< Soul Searching
Soul Searching


Phill Murray

I arrived just before one PM outside the security checkpoint. The guard recognized me.

"Go right in Mr. Winters, Mr. Knight is expecting you."

I nodded, and he showed me through into the corridor beyond. An elderly Japanese woman in a lab coat gazed lazily at me.

"This way. Hugo said you would be early. I’m Doctor Tsuki by the way. Have you worked in laboratory environments before?"

"No. Why, is it dangerous here?"

She scowled at me.

"You will touch nothing. Wear this at all times," she said, handing me a white plastic badge.

"If it goes black, you’re in big trouble. Should be all right, just stay away from the inner chamber."

I followed her through into a large, metal-paneled cylindrical room with a lead-shielded chamber in the center. The whole thing must have been thirty meters across, with the only other door leading out of the back. It was heavily sealed, with a radiation warning sign displayed on it. I walked in a few steps, and regarded the chamber in the center. It was only five meters across, and was a little shorter than a tall man. Windows in the sides of the chamber revealed a raised plinth within, upon which rested a few white rocks. As I looked closer, I recognized them as Hugo’s ‘diamonds’. I pointed to them.

"Doctor, are those THC diamonds?"

"Yes. Tetrahydrocanabinol formations. Double concentration. Potent things, in a way."

I looked around. The walls were lined with computer equipment and small trolleys loaded with radiation suits. There where technicians dotted about at computer screens. I spotted Hugo at one of them.

"Hey, Hugo!" I shouted. He spun round to face me.

"Shh! Keep it down, these people are trying to work."
He hurried over, looking unfamiliar in his lab coat.

"Right, come round to the back of the reaction chamber. We’ve got a stack of biscuit cases hiding the particle cannon. It’s not firing this afternoon; we already have the results we need."

"Particle cannon?"

"Yes. Not a ray gun or anything. Just a particle accelerator we use to bombard the diamonds with radiation."

"What? Why?"

"Come and see!"

I followed him round to the far side of the central chamber. A large cluster of pipes and cables snaked out of the floor and plugged into the rear of the chamber. It looked pretty dangerous, to tell you the truth – not the sort of thing you would want to hit too hard, really. A black spear of rock glinted amongst the pipes. It seemed to be made of dark stone. I peered closer.

"Don’t get too close to that!" Hugo yelled, pulling me back "That’s the obsidian center support."


"Not important right now. Anyway, yes. Take a seat."

I pulled up a few of the biscuit boxes that were scattered half-heartedly over the pipes. I recognised my Quancrumb logo on them.

"Mind if I open one?" I asked.

"Go for it…" said Hugo absently, and took a clipboard from a technician. I pulled a packet out of the box, and took a bite on a biscuit. Pretty tasty, though a little too familiar. Hugo drew himself up.

"Dan, I’ve been looking into the THC diamonds. They have quite enormous potential. Originally, this project was to look into high energy particle effects on the human consciousness. A bit revolutionary really, but it was a wild stab in the dark. We didn’t have much success – we fried all of the synthetic brains we practiced on. Then we found the diamond. On a hunch, I hit that with the big energy, just to see what would happen. No visible effect. But then I tested the diamond on a human subject."
"That was really dangerous, wasn’t it?"

"Yes, but he wouldn’t have been missed. Anyway, the point is, he didn’t die, far from it. He experienced an extended trance like state. During which, he assumed the personality of a 13th Century peasant from France. He was bewildered at first, but luckily one of the lab assistants had an A-level in French. He was able to get a conversation going, even though the languages were centuries apart. Turns out he had been killed by an English knight and woken up here. Lo and behold, we were channeling the dead. The French guy lasted for a few hours before he faded. The subject was dazed but otherwise completely unaffected."

"Channeling the dead has become quite a hobby for you, really, hasn’t it?"

"This was just through consuming altered state tetrahydrocanabinol clusters. Pretty cool, eh?"

"How the hell did you do this? All though, I have to say I’m not totally surprised.

"I don’t fully understand it myself. None of us do. It seems like the THC slightly increases the speed of your metabolism."

"I could have told you that. It’s one of the effects of cannabis, isn’t it?"

"Oh yes. But this is something special – the concentration of the stuff plays havoc with a body’s sense of relative time. So much havoc, in fact, that we can send someone’s relative time to an era before they were born. Neat, eh?"

"If you like that sort of thing. So where is all of this going?"

He grinned.

"We can regulate the radiation that affects the diamonds. It’s possible to, er, ‘tune in’ to a desired personality, and call up the spirits of anyone we want. In time, we can get the frequency for anyone in human history. Imagine the knowledge we could gain! We could even go public with this. We could make a fortune!"

"I think we should keep it under wraps for now." I said hurriedly. Hugo was tapping into some very weird stuff, and I didn’t want to alarm the good public. Hugo sighed.

"Maybe you’re right. We can tune the diamonds in to affect people’s short-term memories. We can make them temporarily re-live the best moments of their lives. Imagine the high from that! When they revert to reality, they’ll have a warm glow that will last the whole day. Dust down your stock with one of my brand new THC diamonds and watch people gobble them down. The positive effects will shift the biscuits."

"I’ll need to look into that. If it goes wrong, it could be dangerous."

"Sure, we’ll send you some samples. Keep them separate from your factory stock until you’re happy with the results. So, what do you think?"

"You’ve been busy. Where did you learn about particle science?"

"Oh, I’ve picked up a little since working here. There are people like Doctor Tsuki to take care of the complicated stuff."

"Right." I said. I looked around the lab. It seemed quiet at the moment. As my badge was still white, there was no radiation leakage. I relaxed a little. Hugo’s labs had been a blank spot in my mental map of my factory until now. It was quite impressive in here, despite the odd boxes of biscuits around.

Hugo smiled at in a faintly predatory way.

"Of course… nothing’s better than a demonstration."

I nodded carefully.

"Of the biscuits?"

"Of course. Would you like to see?"

This raised some interesting possibilities.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, we could summon up a historical figure right now for you, if you’d like."

"If you’re sure its safe…"

"Of course."

Hugo turned to face the doctor, who was working silently at a computer.

"Tsuki, have we got a test subject ready?"

She looked up and gave him a disapproving look.

"Hugo, you know the rules. One test a day. If we do today’s test now, we’ll be six hours ahead of schedule."

"Yes, but that’s not a problem is it?" he pleaded.

"We can do it now if you want, but we’ll need to get everyone back here. Might take half an hour to set up."

He strolled over to her, and draped an arm over her shoulder.

"Look, Doc, can we just make it happen? We’ve got time to wait. Sod the schedule."

She sighed, and walked off to set up. Hugo grinned at me.

"I love being in charge of this place. You can run the whole show!"

Activity increased in the lab as they prepared. I watched as several technicians clustered round the back of the central chamber. A dull throbbing noise began to grow louder, and the atmosphere became tense. Hugo beamed at the scurrying workers and led me over to the window in the front of the chamber.

"This bit is really special. Hey, you!" he lunged at a passing scientist. He was a young man, in his twenties with long brown hair.

"Y-yes sir?" he stammered.

"Me and my buddy here want to see the refinement sensors. Can you let him pick a target?"

I frowned.

"What does that mean?"

"You choose a… err… soul to target. Anyone you want."
The young scientist in front of us started clicking his pen nervously.

"Sir, you do know there’s already a selection made for today. The cannon is already set for a certain frequency."

"I know, but you can do it another day. Dan here helped get this company on its feet, and I think the least we can do for him is let him play around with the lab equipment."
I was led to a computer terminal opposite the viewing window, and recognized the system immediately.

"Hey, this is the computer network that the rest of the building's on!" I exclaimed.

Hugo nodded. "Of course. I wanted it made easy, so I could operate this thing."

The scientist that was using the terminal before us spoke up.

"Yes, this is the same basic system, but it’s on a separate router from the rest of the building. It’s astonishingly inefficient for our needs, but Mr. Knight here insisted that it be at a level he could personally use."

"Oh, did he now?" I said, and turned to Hugo.

"Hey, you get access too!" he countered "And it’s not connected to anywhere outside the lab. So it can’t fall into the wrong hands."

"Actually, there’s only one external access from this lab system, and that goes to the – "
"Shut up." interrupted Hugo swiftly "Dan, check this out."
He brought up a large blank window on the screen.

"This is the signal space. This is where we can feed the soul frequency we want to the particle cannon." He brought up a drag down menu, and pointed at the list of options.

"This is the time period. We can hazard guesses, but most of our data on this part is made up from our own test results. We’ve tried over thirty people so far, ranging from 200 BC to the 17th Century AD. We think. It’s a bit difficult to tell, but some of our later results have been almost civilized by today’s standards. We’ve yet to draw in a soul that spoke a modern dialect of any language."

I stared at the screen.

"So what do I do? Do you have lists of names in this thing?"

"Only a few, from what data we’ve gathered. We’ve got historical consultants about this sort of thing, so we have a rough idea where they’re from."

I read down the list. This was pretty cool – I could choose a figure from the past to summon. The options were limited though – with every human who had ever lived in here, getting one that was near enough to our time so we could understand them would be tricky. I tried the 18th Century. There were two names, ‘Joseph Klein’ and ‘Tarka’. Hugo leant over my shoulder.

"Klein is a banker from Prague. And Tarka is an Eskimo."

"An Eskimo?"

"Yeah, of all the random people we could have got, we got an Inuit from the North Pole. Pretty spanky, eh?"

"What’s Klein like?"

"Not a good subject. We couldn’t speak to him much; he didn’t know any modern European language. We got his name and his hometown, and that’s about it. Eventually we’ll come up with a way of choosing location, too."

"So until then, it’s a bit random?"

"Sorry. Still pretty good though, for all its limitations."

I looked under '19th Century'. There were no names, but there was a heading labeled 'Search'.

I clicked on it, and the screen went black. In the center of the screen two green arrows appeared, facing opposite directions. I clicked on one, and a green bar began to grow across the bottom of the screen.

"That’s it. It’s just tracking down a likely soul frequency now. We won’t know for sure, but it usually catches a good signal."

A number appeared on the screen: 854290.21

"Right, click on that, and it will load it into the signal space."

I did so, and the screen was filled with a shifting mass of white and blue colors.

"What is that?"

"That’s a visual manifestation of the soul signal. I thought it looked quite pretty, and better than a string of numbers."

"Fine. What do I do now?"

"Well, the particle cannon can read whatever is in the signal space. We copy the pattern to that, and fire away."

It took a few seconds for the cannon crew to shout that they were ready. Hugo pulled me back to the wall.

"Best stay away from the chamber. It should be perfectly safe, but jut in case…"

The throbbing hum in the walls and floor reached a crescendo and the chamber was filled with light. I saw the outlines of the THC diamonds briefly against the flare, and then the chamber whited out. I blinked, and the whiteness faded. The center of the lead-lined chamber seemed exactly the same as before.

"Did it work?" I asked, but Hugo shushed me.

It certainly did work. I watched as they scraped a tiny dusting of crystals from the THC diamonds, and sprinkling them on the surface of one of our biscuits. A pale looking man in a tracksuit came in, and sat down. He was wringing his hands nervously and looked a bit frightened.

"This won’t hurt, right?" he said.

"It’s safe, don’t worry…" I reassured him, as Dr. Tsuki handed him the biscuit. He munched thoughtfully on it.

"Mmm. Quite nice. Is that it then? Can I have my fifty quid now?"

"Just wait a second, my friend…" said Hugo smugly.

The test subject went pale, and his jaw dropped open.

"Mwaaa…" he quacked, and his head lolled back. I saw his eyes close and his lips move as if he were whispering. Then he opened his eyes again, and sat forward.

"What’s going on then, eh?" he said in a perfect Cockney accent. Hugo knelt in front of him.

"Hello. Can you understand me?"

"Of course, guv. What ‘ave you summoned me here for?"

Hugo spun round.

"Hah! We got someone we can speak freely with. We can do it! Tell me, what’s your name?"

The man reclined at a jaunty angle.

"Roger Burrick, guv. And yourself?"

"You can call me Hugo, Rog. So, where are you from? What year were you born in?"

"1891, me good sir. I ‘ad a good life, right up until I got hit by a car in 1928. Fought in the war, came back to Blighty, what happens? Hit by a bloody car."

"Yes, well, my commiserations. We’ve got a few more questions we’d like to…"

"Hang on!" I said "Can I talk to him?"

"Who’s this young rapscallion, then eh?" Burrick said.

"I’m Dan. Look, can I ask you something? You’ve died and been summoned back here. You’ve actually been to the afterlife. You must know loads of – "

"Hold your horses, mate. I can’t remember anything after my death. This is just my memories and experience in another body. My actual soul is beyond the comprehension of anybody on this planet."

"So you won’t tell me anything?"

"I told you, I don’t know, guv. You can’t talk about my earthly self and spiritual self in the same way. All you get access to is what I knew when I was alive."

I shrugged.

"Well, that’s no good. Have you done anything exciting in your life?"

"Oh sure, mate, sure, but I ain’t done anything that you smart gentlemen would find interesting."

I turned to Hugo.

"Can you not get any important people? Nelson, Winston Churchill, even Genghis Khan would do."

"It’s so difficult to pluck one person from the multitude in the past, Dan. We’re lucky we can even get a few people. Though, with time, we’ll be able to get a better understanding of the process, and maybe work on a way of refining it."

Roger Burrick sat there calmly.

"Do you want me here for any particular purpose?"

"Oh, these guys will study you for a bit…" said Hugo, gesturing to the advancing crowd of researchers. They closed in on the poor man as we walked away. An interesting experiment, but it looked like Hugo was a little way off anything useful.

"On a lighter note…" Hugo continued "We’ve got us a new house to hunt. Dave can meet us at the first property after we’ve had a drink or two. Shall we?"

He waltzed off. I took a last look around this room. It seemed fairly innocuous. I would want to check the results from some further tests before I would rest easy. Had Hugo come up with a revolutionary discovery, or was he going to simply imperil the public in a way they couldn’t imagine? These things tended to get way out of hand so quickly these days. Something sat uneasy with me about the whole process. Sure, revolutionary, and it seemed perfectly safe. No reason to go to the authorities or anything… right?


Phill Murray says
I've been writing purely for fun for years, and have only recently decided to submit any work to the critical eye of the public. 'Soul Searching' is adapted from part of my (as yet) unpublished novel, 'Bought & Souled' ...

E-mail: tackygod@aol.com

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