Kirit Minhas ’20

I stood alone in the kitchen, overthinking all the possibilities and outcomes of my actions earlier that day. There was too much to go over, too many computations for me to perform. Even for my advanced mind, it was overwhelming. Gears turning and turning, almost grinding to a halt… And my mind was transported.

Oh my god. There I was—it was myself from 12 hours earlier. I needed to find a way to warn my past self of the repercussions of my plan. I struggled against the seemingly infinite restraint placed upon my body, but it was of no use. It simply showed me that I was only an observer to my recent absurdity. I quickly realized that my mind was simply taking me wherever it felt proper, pulling me along for the ride. A terrifying realization. An exciting thought. I scanned my surroundings constantly, trying to understand where it was that my mind had taken me. My eyes darted back and forth in their sockets feverishly.

There I was, standing alone in the midst of a stark landscape—myself, but 12 hours younger. My twin’s eyes were tear-stained, flickering with sparks of electricity that flowed steadily from his brain. Hands trembling, his thumb slowly circled the large “EJECT” button on a large black device. His head was shaking slightly, almost vibrating. I knew there was a conflict raging in his mind. I remembered exactly what it was, and I heard it in my mind like it was happening to me all over again.

No… No, no, no, no. There is no way that I am doing this.

A voice had quickly replied to my thoughts.

Oh, Caleb. Did you not receive my numerous information updates? This plan has been carefully thought out and planned according to everyone’s benefit. It must be done immediately.

How do you know this? You’re a machine sitting and observing my mind. You’re just here to help me. I make the final decisions here. And my decision…. My executive order is to n-n-n-not detonate this horrible life-destructing missile.

Caleb…

NO! GET OUT!

Calebbb…

The machine’s voice had lingered. A searing pain emerged in the center of my forehead—the wound was opened once again. My brain was being split apart slowly and carefully.

Why… There is something else here.

Caleb, did you honestly believe I could let you ruin this for both of us? NO. This shall occur, whether you wish it to happen or not.

My brain erupted in a roaring fire. It was like every single one of my neurons was firing at the same time, forging connections with every single one of its siblings, creating a lattice of sparks in my brain. My body pulsed with an overwhelming amount of electricity. Wisps of smoke floated from the sleek, metallic headband that held his mental enhancement device. It was hard at work. There was some kind of energy constantly flowing through my veins, my bones, and I could feel it almost at the cellular level. Every part of my body was being excited to the point of instability. What was I supposed to do? I stood as my body shook and vibrated like a tuning fork that had just been forcefully struck against a musician’s knee. The device’s lifeless voice then resumed its speech.

Now you see, Caleb, that machine truly knows best. It is up to you how much pain you shall experience. It’s interesting that you have chosen to hold on to the remote in your right hand. Simply press the button at any time and this shall all be over.

N-n-n-never. My brain was thrown into steaming cast iron pan, foam bubbled from the edges of my mouth and, once again, I stood lifelessly. The conversation replayed in my mind as I watched my twin. There is no way you c-c-can coerce me into this madness. Consciousness was slowly slipping away. My body was trembling, but somehow the right arm remained stagnant, probably because the hand clenched tightly around the detonator. I watched myself struggle to let it go, but then remembered that me and my twin had lost all power. It was getting harder and harder to form coherent thoughts. My eyes jerked open. I had begun to fall into a lulled sleep of electric shock but I heard an explosion. It was me. The headband in pieces. Pieces of metal shattering across the ground, smoldering, as puffs of smoke danced through the air vibrantly. My twin relaxed and fell to the ground. He relaxed. I remained stiff as an observant tree. The detonator slipped out of his hands and I watched as my past self used the tiny bit of fuel left over from the machine’s rule to kick the device as far away from him as he could.

Laying in the middle of an empty expanse, beads of sweat ran down his face. I felt the sting in his eyes, and the familiar taste of saltwater on my tastebuds. I was going through the same thing all over again. I watched myself take deep breaths, but before he could begin to relax I heard the voice return in my mind, echoing across the chamber of my mind.

You should probably go pick up that remote that you so carelessly abandoned. It is a very delicate piece of machinery and could very easily fall into the wrong hands.

I watched myself chuckle at the irony of that statement. I picked himself up and walked away from the detonator, ignoring the relentless empty threats and snarky remarks of the machine that was ingrained into my mind. It never left me, but that was it. After the incident, I came home, stood in the kitchen, and pondered it.

The immediate relief of the explosion had worn off, leaving me with a feeling of hesitant elation—a joy laced with suspicion. How the heck did I survive after the MindEnhancer™ explosion? The question echoed through my body. As far I could tell at this point, I had retained my “superior” intelligence. But still, I remembered that the United Nation had broadcasted many times that only a “select few” of the population, amounting to less than one percent, received the privilege to have that technology installed. Installed in such a way that it was connected to mine and a few hundred thousands others’ central nervous systems, making every cell of our brains significantly more efficient. I definitely would’ve died as soon as the machine exploded if even one part of that propaganda were true. But it seemed that the most the MindEnhancer™ could do was enact a pain stimulus, and somehow trigger some kinds of imaginary voices. Extremely realistic voices. Voices that did not leave, no matter how hard I tried.

I ran my index finger over the cold metal of the steak knife in my right hand, taking in the smooth solidity of the object. I slowly placed the knife on the kitchen table and turned around to shut my eyes tightly and channel some kind of peace. Of course, my attempt futile. As soon as my mind turned to the idea of relaxation, the chorus of voices in my head resumed, phrases and snarky remarks bouncing around my mind like a tennis ball in an intense match. I felt a pounding pain erupt every three seconds in the corners of my forehead, which I assumed was the result of a migraine from the constant ricochet of voices off the walls of my brain. I could not ponder anything further than the next few minutes in the future. I slowly did the best I could to move myself towards the couch, stumbling as I tried to gain composure, and I subsequently collapsed upon it, surrendering to my own mental battle. With the flip of a switch, a momentary explosion, my body had become the collateral damage of his own consciousness’ war. I was the slave to my own mind. It turned out, my mind did have a mind of its own. Huh.

I decided I would not perform a complete surrender. Grabbing the electronic notepad sitting on the living room table as quickly as I could, I started scribbling words down maniacally. The voices were speaking and changing tone so quickly, making it almost impossible for me to write down what they were saying coherently. I did not even try to make sense of the absolute nonsense that was firing around my brain, pounding at the outer boundaries of my consciousness. Jotting down whatever I could hear seemed to be enough work on its own. Soon enough I was able to gain control over my mind. First I slowed down the speech. Reduced the migraine. Understood what was being said. And after seven hours of unrelenting speech running around my mind, that didn’t allowing me to rest for even a quick second. A period of seven hours where I wrote until my fingers were covered with blisters and my arm felt as if there were a boiling ball of lead rolling through it constantly. Upon writing in the last line of the 17th page of my electronic notebook, one of the 11 voices (yes, I counted them) trailed off into complete silence after completing its statement. I was left with a complete silence in his brain. It seemed to be physically impossible. No thoughts, voices, or images appeared in my mind; I entered an empty, hyper-meditative state. Almost lonely. I looked down at what he held in his hands and flicked my finger on the screen to go back to the first page of the copied speech. I read.

I read for hours and hours, trying to make sense of what had been written. I felt the same searing pain return once again. It snapped me out of my state of placated serenity to noe of instant vigilance, which I was grateful for. I read over the words of my mind’s visitors one last time, and felt electricity pulse through my veins once more. In a good way. Somehow, n a logic-defying fashion, I realized that I had just extracted something with a semblance of logic from the 17 pages of incessant dictation I had heard. One line seemed to be the most unique, the most important. I read it out loud to myself, and immediately connected the phrase to the voice that had uttered them in his mind. I remembered a slow, quiet, delicate voice, one which could have easily been buried under the heaps of cacophony. It said, gently as the wisps of smoke arising from an extinguished candle, “Distract yourself from the subtle dangers of thought and simply listen—listening shall unite you with our beautiful community.” The United Nation ad slogan was oddly similar to what the voice had expressed: Unity in Listening. This three-word slogan was posted on every governmental building in Phoenix. It must’ve been the same way across the world. I was puzzled. Slightly. Slightly puzzled on how this government philosophical ideal had been embedded into my personal thoughts. But the answer was in front of me the whole damn time. Ha! That was it. Myexperiment had failed—quite a short-lived experiment trying to exploit any weakness of his MindEnhancer™. Simply burning the physical component of the technology was not enough. It was omnipresent, inescapable, uncontrollable. Once again, I realized that the tech gave his mind a mind of its own. I couldn’t hide in my own thoughts. And that was one of the most terrifying things I had ever had the privilege of thinking. The definition of the human experience would be altered forever. I was stuck.

And so I shivered. A constant vibration took over my body. But this time the vibration felt good. Letting go felt good.. My body took control. My mind was nothing now. If it wasn’t my own, then what use was it to me? The United Nation, huh? They will not unite our minds. There was something left for me to salvage, or perhaps there was nothing left for me to do. I did not even want to start thinking about that worry. I was letting the vibrations of my body spread from my core towards all ends of my body, until I looked at myself and saw nothing but motion, liked a plucked string. Unfocused. My body was lost into thin air, an optical illusion.

*************

 

The outside world had an air of novelty. It was a truly remarkable change. Nothing was particularly different. Everything looked the same. It all felt the same in the basic senses. But this time, when faces passed, but instead of ignoring them, upon their passing, I truly wondered what their lives were like. How were they living? What were their struggles? Do they like living? Do they hate it as much as I do? The questions kept coming. And they were my own. Not the product of those 11 voices in my head. They had come swiftly, but died away just as quick as they arrived, dispersing into the atmosphere. Just like my questions did. I watched as the sunset was quickly emerging, transforming the sky into a beautiful gradient of pink and purple hues, scattered through the lens of cloud formations. Only one question bounced into my mind: How had I never noticed this before? Mesmerized, standing in the middle of the city sidewalk, staring at the sky above, I was just pondering. Wow. I’ve never done this before. In my focus, I forgot that gentle voice’s advice: “Distract yourself from the subtle dangers of thought and simply listen—listening shall unite you with our beautiful community.” But there was a swift reminder. In my own childish daze, I had wandered into the middle of the street with a stupid smile across my face. I was tracking the sunset across the sky. I stopped in front of traffic. The traffic did not stop for me. I felt myself propelled, vibrating like a plucked string. I twisted through the air, seeing a kaleidoscope of colors, and I thought to myself: Why, I’ve never been happier. I soon hit the ground, still in my psychedelic daze, my bones vibrating at the highest frequency they had ever achieved. And when I woke up in the hospital the next day, two questions popped into my empty mind: Who am I? What’s my name?