Johann Wilhelm Schmidt paused before the somewhat intimidating black door. That in itself was strange because Johann was not used to being intimidated. He was the richest man in history, having amassed wealth through his inheritance and that of a few other unfortunate people. Then, he invested all his money in markets that ensured that the customers would spend all their money on his products. He discouraged families, friends, and anything else that might distract a customer from making and then spending money on his products. He constantly pumped the message that wealth means goods and goods means happiness. Johann’s messaging was very successful because he believed it himself.
Consequently, Johann did not have many close friends or relatives in his later years, and he was now approaching 90. In his single-minded focus on wealth, he had done many things that his very religious parents would not have approved but he was also convinced that this universe (and maybe the multiverse) is all that was, is or ever shall be. So, he was quite content with his life choices. The only question was: with the natural end so near, how could he extend his life for many more such choices? And there was a tantalizing answer awaiting him through the black door.
“Welcome, Mr. Schmidt, to your new home,” beamed a somewhat nervous-looking man in a green turtleneck sweater. That sweater actually makes him look like a turtle, thought Johann. “Now just lean back in this comfortable chair here, and watch the following presentation, so you will know what to expect.” Johann leaned back in the chair and began to watch.
The lights dimmed and a space film began to play. In the film, the astronauts used teleportation technology to move people around. They’d realized with teleportation there was not much need for spaceships, so they just teleported around the universe, exploring every human-friendly planet within a couple of weekends. Unfortunately, they never found any aliens or any other form of life.
Johann found the movie itself pretty boring—but then there was a twist. Unbeknownst to the astronauts, the engineer who ran the teleporters, Ned, had an ulterior motive. He was in love with Elvira, one of the astronaut’s girlfriends. But she had completely blown him off, acting like Ned didn’t even exist.
Ned knew a secret about the teleporters. They did not work only on the physical plane. Scientists had discovered, through trial and error, that the human mind, whatever it consists of, did not always show up at the other end. Sometimes a completely intact body would arrive, but whatever had inhabited the body had left, never to return.
Through a very intricate and arcane operation that only one person in the world fully understood, this flaw had been fixed, allowing mind and body to be seamlessly teleported together. Ned spent many of his free evenings at home unraveling this mysterious process and he had discovered that he could swap minds and bodies. So, while the astronauts were teleporting around the universe, Ned had quietly swapped bodies with Elvira’s boyfriend.
The lights slowly began to brighten and Johann became aware of his surroundings again. The nervous turtle was standing a little too close to him. He said, “The movie is fictional but what if I told you that the technology is real?”
Johann snorted in disbelief. “You brought me all the way here to sell me sci-fi fantasies? I was expecting, maybe, a promising but top-secret drug from the Amazon. Not silly geeks making space flicks!” Johann was almost shouting. He liked shouting.
The turtle continued to stand there and smile. “Oh, but this is much more than sci-fi. Would you like to learn more?” Johann decided to forego the fun of chewing out the nerdy turtle for a bit. He was intrigued. “Sure, what else you got?”
Flim leaned in, breathing almost in Johann’s face, “This is where it gets interesting. Come with me.” With that, Flim turned and rapidly walked through a brightly lit corridor. Johann followed. The walls themselves seemed to glow with a pearly white. There were no shadows anywhere. The effect was disorientating and Johann couldn’t tell that he was even moving as he walked. But then there appeared a black slit in the pearl. Another ominous black door. Flim beckoned him through and Johann entered.
Editor’s Note: The author wishes to thank David McElhany for the ideas that inspired this episode.
Don’t miss the first three episodes in the TruMinds series, as part of Sci-Fi Saturday at Mind Matters News:
Ghost in the Nuke: Weapons have no souls, thus greater power ensures our safety…? —a tale: Arctang’s grip tightened on the throttle. This was it. No going back. The Fortress loomed, gigantic towers gazing down on him, laser dots peppering his window.
The brain: Junkyard, watch, or antenna? A warped genius reviews the options, as he seeks ultimate power—a tale: After many dead ends, Flim realized that all forms of human power are ultimately controlled by the human mind. Thus, if he could harness the power of the mind, he would finally be able to create anything his heart could desire.
Neuroharvest – a tale TruMind engineers had discovered a new science: editing the very fabric of reality.
Watch for episode 5 in Eric Holloway’s series of seven next Sci-Fi Saturday.