“Well, when your body is all dead, and you are all there yet, you just skin out and leave your body. And when you leave your body you leave the cell. Stone walls and iron doors are to hold bodies in. They can’t hold the spirit in. You see, you have proved it. You are spirit outside of your body. You can look at your body from outside of it. I tell you I know because I have done it three times—looked at my body lying there with me outside of it.”
“Ha! ha! ha!” Jake Oppenheimer rapped his laughter thirteen cells away.
“You see, that’s Jake’s trouble,” Morrell went on. “He can’t believe. That one time he tried it he was too strong and failed. And now he thinks I am kidding.”
“When you die you are dead, and dead men stay dead,” Oppenheimer retorted.
“I tell you I’ve been dead three times,” Morrell argued.
“And lived to tell us about it,” Oppenheimer jeered.
“But don’t forget one thing, Darrell,” Morrell rapped to me. “The thing is ticklish. You have a feeling all the time that you are taking liberties. I can’t explain it, but I always had a feeling if I was away when they came and let my body out of the jacket that I couldn’t get back into my body again. I mean that my body would be dead for keeps. And I didn’t want it to be dead. I didn’t want to give Captain Jamie and the rest that satisfaction. But I tell you, Darrell, if you can turn the trick you can laugh at the Warden. Once you make your body die that way it don’t matter whether they keep you in the jacket a month on end. You don’t suffer none, and your body don’t suffer. You know there are cases of people who have slept a whole year at a time. That’s the way it will be with your body. It just stays there in the jacket, not hurting or anything, just waiting for you to come back.
“You try it. I am giving you the straight steer.”
“And if he don’t come back?” Oppenheimer, asked.
“Then the laugh will be on him, I guess, Jake,” Morrell answered. “Unless, maybe, it will be on us for sticking round this old dump when we could get away that easy.”
And here the conversation ended, for Pie-Face Jones, waking crustily from stolen slumber, threatened Morrell and Oppenheimer with a report next morning that would mean the jacket for them. Me he did not threaten, for he knew I was doomed for the jacket anyway.
I lay long there in the silence, forgetting the misery of my body while I considered this proposition Morrell had advanced. Already, as I have explained, by mechanical self-hypnosis I had sought to penetrate back through time to my previous selves. That I had partly succeeded I knew; but all that I had experienced was a fluttering of apparitions that merged erratically and were without continuity.
But Morrell’s method was so patently the reverse of my method of self-hypnosis that I was fascinated. By my method, my consciousness went first of all. By his method, consciousness persisted last of all, and, when the body was quite gone, passed into stages so sublimated that it left the body, left the prison of San Quentin, and journeyed afar, and was still consciousness.