An alien forced Jeff Wagg, cohost of Rational Alchemy podcast, into a psychic showdown with Anita Ikonen, the so-called skeptical psychic.
“Every experiment needs a good control.” Said Banchu, an apprentice of alien magician and skeptic Dischum. “I couldn’t think of a better control subject than Jeff Wagg, and when I learned that he was available, I just had to abduct him!” Wagg used to administer the James Randi Educational Foundation’s Million Dollar Challenge.
Dischum is known on Earth as the creator of the Billion Dollar Challenge, the strictest psychic challenge a human can apply for and survive. The challenge involves Dischum abducting applicants and demanding that they immediately demonstrate their paranormal ability.
Banchu told this reporter that he wanted to record a demonstration challenge to show at TAM London, and to impress Dischum.
“Dischum makes the Billion Dollar Challenge seem simple. I wanted to show the select humans at TAM London that it’s really hard. You ask a human subject to demonstrate their power, and they always come up with excuses why they can’t. Dischum says I don’t have what it takes to run the challenge. So I thought the demonstration would also prove him wrong!”
Banchu chose Ikonen, he said, because she claims to be skeptically examining her own powers, and has allowed skeptics to test her.
“They’re still talking about her demonstration challenge at TAM 8.” Said Banchu. “She selected the wrong person with the missing kidney, but she did say the word ‘left.’ The person with the missing kidney was sitting to her subject’s left. I didn’t care what Dischum said about all the previous tests. I thought it was worth doing another test with her.”
Banchu allowed this reporter to watch the challenge from the observation lounge. In one testing facility, Ikonen confidently listened to a holographic projection of Banchu explain the terms of the test.
“If I decide that I’ve failed this test, I will no longer claim to have psychic powers!” Exclaimed Ikonen.
Minutes later in the second testing facility, Wagg materialized.
He looked around for a few seconds, then shouted, “The treaty of Las Vegas specifically prohibits JREF staffers from being abducted!” Almost immediately he slapped a hand on his forehead. “Damn it, I picked the wrong time to resign from the JREF!”
Banchu’s projection explained the test to Wagg, and added, “If you refuse to participate, you will be killed. If you succeed, you will continue to the next round.” Banchu did not tell Wagg about Ikonen’s participation.
For the first challenge, two boxes with paper thin sides appeared in front of each subject. Banchu explained that there was a living kidney in one of the boxes. Each subject had to guess which box the kidney was in.
Ikonen, who claims to be able to see inside human bodies, furiously started writing in her notebook.
Wagg, on the other hand, sighed.
“Lets gets this over with. I pick that box.”
Fifteen minutes later, Ikonen said, “The kidney is in the right box and is facing to the left.”
All four boxes opened. Ikonen chose incorrectly, while Wagg, to his horror, picked the correct box.
“DJ? Randi?” Cried Wagg. “Is this a joke? You can come out now!”
Ikonen, unable to hear Wagg, remarked, “I did say that the kidney was facing left. So it is possible that my power showed my subconscious mind the correct location, but my logical mind rejected it. Therefore my subconscious mind made me say it was facing to the left. I count this as a possible hit, don’t you agree?”
A few seconds later, Banchu replied, “I think you have a point. We will continue.”
For the second test, two identical furry mounds appeared in front of each subject. Banchu instructed them to describe the differences between two creatures. Again, Ikonen furiously scribbled in her notebook.
Wagg shrugged. “I give up. I can’t tell the difference. They look like the same creature.”
Twenty minutes later Ikonen replied that the creature on the left was tasting something sweet while the creature on the right was tasting something bitter, and she was feeling a psychic high because the creature on the left had a photo of a drug hidden in its fur.
Banchu announced that this was a trick challenge. Each set of furry mounds were actually the feet of a five dimensional creature. The creatures then revealed themselves.
Wagg was told he would advance to the next round. In frustration, Wagg pounded his fists against a wall.
“Let me out of here!” No! Land then let me out of here. No! Land in front of my home, then let me out of here!”
Ikonen replied, “This alien has the soul of a creature from another world. Just like me. My subconscious mind chose to represent this as differences in the creature’s left foot. As one alien soul to another, you can see the wisdom of my argument and allow me to continue. Also, looking at my notes, I see that I wrote words that contain the letters s-a-m-e.”
“Interesting.” Replied Banchu. “I must let you continue.”
For the third challenge, a robot entered each testing facility with a deck of Zener cards. Banchu explained that the robot would pick the cards, and they would have guess what card it picked.
“I call special pleading!” Yelled Wagg. Wagg then asked to be given his own deck of Zener cards. He would pick his card before the robot and then reveal his card after the robot’s pick. Banchu agreed, and provided Ikonen her own set of cards.
During the draws, Wagg proceeded to get ten out of ten correct, while Ikonen didn’t pick a single correct card.
After the challenge, Banchu projected screens to allow Wagg and Ikonen to see each other for the first time. Ikonen smiled and waved at Wagg, while Wagg, shook his head.
“This now makes sense.” Said Wagg.
Banchu described how amazed he was at the results.
“(Ikonen) did worse than chance, while the control got every card correct.”
Ikonen protested, “I can see through human bodies, not napkins or cards.”
Banchu told Wagg that he was going to submit his name for the Billion Dollar Challenge.
“Ah ha!” Exclaimed Wagg. “You can’t submit my name because I cheated! I fooled you with a simple magician’s trick. If the rules of your challenge are the same as Million Dollar Challenge, then I am disqualified! That means you have to send me home because I made the attempt, but I didn’t pass! So--”
“Don’t listen to Jeffrey!” Interrupted Ikonen. “Now I know what’s going on. My power must have detected his presence to the left of me.”
“His room is to your right.” Countered Banchu
“We’re on a flying saucer.” Replied Ikonen. “If I walked to my left, I would eventually find Jeff’s room. Anyway, since Jeff did such a friendly interview with me, my power must have helped him out. That’s why he passed every test, and that’s why you should let both of us move on to the Billion Dollar Challenge.
“Please!” Said Ikonen. “I’d do anything for you in return. I may look young, but I have a very old soul.” Ikonen then fluttered her eye lashes.
Wagg screamed then leaned his head against the wall.
“I haven’t been abducted. I’m in skeptic hell!”
A flash of light appeared in Ikonen’s facility, revealing Dischum.
“What is going on here?” Demanded Dischum.
“I’m recording a demonstration of--”
“We don’t do demonstrations! We either do the challenge or we do not.”
Dischum picked up his smartphone and whispered into it for about a minute. Then he glared at Ikonen.
“Do you want to apply for the Billion Dollar Challenge?”
“What about Jeff?”
“I will deal with him later. Do you want to try for a Billion Dollars? Because I have already prepared a challenge for you.”
“Yes!” Cheered Ikonen.
A frame appeared, surrounded what appeared to be a block of human skin.
“I have grown my own living human flesh.” Explained Dischum. “It is the same thickness as a human body. Inside this block are two living kidneys.” He pointed at one section of the block. “Do you see this kidney?”
Iknoen concentrated for a few seconds. “Yes. Quite clearly!”
Dischum pointed to another section. “Do you see this kidney?”
“Yes!” Exclaimed Iknoen.
“Can you clearly see the shapes of the kidneys?”
“I have excellent vision from feeling today!”
“Good.” Said Dischum. “Now that we have calibrated your power, I will present your challenge.”
A second block of flesh appeared.
“I have arranged living kidneys to form a word in a language you understand.” Said Dischum. “What is the word?”
Iknoen this time calmly wrote in her notebook while Wagg watched with concerned interest. An hour later, Iknoen set down her notebook.
“The word has vowels and consonants. It might involve a date, like 9/11 or be related to a medical conditional. It could also be from one of my alien languages. Right now, it looks like the word, Left!”
“Wrong!” Snapped Dischum.
“Then the word must be left aligned!”
The skin on the block melted away, revealing the word “vanföreställningar.”
Iknoen protested. “That is a typical smear, and would expect better from a fellow skeptic. Besides, my power is weak because I also helped Jeff pass his challenges.”
Dischum nodded. “Perhaps I am being too mean. Maybe I should test another claim instead.” Dischum motioned with his hands.
“You once claimed that you came from a white dwarf star in the Arcturus system, correct?”
“Yes. You’ve heard of it?”
“I have.” Replied Dischum. A force field descended from the ceiling and enveloped Iknoen. “There is only one white dwarf star there with a planet capable of supporting life. Let me see if you can breath its atmosphere.”
Thick plumes of a yellow gas descended over Iknoen. Almost immediately she started gasping for air.
Dishum motioned with his hands. The force field retracted to the ceiling, taking the gas with it.
“The highest form of life on Arcturus Xa1 is a fungus! You don’t look like a fungus to me.”
“I come from Telmaar!”
“Telmaar is a hot Jupiter on the other side of the galaxy” Countered Dischum. “It has no life, let alone civilizations capable of sending human impostors to Earth!”
“Again, I have been weakened by helping Jeff pass his challenges. He has some of my power.
“You can reapply from the challenge in a year. That should give you enough time to get your power back from Jeff.”
A pile of papers appeared in front of Iknoen.
“If all you want is attention, I can arrange for our spy satellites to watch your every move. Scientists from around the galaxy will monitor you, and publish studies that will be read throughout the galaxy. You will have a much larger audience than any psychic on Earth has ever had. Just fill out the paper work, and will put you in front of the queue!”
Before she could respond, Dischum teleported her and the application back to Earth.
He turn turned his attention to Wagg.
“Can I finally go home?” Asked Wagg.
“You’re participation in this ‘demonstration’ has disgraced the JREF.” Snapped Dischum.
The wall behind Wagg vanished. Wagg screamed as he was blown into outer space.
Banchu quickly explained that Wagg was brought to the spaceship against his will.
“Now you tell me!” Yelled Dischum. “Go rescue Jeff before the vacuum kills him!”
After this reporter was returned to Earth, he attempted to contact both Iknoen and Wagg.
A spokesperson for Iknoen denied that she had been abducted and said that she was still investigating her powers.
“As far as she is concerned, if she can’t remember the challenge, then it didn’t happen. Though she is happy to consider starting an investigation into her abduction.” The spokesperson then added, “We are confident in her ability to conduct the investigation. Because she is skeptical of the skeptics’ lack of belief in the paranormal, this makes her the greatest skeptic of them all!”
When reached for comment, Wagg denied being abducted, and was offended that he would be accused of cheating during a challenge.
“If you're going to make up stories about me, don't call me a cheater. I can still have the JREF reconsider their legal settlement with you guys.”
In the background, a woman said, “It’s your turn to make the bed.”
“Modern science says we don’t need to make the bed.”
“The owner of the bed says we need to make the bed, unless you want sleep on the couch with the cat.”
After the sound of light footsteps faded, Wagg replied, “I can’t argue with that line of reasoning.
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Please note: All articles on this site are works of fiction.