QUANTUM SHORTS 2015: SHORTLISTED, YOUTH CATEGORY
What is existence? She mused over the thought, grabbing her handbag off the desk. After all, we are all made up of particles. Every thought, every feeling being created by the interactions between atoms and molecules. Yet it did not stop her from moving a little more briskly, as she often did when she prepared to leave. Acutely aware of being alone in the dimly lit lab, she hurried towards the door as an inexplicable feeling of unease descended upon her. Fighting back a shiver, she flicked off the lights. In that instant, she could almost have sworn to seeing a pair of eyes, staring back at her in the darknessâ€¦
With that, she locked the door.
She did not sleep well that night. Whether it was due to the progress of the experiment, or the strange shadows that flickered at the edge of her vision the night before, she could not tell for certain. She stirred her coffee, while her hazy, sleep deprived mind drifted over to ponder the meaning of life.
The results they had so far was astounding. They had created a perfect void, kept flawless by a dozen machines, each painstakingly calibrated over months of effort. Then matter was introduced. Out of the void space was born, as a single, glowing hot point which threw the machines and the researchers into a frenzy. As it cooled, particles began to take shape. The first few protons, neutrons and electrons were suspended in a daze, existing out of nothingness and within nothingness. But from chaos order was born. These combined, decayed, merging and breaking apart, eventually settling to form a model universe. A replica of planets, solar systems and galaxies were created from a void.
That itself, was enough to secure a decade worth of Nobel prizes. But for them, it was far from enough. They wanted to achieve the ultimate goal of understanding the laws of a void, the structure of structurelessness, thus comprehending the existence of a whole universe. She volunteered for the challenge, fully aware of the danger through whispered rumors and hushed legends. Yet, she agreed to have her consciousness beamed into the void.
The subject would be put to sleep, and various machines would read her brainwaves and convert these into quantum particles. The quantum particles will then be beamed into the void, thanks to their particle-wave duality. A transmitter would pick up information of these within the system, which will be then converted to align with the subjectâ€™s brainwaves at the end of her short experience. But in the quantum world, that time would be anything but short.
She finished her breakfast.
Tearing her eyes away from the computer screen, she took notice of the clock on the wall. It was already a quarter to eleven, she being the only one left. The lab was silent, and the familiar clutch of fear settled in her heart once more. She glanced around the room, about to berate herself for such unfounded thoughts, when she saw it. The figure, hidden in the shadows. She stood, transfixed even as her blood turned to ice. She stared, into the depths of the dark eyes. The dark eyes which provided a glimpse of infinity, of a void so profound, that depression and euphoria at once stirred her heart. The glimpse of eternity.
â€œAre youâ€¦ are you Professor Elias?â€ She asked, regaining control of her mind. In return, the figure nodded, and would respond no more to her further questions.
The consciousness, or soul, is but made up of particles. The residual energy and waves arranged into a visible yet intangible form, is what we know as a ghost. From then on, her late nights in the lab was filled often with the company of this entity. She gradually got used to this fact, and even felt honored to meet the spirit of the late Professor Elias. Those eyes, however, held the same allure for her as always, and gazed upon her with the same intensity as she analyzed equations and data late into the night.
It was the night before she was due as a subject for their final milestone, however, that the ghost communicated with her again. He appeared different that night. His eyes had the same depths as before, but no longer the same intensity, as if the knowledge had been digested, assimilated, and united with the being itself. The brainwaves of Professor Elias motioned for her to stand, and led her down the narrow and twisting corridors of the facility where she has never been before. Finally, he gestured towards a closed door. She opened it.
She repeated the same story to the police. That she had seen the ghost somewhat regularly for two weeks, and that day the ghost had led her to find his body. The body of Professor Elias lay, strangely decayed, yet fresh beyond itâ€™s condition. Strangely peaceful, yet haunting. She took in the sight of the small room. It was covered with computers, state-of-the-art machines, with a small bed in the corner and a bathroom attached. The pathologist finally spoke: â€œ Iâ€™ve never seen a thing like this beforeâ€¦Yet Iâ€™m certain, this Professor Elias has only been dead for a few days.â€
Suddenly, she understood. The rumors had been true; except for one small detail. The Professor had survived. He had looked into infinity, nothingness, and existence itself â€“ and lived. Yet what the mind had perceived had affected the body as well. Despite breaking the physical confines of his body, his consciousness lingered on to tell of his mistake. The mistake of knowledge. He had been trying to warn her. All at once, she saw the Professor, dead and alive at the same time, physical, and scattered into wavelengths. She saw all the different possibilities, existing, converging, and breaking apart. He tried to stop her. But she already understood; her soul trapped in that glimpse of infinity. Her mind shattered.