Two scientists working on a military-funded telekinetic project discover something far more valuable and deadly. Humanity’s limitations are learned in one dark, irreversible experiment, unraveling the most sought-after discovery: immortality.
Unlocking Immortality is August’s short story that brings readers into a cosmic horror experiment, pushing the boundaries of human invention – at what cost?
The key to immortality isn’t a black and white answer. If it were, humanity would have unlocked the method long ago. Anyone brave – or crazy – enough to attempt finding the key to immortality has to have a vast accumulation of knowledge in varying subjects. Or perhaps just access to the information. Each category raises unique problems. I like to ask myself some fundamental questions to get my head working in the right way:
- Biology: Knowing our anatomy and how our bodies function is an important step. We’re contained in this vessel during our time of being alive. Does immortality bring the flesh with it, or do we transcend into an ethereal, or digital, state? Big question.
- Psychology: Our thoughts evolve. What we can comprehend as a child is nowhere near what we are capable of understanding at middle age. After, we deteriorate. Does immortality mean our minds are frozen from growth the moment the spell is cast on us? Or does our consciousness continue to evolve? Mystical terminology aside, it raises a prominent concern.
- The Self: The modern world tells us that we exist in the brain, as the mind. Ancient philosophy claims we live in the heart. Spiritual leaders tell us we are the soul. What are we? Are we already immortal post-death through the soul? Or are we only an accumulation of flesh and blood?
I can keep adding to the list. Ultimately, I leave that task to my colleague, Rand. He’s more interested in derailing from our project’s intention so he can question the unfathomable. We bonded on the discussion when we were both hired. It’s fun to theorize, but quite frankly, I’d rather keep my job in the laboratory. Rand is willing to take the risk thanks to the extra funds we got this year. The government was exceptionally generous with their budget. We’ve upgraded our stations, equipment, and even hired interns.
The buffer of cash sounds exciting, but it only means more pressure to complete our goal: Transcribing Neurological Pathways from Mind to Mind. Yes, it is a mouthful, but we aren’t here to sex up our proposals. We’re scientists. We discover and push the boundaries of humanity.
I generalize the project for the simple minds by saying we’re in the process of transcribing thoughts from one brain to the other without the need to speak or read. We are creating a direct communication of thoughts, feelings, and ideas. The concept birthed from the research done by Nichola Tesla. His World Power System proposed we can harness the energy trapped in the air, known as radiant energy. He proved the concept but lacked modern technology to access its full potential. We are close, and now we’re taking it one step sideways by using the radiant energy as a superhighway to transfer data. The device will convert thoughts into the universal radiant energy, transmitting it to a receiving device.
The military is highly interested in what we are doing, hence the budget increase. If we pull it off, we can genuinely take humanity to the next phase of existence. No pressure. The number of coffees and cigarettes I’ve had over the past couple of years is going to stain my teeth permanently. That will make a gal want to marry me.
Personal sacrifice aside, we’ve made progress. We transcribed several thoughts from one primate mind to another through a quantum chip adaptor installed in the back of each subject’s skull. One chimp sent the answer of a simple math problem to the other, taking a test, letting the receiving chimp answer a challenge it could not solve. The experiment was proof of telekinetic abilities.
Rand was ecstatic with our breakthrough and began hammering a bunch of algorithms into our deep learning software, saying the sending subject didn’t just transcribe a thought to the receiving specimen but entered it. I told him not to get too excited with new theories. The chimps only sent and received a number. The experiment was one test of many we need to do with these primates.
If we can strap a couple of human test subjects and run the experiment, we could toy with Rand’s theory of consciousness sending through the adaptors. The trials would be fun, and I would love nothing more than to test the adaptor on some human subjects. Unfortunately, we can’t get clearing to do so—something about moral ethics and human rights.
I leave the lab after, like the interns usually do, and went to bed as I am a bit testy from the long work hours and need sleep. I won’t be getting any as my phone rings, keeping me awake. I ignore it and roll over to the other side, hoping I won’t see the screen light up.
The phone hums – a text message.
Damnit, there is no sleep for me. I sigh and roll over to pick up the phone, seeing the caller ID is Rand. I answer, “what?”
“Get to the laboratory fast. I’ve done it.” Rand’s voice is shaky, excited, and high pitched. He has always been the jittery type, but this is different.
“Can it wait until tomorrow?” I ask.
“No. I’ve done it.”
“Accessed our unlimited potential. Matter cannot be created or destroyed, right?”
“I don’t need high school lessons, Rand, what is it?”
“Which means we cannot die. Our pieces are simply scattered with our body’s death.”
“Yes, theoretically,” I humour him.
“We’ve seen matter exist in multiple states at once. Our minds, the thoughts, can exist with and without the body.”
“The adaptor, the chimps, the signal we saw today.”
“I told you to drop this.”
“I modified it.”
My heart stops, realizing what Rand probably did. If he muddled with that adaptor, it would set us back months. We’d be in shit. “What did you do?” I ask.
“I’ve proven consciousness doesn’t exist in our body, but only as a temporary state. It exists beyond.”
“Get down here.”
Rand’s mysterious words convince me, and I put on a fresh pair of pants. My hair is a mess, and my breath probably reeks, but who cares? I’m not trying to make-out with anyone. Besides, if I have to scold Rand, the bad breath will make the down-talking more impactful.
I make it to the laboratory where Rand waits outside for me. I light up a smoke, saying, “what is this all about?”
“Finish that up. You won’t be needing it anymore anyways.”
“What did you do to the adaptor?” I ask.
“The chimp sent that number, and I ran the results through the computer to get more possible outcomes.”
“Yeah, I know. You wanted to amplify the adaptor’s signal. I told you it would scramble the receiver’s thoughts, probably causing a seizure to the subject.”
“That’s not what I meant, you’re thinking linearly. Broaden your mind.”
I specialize in quantum theory, the comment is insulting, but I brush it aside. “Elaborate?”
“I installed an electromagnetic frequency unit, letting the adaptor suck in all wavelengths from the body. Frequencies that we didn’t detect before. Frequencies of consciousness, pushing them out into the radiant energy and freeing it from the flesh.”
I stare at him blankly, thinking he is getting into some weird pseudo-science nonsense.
“I’ve unlocked the key to immortality.”
I exhale the smoke from my mouth. “Bullshit.”
“No, come see.”
I flick the cigarette to the curb, and we enter the building side by side with our key fobs, then pass the security desk where Tim should be. Tim usually guards the building at night. He must be patrolling. We take the elevator, going down a half dozen floors to the laboratory. Rand is rambling on about some of the early inventions of Nichola Tesla that harvest power and how we are all directly connected to the universal free energy. Truthfully, I find it hard to listen to and phase-out of the conversation.
“Amplifying the wavelength module of the adaptor’s signal has created a doorway for both our consciousness and subconsciousness to move freely into the ethereal space that surrounds us.”
“When was the last time you slept?” I ask.
“Sleep is irrelevant now,” Rand says as the elevator opens. He steps ahead of me. I spot blood running down the back of his neck, just below a freshly shaved patch in his skull, where a gory hole rests.
“Rand?” I don’t move, knowing something isn’t right.
“Come,” Rand says. “Don’t let your human senses deceive you.”
“Rand, did you install the adaptor on yourself?” I ask.
“I had to, who else could I try it on?” Rand continues to walk into the laboratory.
“One of the primates, you idiot!” My hand catches the closing elevator door, forcing me to follow him. The laboratory is trashed. The florescent lights dangle from the ceiling, flickering. Shattered glass is everywhere. The walls, floor, and countertops are all cracked. Something big happened here. I wonder if Tim knows. Still, curiosity is getting the better of me. I continue following Rand. I need to know what he found.
I continue to lecture him, saying, “you jeopardized our whole operation. You could be removed from the project.”
“That doesn’t matter,” Rand says.
My eyes are glued to the hole in the back of his head, it is quite dark, making me wonder how deep he jammed that adaptor in. I say, “did you even think what the scientific community will say about you breaking moral ethics?”
Rand chuckles. “Please. We’ve been working towards such a primitive goal, humorously enough with primates, when the real prize was only a few thoughts away. The adaptor springboards our soul from this body. I’ve done it, it works!”
Rand leads me deeper into the laboratory, which becomes more unfamiliar with each step. Concrete sticks out from parts of the wall. Dirt and plants that were never here are sticking out of the cracks in the countertops. Melted metal is still burning on the floor, projected red light into the darkening hall. What happened here?
“Soul? Rand, we’ve concluded that the soul is just a combination of the body and mind. You’re tired, take some time off. We can keep this on the down-low. No one needs to know.”
“Look at this place. You can’t keep this hidden.” Rand takes a turn and enters the testing room. “Besides, I have moved beyond simple human morals,” his voice reverbs.
I turn the corner and enter the room. My eyes widen, hairs standing upright, as I stare at what lies, or has fused, to the testing station. A monstrosity of organic and human-made material. The two primates… all intertwined with the metal that was once their chairs —a gory morphic mess of matter.
“It’s breathing,” I mutter, not realizing I spoke out loud, my voice is dry.
The abomination sputters blood from an orifice on the side of its connected skulls as its single swollen, glassy, pink eye stares back at me.
“I boosted the adaptor signals a little aggressively at first.” Rand’s voice continues to reverb, unlike my own. He smirks as one-half of his face droops, did he have a stroke? “This is why I had to test the adaptor on myself. It was my only chance. You know they wouldn’t keep me here after this mess.”
I push my deep curiosity aside. Rand is sick, and the laboratory is a disaster. I must call security. I need to keep him distracted. “What happened here, Rand?” I ask as my hand slides into my pocket, ready to pull out my cellphone and get help.
“Don’t call for Tim,” Rand says, voice deepening into something demonic. His face continues to melt, including his eyes and hair. “He’s already here. We all are. The adaptor has unified energy.”
The curiosity creeps up again, and my fingers loosen on the phone as I stare at the top of Rand’s head. From the back of his skull, a black liquid-like substance channels upward to the ceiling. Torn shreds of human flesh and bone along with scraps of grey-and-black clothing – Tim – are flowing up and down into an unexplainable black space projecting from Rand’s hole; colours of the room smear out from the edges of what remains of the ceiling, continually shifting and stretching as I turn my head. The interactive colours and gory remains of Tim create Deja vu, like when a computer screen is glitching out and you try to move a window. Stillness, only moving when I move.
“The adaptor is the portal,” Rand speaks in dual voices, one low pitch, the other high. He isn’t moving. His mouth and the whole body is static, also reacting to my movement against the continuing expanding black space from his skull.
My thoughts are active, as I move my head. Yet, as I look down, my body isn’t moving with me, it too is smearing. Weightlessness lifts me from my physical form as the darkness expands in space. New thoughts enter my mind. Emotions: fear, pain, terror. Senses overrule my better judgement: stale smells, cold, voices.
“The adaptor became a part of my body,” the voices speak at once, coming from all corners of the room. “The adaptor pushed me through into the radiant energy. I am the portal. This is the key and the answer to all of our theories.”
I try running, but… I… can’t? I am still. A witness to new spaces – or memories. Tim’s perspective of walking into work. Rand on the computer. The chimps as they eat their treats. These visions are so sudden. I am absorbing them instantly, experiencing each memory simultaneously. The darkness envelopes all matter around my view. Tim’s corpse, Rand, the chimps, and all space swirl into the blackness with me, shredding apart all matter. I feel them, their thoughts, I am them as they are me.
The negative emotions and senses dissipate to a state of isness. They were only a temporary uncertainty of what lies beyond our limited human-bound minds. I understand what Rand had become and what he wanted to show me. The beauty. Our theories and questions about life after death were all wrong. There is no fault on us. We couldn’t think in any other way in our human forms.
We are now a part of the single consciousness found within radiant energy.
The unlocking of immortality.