I’ve never much cared for religion. I mean, it’s interesting and all; the old parables and philosophic insights from people two millenniums removed from the present. I particularly enjoy the books of the Apocrypha, and the Bible’s magnum opus of Revelation, if for nothing else than the interesting stories. Even some of the tenants, like an emphasis on strong family bonds and moral stature I can resonate with, but in terms of a giant omnipresent entity that created everything yet loves us unconditionally, watching our every move from unseen planes – yeah, I don’t know about that.
I still don’t ascribe to a singular religious doctrine, but knowing what I know now… well, let’s just say the title of atheist would be a little disingenuous. Staking my flag in that camp would contradict all the principals of which my life has been founded upon. Try as I may, I cannot in good faith deny or refute what I myself witnessed. Calling whatever we discovered ‘god’ may in time prove a bit inaccurate, but there is no denying it, we found something.
Science has at times become this sort of monolithic and infallible institution. One that suffers from the ostracization of fringe concepts that fail to breach the egotistic blockade. It is all too often wielded as a trump card to negate all that doesn’t assimilate to the prevailing narrative. Too often outlandish claims are torn asunder because no metrics exist to properly digest them.
For all the good it has brought, science is not and will not ever be an absolute. Nothing is. Absence of proof, is not proof of absence. And what happened out there, in that lab deep below the streets of Stockholm, now stands as a testament in my life, to all the ventures humanity has yet to embark upon. It serves as an anchor, and if ever I find myself drifting away into the blissful seas of cognitive dissonance, it is there to remind me how small and naïve I truly am.
I graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor’s in physics, and an incredible opportunity landed in my lap. One of my professors had put in a good word for me with a lab out of Stockholm. I was contacted and offered an internship. One of dozens to be extended the opportunity. I accepted the offer without a moment’s hesitation.
From there I uprooted my Californian lifestyle to move halfway around the world to the frigid north of Sweden. I was not prepared for the cold. Most of my summers were spent in a bikini, frolicking on the sandy beaches of Santa Monica and lounging in the sun. Sweden might as well have been another planet. Temperatures would plummet to a bone-chilling negative 30 in the winter. Lucky for me though, I had a marvelous host family who helped me acclimate myself and integrate into Valhalla.
I was brought on to the team and slowly began the arduous process of melding into the group. They were all incredibly kind and welcoming, but still the feeling of being woefully outclassed by my colleagues was thick as tar pitch. The project consisted of over fifty men and women, all of them among the best the world had to offer. They hailed from Germany, Japan, Poland, Hong Kong, South Korea and many other sovereign states. It was a melting pot of some of the greatest minds I’d ever met. Seeing them in their element and marveling at the way their minds hurdled asinine topics to delve straight to the cortex was altogether incredible, and more than a little intimidating.
The expressed goal of the coalition was to study the behaviors of quarks, protons, and other particles in the subatomic realm to further decode the complex world of theoretic energy matrices. By extension, the group also allotted resources to develop tools for observing and decoding quantum entanglement and string theory. These principles were still in their infancy at the time, and none of us could have ever imagined the enormous magnitude of the things that were to come.
The lab had its very own particle accelerator, which I myself pretty much obsessed over from day one. Most of the concrete data however, was relayed from the lab in Geneva, home of the large hadron collider. I even got to see the magnificent machine in person on a few occasions.
One thing that has always staggered me, is the amount of incredible achievements capable when pursuit of knowledge guides the way. However, the complete polar opposite is also true, as curiosity without empathy all too often yields crimes against humanity.
As you may already know, the large hadron collider was the first machine capable of synthesizing the particle known as the Higgs-Boson. The machine is a particle accelerator built in a 27-kilometer loop. It uses a state of perpetual vacuum and temperature colder than that of outer space to accelerate particles to 99 percent the speed of light. These particles collide with one another, creating spectacular outbursts of radiation and results which are believed to be similar to that of the big bang on a much smaller scale. It is also through this process that the infamous Higgs-Boson can be synthesized.
Some call it the ‘God Particle’, but many physicists are not fond of the omnipotent moniker. It is in a way suitable though, as it is ubiquitous and can spontaneously manifest or dematerialize through processes which are not yet entirely understood. It is a sort of bridge between matter and antimatter. The entity that binds the ethereal with the corporeal. It is the place between light and dark, hard to define, as once light ends, shadow begins, and vice versa. The exact moment of intersection is difficult to pinpoint, but there is a definitive moment, and that moment is the Higgs-Boson.
It was once thought that matter could only exist in one place at a time, however the particle slit test of our progenitors proved otherwise. A particle accelerator was used to eject electrons between one of two microscopic slits. They naturally assumed the electrons would pass through either slit A or slit B, and when directly observed, their premise was corroborated.
However, when an imprint background was installed to bypass direct observation, they noticed a peculiar detail. The electrons produced what is known as a wave, or interference pattern on the imprint like ripples in a pond. This meant that the electrons were interfering with themselves while simultaneously passing through both and neither of the slits. It was at first thought to be a false-negative and outright impossibility, but thousands of repeated experiments all reached the same conclusion. There was no denying it anymore. Matter can exist in more than one place at a time, and reality is altered simply by perceiving it.
The world of particle physics is a strange one, and one which we have only just begun to glimpse the majesty of. At times it may even require us to suspend our own limited human understanding of things, to contemplate things beyond our minds comprehension. It was this idea which was the tabernacle of all the group was trying to achieve. To unravel the mysteries of the subatomic universe, and better understand reality itself.
The group was funded magnificently, and state of the art equipment was provided from lavish donors from all around the world. My contemporaries and I began to study the processes again from square one. This consisted primarily of monitoring the nature of particles and testing the same process over and over ad nauseum. Progress was slow, and many failures were soon under our belts, but you can’t build a house without chopping down a few trees.
It took years to decode part of the formula, but eventually we learned that the behavior of these particles could be predicted under certain pretenses. They could also; to a certain extent, be directed. Programmed to inhabit separate locations at the same time, giving them the perceived ability to exist in two places at once. In reality though, it was more akin to a transfer of locale via microscopic slits in the Higgs-Boson. We realized it was not a matter of travelling to, but instead travelling through. Through the fabric of space itself.
With electrical stimuli and coordinate based geo-synchronization, one could manipulate these particles to transfer locations faster than the blink of an eye. The machine used was primitive compared to later iterations, but its true potential was not lost on us for a moment.
Time went on, and the technique was further refined, most readily in the distance were particles able to be transposed. It started as only a few nanometers, but eventually we could transfer particles several feet.
It was through this process, that blueprints for an entirely new type of machine were first devised. It was to be a machine unlike any before it. Instead of electrical stimuli sent through circuits and wires, it was transferred directly from one location to another. Wireless energy transposed through space. This greatly improved computing capabilities and allowed the machine to act and calculate much quicker than anything ever seen before.
Initial ideals for the machine were skeptical at best, but as time went on, the real significance of its potential became apparent. When combined with a suitable processor and digital interface, it soon began decoding encryption and translating mathematic ciphers in a fraction of the time of anything seen before it. It didn’t stop there, though.
With a binary converter, it wasn’t long before human physiology itself was soon able to be deciphered and converted into convenient little anagrams and simplistic formulas. This soon gave the machine the ability to replicate human tissue and organs from fetal stem cells. When given raw biomass, it could manufacture a duplicate heart or lung. One which was genetically indistinguishable from that of the donor’s DNA.
On one occasion, the machine even managed to regrow the arm of an amputee war veteran. Most of us thought it couldn’t possibly work, that the nerve endings on the man’s arms would be unable to be resuscitated after so long. But after seventeen hours in surgery, when I saw the vet move his new fingers for the first time after transplant and cell resuscitation, I knew we had discovered something special.
Diseases became able to be observed on a molecular level and eradicated before gestation. A virus or bacterial strain could be genetically reprogrammed to attack and destroy itself rather than the host. HPV, AIDS, the black death, the common cold, strep throat, gonorrhea – none of them stood a snowball’s chance in hell against the unrivaled power of the machine.
It could even reprogram human DNA to desired proportions, eliminating extra chromosomes and restoring neural pathways to reverse entropic cognitive illness like Dementia and Parkinson’s. Even pre-birth conditions like cerebral palsy and microcephaly were in the process of being all but eradicated.
It wasn’t just organic material either. The machine could take a block of carbon and alter its isotopes to create carbon-14 and elicit radioactivity. This proved interesting for further power possibilities as the machine demonstrated potential for creating its own fuel source, but there was another more pertinent discovery.
By changing the number of protons or neutrons in the atomic nucleus, the given element’s atomic weight was altered, thereby turning it into another element altogether. The machine held the power to change the very building blocks of the universe itself. It could turn copper into gold, bromine into iodine.
I think it was then that we first realized the scope of what it was that we had created. The applications for the machine seemed endless. It could write books, clone living organisms, and alter the very elements beneath our feet. It was the philosopher’s stone, the holy grail, and the all-seeing eye in one convenient little package. The Deus ex Machina. The world’s very first quantum computer was born.
One important distinction I would like to make, despite the rumors; the quantum computer was not in fact an AI. It had computing power which was eons beyond that of a normal computer, and the ability to perform almost any task given to it, provided the necessary accommodations were implemented. For this reason, it was not allowed to make decisions for itself. Many in the group were justifiably nervous at the prospect of an artificial intelligence somehow gaining sentience and going rampant with the power of quantum manipulation.
We really had no idea where our experimentation would lead us, and so the decision was made early on, to prevent it from thinking on its own and going all Skynet on us. The computer was a beast of burden, happily doing any task given to it, but it was us that held the reins.
That was when the bureaucratic troubles first began. A lot of donors for the project, and even a few of my fellow team members, had their own ideas on how to best utilize the machine. Every nation involved wanted it for themselves and had their own vision on how best to implement its capabilities.
Several members of the coalition ended up leaving the project or being outright dismissed, promising to return with a battalion of lawyers at their back. One man was even caught attempting to smuggle data from the lab, and detained to await prosecution. The reigning project overseer was also relieved of duty. In his place, Dr. Henryk Lundgren assumed the role of director of operations.
Dr. Lundgren is a dear friend, and a brilliant mind. That’s what makes his fate lie so heavily on my heart. It’s a tragedy what befell him, but I won’t act as though he wasn’t responsible for stoking the flames.
Lundgren managed to settle the group down and unite a divided faction of researchers who all held their own agendas. He made the executive decision to keep the computer in the hands of the international team and continue to study it for continued data analysis and eventual replication. All those who didn’t abide were dismissed or removed physically as the need arose.
Lundgren had toiled for years on development of the machines virtual capabilities, and decided it best to invest more heavily into it. It took months of development, but soon a fully-functional Sims-esque program was up and running. The simulation was modeled to be an exact carbon copy of our own world and held all the coordinating pieces within it. All the people, animals, and nations. Augmented control apparatuses were then developed to allow us the ability to view the computer’s creation firsthand.
The simulation it created was so visceral, that none could even perceive that they were in a simulation at all. Test subjects were exposed to their own loved ones within the program and could not distinguish them from their real-life counterparts. I even took it for a spin a few times. I was hooked up to the monitor via a neural cortex interface, and had my mind rendered into the simulation.
I awoke to the sights of sunlight peeking through my blinds, and the sounds of cars outside. Around me on the walls were posters of Harry Potter, JoJo and the X-files, among countless others. I recognized immediately where I was. It was my childhood home, an apartment complex in Sacramento. The simulation was so detailed, that even my old raggedy-Ann doll with the missing eye was there.
My parents were both there and acted in accordance to how they would behave in real life. My dad even made new corny jokes in a fashion that suited his personality. It wasn’t a memory though, it was an entirely new scenario, concocted by my mind and the quantum simulation.
My parents are both deceased in real life, and getting to spend time with them again was… indescribable. Even if they were just simulations, the experience was profoundly cathartic for me. I ended up leaving the simulation in tears, overwhelmed by the experience and the ability to speak with my parents once again. It even made dealing with their absence a little easier in the real world. After all, I could now speak to them any time I wanted. I found myself never wanting to leave the matrix.
Dr. Lundgren subsequently questioned me about my experience, and I was all too happy to relay the things I had seen. He listened intently, with simple occasional nods and one-word responses. His grey face wore a smile, and cheeks dimpled in delight, but his eyes were far from the present, and worried.
We held a meeting with all staff members sometime after. Lundgren stood and paced in front of the group, silent and mind swirling in thought. When he did finally speak, he held our undivided attention. He walked through all that our little group had managed to accomplish, and all the things we had learned on our journey. All the miracles unraveled and translated into digital coding, and all the advancements made. It was not a triumphant voice however, it was somber, as if none of it truly mattered. He then first proposed his new theory.
Here we were, with an entire simulated universe at the tips of our fingers. A digital reality created and maintained by a machine we had built. A simulation which was so authentic, that none could tell it apart from reality itself. And if we had the power to create that, how did we know that our own universe was not the result of the same process? How did we know our reality was not in fact a simulation?
An unnerving silence befell the rest of the group as Lundgren concluded his epiphany. All in attendance seemed to silently contemplate the idea, with a noticeably nervous aura now lingering. There wasn’t much said after that, but there didn’t need to be. We had an entirely new goal.
Upon returning for work the following day, I immediately noticed that several of our colleagues had abandoned the project without so much as a ‘goodbye’. Only 7 of us remained, among which was the prestigious Henryk Lundgren. He was changed though, his upbeat optimism and inquisitive attitude reverted to an impatient gibbering wreck of a man. He became hostile to prolonged questioning, and I could see the idea gnaw on his mind as he walked the tightrope between madness and genius. At times he even appeared on the verge of psychosis. He would ramble and talk to himself, and pretty much stopped leaving the laboratory altogether.
We set our sights on a new task; to dismantle and test the hypothesis of Lundgren. To develop an ability to break through the boundaries of our suspected simulation and peer beyond our own reality to glimpse whatever may lie on the other side. Nothing else seemed to matter anymore by that point.
Life may be accidental, consciousness too, hell even complex organisms like human beings the result of genetic evolution and a bit of luck. However, simulation is not accidental. It requires an immense amount of dedication, programming and logistics. Not to mention, power and maintenance.
The ability to synthesize digital worlds is not something learned or accomplished by accident. It takes time, resources, and brainpower to even attempt it, and even then, it’s no guarantee. The one concept that was off the table immediately, was that the theorized simulation was the result of natural phenomenon or random cosmic alignment. If Lundgren’s hypothesis was correct, and our universe was indeed a simulation, then someone or something had to be pulling the strings behind the veil.
Powerful as the quantum computer was, even it did not have the ability to glimpse directly into higher dimensions. As stated before, it took commands only from us, and could only perform tasks which we could coherently articulate to it. We realized rather early that directly viewing outside the boundaries of the universe was likely not possible. The only option was to send a message.
Through remedial experimentation and dozens of ponderous sleepless nights, we finally had a breakthrough. Our reality is based on laws. Laws of motion, laws of attraction, laws of physics. These laws cannot be broken accidently, but with quantum technology, they can be manipulated. Many believe that intelligent extra-terrestrials were first alerted to humanity when the atomic bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Ours was essentially the same idea. Demonstrating that we had the capability to toil with the quantum world in hopes of eliciting a response from a higher being. If we could ‘break’ or ‘bend’ one of these laws of reality, then perhaps the orchestrator would be compelled to respond.
One of the earlier discoveries we had made was that of the concept of reverse time. Time is a measurement of something that occurs, and without anything to observe, time is meaningless. The concept only makes sense when in the presence of matter. The two concepts of space and time are coterminous, like light and dark or hot and cold, one does not exist without the other. Where there is space there is time, and where there is time there must be space. The opposite of matter is not nothing, but anti-matter. A true nothingness or void of anything substantial does not exist. It cannot exist based upon the nature of existence itself. Anti-matter is the invisible material which operates unseen and fills all the gaps which matter does not. All of it held together by the Higgs-Boson.
If an opposite of matter exists, then an opposite of time must as well. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and all reactions must remain proportional to force exerted. By utilizing the quantum computer, we had the ability to send protons back in time… sort of. We could make them exist where they once had not by using dark energy matrices and particle superpositioning to put them in two places at once.
The discovery had actually been made some time earlier, but never officially tested. It was restricted and marked as unbroachable, as many of our patrons were rightfully concerned by the prospect of unintentionally altering the past. Doing so could create a butterfly effect and wreak havoc upon the present. We were told vehemently that the reverse-time experimentation was forbidden, but now we had a legitimate reason to take interest.
It took some convincing on our end, but eventually we were successful when we promised to unveil the greatest discovery yet. The parameters were set within the computer and the lab was prepped for the operation. A single seed of dianthus caryophyllus was placed in a transparent reinforced container in the center of the room. The specimen was placed on damp resin paper, and several little green tendrils had sprouted from its shell.
The idea was to reverse the symbiotic metabolism of the test subject and cause it to rapidly revert to a zygote state. The seed would be directed to perform it’s life cycle backwards, thereby contradicting the natural forward flow of life and time.
The parameters were finished, and Lundgren stood by the machine. He glanced to each of us individually with a sullen demeanor and nervous twinkle in his eye. He looked to me last, and I nodded. Lundgren took a deep breath, adjusted his glasses, and flipped the switch.
Immediately the tendrils within the seed began to retract. They disappeared within the shell soon after, and the seed shrunk until the point in which it was no longer visible. The computer alerted us that the task had been completed, and silence descended upon the crew.
We stayed that way for several seconds until a commotion from the computer drew our attention. An array of flickering lights and sirens began to wail like banshees, indicating an error of some sort. Suddenly, the seed reappeared and began to grow at an impossible rate. A mass of wriggling green tendrils erupted from the shell and pressed firmly against the case within seconds. It swelled within and the chamber violently ruptured a moment later, sending shards of glass catapulting throughout the room. I managed to duck away just in time, but others in the group were not so lucky.
One man, Reginald Diabek, was struck with a shard in the neck. The piece cut a gash across his throat, causing a thick crimson to spill forth from his gullet. He collapsed to the ground as others began to rush to his aid. Before we could reach him, the engorged serpentine appendages of the seed ensnared him, slithering around his neck and abdomen. Diabek gurgled and terror filled his eyes as the green pythonic roots began to constrict him.
I watched, at a loss for words as Diabek’s wound sealed. His grey hair turned to a dark brown. The wrinkles on his forehead and bags below his eyes dissolved into his skin in a matter of seconds. The blackheads and liver-spots on his cheeks soon followed suit. All of us watched, stupefied as the process continued onward and Diabek appeared to age backwards.
Diabek had to have been nearly sixty years old, but in a matter of moments he appeared as though he was a young man in his early thirties. He then went young adult, then juvenile, then teenager. Diabek screamed in terror as his voice cracked from a gruff, raspy tone to a high-pitched pre-pubescent shriek. His body shrunk in his clothes and his extremities retracted within his coat. By the time we had reached him, he was gone.
We didn’t have time to gawk, as our stupor was interrupted by the computer blaring a warning siren, and a flickering plethora of lights designated an external problem of some sort. The display was a failsafe designed to protect the computer from malicious outside sources. Most of us thought the firewalls of the quantum computer were enough to prevent any attempted breach, but apparently, we were wrong.
One of my colleagues scrambled to the kill switch. He was poised to throw it, when he was halted by a sudden shout from Lundgren. Lundgren stood, eyes wide as dinner plates and mouth agape as he stared at the main monitor of the computer. The warning display had ceased, and only a single screen remained active. Upon it was displayed a single loading bar, with approximately twenty percent of it being filled in. This indicated only one thing; something was being downloaded.
We immediately surmised that it must be a virus or other malware of some sort. A prospect once thought impossible based on the security measures of the computer, and yet the download persevered. All attempts made to restrict the download and halt its progress proved futile.
We exchanged nervous glances with one another, torn on whether to pull the plug and save our creation from hostile insurgence or allow it to continue to whatever ends. The call was eventually made by the investors outside the room, who had since been notified of the development. They demanded power be cut, and the machine be saved. The computer represented a colossal investment, and the costs to repair or replace it if any damage were to ensue was not something taken lightly.
Begrudgingly, Lundgren followed orders and commanded shutdown protocol. It was done straight away, but the machine did not power down. It continued, impossibly, and without a direct power source sustaining it.
Panic began to erupt from the lab, and power to the entire facility was ordered to be cut from the mainframe. It was done within seconds, and the room fell into darkness. The only light that remained was that of the main monitor as the download reached the halfway mark. The computer groaned and whirred under enormous duress as hundreds of fans shot to life to attempt to cool the leviathan machine.
We stood back, unable to make heads or tails of the development. There was simply no possible way the machine should’ve remained active, and yet it was. It continued to fill up the progress bar, powered by the fuel of some unknown outside source. With no other viable solutions at hand barring physical destruction of the computer itself, we could do nothing but await the culmination.
The download finished several minutes later, and the room fell into pitch black. We deliberated for a moment, before deciding our only recourse was to power up the computer once again. The mysterious file weighed in at an impressive 100,000 terabytes, enough to fill hundreds of normal hard drives, but just another drop in the ocean for the quantum computer. Once full mobility was achieved, a single never before seen prompt filled the screen.
“Unknown file type. Do you wish to execute the file?” All attempts made to bypass the prompt failed. We quickly used a separate program on another screen to trace the file’s origin, but to no avail.
Now, there is no hiding from a quantum computer behind a proxy or VPN. It uses algorithm-based process combined with ping response speed to determine probable origin up to an accuracy of 99.999%. We’re talking response time measured in millionths of a second, but for a quantum computer, it’s like the ABC’s. Sure, it gets it wrong once in every million attempts, point being it always has a guess. This time however, we received a new message.
“Unable to determine file origin.” Lundgren took a step back and pondered the situation and wiped the beads of glistening sweat from his brow. With nothing else at our disposal, he realized there was only one option left. And so, he gave one last command.
The computer began to render the file, the process taking several minutes to complete. It was entirely in binary code, and eventually translated to a single message. Upon completion, two words in a white font sat silently amidst a black background.
I never thought two simple words could have such lasting effects on my psyche. Those two words that have made me question everything I thought I ever knew. The computer fizzled out moments later and shut down. All of us just kind of left after that.
I returned home, overwhelmed by the events and left with a mystic sense of terror instilled deep in my stomach. The following morning, I was called by one of the investors. He informed me that someone had broken into the lab late the previous night and sabotaged the operation. The lab was lit ablaze and soon reduced to a smoldering pile of ash, and the quantum computer was damaged beyond repair. Whoever had done it possessed a security card and seemed to know the exact process required to dismantle the automatic sprinkler system.
Police held a single suspect in custody. A man who appeared as a neurotic mess in the center of a maniacal nervous breakdown. He was tried and convicted some time later and declared clinically insane. He was ordained to a mental health facility in northern Sweden, and it is there that he remains to this day. That man’s name? Henryk Lundgren.
I’ve never been able to properly assess just what it was that happened that day. The event has left me shaken and confused in more ways than I could possibly list. I don’t suppose I’ll ever be whole again, I just can’t be.
I know the truth, the reason for our meager existence. We had reached out far beyond, and something answered our call. Whether or not it was truly what we would call ‘god’, I can’t say. But I will say, after what I saw happen to Diabek, and what became of Lundgren, I can’t think of a better word for it. I think god is something we never could’ve imagined. It holds us all within the palm of its hand, and with a simple flick of the wrist, we would cease to be. There is no love, there is no salvation, there is only that which lies beyond the margins of reality. That which we have no possible hope of understanding.
One thing is also certain; it is watching us, and it does not want us meddling in that which we have no business seeing. We are set amidst an ocean of infinite black seas, and it was not meant for us to travel far. That final message could not have been clearer, and anytime I find myself drifting, I remember those two simple words relayed by the quantum computer in its last moments of life.
CREDIT: Zacharius Frost
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