a short story
The thing was finally built, the machine to kill God once and for all.
Matthias K. Williamson prepared his body and mind for the journey. He sat upright on the floor of his office and considered his forthcoming actions over the next 24 hours. Legs crossed, arms relaxed and eyes closed, he released himself to the end of another busy day.
This is it.
He had received the call from Mort. The one he had been waiting for over the last couple of days. Their next meeting was scheduled for the following morning. He could hardly wait until then. The thing was now fully built, tested, re-tested, tweaked, and tested some more. His colleague informed him that it was ready for use. All of his hard work had paid off, all the money, all the years of research and careful development of the idea from its humble inception had all come to this. Finally, Matthias’ singular vision could be achieved.
Matthias was no longer a young man. But today he felt more alive than ever. Now a philosopher, a ‘thought-leader,’ Matthias’ ambitions were enraptured in the enduring art of science. Matthias started his intrepid career as a scientist himself. While helping to develop the modern ventures of neuroscience and psychology, he also served as an educator, waxing philosophic on the uncertain aspects of reality. His didactic concerns dealt primarily with the religious community. In his experience as a science communicator in universities and board rooms, he witnessed the effects of the all-too-common spiritually religious worldview.
The majority of those he came into contact with were convicted, at the very least on some superficial level, with the figure of God. The best and brightest from around the world were still being raised in communities which white-knuckled their supernatural certainties in books they believed to be penned by Men in the sky. Benevolent and invisible superbeings were directing all life towards one of two possible endings, all of it predetermined and dependent upon some of the thoughts going on in your head at a given moment. And most importantly, all of it residing within holy books written by the very hand of God.
Matthias considered himself a defender of reason. He eventually retired from his middling scientific career and become a vocal proponent of the secular life, the ‘good life,’ working as an atheistic arbiter of reason. He placed himself at the forefront of the discourse between the believers and non-believers, in academia and beyond. To Matthias, it wasn’t enough to keep the separation of church and state. To him, there needed to be a more permanent solution. In spite of his endgame, he kept his work constructive and deliberative among all parties. His fame-infamy grew in the public eye over the years. To his supporters, his various essays and books provided the best possible case for the end of organized religion in the world; to his antagonists, his books served as repetitive and bona fide confirmations that vocal, militant secularism had become a religion all its own.
Matthias sat back in a mindful moment of reminiscence. He considered the fate of the world now. What might be, given an end to all of this? Matthias truly believed the faith-based worldview to not only be incredibly harmful to the efforts of scientific pursuit, an incompatible prevarication on the objective truths of reality, but also to the efforts of human moral progression.
We have so much more to live for than childish fantasies of a paradise in the sky.
We have a paradise before us, and well within our reach. We stand within our own way.
To his eyes, there was more than enough evidence that to convict religion to a swift and violent end — if it were possible — would be an invaluable boon to the future of mankind. Just as a man was mortal, Matthias realized so was his dream. So, conviction in hand, he took action.
In the advancing realms of modern science among the international community, he had convened a think tank to consider the solutions to the problems of institutionalized religion, namely the taxing effects of utilizing spirituality to control and close minds. They were the very same ones which had plagued the world for generations — inflexible geopolitical divisiveness, adverse behavioral motives & human rights violations, and an immature moral perspective. And those were the best of the problems being faced in modernity, to say nothing of the warring or the mass persecution and murder, or the regressive conservatism such systems of belief had sown in the times long past.
The tenets of Matthias’ organization were informed by the immensity of the problem before it. It had now been over a decade since they had formed. The group consisted of various councils, gathering some of the greatest minds in science, politics, journalism, philosophy, business and entertainment. His job was to oversee their work and keep the decisions of the influencers within each council in line with the original, core mission they all held — that of progressing beyond the need for institutional religion, or any specific kind of spirituality or religiousness to guide modern life at all. The mission was not necessarily to disparage and tear down the religious institutions currently in existence, although the words and actions of the think tanks likely took on such imagery to the public. Their hope was to build new monuments and ideologies, letting the old ones simply die on their own, without any need for their forced destruction.
In their respective fields, they had formulated strategies to implement within the discourse, and in complete transparency with the public. They did not try to hide their intentions, in spite of all the negative press they might receive over the years. Their primary intention being: creating a new system of beliefs, using all of the evidence-based, rational, and inherently progression-laced scientific information gathered, collated and put to use to improve the world in the years since purported messiahs walked the earth proclaiming certainties through the mythic voice of God. This secular mode of thought, the leaders believed, would focus on the right aspects, the best outcomes, the moral imperatives of the foremost philosophies the world had to offer. All of it in an altruistic attempt to change the world, they believed, for the better. Their aim was to unite the very peoples the world religions had divided. And of course, they knew from the beginning they would be fighting a losing battle and one many would be more than willing to resist with every ounce of existential energy they had to offer.
The undertaking was a massive use of resources, with a plan spanning many decades. The mandate for each council was to steadily move the narrative in their respective fields throughout the international community towards positions of absolute reason. They planned on rooting out the irrational and superstitious and religious, not with invective but with plain facts, logic, the provable truths of our world and its peoples. The faith-based moral underpinnings of modern social, and even geopolitical, interactions meant their work was more than cut out for them. The primary challenge would come with connecting with people on an equivalently contented emotional level as was offered by a God offering immortal paradise. Their brave new world simply offered a mortal progress; small and reflexively unimpressive by comparison. But within every decision in industry and in governance, lives hang in the balance, and the well-being of those lives, always. Thusly, the think tank reasonably afforded itself a level of reasonable and long-standing import to those counting themselves within its ranks.
The journalists and philosophers provided outlets for science-based publishings, programs and think-pieces on the importance of basing the new mental infrastructures of the modern world in the mode of the scientific method. The business and entertainment industries worked to provide the relevant producers and influencers with the tools to make decisions based on the best scientific information, rather than entirely on the expected returns on investment, pleasing leaders who concerned themselves more with placating the masses than with advancing the ideals the masses should be concerning themselves with. The allocation of resources would hinge more and more on the long-term environmental & societal impacts and less and less on the hierarchical monies tied up in the capital for this production. The new political machines of the future would operate as a matter of fact, and not of spiritual fictions advocating for irrational but long held traditional systems of belief. The political council funded candidates in line with the council’s own scientific and moral judgments, operating to build social capital within key communities in national political centers.
Matthias, having at the start planted the initial seeds of the idea for the overall mission of the organization and each of its subgroups, let the autonomy of the progression of leadership and decision-making rest in the hands of those within each group. In the domain of the actual scientific community, Matthias’ own think tank experienced the least real progress over these many years. The scientists continued their steady discovery, advancement and experimentation, building upon those that came before. The scientific educators collaborated with the media to produce the requisite content, with the hopes of properly enlightening the next generation of thinkers to carry on the torch. But over this time, Matthias’ purview of the the advancements of hard scientific development were few and far between. Being a neuroscientist primarily concerned with the philosophy of mind, the hard problem of consciousness, and the development of the brain’s own complex structures —artificial intelligence had always been at the forefront of Matthias’ concern, in more ways than one. Of course, the artificial intelligence or artificial consciousness within the fields of global science and in the think tank’s own projects involving the subject was fledgling. The effort to effectively develop something even resembling true A.I. was still perhaps many decades away.
Mattias held his own reservations, and outright existential fears concerning the inevitable presence of a true A.I. within the world. He pondered a hopeful reality where humans and AI could co-exist steadily in continual progress, with humans still at the superior position in the hierarchy. He feared the world falling into chaos once those in power learned of an A.I.’s invaluable usefulness, and the inevitable arms race that would take place once such tech was within the grasp of multiple nations. Matthias held his doubts such a machine could ever be built resembling the theories on what an A.I. might be capable of. Either way for either outcome, he held serious doubts such a vision could be achieved within his lifetime, or ever. It was possible true conscious intelligence could not be produced outside the frame of a flesh and blood human being. At some point, he decided the bridge would be crossed when humanity came to it. He went about his educational work, and his work in the public discourse, and his writing, and his continued stewardship of the organization he still held out hope could save the world.
The routine and continual automations in the years hence provided no integral link to the think tank’s core mission. There were a number of “big bets,” high risk & cost / high reward projects collaborated amongst the business and political leaders of the day. These enterprises featured high-tech experiments and prototypes, of which Matthias held little expectation of practical fruition.
In short, there were many quiet years before the breakthrough.
Over the last couple of months, everything had changed. One of the most ambitious projects in the big bets had been actualized, of which it had been a long time coming. His colleague and long-time friend, Mort Ellvrin, a fellow neuroscientist very much still in practice, had finally completed his careful engineering of a device dealing with the nature of consciousness, and specifically the potential manipulations of it. When Matthias had been informed of the device’s original intended design, years ago near inception of the whole org, he had dismissed it as science fiction while at the same time wholeheartedly approving its development for the sake of it embodying the telos of the think tanks’ big bet venture.
Over the course of the next seven years, he had been updated on its steady progress. Then six months ago, there had been a serious breakthrough. From that point onward, Matthias had worked hand in hand with Mort and his team in its development. In every major step along the way, each refinement and experiment, he had witnessed the majesty of the device’s power. He could hardly believe it himself, the machine came to defy all natural law. And yet, he had seen firsthand what it could do. He intended to see it all through to the end.
Perhaps the reach of Man’s own technological progression had just reached a tipping point, Matthias couldn’t help but muse. There was power in the device. Its practical application, while as of yet unproven, was potentially limitless. By any measure, Mort and Matthias both agreed on the responsible handling of such an instrument. Its existence hadn’t yet been released to the public, or even to the scientific community at large. The team needed more time to make sense of the revelation of its existence and come up with the appropriate method of conveying its real implications.
Matthias, in his devotion to this project specifically and his own intentions as to its use, had become virtually delinquent in his overseer’s role to the rest of the think tank, generally choosing to delegate his role over these months of special involvement.
And now, of course, Matthias himself planned to be the first to really use it.
He had arrived at the lab early, before any of the others on the team were in. Given the considerable work that had been completed over the last couple of months and the extension of their working hours, he had agreed to give them more time off. This team and their work consisted of the first big bet to actually cash out from within the ranks of the think tank. Mort believed they needed the rest. He was somewhat surprised when he saw Matthias already in the lab before he himself arrived, in the seat of the device itself. The call the night before had been perfunctory, a conveyance of the success of the final beta test. It was nothing yet to move on, more tests were to be conducted in the coming months. Mort had a pretty good idea of why he was here. Now he would be tasked with talking him out of it. All before I’ve had my coffee.
“Good morning Matthias-”
“I want to use it. Today,” Matthias said flatly. The words echoed off the large spaces of the laboratory, emptied of its normally bustling and fervent group of young engineers. Matthias had enjoyed working with them most of all, serving as a mentor to the best of the best in his own former field. Always straight to the heart of the matter, thought Mort.
Mort heaved a sigh and stood before Matthias and the apparatus.
“You said it’s ready,” Matthias continued.
“That doesn’t mean it is right for you to be using, at this point,” Mort responded.
“What about the others? There were no setbacks.”
“Well, no. But there have been no completions, no significant time away — not with true subjects. The preliminary experiments were short distance, in both manners of the word. Only half-measures,” Mort explained. He readjusted his glasses, crossed his arms.
“But it’s operable, it can be used, right? We’ve proven that much so far. And now I intend to finally use it to its full capability. It’s quite simple.”
“Matt, what are you proposing to do?”
“I can go anywhere, see anything,” Matthias stood up from the seat.
Mort could practically see the fire in his eyes. There was no stopping him when he was in this state, he had seen it thousands of times before.
“We don’t understand it’s full capability. We barely understand what it even does, how it works… We need more time.”
“It allows a transference of one consciousness with another. Someone like you or me, we can trade experiences, blinks or days or longer. But we know it’s more than that, and that kind of usage is not what I am interested in. It’s novel but not as meaningful. I want to engage it with a person from the past, one from our species’ long history.”
Matthias spoke with sincerity.
“We don’t know that is possible,” Mort spoke the same.
“It allows you to see what they see,” Matthias continued unabated, conveying the same hypothetical they had all been through before. “What they saw. Can you imagine that? It’s incredible, seemingly impossible yes. Yet simple, given what the machine is capable of, theoretically. Theoretically, it should be able to complete the transference not only with anyone who exists, but with anyone who has existed. We both understand that much,” Matthias explained.
Mort pushed the glasses on his face up once more.
“Transference is a misleading word. It implies control. It’s simply a dream, and not a lucid one. So far, there have only been indications of limited sensory experience. The user acts more as an observer. There is minimal sense of real control or manipulation. You witness the past events, as if it’s a movie reel running before your eyes.”
“That’s enough for my purpose,” Matthias looked at Mort with diligence.
“And what exactly do you plan to do?”
“I can go to anyone, anyone that has ever existed. Well, I figure I should go to the source of it all, see what I see, and well… report back.”
“You do remember what all of this was originally for? An off-shoot of the genome project, looking into the functionality of DNA sequencing,” Mort began his customary pace.
“The consciousness-connection… was unexpected to say the least. Whatever it is we have discovered here, is transformative. It will change science as we know it. There’s needs to be more people on it, more careful examination, it needs its own… We.. we need to-”
“We will Mort. Trust me, I understand its significance as much as you do. But first, there is something that needs to be done,” Matthias interrupted.
“You aren’t understanding me, we don’t know what this is. We do not know how it will manifest itself inside… we don’t understand the full implications of the device, what it might… change in the user, given the full presence of its faculties upon someone,” Mort explained curtly.
“I know this Mort. That is exactly why I intend to find out. What better way to determine the efficacy of the device’s true influence, than with an experiment of the magnitude that I am proposing?” Matthias said with uncanny charisma.
He was committed. Mort managed a strained chuckle.
“Matthias you were always the guy to ‘do it by the book.’ Protocol, protocol, protocol. In your advanced age, you have become impatient, and perhaps even reckless. You propose to play fast and loose with the laws of nature, playing a game we don’t know the rules for yet. You are putting yourself, your great mind, in unnecessary danger.”
“I don’t care about the rules. I don’t care about the consequences, as long as they are localized to just me. Perhaps, you are right. But this is my recklessly damned choice,” Matthias responded honestly.
Mort knew from the beginning this wasn’t a conversation that he could hope to win. He relented, and admitted to himself that he was intrigued and excited by it all.
“Okay, aside from the fact that I disapprove of what your usage of it, what is it exactly that you intend to accomplish? And why does it have to be you that does it?” Mort removed his glasses and closed his eyes, sighing again.
“What we set out to do, the mission — I am going to witness history, see the truth of it all. Like I said, it’s really quite simple. I just want to observe history. And I am the one to do it, because I would never ask anyone to take my place in this,” Matthias paused, before continuing.
“I have to see it for myself.”
Mort shook his head in seeming disbelief.
Matthias continued, “you of all people should understand exactly what I want here. The organization of the entire belief system, the religion, the faith — it all started at some point. There is an origin, and it will be visible. Individuals who might have existed, persons who took part in the combination of events, words, actions. Components of a common thread in books that were written by people like me and you. There was no omniscient God ghost-writing these things. We have to find the subjects of these poorly written chronologues responsible for the seemingly immortal mass irrationality we still suffer with us today. The origin of all the needless violence, the rationalizing of the human rights violations, the locus of the system of belief which continuously steals our reason, stowing it away for a flood there will never be evidence for. All of it still placates our questions of the soul with easy falsehoods that make us feel good. And I want to see how fucking foolish and boring it all looked when it started.”
He was worked up, unblinking and speaking with conviction.
“And with this thing, we can locate these individuals, the individual even. And in the intervening moments of their lives we can bear witness to the truth of the matter, once and for all. We can abort the unborn body of these damnable institutions. We can cure the plague on rationality that is faith!” Matthias was pacing.
Mort could not share in his fervor. He did not believe the device could do the thing Matthias believed it could. And worse, even if it did…
“There’s no guarantee that we can locate them… er this person, if they existed… that far back. And..and with a venture like that you will be risking the machine and perhaps your own life. That ancient of a connection, theoretically, shouldn’t be possible and if it was -“
Matthias, once again interrupted.
“You said it yourself — this discovery — the machine becoming operable — proves certain things about the nature of consciousness, about the nature our reality. One of them being, that we are as a species inextricably linked across eternal fathoms of time and space. Astounding as it is, we have to objectively observe these facts, and we just did for the better part of the last year. The genome itself provides a common thread through which we all reside. Remnants of all of humanity flows through our cells, inside the nuclei. Transparent and accessible memories of individuals. The dreams of the entirety of our past are within each of us, just waiting to be unlocked. It’s poetry,” Matthias chuckled. But he had to stop. He was getting choked up. He was getting hoarse.
“I.. I have to do this, don’t you understand. This makes the rest of the think tank irrel — “
Now Mort, standing his ground, responded.
“Listen to me, think about what you are saying. None of this matters unless we can determine the veracity of the machine’s powers. That… that you actually went back there and saw anything at all. That will take some time. Even if you succeed, you won’t be able to convince anyone new, not any time soon. In fact, the very existence of your tale will discredit all of your work. Without evidence, your words become the hypocritical anathema you have battled against your entire life. Your fantastical and impossible tale will fall on deaf ears, and you yourself will be institutionalized,” Mort said with a short laugh.
Matthias didn’t care about any of that. He was pretty far gone in this whole endeavor, committed to seeing it through in his single-minded fashion. But Matthias also understood human nature, and what it might take for someone to believe something that should be impossible.
“Leave all of that to me. The true believers, and the extremists, yes, they will perhaps never be convinced. They do not operate within the realm of objective reality and we wouldn’t expect them to change. No scientific discovery will matter to them. But that is not the goal. The goal is not to convince the minority. The majority of them are superficial, lying even in their followership. Once we roll this out, the nature of this new science, the facts concerning the real nature of consciousness — the world will change. It will have to, I honestly believe that. And if it takes years, I am comfortable with that fact. I understand the irrationality of the human being perhaps better than anyone,” Matthias smirked.
“Everything we have discovered in designing this machine, in using it on our own minds, our DNA — it will be on display for the scientific community, and the world, to see with their own eyes. The providence of science is cold hard facts, and evidence. The kind mankind never receives from his divine surveyors. This will satisfy many, of course. Then, alongside my own experiences and hopefully those of many more — the moderates, the communal pack animals that we are, the individuals merely keeping up the appearances of the spiritual life and of normality in their communities — they will fall in line with the knowledge and its meaning. And it won’t be because we have to be convincing, or persuading, assuaging existential fears with smoke and mirrors — it will be entirely because of objective reality. We can show people the truth of our world and our existence and how much work we have before us. It will unite everyone under a common wing for the first time in world history!” Matthias exclaimed. When Mort didn’t react, he quickly continued.
“That makes all the difference. Those that placed their faith in Mankind will be rewarded. Their faith not unfounded, and now finally given the light of day it always deserved. Given enough time, it will become the new norm, because it will be the truth. The knowledge that God, their stories and their myths, never existed will convey the all-important message: that it’s important for us as a people to move on from such dissension from reality and from each other, to the best possible uses of our time, to the betterment of all of humanity, one big community of human flourishing,” Matthias stood and smiled as he spoke.
“We will have created something new. Something we already subscribe to, a system of beliefs reliant on rational truth alone!” Matthias explained himself with bravado.
He took a deep breath, leaving the floor to Mort.
Mort smiled too, speaking with his own diffident candor.
“Ah yes, but you raise an important point — the divisiveness, the violence on rationality, the misery brought on by the competition between the many different divine operatives. It’s integral,” Mort continued. “And playing along with your thought experiment here — which of the religions do you choose, which messiah do you approach? Which of the religions do you intend to categorically disprove?”
“Or might I add — potentially prove,” Mort ended with a belly laugh.
“You already know the answer to that.”
“Okay Matthias, I understand this being your objective. It makes a manner of sense. What person, if they could, wouldn’t want to go back and bear witness to legendary religious figures, for any purpose. Or at the very least witness that time, the beginning of human history and the many impossibly interesting things one might see. Sans your own fervent agenda, it is a desirable destination. But then, let me impart to you something you perhaps aren’t considering,” Mort now spoke with a business-like tone.
“You have to understand the full measure, going the distance with the ‘transference’, as you called it, there are no breaks — there is no way to… end it. Not until it ends naturally. You will be living out, observing in some way, the entire life of the chosen human being. You will not return, to the present, to the here-and-now, until they die, unless the connection is broken some other way. However long that might take, you will be experiencing each and every moment,” Mort disclosed his words gravely.
Matthias was, of course, undeterred.
“Yes, I fully understand that. That is the beauty of the connection isn’t it? It is real, the full authentic participation in the human cognition of another soul. Like a true dream, but without its cognitive meandering, its relative purposeless. You get everything they got,” Matthias spoke with tense excitement.
“Well, what I am trying to say Matthias, is that I don’t think you are going to want to do this, to have to experience all of this. To me, to any observer seeing you undertake this degree of the machine’s magnitude, it will be minutes, perhaps even seconds of time passing. The subjects are under ever so briefly. I have seen it with my own eyes, and then heard their zealous explanations of their experience, the minuteness, the detail, and the time they experienced in the phenomenon. It’s hard for me to believe, having not yet used the machine myself, but the multitude of experimental observations each indicate this,” Mort began to pace the room again while he spoke, his glasses back on his face.
“The dream metaphor is closer than you know, it’s like REM sleep. The connection… the mind is working faster even than in deep sleep. Overclocking itself to keep up with all the experience being conveyed in the connection. To you, the would-be user, the person underneath the blanket of the chosen experiential canvas, as I said, it will feel like real time experience. You will be alive in an entirely other lifetime. It is as foreign a feeling, I’m sure, that a human being can feel. And all of this in the same time that it takes you to blink. Then, simply, you will be pulled back to here. Physically, you should be the same. That is the hope and the purpose of the tests we’ve already run. But mentally, there is no precedent for such an experience. What it might mean for someone’s psyche. 33 years in someone else’s head.”
Mort let the rhetorical linger in the air before continuing.
“Not enough time has passed to get a real sense of the voluntary test subjects’ mental space in the aftermath of the weeks and months to come. And none of them completed any venture to the degree that you are proposing. The risk is… exceptional,” Mort took his glasses back off and looked vaguely at the device before him. He looked to the seat where he had seen the subjects go through something entirely new to his world, and where his entire lifelong practice was shaken to its core.
“You think I won’t want to do this more than once, certainly. So, I should choose carefully,” Matthias concluded for him.
“I’m not sure anyone should do what you are proposing. But there is a monumental choice here, and given its operability, an incredible opportunity. You could go into the minds of the ancients, seek wisdom at its source. You could choose to relive the trials and tribulations of a king, a great political strategist or a general from the wars of the old world. Or it could be your favorite philosopher,” Mort said with a smile.
“Now who is playing games. I am looking for Truth, Mort, with a capital T.”
Matthias looked Mort directly in the eyes for his final sentiment on the matter.
“This is going to change the world… I will change the world.”
Mort and Matthias then exchange the familiar look of two men who had squared off in this way more times than they could count.
“I just want you to think about it. The path you will be choosing to undertake will be fraught.. you will be starting the war anew. If you are truly committed, I won’t get in your way — beyond offering you the reason you sometimes fail to observe.” Mort smirked now. He continued.
“We made it this far together, and without you I could never have pulled this team together, gathered the right resources to create this, to make this break-”
“And I thank you for everything you have done. You are doing a great service to humanity, and your best work still lies ahead of you,” Matthias spoke with sincere resolve to his good friend.
“Just assure me that it is ready. I don’t care if it’s possible, I intend to see this through one way or the other,” Matthias walked towards the ready room. He turned and looked back at Mort, waiting expectantly for his antiphon.
Mort nodded his head.
The machine generated relatively simple activations of synapses in the subject’s mind. The key was their locations in the brain stem. The breakthrough had been in an understanding of the nature of specific places in the brain, where ancestry was concerned. There was tremendous untapped potential in the neurons of these area of the brain. The potential lay within the speciously collective nature of our human consciousness. Some ancients had called it ‘the collective unconscious,’ the World-Mind, the Tree of Life, or simply God.
Mort and his team in their efforts on the genome project, had discovered in great detail this connection previously unknown and entirely untapped. Pin-pointing it for an analysis previously ungiven, they had made the breakthrough discovery of this neural network of a ‘shared memory.’ There were no borders upon this phenomena — in short, the entire human race was housed within every individual mind, a grand map of experiential cognizance seemed to exist collectively within each individual spawned of this singular species. It certainly had something to do with the unique nature of our consciousness. But even that explanatory aspect of it remained to be completed figured.
Essentially, all of our history was peopled and locked within the mind of each and every newborn. There existed a tenebrous psychic link between each and every person, constantly evolving and being added to with each new birth and experience. The bulk of the work of Mort’s team and Matthias’ entire organization had been in figuring out how to read the map, and then, how to access these memories. The answer lay within using biotechnological advancements.
Mort surmised that perhaps the earliest humans, evolving from the cradle of development in the plains of Africa, in their supreme reliance on the collective unit for their survival, had developed a form of a hive mind — a connected consciousness was produced out of necessity, like so many adaptations before it, via natural selection. Similar in nature to what we find in insects, it was for communication and survival. In the intervening years, perhaps over millions of years, this collective mindspace went dormant. The phenomena of this psychic link perhaps lost its evolutionary benefit? Mort had a hard time understanding the nature of its retreat from the forefront of the human cognitive function, or if it was ever really at the forefront at all. Perhaps it was always in the background, working only minimally in the subconscious operations of the human mind.
Regardless of its historical usage, it was true that the field of modernized neuroscience had simply ‘missed it’ for all these years. The discovery, upon further investigation, could help to explain the spurious nature of consciousness itself. It put a new spin on the significance of DNA, the implications of evolution and the collective efforts of human development over millennia. What kinds of elemental, subconscious functions were being completed to the benefit of general human performance as a direct result of this primordial conditioning? To Matthias, the discovery was groundbreaking in what it revealed about the simple truth of human existence. This was the kind of truth that was stranger than any fiction, spiritual or otherwise. It was certainly true that this was one of the most compelling metaphysical concepts ever discovered. Matthias and his colleagues intended for the discovery to be a flagship symbol for humanity to rally around, to unite along these common bonds of shared development in the crucibles of long-form evolution.
It presented a rational paragon for a new ethic, outside of and superior to, any possible religious ones, Matthias gleaned. What better way to unite mankind than to show him just how purposefully connected we all really are? Our tribes and our competing beliefs are masks to our true nature.
Despite the many advancements in robotics, processing power, and machine learning over the years, the machine itself was merely ‘virtual’ intelligence. The device was designed to read this very long and very deep mental map of universal human experience, in the brain’s very tissue. It read the subjects’ mindspaces in this way through sheer computational efforts. Each individual, despite having the same map, must be translated from each individual’s uniquely fitted language, in the brain and its tissue, specific to the individual’s DNA.
The supercomputer within the device Mort and his colleagues had developed used the subject’s thoughts to the end of breaking down this complex and universally collective mindspace into decipherable sub-components. The memories, the experiences and the practically endless repository of conscious and unconscious remnants of the homo sapien universe were all here, ready to be uncovered and made comprehensible — all to the effect of creating a vision. The visions experienced by ‘the user’ of the device were practically instantaneous, a dream sequence to the tune of a single soul along the chain. As a result of these mental super-computations, a sole life course could theoretically be tapped for viewing in this way. It was not yet clear the nature of the view, or how much further the technology could go in accessing these ancestral memories. Such answers, up to this point, were left unanswered.
This was the plan for Matthias’ endeavor on this day. His desire was to observe the life and death of a myth. The myth, the ‘messiah’ and his life’s journey. The purported figure around which the most popular religion of the day, and for thousands of generations, was and still is based upon. The good book, written in His name, by His hand, about Him and His life. A single individual charged with the atavism of the entire species.
Matthias considered the immensity of the undertaking. If he succeeded, he could change the world. If he failed in his way, he would have still succeeded in discovering first-hand the most prodigiously reality-shattering biography in human history, and the truth of His power, in the flesh.
Matthias sat back in the chair while Mort and his colleagues made preparations. The seeds from within Matthias’ consciousness had already been plucked by the program. Now the computer awaited its designed cascade of computations, math to be done to find the embalmed visions of one Messiah from an eternal memory. Mort and the other scientists and engineers turned to mere maintenance men, tweaking and checking. Once the machine took over, it was a matter of nanoseconds to solve for x.
Despite it being entirely unnecessary, Matthias remained within an intense state of focus during the processing leading up to his visualization. He kept his eyes closed in an attempt to meditate as the semi-circular helm shadowed his skull, the only real requisite item for the machine’s operation. He noted its presence mindfully, wondered in awe for a moment at what they had created, at how non-invasive all of this was, at how such a discovery mattered for the future, and what he would undoubtedly discover in his journey only moments away. But Matthias let each of the thoughts fall away from the forefront of his mind. He tightened his grip on the edges of the seat, he relaxed his body as much as he could. There were no restraints, the chair was quite comfortable. Nothing was necessary save for a transient connection to the midbrain and its contents to be read, mathematically mapped and projected to the frontal cortex. It would all happen only for a physical moment, while simultaneously wrapping itself within a conscious lifetime.
The show was about to begin. Matthias heaved a final sigh. Mort patted him on the shoulder. An unseen hand loosed a keystroke. Everything went dark.
There was sudden bright and invading light upon his consciousness.
Matthias awakened in the small form of the newborn. He saw with the eyes of his knowledge but without autonomy, without conscious response or feeling — both physical and emotional. Matthias had arrived somewhere he did not belong. But he was there. And he persisted for many minutes beyond this moment of newborn life.
Slowly he grew, raised by benevolent parents in a serene place of security. Modest means for a modest boy.
Matthias witnessed the nature of the child Messiah in his actions. He was a friend to his parents, a friend to the animals, a friend to the least of his classmates. Even in the spectacle of the new experience, there was a measure of respect in seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. He beheld the success of their ventures through this strange veil for the years of the child’s youth.
In the reverie, Matthias recognized his role. He was a passenger in an incessant ream of observation. He was not the boy. The boy was the boy, carrying an unseen foreign agent. Matthias tried to see more, to venture from the sights and sounds of the boys’ minimal purview. But it could not be done, it was like trying to wake yourself in the deepest part of undreaming sleep. There was no wider field of view to gain. He saw everything the boy saw.
Matthias held no feeling of the boy’s adolescence, it passed by without real notice. In this time, no angels or demons appeared before his spectral stage. There were no feelings of divine presence or intervention through the boys’ action. By all means, he and his family appeared to Matthias as ordinary for the time.
With much time for recollection and rumination, Matthias recounted the stories from each of the holy books; he recalled in precise detail the journey of this boy and his awaiting powers. He compared these accounts to his own eyes and thus far could see no wayward decisions. A metaphorical leap was necessary for the existence of the boy itself, and the fact that such a being existed, chosen from within his own collective consciously combined human-memory, from the machine’s super computational work. This boy was real and was a breathing figure of our past. But this alone proved nothing other than that such a boy, and eventual man, existed. This was already part of many secular historian’s fact patterns. The truth of his perfectly human nature and relatively ordinary origins was Matthias’ sole intention. However, one of the keys to the Messiah’s tale and its resonance with Man was in His most humble beginnings.
Thusly, this was all par for the course so far. He would need to be patient. He spent these years observing the ancient world and meditating on the experience as best he could.
Matthias found himself firmly within this space, humbled by the world around him and his escape for the first time from his own ego. He felt as though in this presence, he was a fledgling form of a brand new being. Nothing could compare to such a state. No man had experienced this; no one could return from it unchanged. He could only get to work after the shock of the initial novelty of the stimuli wore off. Once he had accepted the truth of transference’s sterling success, he could begin to view the world around him with a discerning eye.
Matthias began as an objective observer, and he stayed that way. At least, the attempt to be objective was true in that he had no real influence. But he soon found, in this state, he could not be objective. All of it was too personal, to close to his experience, too near to his own designs, for it to be anything but subjective. He held onto an evolving yet steady aspiration as he continued his watch.
He took in the fact of the boy’s existence, the names of his parents and his birthplace and the historical happenings of the time. The timing of the place, the dialects, the books written and the animals slaughtered and venerated. All of it fits the bill for a standard human being that this century, in this place and residing within this culture. The further it went along, of course, he found himself hoping for certain things. Or rather hoping for certain things he knew to be untrue to simply not happen before his eyes. He wished to be proven right. But he was now simply sharing the consciousness, across time and space, with a man. Nothing more, nothing less. His hopes and dreams mattered less here than they ever had before. In truth, they were small and should’ve probably been forgotten in the face of such a marvel.
In this time, Matthias grew restless. Even as the boy did the same, continuing to grow up in a world not quite meeting his own expectation. Neither seemed to notice the other’s plight.
Over this time, things changed for him. The boy grew to a man, the story edging closer to revelations of a divine nature.
Such a simple story to change a world.
Matthias became cognizant of these changes in cognition — both in his own as well as the connective nature of his continuing association with the soon-to-be Messiah. He realized he began to be able to anticipate the actions of the Messiah with near certainty. This was certainly new. Without paying attention all the time even, without thinking — he could assume where he would go, what he would say, and even what he was thinking.
Unconsciously, Matthias was a receiver for a constant sense of where he was going when he ventured out into the town; he could already hear the conceptions of things he was just about to say in class; he knew the Messiah’s feelings, every minutia and unbidden detail, toward his mother and toward his father. This sense, Matthias soon realized, was most definitely not an intellective prediction from observations of his movements after years of existing alongside his mind. The predictive quality in them was based in authentic stimuli. He could now feel the will of this past person.
Additionally, there was also no sleeping, no real sense of exhaustion or stoppage of experience in his state. When the Messiah slept, Matthias meditated on his learnings of the day. He would replay events and contrast them to what he knew of The Messiah Story from The Good Book. This phenomenon of his own brand of restfulness was eventually suspended.
Soon enough, Matthias began to witness the spectacle of the dreams of the Messiah. Once unlocked, Matthias looked forward to this most of all. His best insights into the psyche of the Messiah came here. There were no barriers left in the realms of his sleeping mind and awakening imagination. He swam through the raw unconscious energy of his reveries undaunted. Matthias experienced dozens per night, uninterrupted by the forgetful quality of the dreamer himself. Matthias almost embodied himself a voyeur of some kind. What other human being had ever truly witnessed firsthand the true experiences of another, including their very dreams? It was a violation and yet it was unavoidably enticing. It was here, after another year in his journey, that Matthias attained another breakthrough. The break.
The Messiah was a mason. He had grown to be an active member of the communities he inhabited. A man grown and traveling amongst the world. He visited with many, inspirited and always a help. Merchants, spiritual leaders, gurus, scholars, teachers. He learned along his journey knowledge both of the practical and spiritual. The Messiah had become a true man of the world, as it had been written.
After his parents had died, he set out on this worldly trek. The purpose of this journey, essentially, was to find himself. As the story went, instead, he found God. Or rather, was reunited with a God he had simply forgotten while residing within his mortal coil. The moment of revelation, the one from which so many had drawn inspiration and the one so many had died for in wars and conflicts spanning centuries hence, occurred in a field of wildflowers, inexplicably along a beach, on the dawn of his 28th nameday.
The day was here, Matthias knew.
The Messiah was despondent. The supposed delights of the wider world were turning to ash in his mouth. The inspiration which he had left home with was decaying in roads long past. Dreams of childhood washed away to the harsh reality of the “impropriety of the modern Man and his growing greeds.”
The passage read something like that, Matthias thought. He felt the fleeting conception of such things, and many others, in the mind of the Messiah. The visualizations and prognostications were stronger than ever now.
And it was quite clear to Matthias, that the Messiah was in what was considered the lowest state of his divine life. To Matthias’ dismayed position, it was an accurate sentiment. There was weakness in his spirit unlike he had yet experienced through the fusion. The dreams of late were filled the shadow of uncertainty and predatory fears of an unavoidable dread. Matthias took note of the threads of his depression, trying to determine the efficacy of their own feelings in his frame. The disruptive stimuli passed on to Matthias’ own near trance state of being.
In the intervening years of varying activity and rest from his host, Matthias had become an adept in his seat of power. He could reside in peace, ruminating on the Messiah’s own words or the words from those around him. At the beginning, he couldn’t understand their language nor decipher their accents and dialects. But over time, he had learned words and could now listen fluently. He could not determine whether it was more a result of his consumptive ability to learn, or rather from the strange effects of the connection to his mind. The end result of all this ‘idle’ time was simply that very little of it was spent being idle. Matthias, unwittingly, had prepared his entire life for such an experience, and so he used it to spawn the ideas for 50 new books to be written, 100s of lectures to be prepared for his students, and 1 magnificent story to be told to the wider world upon his return. He was ready for this day most of all. To see it all transpire before his awaiting observation.
And Lo it had all culminated in this: the Revelation in the field of wildflowers. The Messiah had brought nothing with him, no food or a pack for an extended stay. The story went that he had traveled up to the hills in order to meditate, and then fell to forcefully pleading with whatever gods may be in order to find the peace which had so violently eluded him thus far in his young life. That is how the book told it.
The truth of the matter, to Matthias’ own enhanced perception for such things, was that the “Messiah” was coming here to this magnificent wildflower patch, to simply die.
If the world so willed it — it was time to end, to fall, to perish. That is what Matthias could intuit from the Messiah’s current state of mind.
Instead what transpired was nothing short of a miracle, but not in the sense either party was expecting. The Messiah reached the fulcrum of the field, stepping without conviction upon the soft earth, hoping against hope for nothing at all to hit, for nothingness to once again reclaim him somehow. Even as the great thing rose to illuminate him, it felt as a dusk and not a dawn. And both the Messiah and Matthias could not understand what was to come.
As the sun’s warmth hit him in a blaze of its glory, the Messiah’s mind went unconscionably blank — and Matthias’ entire framework for existence, the one he had meticulously crafted and formulated over the past 28 years of his metaphysical existence within the Messiah, simply and utterly shattered.
He, Matthias, was in the unknown for an uncharted period of time. He was still experiencing the merged conscious experience with the Messiah, but in a much different way, a much stranger methodology took over within the relationship.
In the moment of his own revelation, he felt naked. He was more vulnerable than he had ever been, in either life. Matthias could no longer feel himself as he was; and he could no longer tell who he was. Alterations were being made faster than he could comprehend them. Matthias gazed into the sun through the Messiah’s eyes and felt its sublime sting. A prominent and ancient windy passed right through his physical form —feeling coursed through his frame. His frame.
In a strange moment, as the wind picked up around him blowing the flowers ardently in the direction of the great dawning star, Matthias recalled a dream of the Messiah from a few nights before.
The unchanging rider of consciousness, represented as a shadow on a great mare in sky, simply dismounts. It descends into the struggling rabble of a society far below the clouds of his domain. The wind of the sky’s canopy fades as the mare ascends soundlessly. The dismounted rider is falling and falling into the chaos of uncertainty, while the sky continues it march towards a destiny elsewhere.
To Matthias’ memory, there was no such passage or analogous symbology within The Book. This vivid reverie, in its tenebrous majesty, at the time seemed an aberration and was oddly forgotten. But now Matthias understood its portent all too well. When the Messiah and Matthias looked down from this new sunrise to his hands, flexing his fingers and turning them over, the Messiah had extinguished his seat in silence. And it was significant that he had done it of his own volition. When the eyes of the lost man in the field returned to the radiant prominence, it was Matthias.
Matthias considered the completed sensations in his form, the full measures of what he had felt the component parts of for the better part of 28 years now. He searched his mind and found the collective thoughts, images, dreams, and memories of both the Messiah, the boy and the man, and Matthias, noted neuroscientist and vigorous atheist from the 21st century. In the final connection between the two souls as one, Matthias experienced the knowledge he sought out. In an absolute compounding cognition of the moment, Matthias featured his own not-to-surprising epiphany:
There is no mainline with a divine omnipotence in this mind or in this moment! The divine kingdom of the Revelatory Moment in the Wildflowers was no more than beautiful sunrise for a sad man! It’s all for not!
In the newly immutable mount of the Messiah-consciousness, Matthias smiles and cries out to the skies above in a triumph, using his own voice and beating his own hands against his own heart.
In an unanticipated yet full control, Messiah-Matthias proceeded to make some profound decisions. He abandoned his masonry practice, cut ties with his communal companions, moved out to the countryside. Now living in necessary solitude to make his preparations, he began to.
This fortunate and completely inexplicable turn of events allowed him the freedom to accomplish even more than Matthias ever could’ve planned for. But at the same time, such a thought experiment as this inexplicable moment had crossed his mind many times before in the seat of his many mediations. Thusly, he had a crystallized vision for exactly how he might try to influence this particular dream, to whatever ends it might end up inhabiting.
First, he went to the scholars and the authors, the alchemists and men of the primeval sciences. Matthias would tell them things they couldn’t yet know but might still be able to learn, comprehend and put to use in some manner well before the dawn of such advancement in the history he had known. The knowledge to be conveyed was about the body, about the plants and animals, and about the cosmos. But he didn’t tell them himself.
Matthias spent the better part of the next year writing it out, preparing a case for the discoveries to be made of a comprehensive nature. Matthias utilized the same techniques he’d put to work in his scientific, academic, and communicative careers. The key role was guiding the learner to your desired destination in the most non-invasive and naturally inclining manner. The reader or listener needed to gain a piece of the same insight the progenitor received upon their original exploration of the phenomenon. One was given tools, not knowledge; one had to work it out themselves.
Simply, Matthias needed his anonymous words to persuade these still violently superstitious men down the proper paths of science. And this could only be achieved if they believed in the path, and of their own volition. In Matthias’ experience, this effect could only be achieved by expert teaching or ingenious writing — of the types to induce learning in such a way as to promote it in the most naturally-occurring way.
He did his best to provide the illumination necessary for his purposes, that of scientific and rational acceleration. By his own inexact estimations, the effects of sharing this level of knowledge would have an exponential effect on advancement of the species and its technologies and social constructs. It would change everything. By way of the decades to follow, he hoped this alternative world — this dreamworld — to reap the rewards of this momentous work several hundredfold. Upon his return, he hoped to see this world play out within the simulation. He and Mort could view a world as they could only imagine it, a what-might’ve-been world.
Once he was finished writing them, he distributed the masterworks to all of them, locally and even in neighboring settlements. He bet on their immeasurable import being discovered in good time. He even provided them to the priests and religious leaders throughout the community, if only to destabilize some of their illusory doctrines and dogmas. The purpose of the mass distribution was in the real possibility of any one group deciding to destroy the evidence of it, likely thinking it the work of demons to tempt man with the forbidden knowledge of the dark lord, or something to that effect.
To Matthias’ mind, if all of them collaborated to do the same then it simply proved none of them would be ready for it and he would have to accept that. He was already asking much for his scientific shortcutting to be adopted out of hand. But he hoped that the absolute rational sense of this science, played out in this world’s very future, and ultimately true —would win over all those that took the time to fully delve into it. His design here was to simply to seed this ancient scientific community with the knowledge to build something more, to accelerate the advancements in store for humanity. But in addition to this end, his hope was to start an entirely new ethic laced in the intrepid rationality embedded within all of Mankind. Matthias planned to see his own thesis play out here, simply seeded for such explorations by his diligent handiwork.
In each instance, he signed his works “M.∞” He couldn’t really predict what the effect of leaving these works as authored by an anonymous source would have. In all likelihood, it was likely that they would ironically think it to be the words of a God.
Second, Messiah-Matthias ventured into the temples scattered throughout the local landscape. Within each, he etched the same signature on the chalices and sacramental tables used for mass each week. The markings were slight, mostly hidden, yet still recognizable to the discerning eye. He buried small, odd objects into the walls and ceilings of each temple. These will stand for millennia to come. In both instances, Matthias attempted to eternalize his presence. There had to be some kind of physical proof. He hoped it would be enough. Whether this be a simulated world in the dreams of the device back in the 21st, or the real, physical world awaiting the changes he was affecting, Matthias had no way of knowing. Matthias also considered the possibility now that he had perished alongside the Messiah in the wildflowers, and everything happening now was part of his elaborately designed and vividly imagined afterlife.
He was warily comfortable with his actions, given any one of these scenarios.
Finally, Messiah-Matthias returned to the field of wildflowers, the sacrosanct locale for all things Revelatory. It was there that he killed himself with a small dagger.
The return was jarring. Instantaneously, Matthias had the unconscious and impossibly authentic perception that he was in fact not gone very long. He felt as though he had taken one breath, held in an anticipatory reprieve. When he expelled it now, coming back from the now convoluted life of the Messiah he had lived out for 28 years, he opened his eyes to Mort. Mort smiled briefly before turning back to the rest of the room and raising his right hand, five fingers. The sudden rumbling sounds from the others in the room turned to a muted silence. Matthias took another deep breath as he looked out among the crowd. Hundreds of people stood before him in the lab at a reasonable distance, and among the ramparts above.
“Listen to me, man. Who are you? Who are you?”
Matthias heard Mort’s words in a daze. He continued to look past him up at the hundreds in white and red coats littering the grandiose new look of the lab. Who are all of them? And where the hell am I? The ceiling of the structure stretched hundreds of meters into the sky. The light from panelled windows let sunlight in, draping the pristine laboratory in a pleasant glow. When Matthias looked into the source of the sunlight, his eyes offered no resistance or recoil. He noted he was comfortably warm. The seat afore the machine offered comfort beyond his memory. He finally returned his gaze to the face of Mort. Where the hell is this place?
“Look at me. Who. Are. You?” Mort repeated.
“Good. Now do you know where you are? Do you know where you have been?”
“I am in your genome lab. But it’s different… We just used the machine to… I saw… I became-”
“We know, we know! We all watched the whole thing. Brilliant work Matt, just brilliant.”
“You watched?” Matthias questioned.
“Yes, we saw everything you saw and everything you ended up doing,” Mort swiveled his chair around 180 degrees.
Behind him was a monolithic screen. It canvased the entirety of the backside of the lab. On it was featured Matthias’ own first person consciousness perspective of his time under the transference with the Messiah, at various points playing out in a grid of images. At least, that was true as far as he could understand. The images accelerated at blazing speed, as if the entire video was on an extreme fast forward setting.
“But this… this was 28 years of time. I was there for 28 years. How… long was I out Mort? Here, I mean,” Matthias stammered, failing to understand.
“You were absent for thirty-one seconds. By far the longest use with the machine.”
“But how could you have comprehended all of that, on the screen, all my experiences… in thirty seconds?”
Mort turned to him with a smirk, “We used your own invention, sir. The specs. The time was course-corrected for. We’ll have a few teams review the footage, all of the experience, the observations as well as your sovereign actions. But in general, we know everything that you know, everything you saw and ended up actually doing. We can honestly say we do not understand how it is you were able to assume control of his consciousness. The machine was not yet supposed to be capable of such a feat. But you know how these things work, the recursiveness of the learnings… But the full melding in the wildflowers. It was incredible!” Mort exclaimed, then continued.
“Rest assured verifying the truth of this experience, no matter how inexplicable it was will not be difficult. But nevertheless, we have already dispatched teams of scientists and archeologists to the temples to observe and retrieve the markers you so cleverly placed. Such evidence will surely confirm your discovery. You should be very proud, Matthias. We all are so honored to be a part of this.”
Matthias looked out into the crowd and took note of the scientists wearing and removing glasses. Matthias shook his head slowly. He put his hand to his forehead, thinking.
“Come now, gather your spirits, it’s about time to turn it on,” Mort said turning. “You should be fine here in a minute, just give your body time to remember whom it really is. Your brain wasn’t napping for 28 years, merely your consciousness. And it’s resilient, just give it a few moments.”
Where am I? Who are these people? My invention? What is going on?
“We still have one more thing to do today. As promised… as we decided…,” Mort spoke with heightening tones.
Everything has changed, Matthias intuited the realization after a few moments.
What have I done?
The questions flooded Matthias’ head without mercy. But he didn’t ask any of them, not yet.
“Mort. You said “the temples,” so they survived? What about the faith, what about the fate of the Messiah? Did it all change? Is that why-”
“Matthias, that is irrelevant. They simply chose someone else. It truly doesn’t matter, what you did… I think.. something changed in the meld, the alternate…” Mort began to mumble imperceptibly. “…Please, Matthias, it doesn’t matter. Come with me. There is something you should be concerning yourself with now-”
“They chose someone else. What does that mean Mort? Give me something more, what are you talking about? What did I change? What did I just spend all of that time doing to the real world? I thought… maybe… it was going into the simulation… to be viewed later… I hadn’t really considered… What is all of this?” Matthias frantically motioned around him. His confusion turned to supreme frustration. He picked himself up from the chair to confront Mort face to face.
Mort brought his hands to bear on Matthias’ countenance. He stared into his eyes, discerning minutia. He sighed heavily.
“It’s not you. It’s not you. This isn’t you, but you think it is,” he whispered to Matthias. “I don’t want to lie to you, old friend. But for now, I need you. You would tell me this was worth it. This being the cost, you would gladly pay it every time. I didn’t agree. I don’t agree. But none of that matters now… we… will sort this out Matthias, I promise you. But, I need you to come with me. The others are waiting.”
Matthias considered Mort’s words. Mindfully examining his body, inner and outer, Matthias began to put the pieces together. He scrunched his eyes and shook his head again. He grew lightheaded from the effort, but shook it off.
“Can I see a copy of The Book,” Matthias asked somberly.
“Of course… sir.”
They both began to walk away from the device, and out into the new world.
Matthias thumbed the requisite pages by memory. The length was the same, the pages, the locations of the myths, parables, tales, Gospels, God’s ordained dictates and dogma. It was all there. Matthias read and reread carefully, astounded. Was it all a dream?
“They simply chose someone else.” The words echoed.
Matthias kept returning to the same word. Prophet. The Prophet. The word of the Prophet. The prophecy.
Someone else. They chose. Matthias slammed the book with ferocity. He gripped his temples with his right hand and began to chuckle into near-hysteria. Mort watched from the doorway, letting the fit play out.
After a couple minutes, Matthias returned from his office, without the book and with an ascetic look on his face.
Mort brought him to a small room inside, just past a server room the size of a football field and an internal arboretum housing a considerably sized forest. This is no mere lab, Matthias contemplated as he was led throughout the complex’s twists and turns. I guess we got more funding, he gleaned sheepishly.
Mort guided him into a small, singular room bereft of any decor at all. Centrally within the room, there was a small panel before an ordinary-looking black computer tower on the floor of this nearly empty room. It looked like a desktop computer. Before the tower was a panel raised up to the height of his abdomen. On the smooth, square surface was a red LED outline of a hand. Left hand. Matthias stared down at it, flanked on his right and his left by Mort and an attendant Matthias didn’t know the name of.
“What is this?” Matthias asked, turning first to the attendant.
The attendant looked at him with a measure of skepticism. Mort spoke up.
“When you place your hand on it, the process will begin. It won’t take long. We don’t exactly know what will happen, but we are ready for nearly every contingency. This is the culmination of my life’s… our life’s work, Matthias. But, this is your choice. That… was your condition.”
Matthias considered the weight of his words for a moment, unblinking and looking at the place for his hand on the panel.
After a few moments, Matthias spoke with certainty, “We are turning on an Artificial Intelligence. The first true A.I. the world has ever seen.”
“This panel is coded for my hand, my fingerprints and DNA… because I developed this… we developed this over the course of our entire lives. There is no think tank… perhaps there never was one, at least not the way I can image it. It wasn’t needed. The faith died off years ago.”
Matthias paused, then progressed.
“The machine. We built the same general technology, using the genome. And that’s how we advanced the idea of this technology,” Matthias motioned to the little black tower.
“Yes, Matthias,” Mort confirmed. Matthias knew he likely couldn’t confirm all of it. There were certain things only he now knew. Somehow.
Matthias smiled fervently, “Simply incredible.”
He continued, “And yet. This wasn’t my life. I know my life. This is some kind of coalescing of my past, with another’s actions… it cannot make sense. It’s a dream, but it’s real… And I am here now, with my hand on a trigger to a gun I have designed but never held.”
The attendant looked to Mort. Mort listened to his friend attentively.
“Am I to trust myself so completely with something… Who is to say we checked all the boxes, that we know how to deal with this… that we can contain it. There’s just so many variables,” Matthias began to trail off.
“Let me show you another book Matt,” Matthias reached out and offered a large tome. Matthias retracted his hand from the panel to grab it.
He inspected it. The cover was blue, leather bound. The title, Masterwork. The apparent author: “M.∞”
No last name. Matthias opened it to look upon the pages he had written.
“It’s the most important book in human history, sir. I want you to understand what you did. You didn’t just jumpstart the art of science a few decades. You shifted the entire paradigm, you gave us something new to strive for. And the effect compounded upon every subsequent generation, every era, every age. You didn’t just save billions of lives, you lit a fire which still burns, brightest of all on this day. You put your faith in humanity sir — in us— and it recompensed the entire world. Just wait until you see it,” Mort spoke with a passion Matthias had never heard from him.
Tears flowed now from Mort’s eyes. He looked away from Mort and back to the panel. Mindfully, Matthias returned to the wildflowers. He pressed his hand to the panel with newfangled conviction. The murmur of the machine making up the room awakened, turning to a rumble.
Matthias took a deep breath.
And now, in my own Revelation, I have created god. ~
~ art by Tomasz Alen Kopera