Valentina Zhuravleva

The barometer needle pointed to STORM.

It was an old, nautical barometer set in a massive copper case and covered with thick, bulging glass clouded by time. Irina had picked it up six years ago, and even then the slim needle, covered with cracked varnish, stubbornly pointed to STORM. Rain or shine, the needle never stirred, and Irina wondered if some unusually severe hurricane hadn't jammed it, dooming it to an eternal vigil on STORM. It was a very, very old barometer and bore an inscription on its case, clearly engraved in English: “The brave do not complain.ˮ

Irina used to dream of breath-taking adventure on the high seas, of cool green waves and the wind’s song, of stately ships and stout-hearted sailors, of exotic tropical islands and coral reefs, but her reality was cruelly conventional. The peaceful laboratory of the Institute of Experimental Medicine could never capture the romance of a captain’s bridge swept by salty sea breezes. Instead of fighting savage storms, she had sedate arguments with Professor Baidalin, who always surrendered too easily, denying her even the excitement of an intellectual tussle. Her prosaic daily labor on the Pain Analyzer could never fill the emptiness inside her that yearned for storm and struggle. Yet, she never really complained, except once when she was feeling particularly unhappy and restless, and expressed her feelings to Professor Baidalin. He only grinned and patted her paternally on the shoulder. “Come now, Irina, you mustn’t feel that way about your work. Your Pain Analyzer will prove as exciting as the most exotic tropical isle, lush with coconut palms, sparkling with crystal rivers, and crowned with jeweled mountains. . . . Just keep working . . . and have patience, dear girl. Patience. . . .ˮ

The barometer needle pointed to STORM.

It was a warm autumn day. It had been raining since morning and now the sun was thirstily lapping up the puddles. The sticky smell of soggy leaves drifted through the open window. The wind was shaking leaves from the trees; they circled lazily in the air and glided reluctantly on to the window sill. From below came the muffled grumbling of the gardener, wearily scolding his assistant.

Irina glanced at her reflection in the window and straightened her hair. Window glass is flattering, so much kinder than a mirror; it erases wrinkles and makes you look years younger.

Today was her birthday, but for Irina it was just another working day. In the morning the professor had looked over the encephalograms and then left. Irina was alone now. Alone with the blues. She didn’t know why she had suddenly become so depressed, but she simply couldn’t concentrate, and for a long time just sat and stared at the barometer hanging above her desk. Then she rose and crossed over to the window.

“Oh, you blockhead, you,ˮ the gardener was still fussing. “Is that the way to cut?”

Irina heard firm, masculine steps approaching the laboratory. “Loginov!” she thought, and her eyes began to sparkle. “But why so early?ˮ she wondered, hastily smoothing her blouse. Loginov appeared in the doorway with an enormous bouquet of white chrysanthemums.

“Happy birthday, Ri,” he said, kissing her lightly on the cheek. “Today you look absolutely . . . No, I won’t say it . . . Only poetry could do you justice . . . and all I have to offer you is dull prose.ˮ

“Thanks,” whispered Irina, “you’re the only one who remembered.”

“Never mind, my dear colleague, have a little patience,ˮ Loginov comforted her. As usual he was in excellent spirits, looking smart, smoothly shaven, and smiling. “Mark my word, humanity will yet celebrate your birthday.ˮ

Irina was delighted to see Nikolai and particularly please that he had come to see her in his new gray suit. He had recently participated in the International Conference of Biophysicists, and his name tag was still pinned to the jacket.

“The conference is over . . . remember?ˮ she teased as she removed the tag from his lapel.

“Ah . . . but you’ve forgotten. . . . The venerable scientist is supposed to be absent-minded,ˮ Loginov gestured helplessly. But we were talking about birthdays. . . . Joking aside, Ri, one of these days you’re going to have a medal pinned on you. . . . Well, guess what I brought you?ˮ

“Oh, Kolya, what beautiful flowers,ˮ said Irina, “and so many.”

“Well, flowers are flowers, but something better is on the way.ˮ

Loginov pulled a folded magazine from his pocket and sat down on the window sill. “You’re becoming famous, Ri. Here, listen to this . . . from the editor's column: ‘A Pain Analyzer invented by two young scientists, I. V. Sobolovsky and N. A. Loginov, appears particularly promising and is arousing interest in medical circles. By means of this instrument a patient’s pain impulses are transmitted to his physician’s brain. This could prove extremely valuable in cases that present unusual diagnostic problems.’ And so on and so forth. . . . Well, what do you think of that?”

“What do I think?” exclaimed Irina. “Oh, Kolya!”

“And that’s not all. . . . Close your eyes. Fine. Now . . . one, two, three . . . openl” He drew another magazine from his pocket. “Just feast your eyes on this . . . an article by Krichevsky, ‘Victory Over Pain.’ I know it’s only a popular science magazine, but still . . .ˮ

Irina smiled, remembering how moody she had been until just a few minutes ago when Kolya had surprised her with birthday flowers . . . and now this. . . .

“And what does he write?” she asked.

“I skimmed through it on the way over. . . . It really waxes poetic . . . sounds like a eulogy. Here, listen, ‘Since time immemorial people have been frightened by pain. In song and legend passed down to us over the centuries, in ancient myths recorded on stone slabs, papyrus, waxed boards, and half-rotted parchment, the inexhaustible theme of pain is endlessly repeated. . . .’ He’s quoting from someone . . . let’s skip it. Ah, here’s what we want! ‘Pain functions as a protective mechanism while it warns of impending danger. As soon as the signal is noted and the danger eliminated, the pain, if still present, becomes superfluous. When pain has ceased to function as a friend (a warning mechanism), and has, by its superfluous character, transformed itself into an enemy, the individual is powerless to halt it. Pain gradually overwhelms the consciousness, subjugates thought, disturbs sleep, disorganizes the functioning of various organs. . . .’ Oh, We can skip this, too. . . . Listen . . . here it is . . . about our work: ‘People cannot lead a normal existence without pain signals. But it is imperative to liberate the organism from intense pain before it is transformed from a symptom into an illness. This problem is solved to a considerable degree by a remarkable instrument, a Pain Analyzer, developed by Dr. Nikolai Loginov and Irina Sobolevsky, a graduate student.’ . . . Oh, hell! He’s got it all wrong. I told him distinctly that your name should come first. After all, the Pain Analyzer was really your idea.ˮ

“What difference does it make whose name comes first?” objected Irina. Loginov waved his arm in protest and Irina yielded. “All right, Kolya, have it your way; let’s say the idea was mine. But you’ll have to agree that one can’t cure anything with ideas alone. An idea isn’t a magic wand. Sure, it was my brainchild, but I couldn’t have raised the infant without your help. No, without you I couldn’t have accomplished a thing!”

Loginov shrugged his shoulders helplessly. He suddenly seemed terribly disturbed about something. Irma had rarely seen him like this; all his sparkle and self-confidence had suddenly vanished.

“True,” he said, “without me you could hardly have built this thing. You and I know that, but who else does? People don’t realize that you can’t simply take a good idea and build a machine around it. You need a sounding board; you have to prove your idea to someone first, and you have to make sure there are no bugs in it. There is nothing more difficult than clearing a road through the wilderness. I think that’s the way Jack London put it, didn’t he? But mark my words, Ri, people will say, ‘He teamed up with her, but the idea was all hers.’ People are funny that way; they only remember the person who dreamed up an idea, and forget the one who wore his guts out making that dream a reality.ˮ

“So that's it,” she thought as she nervously fingered the flowers lying on her desk. She knew that Nikolai was right; many people did feel that he had simply attached himself to her project.

“But that's a lot of nonsense, Kolya,ˮ she tried to console him. “You just wait and see , . . we’ll receive a joint citation testifying to the fact that we both shouted ‘Eureka! I have it!’ at the very same instant.”

Nikolai smiled.

“Well, now . . . let’s get back to the article. Hmm . . . Where were we? . . . Ah, yes. . . . ‘A pain signal is transmitted via the nerve fibers to the brain’s cortex. The biopotential generated during this transmission is picked up by the Pain Analyzer, amplified, and transmitted to electrodes attached to the physician’s head. Something resembling resonance occurs. The physician’s brain apparently tunes itself to the pulse generated in the patient’s brain. Now it is possible to make an objective diagnosis. . . .’ ”

He tossed the newspaper on to the desk.

“I haven’t told you the really important news yet, Ri. You can’t imagine how well things are going. In a month (and incidentally, it hasn’t been officially announced yet) the Institute is holding a conference on electronic diagnostic techniques. And you, young lady, are invited! So, prepare a report!”

“Me? Oh, no! You give it, Kolya. . . . I’m afraid to, honestly!ˮ

“Oh, well, that’s what you always say.ˮ

“But you can handle it, Kolya,” she said softly.

And Loginov could. He was extremely versatile and talented and could cope expertly with almost any situation. He had joined forces with Irina when she was testing her first model of the Pain Analyzer. She had been dogged with failure, and although Professor Baidalin remained silent, the others had no faith in her project and made no attempt to conceal their skepticism. But Loginov never hesitated; he believed in it at once and convinced Baidalin to permit them to combine their projects and work together. Loginov rarely appeared at the laboratory as he was constantly involved with a host of other problems related to their project. He secured the latest equipment, consulted electronic experts, smoothed out difficulties with the administration. Without Loginov, Irina could not have accomplished even a quarter of the work.

“Why shouldn’t you give the report, Ri?” asked Loginov. “You can’t postpone your debut indefinitely. You have to get used to the idea of delivering reports.ˮ

“No, some other time. . .ˮ

“All right, there’s still time to think about it,ˮ he said, springing from his seat on the window ledge. “And now, here’s the very latest; Shimansky nearly killed your Pain Analyzer. You know what the old buzzard is like: ‘Ach, it's terrible, terrible! The physician will suffer excruciating pain. . . . It is inhumane!’ Doctors—humanists?! Since when? They’ve plenty of blood on their hands. When did they ever worry about human guinea pigs? Did you ever hear them protesting, ‘Surgery? Oh, no—too painful, too inhumane! Inoculation? Oh, no—too painful! Blood transfusions? Never—too painful!ˮ

Loginov paced the room nervously.

“Calm down . . . the venerable scientist never lets anything ruffle his nerves of steel.”

“I’m in no mood for jokes, Ri! This same Shimansky . . . imagine . . . after shedding all those crocodile tears, he turned off the faucet and asked to use the Pain Analyer today to make a diagnosis on a patient from his clinic. I looked at the patient’s case history and was horrified. It could mean the end of the Pain Analyzer. Such beastly headaches . . . the patient is almost out of his mind. I spent a solid hour trying to dissuade the old fellow . . . and I just about managed to.ˮ

“And if we should try?ˮ asked Irina. “Who knows . . . it might work. . . .”

Loginov stopped dead in his tracks.

“You’re talking nonsense, Ri. There’s about one chance in ten of success. It will fail, and they’ll start howling, ‘The Pain Analyzer is completely useless!’ And all our hard work will have gone down the drain.”

Irina placed the chrysanthemums in a flask, gathered up the wilted petals from her desk, and tossed them out the window. The breeze eagerly snatched them, and carried them off to the asphalt path below.

Loginov took Irina by the shoulders and gently turned her toward him. She lowered her eyes.

“Ri, I don’t like to pull my rank, but I do have a little more experience than you do,” he gently admonished her. “Our work has hung in the balance more than once . . . failures, failures, and more failures. The administration was justified in losing patience. And right now, when everything seems to be running smoothly . . . it would be sheer madness, don’t you see? The first test on a real case . . . and bang! . . . failure. And just before the conference, where I was going to raise the question of building a special new lab for our project. Why we’ve been tinkering around in a cramped lab like a couple of amateurs. It’s about time the Institute seriously concentrated on the Pain Analyzer. We need a staff, equipment, space.”

Irina looked up at him. Loginov smiled, walked over to the desk, tapped on the barometer tube with his fingernails. He bent over slightly, examined his reflection in its clouded glass, smoothed his hair. Then he leafed through the encephalograms lying on the desk.

“But what about the patient, Kolya? Did you think about him?ˮ asked Irina.

“Oh, Ri, what a question! Of course I did,” he replied gloomily. “And what about all the other sick people who need the Pain Analyzer, too? Every physician needs one . . . like a stethoscope. A failure at this point would ruin us. It would simply discredit the whole project. Try to understand what I’m saying. . . .”

He paced the lab, patiently expounding his point of view. His arguments were solid, solid and as well stacked as a strong brick wall; but his countless arguments failed to sway Irina. If anything they had the opposite effect.

“Do you know what, Ri?” Loginov finally said. “Let’s stop bickering. We scientists shouldn’t expect smooth sailing. Let’s simply work and that’s all. Well, what do you say, am I right?”

Irina nodded.

“Good girl!” his face lit up with a broad smile. “Today is a pretty special day . . . your day. What should we do tonight? You give the orders.”

“I don’t know. Anything you say.”

“All right, I’ll think of something. We’ll really celebrate tonight,ˮ he said, glancing anxiously at his watch. “Uh, oh, I'd better hurry. I’ve a great deal of pressing work that I must attend to today. I want to talk to Voronov; he carries quite a hit of weight around here. Besides, the old fellow is a big wheel on the journal’s editorial board. . . and it wouldn’t hurt to have a few more journal articles to your credit. You haven’t published very much. . . . See you tonight, Ri! I’ll pick you up at six. And, as they say in novels, ‘Tonight I have something very important to tell you. . . .’”

He left the laboratory and Irina heard his footsteps fade along the corridor. She stood by the open window. A gentle breeze, warmed by the sun, caressed her, but she suddenly felt herself Shivering and closed the window.

She knew what Nikolai wanted to tell her tonight. She had waited a long time for it. She knew her answer would be “Yes,” and she trembled with excitement as she thought about the wonderful evening ahead.

But the magic glow vanished as her thoughts slowly drifted back to earth, to her work, to her responsibilities. She was vaguely disturbed about her tiff with Nikolai, and tried to recall everything that had passed between them. Yes, she remembered his arguments almost word for word, but now that she was alone, those very same words had a completely different ring. “It would be madness . . . you need a staff, equipment . , . we shouldn’t expect smooth sailing. . . .ˮ Suddenly it all became clear. She dashed to her desk, shoved aside a stack of papers covering the phone, and grabbed the receiver. “I had better calm down first,” she thought as she replaced it on the hook. “I’ll wait two minutes." Her eyes followed the second hand on her watch as her thoughts raced ahead.

The businesslike dial tone hummed soothingly. Irina dialed the number and a feminine voice answered indifferently, “Hello.”

“Professor Shimansky, please,” Irina said impatiently.

Later, while waiting for Shimansky in the laboratory and reflecting on the day’s events, Irina decided that Nikolai was, in his own way, right. A failure at this point would certain jeopardize their project. True, no one expected every experiment to be successful, but what Irina and Shimansky were about to undertake was not an experiment. It was the real thing! And, if it should fail, it would be difficult to explain to the administration that unusually urgent circumstances had demanded the Pain Analyzer’s premature application. Someone would be only too eager to seize the opportunity to pounce on them: “Two young and inexperienced scientists! What can you expect?ˮ And their project would suffer a severe setback. Again they would have to prove, justify, and convince in order to receive financial support. . . .

“I suppose I haven’t treated Kolya very fairly. Maybe I am wrong. Failure always casts a shadow of doubt on new diagnostic tools. Granted, it is unfair . . . but that’s the way it is. The victors are placed on the pedestals and the vanquished thrown to the lions. And Kolya is just a victim of the system. But why isn’t he man enough to stand up to it and say, ‘The hell with you! I don’t give a hoot what you will think or say if our first trial fails. My only concern is the possibility, though it may be a remote one, of helping a very, very sick man.’ But then again . . . maybe I am wrong. What about all the other people who need the Pain Analyzer? Do we have the right to risk failure for the sake of one man, and at the possible expense of many?ˮ

She suddenly noticed that she had been unconsciously toying with the name tag she had unpinned from Nikolai’s jacket. “No, he didn’t forget to remove it,ˮ she thought, somewhat annoyed. “He didn’t forget. He never forgets anything. And he never lets anyone else forget who he is, either. Ah, yes . . . our venerable, distinguished scientist. . . .ˮ

“Pain is health’s watch dog,” said the ancients. But as time went on, people took a closer look at this watch dog, and the guardian myth crumbled. Careful observation revealed extremely erratic behavior, ranging from the whimsical to the vicious. While deadly enemies such as cancer viruses and tuberculosis bacilli penetrate an organism, this dog remains silent. He playfully wags his tail when someone is critically ill, and barks when it is too late. Yet for some trivial reason he will bite his master.

Just yesterday, they had mounted a symbolic figure of a muzzled dog on the instrument panel above the Pain Analyzer. “Our watch dog may bark, but not bite. He must be muzzled,” said Irina. The figure had been carved very skillfully—with a vicious snarling snout and small, red, beady eyes. When the lab light was switched off, the eyes gleamed like tiny, evil, crimson sparks.

Officially the PA unit was known as “The Biopotential Resonant Pain Analyzer,ˮ but Irina had dubbed it “Kiddo.” This little fellow occupied almost half of a spacious lab. Three rows of knobs on the dark instrumental panel helped keep him in line. He frequently misbehaved, and the controls located and removed his bugs and snags.

Kiddo loved peace and quiet; therefore, the lab was windowless and had only one low door insulated against sound. The patient was placed in an adjoining room, since the slightest sound could distract the physician. Irina was accustomed to working alone, in absolute silence, and today the raucous voice of Professor Shimansky sounded strange and out of place. Shimansky had been a military physician for a long time, and still maintained his erect military bearing. Tall, already slightly corpulent, with a large head and close-cropped hair, he moved alongside the instrument panel and queried Irina about the functions of the various controls.

“Everything is quite clear,” he finally said. ‘I’m ready. Where would you like me to sit?”

“Right here, please, by the Biopotential Recorder,” replied Irina. “I’ll sit in this chair with my back to the instrument panel—the light from the controls is distracting. And I must ask you not to talk to me during the test. But . . .” she abruptly broke off and became silent.

“But what?ˮ Shimansky wanted to know.

He addressed her in the same tone of voice as he would a student, and Irina knew that she would have to tell him.

“Well, Professor Shimansky, this is still in the experimental stage. We were planning to perfect it so the physician could, when necessary, reduce the intensity of pain impulses transmitted to him. But now . . . well . . . we can’t do that just yet. If anything, the Pain Analyzer tends to amplify pain impulses. This was extremely helpful in our experiments, when we simulated mild pain, but . . .”

“Listen, Irina, maybe it would be better if I took your place, eh?ˮ suggested Shimansky, his stern gray eyes softening.

“Thank you, professor. But the first time, I must . . .”

“Without proper controls this is a very nasty business.” Shimansky shook his head disapprovingly.

Irina shrugged her shoulders.

Shimansky walked slowly alongside the instrument panel, halted by the carved watch dog, and murmured in a low voice, "So, they’ve muzzled a dog. . . . Dreamers! Star gazers!”

And Shimansky mused about starry-eyed dreamers. Long, long ago they bravely sailed the seven seas and brought back precious cargoes and fantastic tales of strange lands and strange peoples. A few hundred years passed, and the dreamers soared into the sky in awkward box-like contraptions constructed out of canvas, wood, and wire. And now they’d settled in laboratories, design offices, and at the controls of electronic devices. . . .

“Yes, Irina, a strange business, this romanticism,” said Shimansky.

“If we take a closer look at what we are doing . . He stopped in the middle of a sentence, coughed, and then asked drily:

“Shall we begin?”

“Yes, of course, let’s begin. I only wanted to ask . . . that man ...there . . .”

“His name is Ilya Dimitrievich Kabeshov,” replied Shimansky. “World War II . . . a mine splinter . . . a hastily performed operation at the front . . . and here he is, twenty-five years later . . . Former Technical Sergeant Ilya Dimitrievich Kabeshov, wounded in action on the second Ukrainian front.”

Irina flipped the switch. The control dials sprang to life, swung to the right, quivered. The lab was dark except for the light from the instrument panel.

Irina deliberately dawdled as she prepared herself for the crucial test. She listened to Kiddo’s soft drone, sensing something comforting, almost reassuring in his barely audible hum. “Be a good boy, Kiddo,ˮ she pleaded. “You wouldn’t let me down now, would you?ˮ She nervously eyed Shimansky, afraid that he might guess her thoughts. “Kiddo, don’'t be hard on me. I’m scared, really scared!ˮ

A green light flashed on the instrument panel, beneath the snarling snout of their muzzled dog. The nurse was signaling from the adjoining room, “The patient is ready.ˮ Irina silently donned her helmet, fastened the strap snugly under her chin, and straightened the wires, which reminded her of unplaited braids. There were more than than thirty of them, and they made the helmet feel heavy. Irina settled down in her chair, leaned back, and closed her eyes.

And then, darkness.

Logino’s face floated up from the depths of her consciousness, mingled briefly with fragmented, tangled thoughts and images, and then everything was swallowed by a strange, abysmal darkness. These were the same indefinable, fleeting sensations one experiences in the brief moments preceding sleep, in that blurred no-man’s land between the conscious and unconscious. Not yet overwhelmed by sleep, the brain is still active, but thoughts are already growing transparent, shapeless, and elusive until, at last, they thin out and fade into nothingness.

The pain struck without warning, not yet intense, but sharp, like a pin prick. Irina leaned forward and gripped the arms of her chair. Shimansky carefully followed the Biopotential Recorder where two fine pens were tracing lines on a chart. The upper line, the patient’s biopotential, was broken and pulsating feverishly. The lower line, the operator’s biopotential, straight until Irina had donned her helmet, was now a rhythmic pattern of broken, wavy lines, representing the bio-potential of a normally functioning brain.

Suddenly the rhythm of the lower line was broken. The pen quivered; the curve it was tracing assumed a pulsating character; the frequency of the oscillations increased sharply. Shimansky glanced at Irina sitting rigidly in her chair with eyes shut tight. A faint lilac glow from the controls gave her face a deathly pallor. Shimansky thought, “A kid . . . just a kid." He took out a handkerchief and wiped the cold sweat from his face.

The pain grew more intense. At first it seemed external and strange, and she was unable to localize it until she felt dull, gnawing, throbbing pain slowly spread from the back of her head to her temples. Breathing became difficult, and each breath was accompanied by a fresh surge of searing, stabbing pain.

She tried to brace herself against this crushing onslaught; she knew that she must not surrender. No sooner had this thought flashed through her brain, than the pain, which until now had been pouring through in a fine stream, broadened into such a raging torrent so overwhelming that Irina could scarcely think. She knew that the moment of resonance, a moment of pure hell when she would experience the full fury of the patient’s pain, was approaching rapidly. She wondered how it was possible for any human being to endure such agony day after day, for weeks and months on end without losing his sanity or taking his life. In their experiments with the Pain Analyzer she had never experienced anything more than moderate laboratory-induced pain, but this was as different from laboratory-induced pain as a ferocious tiger from a purring kitten.

“Kiddo, Kiddo!ˮ Irina wanted to scream. “Have mercy! . . .ˮ Somewhere on the threshhold of consciousness a cowardly thought struggled. “Dear God, if only the apparatus would break down. . . .ˮ Irina forced herself to concentrate; she tried to straighten up. It was difficult to breathe, and she was gasping for air.

The pain, like a caged beast of prey, tearing its bonds asunder, sank its claws deeper and deeper. And with an amazing clarity rarely achieved in the laboratory, Irina suddenly understood the kind of pain she was experiencing. The diagnosis was so simple that at first she couldn’t believe it. Now she carefully listened to the pain.

“Irina,” Shimansky was holding her hand, “how do you feel?ˮ

“Feel?” It took a few moments to understand what had happened, to realize that the pain had ceased because someone had cut the power. And now the nightmare was over, and her whole being felt marvelously light and free as if she were floating on a cushion of air.

“You’ve had enough. I had to put a stop to it,ˮ Shimansky explained rather apologetically.

Irina quickly removed the helmet and smiled.

“Professor Shimansky, the diagnosis is rather simple: an acute inflammation of the cranial nerves, which began with neuralgia of the trifacial nerve and was complicated by secondary symptoms. . . .”

Shimansky shook his head in disbelief.

“But with neuralgia of the trifacial nerve, the patient should have experienced a throbbing pain, and he has never complained of that.ˮ

“That is understandable,” explained Irina. “The pain had surged beyond the limits within which a person could still localize and define it. It had become too intense, too prolonged. It spread beyond its original site. . . . If you wish, Professor Shimansky, you can try it and convince yourself.”

“An excellent suggestion!ˮ he nodded enthusiastically.

Irina assisted him with the helmet; then he sat down in the operator’s chair and gestured that he was ready to begin. Irina did not turn off the light, and attentively followed the expression on his face. His gray, shaggy eyebrows arched, a deep, vertical fold creased his forehead, and the wrinkles beneath his eyes began to twitch. He bit his lip and closed his eyes tightly; the assault had begun.

Irina turned her attention to the Biopotential Recorder, and as her eye fell on the chart, she sucked her breath in sharply. She never forgot this moment—more exciting than all the captain’s bridges, stormy seas, and exotic tropical isles she had ever dreamed about. Irina had perceived a startling pattern, a normal rhythm in the two, broken, pulsating lines, which was so clear cut that she immediately forgot about everything else, including Shimansky and his patient. Nothing existed for her now except those two broken, pulsating lines. This totally unexpected, normal rhythm representing the patient’s biopotential had a simple explanation: when Shimansky was tuned in to the patient’s pain impulses, the patient felt better. Irina had not yet seen the patient, but the Biopotential Recorder tracings offered objective evidence. While the apparatus was in operation, the pulsating, erratic biopotential tracings of the patient’s brain gradually acquired a normal rhythm. The recorder had twice registered this totally unexpected phenomenon, the first time with Irina seated in the operator’s chair, and now, again, with Shimansky as operator.

A loud, sharp ring suddenly pierced the tense silence of the laboratory. Irina quickly lifted the telephone receiver from the instrument panel of the Pain Analyzer and heard the amazed voice of the nurse, who was calling from the adjoining room: the patient had experienced relief and had fallen asleep!

Irina turned off the Pain Analyzer. Shimansky rose from his chair, fumbling with his helmet, but the strap would not yield to his trembling fingers.

“You are right!ˮ he exclaimed with emotion. He coughed, then frowned, wondering if he had conducted himself with proper decorum during the agonizing test. “Your diagnosis is absolutely correct! It is an inflammation of the cranial nerves . . . a rare form. . . . Irina, what’s the matter with you?”

He had suddenly realized that Irina was not listening.

“What is the matter with you?” he repeated.

Irina started and stared at Shimansky with a puzzled expression.

“For goodness sakes, Irina . . . what’s wrong? What happened?ˮ

She silently pointed to the Biopotential Recorder, but Shimansky did not immediately understand what she was driving at.

“Wait, just a minute . . .ˮ he grumbled, peering intently at the tracings on the chart.

Irina repeated what the nurse had said about the patient.

Shimansky pulled out a pack of cigarettes. No matches. He mechanically rummaged through his pockets, then crumpled the cigarette and shoved it into the pocket of his white smock.

“Well now . . . this is extremely interesting,ˮ he said somewhat hoarsely. “By forcing the patients and physician’s brains to function together, we distribute the patient’s pain among two brains. Just from this alone the patient should experience some relief. But the main thing . . . yes, of course . . . of course . . . I see. The main thing is that the physician’s clear, fresh brain, which has not been exhausted by pain, actively resists this pain with its unexpended reserves of strength. This is indeed a remarkable discovery! A most remarkable one! It means that your device can be used for therapy as well as diagnosis. I am not one to jump to hasty conclusions, young lady, but I am convinced that we have made no mistakes here, today. I must congratulate you.”

Irina continued to stare at the recorder in silence. Shimansky was annoyed at himself. “Maybe I didn’t say the right thing? Maybe I should have put it differently? Oh, you old fossil, you!ˮ he chided himself. “Such a wonderful girl, and that’s all you can think of to say to her?ˮ He suddenly remembered Loginov and made a wry face. “Such a gem of a girl . . . and that miserable opportunist! It doesn’t make sense. But that’s the way life is. . . .ˮ And then gently to Irina, “Irina, you’ve been wonderful . . . but you are very tired now. Come, pull yourself together.ˮ

Irina entered the room slowly, mechanically slipped off her smock, and hung it by the door. For a long time she stared at the chrysanthemums still standing on the window sill. She sat down on the ledge and pressed her cheek against the window pane warmed by the sun. Evening was approaching—peaceful, warm, tender.

The barometer above her desk still pointed to STORM.

SOURCE: Zhuravleva, Valentina. “Storm,ˮ in Russian Science Fiction, 1968: An Anthology, compiled and edited with an introduction by Robert Magidoff, translated by Helen Jacobson (New York: New York University Press, 1968), pp. 174-187.

Valentina Zhuravlyova / Zhuravleva:
English translations

Includes all the following & more:

"The Astronaut" by Valentina Zhuravleva

Stone from the Stars” by Valentina Zhuravleva

"The Pest" by Valentina Zhuravlyova

Starlight Rhapsody” by Valentina Zhuravleva,
translated from Esperanto by Donald J. Harlow

Starluma Rapsodio” de Ĵuravleva Valentina,
tradukis Aleksej I. Verŝinin

Science Fiction & Utopia Research Resources: A Selective Work in Progress


Starlight Rhapsody” by Valentina Zhuravleva
Moscow News, January 1, 1960. p. 7
(Different translation)

Chapter 11: Human Monsters Under My Bed (Sam's POV)
by Alec Starr (Alec's Hidden Fics)

Valentina Zhuravleva - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Valentina Zhuravleva @ Ĝirafo

Valentina Nikolaevna Ĵuravlova
(sciencfikciaj rakontoj)

Valentina Ĵuravlova - Vikipedio

Affective machines or the inner self?
Drawing the boundaries of the female body in the socialist romantic imagination

by Alexey Golubev

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Uploaded 17 July 2021

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