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The Institute by Stephen King

The Institute by Stephen King

Author:Stephen King
Language: eng
Format: epub, mobi
Publisher: Scribner
Published: 2019-09-09T16:00:00+00:00


HELL IS WAITING

1

As Train 4297 was leaving the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, yard, bound for Sturbridge, Mrs. Sigsby was studying the files and BDNF levels of two children who would shortly be residing at the Institute. One was male, one female. Ruby Red team would be bringing them in later that evening. The boy, a ten-year-old from Sault Ste. Marie, was just 80 on the BDNF scale. The girl, a fourteen-year-old from Chicago, was an 86. According to the file, she was autistic. That would make her difficult, both for staff and the other residents. If she had been below 80, they might have passed on her. But 86 was an outstanding score.

BDNF stood for brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Mrs. Sigsby understood very little of its chemical underpinnings, that was Dr. Hendricks’s bailiwick, but she understood the basics. Like BMR, basal metabolic rate, BDNF was a scale. What it measured was the growth and survival rate of neurons throughout the body, and especially in the brain.

Those few with high BDNF readings, not even .5 per cent of the population, were the luckiest people in the world; Hendricks said they were what God had intended when He made human beings. They were rarely affected by memory loss, depression, or neuropathic pain. They rarely suffered from obesity or the extreme malnutrition that afflicted anorexics and bulimics. They socialized well with others (the incoming girl being a rare exception), were apt to stop trouble rather than start it (Nick Wilholm being another rare exception), they had low susceptibility to such neuroses as obsessive-compulsive disorder, and they had high verbal skills. They got few headaches and almost never suffered from migraines. Their cholesterol stayed low no matter what they ate. They did tend to have below average or poor sleep cycles but compensated for this by napping rather than taking sleeping aids.

While not fragile, BDNF could be damaged, sometimes catastrophically. The most common cause was what Hendricks called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, CTE for short. As far as Mrs. Sigsby could tell, that came down to plain old head-banging concussion. Average BDNF was 60 units per milliliter; football players who’d been in the game ten years or more usually measured in the mid-30s, sometimes in the 20s. BDNF declined slowly with normal ageing, much faster with those suffering from Alzheimer’s. None of this mattered to Mrs. Sigsby, who was tasked only with getting results, and over her years at the Institute, results had been good.

What mattered to her, to the Institute, and to those who funded the Institute and had kept it a hard secret since 1955, was that children with high BDNF levels came with certain psychic abilities as part of the package: TK, TP, or (in rare cases) a combination of the two. The children themselves sometimes didn’t know about these abilities, because the talents were usually latent. Those who did know—usually high-functioning TPs like Avery Dixon—were sometimes able to use their talents when it seemed useful to do so, but ignored them the rest of the time.



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