen sighed. “That’s different. I was practicing.”
“You can do better than that,” Shelly said and turned back to the professor.
Dr. Lasker shook his head. This girl was nice looking, but very possibly insane. He had second thoughts as he opened the metal box. “At any rate, this is the first test I usually give when an ESP candidate is being screened.” He pulled a deck of cards out of the box.”
For some reason Shelly’s brain flipped to strip poker. I’m really nervous, she thought as she tried to refocus.
Dr. Lasker flipped through the deck and pulled out four cards, placing them face up on the counter. “We have four different cards in the deck, all outlines of basic geometric shapes: a square, triangle, circle, rectangle. We use shapes rather than numbers as they are easier to visualize and harder to pronounce if someone is cheating.” He gave her an inquisitive look.
“Only four shapes means you have a one in four chance of getting it right,” Shelly observed. “Isn’t that less challenging than a regular deck of cards?”
“Purposely so. Early ESP trials utilized this type of deck and so we have some basis for determining the standard at which we may assume some kind of ESP phenomenon is occurring. As I said this is a very crude, preliminary, examination and will only tell us if it is even remotely possible that you are a candidate for further study.”
“Like an insect specimen,” Allen grumbled. “The man is a butterfly collector and he plans to pop needles in your beautiful body and put you on display, a prized trophy in his hidden torture chamber somewhere in this windowless hole.”
“Will you please just shut up already and let me do this test,” Shelly snarled.
“I’m sorry,” Dr. Lasker said. “I was only trying to set you at ease by explaining to you--” “No, not you! It’s him again! Please let’s do this so I can get back to normal?”
“You understand this is not definitive?” Dr. Lasker covered the cards and returned them to the deck. He turned around to be sure there were no reflective surfaces which she could use to cheat, and began to shuffle the cards. “Are you ready? Concentrate.” He pulled out a card and placed it face down on the table. “Alright what is the shape you see?”
Shelly forced herself to concentrate on the card. “Nothing.”
“Try harder,” Dr. Lasker urged. “Try to make your mind blank.”
“Like his,” Allen laughed. “This is a waste of time. You haven’t got ESP. You have a
Shelly tried to shut him out, but still couldn’t see any shape. “A circle,” she guessed.
Dr. Lasker pulled up the card. He tried not to show any emotion or reaction, but noted that it was a circle on his pad.
“Did I get it right,” Shelly asked.
“I’ll give you the results afterwards.” He pulled up a second card and immediately flipped it face down on the table.
Shelly tried to see the shape in her mind. “A triangle? I think it’s a triangle.”
Dr. Lasker noted the card was a triangle. He was beginning to feel the tingling that came whenever he suspected someone might have the elusive ability called ESP. He remembered how excited he had been with Dodd’s incredible scores. “One more please?”
Shelly tried again. “A rectangle?”
Dr. Lasker noted the card was a square. Close, but not correct.
Three more cards in a row Shelly got wrong. “Are you concentrating? Do you see shapes or are you randomly guessing?” He sighed. Another failure. There were so few successes.
“I’m not doing well,” Shelly asked, noting impatience in his voice.
“That’s irrelevant,” Dr. Lasker said, trying to suppress his disappointment. “Let’s try a few more and then I’ll have a score for you.”
They tried a total of ten cards and Shelly got all of them wrong except the first two.
“This is totally stupid,” Allen barked. “You don’t have ESP. Tell him to hold the cards up and I’ll tell you the shapes.”
“That’s a good idea,” Shelly said.
“What is,” Dr. Lasker asked, about to report that Shelly did not have ESP…at least not at this time or on this test. Further tests at another time, perhaps when she was not as tired, might indicate otherwise, but he doubted it. She seemed a nice enough girl, but not Ecto material.
“Allen says if you hold up the card so only he can see it he’ll tell me what it is.”
“He said that, did he?” Dr. Lasker turned around again to make sure there were no hidden reflective surfaces on the ceiling or floor. He searched for a hidden video camera she might have planted. “I suppose there’s no harm in trying that,” he said, selecting a card. “What card am I holding?” He held a card inches from his chest.
“It’s a circle,” Allen said.
“No tricks,” Shelly hissed.
“Me, you don’t trust? I said it’s a circle,” Allen repeated. “I can’t believe you trust this character but not me?”
“A circle,” Shelly said, giving Allen a dirty look.
Dr. Lasker noted it was a circle on his score sheet. He held up a square against his chest. “A square,” Allen said promptly.
“A square.” Shelly wondered if Allen was giving her the right shapes since the doctor gave no sign she was getting them right. She had to trust him. What other choice was there?
The doctor tried three more times and each time Shelly listened to Allen and reported the right shape. Lasker’s hands were shaking as he pulled a card from one above the bottom card on the deck. “What is this shape,” he asked.
“He’s cheating,” Allen said. “I told you not to trust him.” “Never mind. What’s the card,” Shelly demanded.
“A question mark,” Allen said. “Real ingenious.”
“A question mark,” Shelly said, hoping Allen was not the one playing tricks. The look on Dr. Lasker’s face told her Allen had not lied.
“I’ll be damned,” Dr. Lasker stammered. “Maybe you do have a ghost?”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you,” Shelly said, sagging back into the chair totally exhausted.