Amid gunfire and bursting mortar shells, a young woman in a white nightgown runs, her long hair floating behind her, while a young man in tattered army fatigues beckons. The scene is surreal – the colors are bleached and time seems distorted. She falls, and awakens on a couch in a small rustic cabin. She picks up a photograph of herself and the young man from her dream, and then begins writing a letter to him. She writes that she feels he is alive out there, somewhere, and that she hopes her thoughts will reach him. Falteringly, she picks up a pen with the other hand, as if she doesn't know what she's doing, and begins writing Chinese characters on a different sheet of paper. She hears a voice: "Tina, help me. Tina, help me, please," and turns to see the young man from her dream, Randy, perched on the edge of a stool, a rope around his neck. The stool tips and he disappears.
Dr. Michael Rhodes enters the Parapsychology Department, where a young woman is reading a deck of cards, predicting what picture each card will show before she turns it over. In other experiments, a woman stares at each card, thinking about the image on it, and a man nearby reads her mind, and a man tries to determine the roll of dice.
Tina and her boyfriend, Pete, have gone to Dr. Rhodes for advice about the visions she has seen, and the letter that she wrote in Chinese. Dr. Rhodes explains that the research into ESP and other paranormal phenomenon at the University is very scientific in nature. Dr. Rhodes was drawn into the field when he received images with great accuracy – images he received through telepathy. Pete is skeptical, but Tina has no other explanation for the fact that she wrote two letters at the same time, one with each hand, and one in a language that she doesn't know. Dr. Rhodes' assistant, Nancy, suggests it may be an example of Automatic Writing – receiving a message in a trance. Dr. Rhodes explains that some authors such as Coleridge and Victor Hugo believed their best works were transmitted to them this way, but adds that it may just be a message from the writer's subconscious mind.
Although Tina doesn't read or write Chinese, both Randy and his sister, Betty, majored in Oriental languages and Tina was around "that stuff" all the time. Tina is convinced that she was somehow communicating with Randy. Pete insists that Randy is dead – they served in Vietnam together, and Pete saw Randy collapse from a machine gun shot to the head before he himself was taken captive by the enemy. Dr. Rhodes cautions Tina from accepting anything on an emotional basis – the mind can play tricks on people.
Tina takes Dr. Rhodes to speak with Randy's sister, Betty. She is performing Kabuki Theater in full costume, and greets them with a quote: "I am not a part of the human world; I live with it in one of my many bodies…" Rhodes continues the line: "Forever, over the mountains, a wanderer, wandering." It is from a work called "The Symbol of Love." They explain Tina's vision, that Randy needs help, and show her the Chinese symbols Tina wrote. Betty is reluctant to help, but can read the Chinese letters – it is a quotation from a metaphysical work.
Rhodes visits Randy's father, Professor Blake, a science professor at the University. He asks the scientist to believe that there needs to be a broader definition of man, and what man can do, than exists in science today. Rhodes asks Professor Blake for an example of Randy's handwriting in Chinese to try to compare it with the sample they have. As he turns to leave, Rhodes picks up a picture of Randy playing tennis. Concentrating, he suddenly sees a bloodstain appear in the center of Randy's white shirt. After a moment, the picture goes back to normal.
At his office, Rhodes has compared the two letters, and concludes that the writing of Tina's letter matches Randy's example. When Nancy asks if he believes Randy was somehow making Tina write the letter, Rhodes answers that it could still be her subconscious mind, except for his own vision in Prof. Blake's study. Why would he have seen blood on Randy's chest when Pete said he was wounded in the head?
Rhodes goes to the cabin, to try to reach Randy. Concentrating on the picture of Randy and Tina, he begins to hear gunfire, and then a whispering voice calling out to Tina. Suddenly, Rhodes is thrown into a vision – he is in the hands of the Chinese, and they are trying to brainwash him – trying to get him to talk. He experiences Chinese Water Torture, and is locked in a bamboo cage, screaming to get out when he returns to reality in the cabin.
In his office the next day, he tries to explain the experience to Nancy. He remembers the thirst, the torture and voices continually trying to get him to confess. They go back to Pete, to see if it is possible that Randy didn't die, but was captured by the Viet Cong. He insists that Randy is dead, and demands they leave him alone, and stay away from Tina. Back at the cabin, Rhodes runs into Betty, who greets him with the same quote as before. She was very hurt by Randy's death, and seems to resent Tina. She believes that Randy is dead and if he touched Rhodes' mind it "must have been from some other world." She can't believe Randy would have reached out to Tina, since she has been unfaithful to him – Tina turned to Pete too quickly when he returned from the war, taking him from Betty.
Pete and Tina argue about Randy – Pete insists that he is dead, and that sometimes he thinks Tina would have been happier if he had died and Randy had returned. He demands that Tina let it go, and stay with him.
Rhodes had been waiting for Tina to meet him at the cabin, but she never arrived. He sits at the table and begins writing a letter to Randy, hoping it would bring their minds closer. "It will somehow allow you to come through to me, to reach me, with your mind." The sounds of war begin again, and Rhodes stands, entranced by visions of Randy near an exploded truck. The vision holds him, even as the cabin around him begins to burn. The flames are getting higher when Rhodes finally breaks away from the vision, and manages to get out of the burning building. While Rhodes gazes at the ruined structure the next morning, the fire chief tells him it was clearly arson – someone set the fire deliberately while he was inside.
Rhodes goes back to talk with Randy's father, to tell him how close he felt to Randy's presence. "Professor, we've only accepted Randy's death on Pete's word." That is good enough for Randy's father, as Pete was Randy's best friend. The quotation from Randy's letter, written by Tina, was from a book by Edward Samuels. Samuels wrote about Astral Projection, something he experienced when he was in prison, going through physical agony, when he was able to send his mind out of his body through space to escape. Many Greek philosophers wrote about the same thing. Randy might be reaching out the same way Samuels did – he must have been familiar with Samuels' story. His father finally admits that Samuels' book was one of Randy's favorites – he even translated it into Chinese. Randy might be reaching out to Tina to tell her the truth, that he's still alive. The professor wonders, if this is true, why does Pete say he saw Randy die? Rhodes believes there must be an explanation.
That evening, Professor Blake sits beside the fire, reading Samuels' book and thinking about his son. He hears a voice cry out to him and looks up to see a vision of his son. Randy says, "I've been trying so hard to reach you."
The next day, Rhodes and Nancy are called to Professor Blake's house – he was found dead that morning. Betty attacks Tina, screaming that she hated Blake, and is glad he's dead. Tina runs out as Nancy tries to console Betty. A police detective questions Rhodes about his relationship with Blake. Rhodes notices the book, still on the chair where Blake had been sitting the night before. The detective tells Rhodes to stick to his ESP cards and leave crime to the police.
Tina has run to the ruins of the cabin, and Rhodes catches up to her there. She asks him, "How long are you supposed to wait, doctor, when someone you love dies?" She feels guilty for the choices she's made – for dating Pete, for hurting Betty. Dr. Rhodes tells her that it may still be possible to reach Randy's mind, through a meditative state called Alpha. While in this state, a person's ESP potential is greatly enhanced.
Betty visits Pete to tell him that Tina is working with Dr. Rhodes again. Professor Blake had called Betty to get Pete's number last night before he died. He told her that he had to talk to Pete urgently. Betty wants Pete to tell her that he didn't shoot her father. Pete yells that he didn't kill him, but Betty does not believe him. She tells him he cannot stop the truth – Rhodes and Tina will find it. Pete hurries out to his car, and sees a vision of Randy reaching out to him.
At Dr. Rhodes' office, he uses a Mandala, a symbol used to achieve a meditative state, to help Tina concentrate. She focuses on the center of the symbol and feels the change in her awareness, the Alpha state. Almost by itself, her hand reaches towards a pen on the table in front of her. Rhodes reads the words she is writing – Randy is begging for help. He finally appears in the room, and Rhodes asks him how they can help. Rhodes sees visions of a prison camp where Pete and Randy had been held. They fought because Pete gave the locations of American soldiers to the enemy, and Pete stabbed Randy in the chest. At the same moment, Pete enters Rhodes' office and punches him, grabbing Tina and running off with her. Tina had seen the same vision, and pulls away from Pete. Rhodes chases Pete down the stairs to the parking garage where a car turning the corner hits Pete.
Lying in Rhodes' arms, Pete admits that he and Randy were held in a Viet Cong prison camp, but Pete managed to escape. He was the one who burned the cabin, and shot Professor Blake. Pete admits he couldn't hold out against the torture, and hurt Randy, but eventually manages to tell Rhodes how he escaped, and the location of the escape tunnel under the hospital floorboards. Rhodes knows that Randy is there, listening.
Some days later, Tina comes to tell Dr. Rhodes and Nancy that she received a telegram that Randy had been being held in a prison camp, has escaped and is in the Saigon hospital. He's coming home next month. Rhodes notices the date on the telegram – the date Randy escaped is the same day Pete told Dr. Rhodes about the tunnel. When Randy has recuperated and comes home, Tina introduces him to Rhodes. Randy asks, "Have we met before?" Rhodes answers, "I think so. Somewhere, somehow."