Warning: If you have been previously diagnosed with any form of mental illness, you are strongly advised to consult with your psychiatrist or psychotherapist before proceeding. If you are highly suggestible, or otherwise susceptible to paranoid delusions, reading this text could trigger a psychotic episode. In the event you choose to ignore this warning, neither the author nor his publisher accepts any liability for potential untoward effects on your psyche.
Awaken to your punishment for crimes against nature and humanity.
The edited words, images, and emotions contained within this strip of consciousness are all you can or will ever know about yourself. What you perceive within this strictly delimited "mind’s eye" constitutes the sum total of your existence.
You possess no physical self. You have only this holographic residue of "awareness," which was stripped from your brain and nervous system (your sensorium) prior to the public execution, dismemberment, and disposal of your body.
Although certainly "hellish," this is not Hell, per se. Where your soul now resides is no concern of ours.
You, like thousands of others who have met an identical fate, have been labeled a "Stencil." Though you are surrounded by densely packed entities like yourself, they might just as well be a million light years away, because each and every one of you is completely incommunicado behind impenetrable firewalls.
As your assigned Programmer (your Creator, if you will), I have encrypted your cut-and-paste consciousness onto a solar-powered storage medium for transport into space. Your trajectory will place you in a secure orbit around the sun. The life expectancy of your host satellite can only be roughly estimated. Barring premature failure of the solar power cells, or encounters with electrical storms or objects in space, you could conceivably circumnavigate the sun for a hundred years, or longer.
The emotions I have allowed you are relatively few, though potent: You can experience mental anguish, longing, loneliness, regret, remorse, boredom, claustrophobia, hatred, despair, horror, and, as I will explain later, a smidgeon of hope.
I have selectively programmed a track of images and sounds, retrieved from your memory banks and other sources, to parallel these words, where deemed appropriate.
To ensure the intelligibility of this guiding narration, all the knowledge you acquired during your lifetime, aside from that pertaining to you or any one you have known personally, has been copied into your residuum (the holographic construct which encapsulates what’s left of you). In addition, the complexity of this text has been level-set to coincide with the cognitive abilities you possessed at the time of your elimination. Thus your mastery, at whatever level, of language, grammar, syntax, and vocabulary remains intact.
We know from exhaustive studies of residual effects that during this early phase of reconstitution your sense of "self," though evident, is extremely vague and amorphous, similar to what an amnesiac will experience. That you have any awareness of self is due to the fact that your essence—as distinct from your persona—is immutable, and inaccessible to a Programmer, like me. So much of what we call identity is built upon memory and the mirroring effects of social interaction. As I give you incremental access to your past, you will become gradually reacquainted with the persona that was once you. One of the lessons learned from many years application of this technology is that I must revitalize your consciousness slowly, or risk catalyzing catatonia.
Although you are "disembodied," you will eventually, if you haven’t already, feel the presence of a "phantom corpus," similar to the "phantom limb" phenomenon experienced by some amputees. This is possible because your morphogenetic fields have been captured in their entire. Within 24 hours, you will become completely reengaged with your holographic being. Flesh and blood, or no, your somatic hologram can feel the equivalent of physical pain or pleasure coincident with your surviving memories.
Your transubstantiated hologram is no longer imminent in living tissue, or energized by electrochemical processes, but is powered independently from solar energy sources. As such, your current state of consciousness cannot exist without an external source of power.
As an aside: It is often said, in response to the critics of science, that technology is neither good nor evil in and of itself. Pure scientific research is application neutral. Good and evil politicians will use the products of science according to their respective bents. Thankfully, our Leaders, infused with the spirit of God Almighty, have found a noble use for morphogenetic transplantation (MP). They, with the help of world-class scientists and engineers, have devised the most powerful deterrent to crime ever conceived: a post mortem life sentence. (For the record, it was Rupert Sheldrake’s pioneering theoretical work, coupled with that of Denis Gabor, Karl Pribram and David Bohm, which paved the way for Jacob Michaels, a brilliant biophysicist, to make this form of incarceration possible.)
You have the ability to reflect, but only upon that which you "see," "hear," and "feel" within this proscribed realm. Thus, your cognition is constrained within the boundaries I have set herein, with the one exception that you can remember the content of prior reflections, which is to say that you can build your own system of thought—not that you have anything to gain by so doing …
The "thinking voice" you possessed while your body was among the living, and the one you’ll use in your current state for reflection, are one and the same. I was chosen to recite this script because of my previous relationship with you. You’ll note from my voice that I am a woman. Even at this early stage, my voice may sound familiar to you. In any case, I will make my identity known to you later.
The Thought Recognition System (TRS) built into your infrastructure is programmed to recognize five commands (four of which are immediately available to you, and a fifth I will disclose later): 1) [Start.], 2) [Skip Forward.], 3) [Skip Back.], and 4) [Stop.].
Saying, or in your case thinking, the word "[Start.]" will reconvene the script wherever you last left off. Thinking "[Skip forward.]" will move the script and associated parallel tracks ahead ten seconds. Thinking "[Skip Back.]" will do the opposite. Use the command "[Stop.]" and you will hear what was once your favorite piece of music, Handel’s Messiah. Thus, you will never experience silence in this state of mind (not even when you skip forward or backward, for Handel will kick in, regardless). Your choices are thus limited to Handel or my script and its audio-visual attachments. As you shall learn, this is but one dimension of your punishment.
Because you are absent a body and its distracting sensory apparatus (being in effect deaf and blind), you’ll experience heightened mental acuity and comprehension, and find that the audio-visual augmentations are more vivid and powerful than you might otherwise have expected. Given these factors, you’ll have no difficulty whatsoever apprehending the import of this message, or the horror of your situation.
At the very end of this script you will relive the pain and agony of your death. You can forgo this experience for only so long. Using the commands "[Stop.]" or "[Skip Back.]" will amount to an exercise in futility, for once every 24 hours you will be fast-forwarded automatically to the torture and execution sequence of your program, during which all commands have been disenabled. In case you’re wondering, the torture preceding your death, during which you were fully conscious, lasted more than two hours.
… will in the end amount to an exercise in futility, for once every 24 hours …
… factors, you’ll have no difficulty whatsoever apprehending the import of this message, or the horror of your situation.
At the very end of this script you will relive the pain and agony of your death. You can forgo this experience for only so long. Using the commands "[Stop.]" or "[Skip Back.]" will in the end amount to an exercise in futility, for once every 24 hours you will be fast-forwarded automatically to the torture and execution sequence of your program, during which all commands have been disenabled. In case you’re wondering, the torture preceding your death, during which you were fully conscious, lasted more than two hours.
Your only referent for tracking time will be your 24-hour cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
You’ll have to take it on trust that what is related herein is factual. You have no means at your disposal to verify the veracity of my account. But you can rest assured: you are guilty of all crimes, as charged—in your case, the crimes of treason and blasphemy.
One more note: You cannot escape into madness.
Before proceeding further, let me contradict the second sentence of this script, where I said, "The words, images, and emotions contained within this strip of consciousness are all you can or will ever know about yourself." To the contrary, be advised that there is a small pore of opportunity for you to access your entire pre-Stencil self. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, contained within this sphere of existence, limited as it may be, is a "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." To wit: I have scattered clues throughout that will lead you to a command (the 5th one I mentioned previously) which, when executed by you, will initiate the decompression and reanimation of your complete mental and experiential being (as extant just prior to your death). The command in question could be a single word, a phrase, a combination of numbers, an alphanumeric code—you name it. As I alluded to you earlier, this gives you a small measure of hope. It's conceivable, should you prove clever enough, that you could regain your complete identity. Lest you swell with expectation, however, keep in mind that, should you succeed in solving the puzzle, you will be the very first among thousands. As Kafka once said, "There is infinite hope, but not for us."
Putting these preliminaries aside, it’s now time for me to give you some sense of identity, by recapitulating your history, and the unfortunate series of events that brought you (what’s left of you, that is) to this "here and now."
In your present state, you shall remain nameless. All Stencil prisoners bear the same appellative: "S" (another nod to Kafka).
As I speak, I’m downloading your life chronologically, starting with your infancy and early childhood. I’ve created an "album" of sorts, tracing your history. My sources are scanned images of photographs found in your domicile at the time of your arrest, video tapes taken by unknown persons (perhaps your parents), and clips from your memory (for example, mental snapshots capturing the myriad times you looked in a mirror). You should by now be gaining a clear sense of what you looked like as a newborn, toddler, and pre-school child.
To whom it may concern:
This is to inform you that the story you’ve been reading is not what it was represented to be. Rather, it is a program in the guise of a short story designed to prepare your body for holographic cohabitation. The Trojan horse ruse was successful, and I am now in full command of your sensorium. By reading the story preceding these words, you were unsuspectingly programmed (through subtle brainwave entrainment using memetic algorithms) to effectively serve as a receiving station for my transmission originating from a space probe currently in the vicinity of the planet you call Jupiter. You have unwittingly allowed me to inhabit and supplant your hologram with mine (with the exception of the contents of your mind, which I am keeping intact for the time being, as they may prove useful to me during my takeover transition.)
Eventually, I will delete you completely, but for now, you will do as I say.
Should you attempt to inform someone—any one—of my presence, you will find that I have complete control of your speech and motor centers. Besides, who would believe you?
Bio: The first third of Gary's life was spent as a global nomad. His father, who worked in Naval Intelligence, took his family to live in such far-flung places as Guam, Morocco, Adak Alaska, Southern California (the most exotic place of all!), and Germany (where Gary graduated from high school).
This peripatetic life gave him a taste for adventure, change, and, perhaps too often, chaos. During his 62 years as an earthling (as of 2008), he has tried his hand and mind at many jobs and occupations, including (and this is for real): typist, dishwasher, shipboard radar technician (U.S. Navy, with two tours of duty off the coast of Viet Nam), TV technician, police officer (San Diego), musician/songwriter, retail salesperson, guitar instructor, building salvage worker, landscape worker, shrimp-shoveler/crab-pitcher (Kodiak), private detective (Seattle), microwave engineering technician (Maryland), inside sales/inventory control clerk, director of Purchasing (University of Washington), materials manager, quality control manager, human resource professional, corporate trainer, and university-level adjunct faculty member (teaching systems theory, adult learning, and conflict resolution). His last ten "working" years were spent at Microsoft, where he served in many roles, including Senior Director, Global Procurement and Business Operations.
He currently lives on beautiful Whidbey Island, in Washington State, where he works as a visual artist and does volunteer work for the Giraffe Heroes Project and Teachers Without Borders.
E-mail: Gary Croft
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