Five years to the day, almost to the second, after he disappeared form the Manhattan Psychiatric Institute, leaving his host body in a catatonic state, the being known as prot (rhymes with goat) has returned. Now, in sixteen more sessions with psychiatrist Gene Brewer, prot reveals that he has come back to escort a chosen few to his home planet, K-PAX.
K-PAX is an idyllic planet free of the pain and suffering of earth. Prot has incredible insights into how to cure that suffering, and his radical ideas have made him a celebrity. Now, legions of people are longing to follow him home.
But Dr. Brewer has heard it before. Five years ago, he discovered another person buried deep in prot's personality: Robert Porter of Montana. The mystery of Robert's illness and of prot's true origins lie deep within Robert's shattered psyche. Now Dr. Brewer must race against the clock to unlock the secrets of Robert's traumatic past and not only save his patient but maybe humanity.
About the Author
Gene Brewer is the author of ON A BEAM OF LIGHT.
Gene Brewer was born and raised in Muncie, Indiana, and educated at DePauw University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before becoming a novelist, he studied DNA replication and cell division at several major research institutions. Dr. Brewer lives in New York City with his wife.
Read an Excerpt
On a Beam of Light
By Gene Brewer
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2001 Gene Brewer
All rights reserved.
I scheduled the first session (the seventeenth overall) with prot for 3:00 P.M., Monday, August 21, remembering to dim the lights for his sensitive eyes. Indeed, he removed his dark glasses as soon as he was escorted into my examining room by his old friend Roman Kowalski (Gunnar Jensen had retired), and I was delighted to find that he appeared to be fully recovered from five years of rigid immobility, though technically it was Robert, not prot, who had been catatonic throughout that period. He was, in fact, much as I remembered him: smiling, energetic, alert. The only notable changes were some weight loss and a hint of premature graying at the temples — he was now thirty-eight years old, though he claimed to be closer to four hundred.
Betty had reported that he was already able to eat soft, easily digestible foods, so I had a few overripe bananas on hand, which he dug into with his usual relish, skins and all. "The riper the better," he reminded me. "I like them pitch-black." He seemed utterly at home, as if our last session had been only yesterday.
I turned on the tape recorder. "How are you feeling, prot?" I asked him.
"A little tired, gene." Note to reader: prot capitalized the names of planets, stars, etc. Everything else, including human beings, was, to him, of little universal importance and therefore lowercase. "How about yourself?"
"Much better, now that you're back," I told him.
"Oh? Have you been ill?"
"Not exactly. Frustrated, mostly."
"Maybe you should see a psychiatrist."
"Actually, I've conferred with the best minds in the world about the source of my frustration."
"Does it have anything to do with your relationships with other humans?"
"In a way."
"I thought so."
"To be frank, it concerns you and Robert"
"Really? Have we done something wrong?"
"That's what I'd like to know. Maybe we could begin with your telling me where you've been for the past five years."
"Don't you remember, doc? I had to return to K-PAX for a while."
"And you took Bess with you?" Note: Bess was a psychotically depressed patient who "disappeared" in 1990 along with prot.
"I thought a change of scene would do her good."
"And where is she now?"
"Still on K-PAX."
"She didn't come back with you?"
"Are you kidding? Would you want to come back to this place after you've seen pa-ree?" NB: the "place" he referred to was the Earth, not the hospital.
"Can you prove to me that Bess is on K-PAX?"
"Can you prove she is not?"
A familiar sinking feeling began to set in. "And how is she doing?"
"Like a fish in water. She laughs all the time now."
"And she didn't come back with you."
"Haven't we been over this?"
"What about all the other K-PAXians?"
"What about them?"
"Did anyone else come with you?"
"No. I wouldn't be surprised if no one ever did."
"They read my report." He yawned. "Still, you never know...."
"Tell me something: Why did you come to Earth in the first place, knowing from our radio and TV broadcasts that it was such an inhospitable planet?"
"I told you before: Robert needed me."
"That was in 1963?"
"By your calendar."
"Just in time for his father's funeral."
"In the nick."
"And you've made the trip several times since."
"Nine, to be exact."
"All right. Just for the record, then, you've been back on K-PAX for the past five years."
"Well, it's not that simple. There's the round trip, which — oh, I explained all that last time, didn't I? Let's just say I stayed around for a little r and r after turning in my report to the libraries. Then I hurried on back here."
"Why were you in such a hurry?"
"Ah, I get it. You're asking me questions you already know the answers to." There it was: the familiar Cheshire-cat grin. "Just for the record — right?"
"In your case, I don't know many of the answers yet, believe me."
"Oh, I can believe that, all right. But to answer your question: I promised certain beings I would come back in five of your years, remember?"
"To take them to K-PAX with you."
"So what's the rush?"
"They all seemed to want to leave as soon as possible."
"And how many of them do you plan to take back with you when you go?"
Up to this point prot had been gazing about the room as if searching for familiar objects, pausing occasionally to study the watercolors on the various walls. Now he looked directly into my eyes and his smile vanished. "I came prepared this time, doctor b. I can take as many as a hundred beings with me when I return."
"What? A hundred?"
"Sorry. Not enough room for more."
The transcript indicates a long pause before I could think of a response. "Who do you think you'll be taking, for example?"
"Oh, I won't know that until the time comes."
I could feel my heart pounding as I asked, as casually as I could, "And when will that be?"
"Ah. That would be telling."
Now it was my turn to stare at him. "You mean you're not even going to tell me how long you'll be here?"
"I'm happy to see that your hearing is still unimpaired, narr" (pax-o for "gene," or "one who doubts").
"I'd really like to know that, prot. Can you give me some idea at least? Another five years? A month?"
"Why the hell can't you tell me?"
"Because if you knew when I was leaving you'd watch me like a cat watches a bird in this carnivorous WORLD."
I had learned a long time ago that there was no use arguing with my "alien" friend. All I could do was make the best of whatever situation he sprang on me. "In that case, I'd like to schedule you for three weekly sessions. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at three o'clock. Would that be all right with you?"
"Whatever you say, dahktah. For the time being I'm at your service."
"Good. There are a few more questions I'd like to ask you before you go back to your room."
He nodded sleepily.
"First, where did you land on this trip?"
"The pacific ocean."
"It was pointing toward K-PAX at the time?"
"Gino! You're finally getting it!"
"Tell me something. How do you breathe in outer space?"
He wagged his head. "I guess I spoke too soon. You still don't understand. The usual physical rules don't apply to light-travel."
"Well, what's it like? Are you awake? Do you feel anything?"
His fingertips came together and he frowned in concentration. "It's difficult to describe. Time seems to stand still. It's rather like a dream. ..."
"And when you 'land'?"
"It's like waking up. Only you're somewhere else."
"It must be quite an awakening, finding yourself in the middle of an ocean. Can you swim?"
"Not a stroke. As soon as I bobbed up I got right out of there."
He sighed. "I told you on my last visit, remember? It's done with mirrors...."
"Oh. Right. And where else did you go before you came here?"
"Nowhere. Came straight home to mpi."
"Well, are you planning any excursions away from the hospital while you're here?"
"Not at the moment."
"If you do decide to take any side trips will you be sure to let me know?"
"Don't I always?"
"That reminds me — did Robert go with you on your trip to Labrador and Newfoundland the last time you were here?"
"He didn't want to."
"We never saw him during the few days you were gone. Where was he?"
"No idea, coach. You'll have to ask him"
"Second: You're not planning any 'tasks' for the other patients (as he did for Howie, the violinist, five years ago), are you?"
"Gene, gene, gene. I just got here. I haven't even met any of the patients yet."
"But you'll tell me if you come up with any such plans?"
"Good. And finally, are there any more little surprises you're not telling me about?"
"If I told you, they wouldn't be surprises, would they?"
I glared at him. "Prot — where is Robert?"
"Not far away."
"Have you spoken with him?"
"How is he feeling?"
"Like a sack of mot excrement." Note: A "mot" is a skunklike animal found on K-PAX.
"Did he say anything you'd like to tell me about?"
"He wanted to know what happened to the dog." He meant the dalmatian I had brought in, hoping to induce the catatonic Robert to respond to it.
"Tell him I took Oxeye home until he felt well enough to take care of him."
"Ah. Your famous carrot-and-stick routine."
"You could call it that. All right. This is my last question for today, but I want you to think about it before you answer."
He broke into another gigantic yawn.
"While you're here, will you help me make Robert feel better? Will you help him deal with his feelings of worthlessness and despair?"
"I'll do what I can. But you know how he is."
"Good. That's all anyone can do. Now — any objection to my trying hypnosis again during our next session?"
"You never give up, do you, doc?"
"We try not to." I stood up. "Thank you for coming in, prot. It's good to see you again." I went over and shook his hand. If he was still weak it didn't show in his handshake. "Shall I call Mr. Kowalski, or can you find your way back to your room?"
"It's not that difficult, gino."
"We'll move you back to Ward Two tomorrow."
"Good old ward two."
"See you Wednesday."
He threw me a backward wave as he shuffled out.
After prot had gone I listened, with mixed feelings of excitement and trepidation, to the tape of this brief session. Given enough time I was sure I could help Robert overcome the barriers blocking his recovery. But how much time would we have? In 1990 we were faced with a deadline that forced me to take chances, to hurry things too much. Now I was confronted with an even worse dilemma: I hadn't the slightest idea how long prot would be around. The only clue I had was his passive response to my suggestion of thrice-weekly sessions. If he were planning to leave within a few days he would undoubtedly have responded with, "They'd better be productive!" or some such remark. But I could be wrong about that, as I have been about so many things where prot was concerned.
In any case three weekly sessions were all I could manage. Though I wouldn't be teaching during the fall term, there were other unavoidable responsibilities, not the least of which were my other patients, all difficult and puzzling cases, each deserving of my best efforts. One of these was a young woman I call Frankie (after the old song "Frankie and Johnny Were Lovers"), who is not only unable to love another human being but doesn't even understand the concept. Another was Bert, a loan officer at a bank, who spends all his waking hours searching for something he has lost, though he hasn't a clue as to what it is.
But back to prot. During the previous five years there had been ample opportunity to discuss his case with colleagues, both at MPI and around the world. There were no end of suggestions about how to deal with my problem patient. For example, one doctor from a former Soviet state assured me that Robert would be quickly cured by immersing him in ice water for several hours a day, a useless and inhumane practice that became obsolete decades ago. The consensus, however, was that hypnosis was still probably the best approach for Robert/prot, and I planned to begin essentially where I had left off in 1990. That is, to try to coax Robert out of his protective shell so I could help him deal with his devastating feelings about the tragic events of 1985.
In this effort I badly needed prot's help. Without it, I felt the chances for recovery were slim. Thus, I was faced with another quandary: If Robert were to get well, prot would have to "dissolve" into, and become part of, his personality. How willing would he be to play a role in Robert's treatment and recovery if it came about at the expense of his own existence?
On Friday, the day after prot's return, I had called Giselle Griffin, the reporter who had been so instrumental in tracking down Robert's origins, to tell her he was back. She had come in regularly since prot's departure five years ago, ostensibly to check on Robert's progress, but secretly, I think, hoping to find that prot had returned, for she had fallen in love with him during the months she had spent at the hospital researching his story for Conundrum magazine. Of course she was often traveling far and wide, her most recent project (possibly anticipating prot's return) being an article on UFO's, which have been sighted almost everywhere. Nevertheless, she always left a beeper number and made it clear that she wanted to be informed of any change in Robert's condition.
She was very excited to hear about prot's reappearance and said she would be there "ASAP." I requested, however, that she not come to see him until he had recovered from his "journey" (i.e., the catatonia) and I had had a chance to speak with him, assuring her, perhaps erroneously, that there would be plenty of time to get reacquainted when he was stronger.
After the session with prot I phoned her again or, more accurately, left a message that she could call and set up an appointment to see him. After that I dictated a letter to Robert's mother in Hawaii, advising her that her son was no longer catatonic, but suggesting she also not visit until things were more certain. Then I toured the lower wards, intending to inform all the residents who were interested that prot was back, to pave the way for his return to Ward Two the following day.
The institute is structured so that the most seriously ill or dangerous patients occupy the top floors, while the least afflicted roam the first and second (Wards One and Two). Ward One, in fact, is primarily a temporary home for certain transient patients who come in periodically for a "tune-up," usually an adjustment in their medication, and for those who have made substantial progress toward recovery and are nearly ready for discharge. Prot was about to rejoin the inhabitants of Two, patients suffering serious psychoses ranging from manic depression to acute obsessive-compulsive disorder, but who are not a menace to the staff or each other.
I needn't have bothered. It was obvious from the moment I entered the ward that everyone already knew about prot's return. A psychiatric hospital is similar to a small town in some ways — news travels fast, and moods seem almost communicable. On this, the day before prot was to take up residence among them, the atmosphere was virtually electric with anticipation. Even some of the severe depressives greeted me relatively cheerfully, and a chronic schizophrenic, who hadn't uttered an intelligible sentence in months, inquired, I believe, after my health. And most of these patients, except for Russell and a few others, had never even met him.
* * *
Giselle showed up at my office on Tuesday morning, sans appointment, as I expected. I had not seen her for several weeks, but I had not forgotten her piney fragrance, the doelike eyes.
She was dressed, as always, in an old shirt, faded jeans, and running shoes with no socks. Though pushing forty, she still looked like a kid — a sixteen-year-old girl with crow's-feet. Yet, there was something different about her. She was not so ebullient as she was five years ago. Gone was the coy smile I had once mistaken for coquettishness but which I had learned was a part of her truly ingenuous nature. Instead, she seemed uncharacteristically nervous. It occurred to me that she might be apprehensive about meeting prot again, distressed, I supposed, that he might have changed, or perhaps had even forgotten her.
"Don't worry," I reassured her. "He's exactly the same."
She nodded, but the distant look in those big brown eyes suggested she hadn't heard me.
"Tell me what you've been up to the last couple of months."
Her eyes suddenly came into focus. "Oh. I'm almost finished with the piece on UFO's. That's why I haven't been around for a while."
"Good. Are they real or —"
"Depends on who you talk to."
"What if you talked to yourself?"
"I'd say no. But there are plenty of sane, normal people who would disagree."
"Yet you believe that prot came from K-PAX."
"Yes, but he didn't come in a UFO."
"Ah." I waited, which seemed to make her nervous again.
I was pretty sure I knew what was coming. "Yes, Giselle?"
"I'd like to come back to the hospital for a while. I want to find out what he really knows."
"About everything. I want to write a book about it."
"Giselle, you know a psychiatric hospital isn't grist for the public mill. The only reason I let you work here the last time is that you performed a valuable service for us."
"But I would be performing another valuable service this time, one that might benefit everyone" She curled up in the black vinyl chair across from my desk. "You're probably going to write another book about him as a patient, right? Mine will be different. I want to find out everything he knows, catalog it, check it all out, and see what the world can learn from his knowledge. Which you'll have to admit is pretty remarkable, whether you believe he comes from K-PAX or not." She bowed her head for a moment, then looked up at me with those pleading doe eyes. "I won't be in the way, I promise."
Excerpted from On a Beam of Light by Gene Brewer. Copyright © 2001 Gene Brewer. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I would definitely be willing to take the old lightclan's history. :) Maybe it could be like how they rebuilt skyclan in the books.
If you liked K-PAX, you might want to give this book a read. This sequel brings prot back to earth five years after he departed for K-PAX, leaving an empty shell behind in the catatonic Robert Foster. This book features more of the amazing mental feats of prot, but the ending is anti-climatic and disappointing. Still, it is a fine book, but as is the case with many sequels, it doesn't measure up to the original work.
read this book one of the greats k-pax and this book are the all time greatest book on earth, (And maybe K-PAX) And i really hope to meet him someday (robert porter or prot) fellow reader Sammi G.