Wednesday, September 14, 2011

144/365 -- Playlist Story -- inspired by "Here to There" by "Sonya Kitchell"

The subject is trembling, ever so slightly. "Step inside the chamber," I say, in a calm voice.

"I have a question," he asks. He stands there, on the cleanroom floor, in his blue paper jumpsuit and booties, his fingers twitching at his sides. It makes me think that maybe he really wants to take a smoke, and I'm annoyed, because I explicitly told my grad students to filter out any smokers. I don't like their breath.

"What is it?" I say.

"Will it kill me?" His eyelids flutter when he says it.

"No," I say. "It definitely won't kill you."

"But," he stutters, "will I still be me, on the other side?"

"You will always be you." I say. I don't particularly care if I comfort him or not, I don't care one iota about this guy, I just want him to get into the chamber so I can collect my data.

"I mean, maybe you don't understand, but will my soul be in my reconstituted body? On the other side?" He motions with his hands. I don't know how to respond, but I do anywhere.

"There's no such thing as souls," I say and he blanches. "What we, well, what people like you think of is a soul, is just the emergence of the mind from the brain." He opens his mouth as if to speak but then doesn't. His cheeks and neck get red. I continue, "since the mind is emergent, and your brain will be exactly, exactly, identical after the experiment, then your, as you call it, 'soul', will still be intact."

"Oh," he says, looking confused and unconvinced. He turns around and looks into the chamber, his hands clutching either side of the door way.

"Look," I say, "you can be a pioneer. You'll be in the record books. You get to do something no one in history has done yet. You, sir, are the first. That's wonderful, don't you think?"

"I dunno," he mumbles, not looking at me but at the floor of the chamber. I look at my watch. "Why don't you get in it then, if it's so great?"

"I'm conducting the experiment. It's scientifically irresponsible to experiment on yourself." I tap the floor with my foot and flash him an in-genuine smile.

"How do you know it's safe?" he says. I feel like rolling my eyes. I regret not having one of my grad students deal with this guy.

"We've teleported dozens of animals, objects, and computers. Everything comes through just fine. We just now, finally," I emphasize it, because the government nearly shut us down, until the last election when we got a much more forward thinking president who was able to whip Congress into shape and repeal that ridiculous anti-teleportation bill, the troglodytes, although frankly I think the oil industry lobbyists were behind that bill, "got legal permission to run human trials. Otherwise we would have been done with this a decade ago." And it feels like I've been mollycoddling this ignorant nimrod for a decade already.

"They come out exactly the same?"

"Yes," I say. Is he hard of hearing, I wonder?

He closes his eyes and exhales deeply.

"Okay," he says, "I'll do it."

"Excellent!" I say. "Now just step inside please."

He gets in. I strap down the restraints, which are meant to prevent him from moving during the scanning process. I can feel him shaking. I smile warmly at him, but he doesn't seem to calm down much. I shut the hatch and give him a hands up signal through the thick glass porthole. I leave the containment room, and walk to the adjacent observation and control room where one of my grad students is sitting (Charles or Jim, or Kip, or some similar upper middle class name that always makes me think his parents must have met while playing tennis at the local country club on a Saturday afternoon--I have no idea what this one's name is. I give all my students B's because I can never tell who's who, and well, it just means I don't have to bother grading them on anything).

We've got an excellent view of the containment room, through a one-way mirror, which was probably unnecessary, but I had an extra couple thousand dollars to spend from my research grant. The teleportation chamber sits in the middle of the containment room, with it's power supply and feeding down into it from a hole in the ceiling like a thick umbilical cord.

I nod to Kip or whoever. He types in the command to initiate the quantum scan. The chamber lights up green. The green light isn't necessary because the scan is invisible, but I thought it would be useful to show definitively when the scan is happening.

The subject suddenly starts screaming. I can't hear anything, since there is no mic in the chamber. I'm not sure if he's in pain, or just has second thoughts. I all of our animal experiments, the animals never showed any signs of stress, so I assume it's just the latter, and I make a note to ask him by phone when he arrives in the companion chamber in Singapore in a minute or two.

The scan completes, and the chamber fills with a brief burst of blinding white light. That is real, because it's the actual destruction of the subject, and why we have to contain everything in a chamber in the first place--so that the intense radiation doesn't leak out. The chamber is filled with hydrogen, helium, and a little bit of lithium residue, which will need to be cleaned out before the next teleport.

I prompt Kip to call Singapore, and he does.

"Yeah, just now. Do you have him?" he asks, perfunctorily. "Yeah. Should be. About twenty seconds ago. Yeah. No."

"What is it?" I asked. I'm annoyed he didn't use the speakerphone.

He swivels around in his chair and looks up at me, eyebrows furrowed. I furrow mine back.

"He hasn't arrived," says Kip.

"What?" I say.

"He's not there."

"Tell them to check their buffers," I say.

"That's what they're doing right now," he says. "Oh wait...oh...okay, yeah," he says to the phone. "Their computer was in sleep mode. It missed half of the transmission, and then it threw an error because it was incomplete."

"Oh," I say. "You had the subject sign the waiver, didn't you?" Kip looks at me like I just strangled his dear old grandmother with barbed wire. "Didn't you?" I repeat.

Kip nods.

"Okay then, let's bring in the next subject."

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