The Ninth Configuration
William Peter Blatty
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Hidden away in a brooding Gothic manor in the deep woods is Center Eighteen, a secret military "rest camp" currently housing twenty-seven inmates, all officers who have succumbed to a sudden outbreak of mental illness. Have the men truly lost their minds, are they only pretending to be insane to avoid combat, or is some more sinister conspiracy at work?
Desperate for answers, the Pentagon has placed a brilliant Marine psychiatrist in charge of the base and its deranged occupants. A man of deep faith and compassion, Colonel Kane hopes to uncover the root of the men's bizarre obsessions. But as Center Eighteen descends into chaos, Kane finds the greatest challenge may be his own buried demons. . . .
The basis of an acclaimed 1980 film (also known as Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane), William Peter Blatty's The Ninth Configuration is a thought-provoking, blackly comic journey into the heart of madness―and the outer limits of belief.
moved his lips and tried to say “Yes,” but no sound would issue forth. He spoke with his mind, thinking-saying?—”Yes.” “Do you really believe in an afterlife?” “Yes.” “I mean, really.” “Yes, I believe.” “Why?” “I just know.” “Blind faith?” “No, not that; not that, exactly.” “How do you know?” insisted Cutshaw. Kane paused, dredging for arguments. Then at last he said (thought?): “Because every man who has ever lived has been filled with desire for perfect happiness. But unless there is
“You crazy, stubborn kid, Hud. Don’t come sniveling to me later when you can’t get a job cleaning altars.” Cutshaw stood up and began to pantomime tennis serves. “Have you ever heard of ‘entropy’? Say it’s a race horse and I’ll maim you.” “It is related,” said Kane, “to a law of thermodynamics.” “Pretty slick there, Hud. Maybe too slick for your own damn good. Now where am I heading?” demanded Cutshaw. “You tell me.” “To where the universe is heading. To a final, final heat death. Do you know
was inevitable. But there were problems with such a conclusion. Some of the men were not involved in a combat-related situation; and many of those who were had been decorated for valor. Why were all of them officers? Why did most cases involve an obsession? The darker suspicion of a White House staff paper on the subject suggested an underground cult of officers whose purposes were unknown but potentially dangerous. In the face of the enigma, it was not hard to entertain such ideas. To probe
repeated. “You’re too human to be human.” His face turned suspicious. He walked to the desk. “I’d like a sucker,” he told Kane grimly. “What?” “A sucker, a common lollipop. Can I have one?” “Why?” “Okay; so you’re not Pat O’Brien. Pat O’Brien would have given me a sucker without putting me through a third degree or checking my fucking credit references. Who the hell are you? All this suspense is a pain in the ass. Maybe you’re P. T. Barnum,” he ventured. “P. T. Barnum slaughtered lambs. He
out-an inmate functioning as a psychiatrist and coming to bear on the problem like nothing we’d ever seen. We hoped he might come up with some new insight. Oddly enough, I think he did. I think the other inmates have been responding to him. But he’s suffered a setback today. A pretty bad one. Really. Bad. You see, his one big hope of a cure for himself is to wipe out his guilt by a saving act; to cure the other men, or at least see improvement. But that takes time-time and your help.” Fell