“Simple words. Try again.”
I looked down at my hands for the third time. They were still mine. They wiggled when I made them.
“I’m not a child.”
“Mr. Ancoat, this test isn’t designed to insult your intelligence. But the temporal distortion can be a bit much for some patients.”
The words resonated as if they were being spoken many times over simultaneously, that weird effect of two mirrors bouncing off each other into the void.
The doctor scribbled notes on a pad, and then glanced at a mirror that was inset into the wall. He gave a “this isn’t looking good” twist of his eyebrows.
“Mr. Ancoat, repeat after me.” His voice, seemingly solid, echoed away increasingly. The room began to tilt.
“Alright.” I placed my hands on the table.
“Yesterday, I was not the man I will be tomorrow.”
The overlapping of the doctor’s voice with a thousand others like it, words spreading out from their places in the ether, danced around me like a tangible sea of conscious intent. I felt fine.
“Y-yesterday… I…” My mouth was attempting to move, but time stuttered around me until the room began to visibly shake. I could do this. I know how to talk. What was the phrase again?
“To-... morrow… I… am…”
Time had finally stopped. It jostled back and forth like a needle skipping, sputtering out the same fragment of song over and over. It was happening again. I looked down at my hands. Around the edges, they rippled out into space.
“I’m telling you, he isn’t fit to continue. It’s not even a matter of ethics, Tom. It’s a matter of scientific principle. There’s nothing to be learned at this point! You’ve so thoroughly scrambled the poor bastard’s mind he’s nearly catatonic!”
“Mr. Levinson, I wasn’t brought here to debate with you on the tenacity of the human mind. I appreciate your effort, trust me, but this is outside the bounds of regular protocol. Any data is useable, right? As long as the subject remains coherent, right? Your own colleague’s words.”
Mark Levinson snorted. “Suit yourself. But at the rate you’re going, we’re going to lose him like 33F. Flailing a dying fish, spitting up all over the floor.”
“Data… is data, Mr. Levinson. Are we through here?”
It was remarkable to me how unremarkable the world around me felt, skewing and blending into itself as it was. My hand on the table was a distant sensation, mixed into the background noise of a million sensory details currently dissolving into a bland landscape of static. I felt alive, or aware at least, so then what the hell was happening around me?
I lifted my hand, or more specifically I watched as a surge of visual premonition pulled my hand from the table in precursory waves, followed by the mass of the object, my hand, lurching up into space, swimming in echoes of itself. This wasn’t right.
The doctor had asked me to repeat a phrase. What was the phrase again?
I looked over to the man to discover an unalarming cloud of consciousness, dark in its density, observing me through some state of its being rather than with human eyes. Was this the doctor? I should attempt communication.
“Marked increase in all cognitive function. Substantial increase. Different than what we’ve seen.” The nurse scanned the readouts, somehow making sense of complex neurodata from compiled raw data.
Dr. Thomas Morhaus stood at the table with her, shuffling through the printed pages.
“This doesn’t make sense. His mind is in prefrontal overdrive… So why the hell is he blithering, drooling idiot?!”
Levinson sat back in his chair, curls of cigarette smoke deifting through lamplight around him. He’d moved on from the ethical dilemma and now only wanted to make good on 65A’s suffering.
“Well obviously. But that doesn’t account for uninterrupted gamma functioning. By all accounts he should be dysfunctional or vegetative at this point. He…”
Doctor Morhaus sighed, and walked over to the two-way mirror looking in on the current patient. He had gotten out of bed, sort of, and was ass-up attempting to crawl across the floor, his bodily motions jittering and slow like a sloth.
“Unlock please, I’m going to see if I can get through to him.”
The nurse held a finger on a thick black button, and industrial mechanisms churned until the lock of the door clacked open.
I often wondered what death would be like. I’m pretty sure I used to at least, And I’m not even sure if I’m dying, but what else could this be? I feel completely lucid. I’m using words like lucid. And yet all around me, the world has turned into a nonsensical abyss of movement and sound.
At first, it made sense. I could see my hand lifting off the table before it happened. So logically I had been observing time in some screwy way, and obviously it was a side effect of the treatment… but now I don’t have any idea what I’m seeing. Just a homogenous gray. Occasional flickers of images that seem familiar when the particles decide to align properly. And it makes me wonder, is this death?
If death were indeed an experience, instead of just some massive shutting off of a light switch, could there be anything worse than be confused in a featureless void for all eternity? Well, yeah. Being burned in a lake of fire for eternity would be worse. But at least that wouldn’t be featureless…
Get it together, man.
Dr. Morhaus lifted 65A’s face up with a finger under his chin, carefully avoiding the drool. The patient’s eyes were dilated fully. Beyond fully. They were black windows into a mind that superficially didn’t seem to have any clue what was going on, though Morhaus new different. Inside that skull the brain was on fire, doing who knows what. What could all that possibly mean in terms of conscious experience? What was going on in 65A’s mind?
Morhaus peered into the man’s eyes, reorienting his approach.
“Son, can you hear me?”
No response. He lightly tapped the man’s face with an open hand as if it would bring him to his senses.
“Son, give me some sort of response if you can understand what I’m saying.”
The patient’s tongue began to randomly wave around inside a gaping mouth. Perhaps it was a response, perhaps it wasn’t. The doctor sighed.
“Listen to me carefully, my good man. We are going to have to terminate the experiment if I can’t get a response from you, do you understand?”
Either unable to comprehend or unable to form any sort of cohesive response, the patient simply went on wagging his tongue, his pupils dilated out beyond the boundaries of reality.
The doctor took his finger back, and 65A’s head sunk back down to the floor.
Apparently the cosmos actually continued indefinitely, but not in the way you might expect. Instead of a caustic and neverending pitch into the eternal darkness, it was something more elegant than all that. Instead of a bending around in time, it was something even more subtle. It was a temporal distortion, though not temporal in the ways we normally think about it. Time, or the concept of time, was just the beginning.
In the easiest terms I can use, the cosmos a mind, split into infinite minds, each split into infinite minds, and so on, each mind governed by wave cycles that were neither large nor small, but only encompassed by and containing others. There was no convenient beginning or end to things. No tidy mathematical principle governing it all. Such things were human, and I could feel my own inertia accelerating as I moved swiftly past the limitations of that word.
Dr, Mark Levinson and Dr. Thomas Morhaus watched on as the nurse tighted the strap that held 65A’s head in place. It was just another in a long line of terminations, leaving behind only a scattering of paperwork and statistics.
When the strap had been sufficiently tightened, the nurse made her way back to the control board and looked through the mirror at the men. Morhaus pushed a call button.
With the routine flip of a switch by the nurse, a steel bolt extended, ending the experiment. 65A’s tongue slowed to a stop.