by Dan Swanson
The unconscious Ted Knight found himself back in the world of his mind, once again flying over the landscape of Knightshire. He was dismayed at the total devastation he saw — the total chaos he had made of his mind. What had been neat and tidy was now ragged and littered, what had been beautiful and solid was now burned, blackened, and tattered.
Being a scientist, Ted quickly recognized cause and effect. He had hidden away parts of his mind, hiding them in the “magic bottle” he had created using his gravity rod. Before that, most of his mind had been well-ordered and well-tended. Now it was a disaster area. He had clearly imprisoned some important parts of himself in that magic bottle.
He used the gravity rod to form a viewing device that allowed him to look into the bottle and closely examine all the inhabitants of the bottle.
Just for a second, the scientist in Ted turned his attention to the gravity rod, forgetting about the devastation around him. He realized how useful the expanded capabilities of his gravity rod were in this imaginary environment. He made a mental note to himself that, someday soon, he ought to see if he could build himself a new tool with expanded capabilities.
Despite the able assistance of his new viewing device, Ted was unable to tell the difference between the denizens of the bottle. There was no way to identify, by remote visual inspection, which of them were important to his mind, and which were dangerous. It seemed that, if he wanted his mind back, he was going to have to release them all.
Even before he had locked up his doubts and uncertainties, Ted had been a decisive person, and he currently lacked the capacity to critically examine his own decisions and actions. As soon as he decided he wanted to do something, he did it. The bottle was opened, and the monsters, creatures, nightmares, and horrors came swarming out.
Some of the creatures immediately started repairing the damaged landscape. Others did nothing. Some started doing damage. Ted couldn’t see any difference between the bad and the good creatures except through their actions. Suddenly, as he watched, one of the supposedly good ones started wrecking things, and several of the supposedly bad ones started doing repair work.
Ted tried to make sense of this. He thought about self-doubt and guilt. Ted had locked away his self-doubt. Unfortunately, he realized that, at the same time, he had also excised his capability for self-examination. His self-doubt had hampered his capability to act, but without self-examination, he had begun acting immediately on every whim that entered his mind. Similarly, his guilt had been painful, but when he had locked up his ability to feel guilt, he had also locked up his self-restraint.
He was pleased to note that most of the creatures from within the bottle were doing repair work, and despite the damage the rest were doing, the repaired area was getting larger. At this rate, his mind would be back to the condition he had originally observed in only a short time. He wouldn’t be well, but he would by much better than he was right now.
Ted had learned some valuable lessons in this incident. Even painful memories and emotions had value, and it was dangerous to try to lock away those memories and emotions. His attempt to seal them away had endangered not only himself, but also his friends and teammates. He realized that other people learned to live their lives while painful memories and guilt co-existed in their minds, and he would have to learn this as well. In the years to come, he found that learning to live with these kinds of memories and feelings was more difficult than he had ever expected, and he eventually sought professional help. But that final, desperate measure was yet to come.
As Ted Knight thought back over the battle with the atomic zombies, he remembered that he had been knocked unconscious, and he had no idea how badly his body was injured, or even how his teammates were doing in their battle with their undead foes. He knew he had to return to consciousness immediately. The irony of an unconscious man knowing he was unconscious escaped him at the moment.
Ted concentrated on the real world, and as he did so, it seemed to him that he fainted. And then he awoke, lying on a bed, with Doctor Mid-Nite fussing over him.
Doctor Mid-Nite had been very worried about Ted. After all, Ted had worked all night rescuing injured people from a train wreck. He had followed that up with an uncharacteristic display of inept fighting against the atomic zombies, a terrible fall and roll through a lot of sharp debris, a stunning impact, significant blood loss, followed by behavior that might almost be considered cowardly, and an apparent seizure. And then, when Ted had recovered from the seizure, he had displayed manic behavior and then been knocked out in another stunning fall into dangerous debris. Mid-Nite was sure that Ted must have a concussion, or worse.
Now that Electraking was no longer disrupting radio signals, Doctor Mid-Nite called JSA Headquarters in New York City and spoke with Hawkman, whom he knew would be at the team’s meeting room tonight. Hawkman agreed to show up at the wreck site and, with Mister Terrific, deal with the local authorities. That allowed Doctor Mid-Nite to bring Starman and Amazing-Man back to New York City.
During his time as a member of the All-Star Squadron, Doctor Mid-Nite had established what he considered a private clinic at the Perisphere headquarters of the All-Stars. In reality, it was merely a room dedicated for the medical attention of any of the All-Stars, where he could tend to his fellow mystery-men without giving away either their secret identities or compromising his own. Dr. Kent Nelson had also used the room on occasion in recent years, employing his newer medical degree, whenever Mid-Nite was unavailable. Now that the All-Star Squadron seemed to be winding down, its wartime mission over, Doctor Mid-Nite thought this might end up being the last time this private clinic was used.
Doctor Mid-Nite had Will Everett lie down on one bed, while he gave Ted Knight a thorough exam on another.
In the middle of the exam, Ted returned to consciousness. He was momentarily disoriented, but Mid-Nite quickly brought him up to date. When he was satisfied that Ted was momentarily safe, at least, he finished his examination of Will and pronounced him fit, although he was clearly exhausted.
Will talked about catching a train back to Detroit, but Doctor Mid-Nite convinced him to spend the day and night in one of the Perisphere’s spare rooms, resting. After all, he could always go back to Detroit tomorrow. Will thought about trying out his new powers once again, but then realized he really did need the rest. Mid-Nite led him to a private room, made a mental note to tell Gernsback, the All-Star Squadron’s robot butler, to wake him up in a few hours, and Will was asleep in minutes.
Doctor Mid-Nite needed a little rest himself. He led Ted to another private room, then headed for a third one to catch some shuteye himself. Ted used the Perisphere telephone to call his fiancée, and then went to sleep himself.
When Ted woke up about five hours later, Doris Lee herself was sitting in the chair beside his bed. When she saw that Ted was awake, she gave him a kiss, wrinkled her nose, and told him he needed a shower. After that, as Dr. Charles McNider, Doctor Mid-Nite brought Ted to his Manhattan clinic and confined him there for the next day, telling his nurse Myra Mason only that his friend Ted Knight had taken ill while in New York on business and needed to rest. It was a believable story, since Ted was well-known in New York for being a playboy who always thought he was ill. Once she was sure Ted was all right, Doris spent some time shopping with Myra, but only after Charles asked Doris not to let Myra know how he really knew Ted; after all, Myra remained unaware that her employer was Doctor Mid-Nite, and he wanted to keep it that way.
While the women were shopping, Ted was anxious to talk to Charles about his recent experiences, describing his two experiences in the landscape of his mind. Ted was sure that he had done mental surgery on himself. Dr. McNider scoffed; his theory was more prosaic.
“Those were just hallucinations, Ted, brought on by the bumps you took to the head. It’s possible that there might be some long-term effects, but I can’t find any signs of permanent damage. You can go home tomorrow!”
Ted didn’t agree with Charles’ diagnosis of hallucinations, but he didn’t argue. After all, what was the real difference between a hallucination and a vision?
“However, Ted, as your doctor and your friend,” continued Charles McNider, “it’s clear to me that you are dealing with some pretty powerful emotional issues.”
Weeks earlier, the Secret Service had reported Starman’s midnight visit to the White House to Hawkman, as chairman of the JSA, and Hawkman had talked it over with Doctor Mid-Nite. They had both decided that there was no need for them to intervene in any way. But Mid-Nite still felt compelled to offer any help he could.
“If you want to talk about them, you know you can always talk to me,” said Charles. “And if you want to talk to a specialist, I can recommend one who is very good, and quite discreet.”
Ted almost decided to be offended. Dr. McNider was suggesting that he see a psychiatrist. In the 1940s, the general perception was that only people who were severely disturbed, or crazy, or weak, went to psychiatrists. Sane people, and men in particular, were expected to deal with their own problems, themselves. But Ted quickly realized that Charles was genuinely concerned about him, and that, in fact, some of his recent behavior did indeed verge on crazy.
“Thanks, Doc. I’ll keep it in mind. But I’ll be fine. I just need some rest, like you said, and some time to think.”
Dr. McNider realized that this was the best he could hope for, so he let it go.
Ted Knight remained a guest at Dr. Charles McNider’s private clinic for several days. The next day, Ted and Doris hopped a train back home to Opal City.
Doris was a little disappointed when he went back to his poker, horse-racing and handball; she had hoped that his adventure with his friends would have at least helped him regain his interest in science, inventing, and research.