Chapter 4

Chapter 42018-12-01T22:13:50+00:00

Chapter 4

“So how does this work?” Grace wondered, staring at the padded chair before her. The group had left the forest, exiting back into the entry hall; they then made their way down a short corridor until Redcoat halted their progress at a room labeled ‘B7 :: ENIIC’.

“This is it,” he murmured, swiping his ID card in a nearby card reader. With a click the door unlocked, and Grace and the rest of the group followed him into the room.

The walls were bleach white, matched by an equally bland floor and ceiling. As a result, her eyes were drawn to the two contrasting features of the room – the reclining black and silver chair in the center, and the bank of computer monitors affixed to the far wall.

“You guys give root canals?” Grace quipped. The group chuckled, and she stepped over to examine the recliner. “So how does this work?”

“Well, you sit in it,” Redcoat replied, “and imagine something you wish to have in existence.” The reply wasn’t quite what she had been looking for; Grace wanted to understand how the machine worked internally. However, before she could clarify her question, Redcoat made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.

“Would you like to try it out?” he asked.

After a moment of feigning nonchalance, Grace nodded. “I guess so, sure.” Redcoat guided her into the chair. “Are there any er, side effects?” she wondered.

“None,” Redcoat smiled. When Dr. Wright cleared his throat, however, Redcoat grimaced. “Nothing you need to worry about, anyway. Just keep it small, and something simple, like a candy bar.”

Small and simple, she told herself as she lay her head upon the headrest. She found it difficult to concentrate though; her mind was still buzzing with Allie’s revelation that the poking man was Dr. Wright. Smart and good looking, even with the earlobes – I’m gonna bite her if she doesn’t go out with him. As she considered how humorous a pair he and Allie would make, the machine whirred to life, and then quickly died down again.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, looking up at Redcoat.

He glanced away at a monitor. “Nothing’s wrong,” he replied. “The machine says it’s finished generation – you should have whatever it was you were imagining.”

Grace felt something in the palm of her hand – a small slip of paper, it seemed. She sat up and read it aloud. “Eight seven eight,” it said, “three two nine, five three, five nine.”

Someone laughed. “You wanted my phone number?” Aaron shook his head and smiled. “Grace, you could’ve just asked.”

She faked a smile in return, ignoring the slight knot in her chest and the blood rushing to her face; she glanced at Allie, who glanced at Aaron, then glanced back at her. “It’s for Allie, of course,” she explained, averting her eyes. “There’s no way she’d ask you for it herself.”

“Glad to have you as an advocate,” he chuckled.

Allie rolled her eyes. “Can we move on?” she requested.

“Gladly,” Redcoat replied.

“So how does the machine work?” Grace asked once more, hopping out of the dentist’s chair. “I mean, how is any of this possible, creating something from nothing?”

“Aaron?” Redcoat replied. “I imagine you can explain the principles better than I can.”

“Sure,” he stepped forward to address the group. “Ex Nihilo’s technology stems from a couple different fields of research, namely quantum physics and noetic theory. Noetics deals with the study of the mind and its effect on the surrounding world, and quantum mechanics studies matter and energy at the atomic and subatomic levels, among other things.”

Grace nodded, although Allie and Derek shared a puzzled look. “How do I explain this?” Aaron muttered. “All right, so the field of noetics, although controversial, has been able to experimentally demonstrate that the human mind can have an effect on the surrounding world. The effect is tiny, almost negligible, but still very real.”

Grace had once read about noetics in a textbook, though to be fair it was granted only one page in a sidebar. Apparently, it had been experimentally demonstrated that human thoughts have mass, and it was proposed that this mass has an effect on the outside world.

“So,” Aaron continued, “Ex Nihilo posed the question, ‘why is human thought so weak?’ Why is its effect on the world so negligible? What we found,” he gestured, “is that human thought isn’t actually affecting this reality – not directly, anyway. It impacts quite thoroughly a place we call ‘the negative’.”

Grace laughed. “That’s a bit sci-fi.”

“As if a disappearing forest isn’t?” Derek Winthrop returned.

Grace snorted. “Fair enough. So you’ve found a way to access this other dimension?”

“Well, dimension is too strong a term, at least in the sense that it is generally perceived. It’s more like the inverse of this reality, like the negative of a photograph.”

“Therefore,” Allie nodded, “by changing the negative, human thought can change the resulting photograph – our world.”

“Exactly, although the effect is drastically weakened in the end, to the point of being negligible.”

“So how do you guys get around it?” Allie wondered.

Aaron glanced at patted the padded chair. “Well, like any good sci-fi corporation we built a machine,” he chuckled. “This baby does two things. First, it amplifies human thought, making it more descriptive in the process; this helps the image on the negative to form correctly.”

“And the second thing?” Winthrop asked.

“It pulls the negative image directly onto our reality,” Aaron explained. “Since a change on the negative affects the positive so negligibly, and it’s actually the inverse of what a person is thinking, we had to devise a way to manually transfer the negative image onto our reality.”

Grace studied Aaron’s face; there was something amiss in his expression. “Is there something wrong with that?” she guessed. Aaron glanced at Redcoat.

“No, it’s fine,” Redcoat interjected. “It just took a lot of work on our part.”

“Why?”

“Well, this is where the quantum mechanics comes into play, “Aaron replied. “One of the possible conclusions of the field is that particles – all matter and energy in reality – only exist if a mind is present to observe them.”

“If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody hears it, then it might not actually make a sound,” Redcoat explained.

“That’s ridiculous,” Winthrop replied.

“Utterly ridiculous,” Aaron agreed. “Yet still plausible, given the experimental data of some quantum physicists. More to the point, however, Ex Nihilo Industries has run experiments which suggest that the negative is itself made up of particles – matter and energy – which act in the inverse direction. Just as normal particles only exist if someone is around to observe them, these negative particles only exist if no one is around to observe them.”

“The negative is all around us,” Redcoat summarized. “We just can’t observe it without it disappearing.”

A light of understanding flashed across Grace’s mind. “That’s why the trees disappeared when the lights came on.”

“That’s right,” Redcoat nodded. “As soon as you were able to see them, they ceased to exist.”

“No, but that doesn’t make sense,” Allie objected; Grace glanced over to her in curiosity. “The human mind can observe things through much more than just sight,” she claimed. “I touched a fern, and wrapped my arms around a tree; I was able to observe them through my sense of touch.”

“Mm,” Aaron nodded, “you can thank me for that. As we worked to pull particles from the negative into the positive, my job was to ‘lock in’ each of the senses – alter the particles so that they could be touched, tasted, smelled, and heard without disappearing. But sight,” he trailed, “there’s something about sight.”

“Let’s not bore them with details,” Redcoat stepped in. “Ultimately, we have been successful in creating images on the negative, and pulling them into reality on the positive, and you have seen the results of our work. This is an endeavor with extremely lucrative possibilities on the near horizon, and the only question you need to ask yourselves is, are you going to pass on the opportunity to invest in a company that is literally poised to revolutionize reality.”

With that statement, Redcoat brought the tour to a close. As he worked to usher the group out of the room, however, Grace and Allie exchanged glance of mutual concern, then of inquiry, and finally Allie grinned. Grace smiled in return and shook her head; she knew that Allie would never leave the room with a question still itching in the back of her mind.

Allie stepped forward. “What’s different about sight?” Out of the corner of her eye, Grace noticed the CEO grimace.

“There are a couple minor side effects with sight,” he replied, still trying to usher them from the room. “Nothing major; we’re working through them now.”

“Doctor Wright,” Grace turned to Aaron, “Indulge our curiosity – what’s different about sight?” The rest of the group turned to him as well.

Redcoat sighed. “It seems,” Aaron replied, “that the point at which we lock in sight is the same point at which negative particles turn into positive particles.

“Okay,” Grace waited for a further explanation; she didn’t fully grasp what Aaron was getting at. “Is that bad?”

“Not inherently,” he replied. “It’s just that when the negative loses particles, it has to take particles of an equivalent mass from somewhere in the positive. It’s a conservation of mass and energy thing.”

“So if something, or someone is brought into existence here, someone else will cease to exist elsewhere?”

“Exactly,” Aaron gave Allison a thin-lipped smile.

Someone? Grace wondered; Aaron continued to talk.

“That’s why we don’t lock the melasynthetic forest in for sight, normally. It’s such a huge amount of mass in there – we don’t want any nearby forests to disappear, or anything.”

Redcoat stepped into the middle of the group. “Things to work out before we go live with the product. Why don’t we reconvene in the lobby to talk business?”

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