THE ETERNAL DREAM by William Presley
Furious chants echoed through the room, growing louder and louder until my gaze was drawn away from the corpse and out of the ninth-storey window. “Beautiful thing to see the world’s religions united in hating us,” I chuckled. “I think every church, mosque, synagogue, and… whatever else… in the state is out there protesting.”
Dr. Gossamer looked up from his clipboard. “Can you blame them? They all bought a lottery ticket with their last twenty. We’re about to read the winning numbers.”
“I just can’t imagine lacking curiosity on such a grand scale.”
“Well, don’t expect them to be any more studious when they show up to your thesis defines next—” He interrupted himself, glancing at his stopwatch. “Charge? Charge, nurse? Let’s get the team in here, please. It’s been thirty minutes—time to bring him back.”
A crowd of people came rushing through the door as I looked to the stopwatch in my own hand. Our experiment was so carefully timed. Sixty minutes since this terminally ill man had been injected with the apoptotic inhibitor which preserved his brain by slowing its metabolism to a near-frozen state of existence. Thirty minutes since his heart had been stopped. Now, as the monitor before us fluttered to life, I set the stopwatch one final time. Five minutes. That’s all we had until the by-products of the drug wreaked their havoc—until the solubilization of membrane proteins caused the brain to disintegrate in a mass wave of cell lysis. The patient knew this, too. He’d known it ever since he invented the drug. But, true to his calling as a retired neurologist, he was determined to use even his last breath for the advancement of science.
A sudden gasp from the patient snapped me to attention. Body trembling, sweat drizzling into his wide eyes, he shot up and grabbed Dr. Gossamer’s arm. The professor jerked away, reaching for his notepad. “Jerry? Jerry? What happened? Tell me what you saw!”
The patient’s only response was to shake his head.
“Jerry! Please! Look—there’s a minute gone. You know the timetable we’re on! This is our one shot. Don’t let your work go to waste! There were ten minutes in between the time you died and the time the drug kicked in. I need to know what you saw in those ten minutes! What happens when we die?”
“The body—” he choked. “The body shuts down before the brain. You know you’re dead. The consciousness is trapped inside the corpse for at least three minutes. I could hear the timer. I could hear you all talking. The passwords you gave me were Columbus, Tallahassee, and Wichita.”
“Then after—then we—we…”
Dr. Gossamer was scribbling furiously. “Jerry, I’m begging you! Remember your work! Keep going!”
The patient just sat there, eyes even wider, face even paler.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
“This is your legacy, Jerry!”
“We—after consciousness fails, we revert to memory. We revert to the neural pathways that are the strongest. Trauma. Our worst moments are relived over and over and over and over and over…” By now, the poor man was shaking so hard that it looked like he might be having a seizure. “Time has no bearing in the mind. Even a minute is long enough for an eternal dream.”
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
The patient’s face began to droop as he fell back into the pillow. “God… god or not, gentleman,” he heaved, “we all go to hell. I’ll see you there.”
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.