Admirable she-ape! Thanks to her, I was able to see Nova fairly often during this period, without the authorities knowing. I spent hours on the lookout for the intermittent gleam in her eye, and the weeks went by in impatient expectancy of the birth.
One day Cornelius decided to take me to the encephalic section, the wonders of which he had described to me. He introduced me to the head of the department, the young chimpanzee called Helius, whose genius he had praised to the skies, and apologized for not being able to show me around himself because of some urgent work.
"I'll come back in an hour's time to show you the pearl of these experiments myself," he said, "the one that affords the evidence I told you about. Meanwhile I'm sure you'll be interested in the classic cases."
Helius showed me into a room similar to those in the institute, equipped with two rows of cages. On entering, I was struck by a pharmaceutical smell reminiscent of chloroform. It was indeed an anesthetic. All the surgical operations, my guide informed me, were now performed on subjects who had been put to sleep. He stressed this point, as though to show the high degree attained by simian civilization, which was at pains to suppress all useless suffering, even in men. I could thus be reassured.
I was only half reassured. I was still less so when he ended by mentioning an exception to this rule: the very experiments, in fact, whose aim is to make a study of pain and localize the nerve centers from which it derives. But I was not to see any of these today.
This was not calculated to appease my human sensibility. I remembered that Zira had tried to dissuade me from visiting this section, where she herself came only when she had to. I felt like turning around and retracing my steps; but Helius did not give me time to do so.
"If you would like to attend an operation, you will see for yourself -that the patient suffers no pain at all. No? Well, let's go and see the results then.
Passing by the closed cell from which the smell emanated, he led me toward the cages. In the first I saw a young man of fairly handsome appearance but extreme emaciation. He was propped up on a litter. In front of him, almost under his nose, stood a bowl containing a mash of sweetened cereals to which all the men were partial. He was gazing at it in bewilderment without making the slightest gesture
"You see," said the director. "This boy is famished, he has not eaten for twenty-four hours. Yet he does not react when confronted with his favorite food. This is the result of partial ablation of the frontal brain, which was performed on him some months ago. Since then he has been continuously in this state and has to be fed by force. You can see how thin he is.
He signaled to a nurse, who went into the cage and plunged the young man's face into the basin. The latter then began lapping up the mash.
"A fairly commonplace case. Here are some more interesting ones. On each of these subjects we've performed an operation affecting various areas of the cerebral tissue."
We walked past a series of cages occupied by men and women of all ages. At the door of each of these was a panel specifying the operation performed, with a wealth of technical details.
"Some of these areas are related to the natural reflexes; others to the acquired reflexes. This one, for instance—"
This one, according to the case history, had had a whole zone of the occipital area removed. He could no longer distinguish the distance or shape of objects, a disability he manifested by a series of disorganized gestures whenever a nurse approached him. He was incapable of avoiding a stick placed in his path. On the other hand, a piece of fruit held out to him inspired him with alarm and he tried to draw away from it in terror. He could not grasp the bars of his cage and made grotesque attempts to do so, closing his fingers on empty air.
"This other one here," said the director with a wink, "was once a remarkable subject. We had succeeded in training him to an astonishing degree. He answered to his name and, to a certain extent, obeyed simple orders. He had solved fairly complicated problems and learned how to use rudimentary tools. Today he has forgotten all his education. He does not know his name. He cannot perform the slightest trick. He has become the stupidest of all our men—as a result of a particularly difficult operation: extraction of the temporal lobules."
With my stomach heaving at this succession of horrors accompanied by comments from a grinning chimpanzee, I saw men partially or totally paralyzed, others artificially deprived of sight. I saw a young mother whose maternal instinct—once highly developed, so Helius assured me—had completely disappeared after interference with the cervical cortex. She kept pushing away her young child whenever it attempted to approach her. This was too much for me. I thought of Nova, of her impending motherhood, and clenched my fists with rage. Luckily Helius showed me into another room, which gave me time to recover my composure.
"Here," he said with a mysterious ah", "we indulge in more. delicate research. It's no longer the scalpel that is brought to bear, it's a far more subtle medium—electrical stimulation of certain spots of the brain. We have brought off some remarkable experiments. Do you practice this sort of thing on Earth?"
"Yes, on apes!" I retorted in fury.
The chimpanzee kept his temper and smiled.
"Of course. However, I don't think you could ever have obtained such perfect results as ours, comparable to those that Dr. Cornelius wishes to show you himself. Meanwhile let's continue with our rounds of the commonplace cases."
He again led me up to some cages where nurses were in the process of operating. The subjects here were stretched out on a sort of table. An incision in the skull laid bare a certain area of the brain. One ape was applying the electrodes wfiile another was attending to the anesthetic.
"You will note that here, too, we put the subjects to sleep: a mild anesthetic, otherwise the results would be falsified, but the patient feels no pain."
Depending on the point at which the electrodes were applied, the subject made various movements, usually affecting only one side of his body. One man jerked his leg up at each electric shock, then stretched it out again as soon as the current was switched off. Another performed the same movement with one arm. In the next case it was the whole shoulder that began twitching spasmodically under the effect of the current. Farther on, with a very young patient, it was the area commanding the jaw muscles that was brought into play. The poor wretch started champing, endlessly champing, with a ghastly grin on his face, while the rest of his adolescent body remained motionless.
"Now look what happens when the duration of the contact is increased," said Helius. "Here is an experiment carried to its utmost limit."
The creature on which this treatment was imposed was a lovely young girl who in certain respects reminded me of Nova. Several nurses, male and female apes in white smocks, were buzzing about her naked body. The electrodes were fixed by a she-ape to the young girl's face. The girl at once started moving the fingers of her left hand. The she-ape kept the current on instead of switching it off after a few seconds, as in the other cases. Then the movements of the fingers became frenzied and gradually the wrist started twitching. A moment later and it was the forearm, then the upper arm and shoulder. The twitching presently spread, on the one hand to the hip, the thigh, and the leg all the way down to the toes, on the other to the muscles of the face. After ten minutes the whole of the wretched girl's left side was shaken by convulsive spasms, a dreadful sight, growing more and more rapid and more and more violent.
"That's the phenomenon of extension," Helius calmly observed. "It's well known and culminates in a state of convulsions presenting all the symptoms of epilepsy—an extremely strange epilepsy, moreover, affecting only one side of the body."
I had not been able to stifle the cry that rose to my lips. All the apes gave a start and turned toward me with reproving glances. Cornelius, who had just come in, gave me a friendly tap on the shoulder.
"I admit these experiments are rather bloodcurdling when you're not used to them. But you must bear in mind that thanks to them our medicine and surgery have made enormous progress in the last quarter of a century."
This argument did not convince me, any more than the memory I had of the same treatment applied to chimpanzees in a laboratory on Earth. Cornelius shrugged his shoulders and dragged me off toward a narrow passage leading to a smaller room.
"Here," he told me in a solemn tone, "you're going to see a marvelous achievement, which is absolutely new. Only three of us ever go into this room—Helius, who is personally in charge of this research and who has made such a success of it; myself; and a carefully selected assistant.
He's a gorilla. He's dumb. He's devoted to me body and soul and, what is more, he's an utter brute. So you see the importance I attach to this work. I'm willing to show it to you because I know you'll be discreet. It's hi your own interests."