Josie could not believe her ears. Could it all be true? Is this man a lunatic? … she thought. But she couldn’t think of any other interpretation for what she had just experienced. She tried to come to her senses.
“So my whole life…was not real?” she asked, her voice was shaking.
“Is there anything real in this world, Josie?” the professor asked. “We are always surrounded by fake people, fake friends, fake love. We are all fake. The whole world is fake. Nothing’s real in this world. Your perception is your reality, my dear.”
Josie was in too much of a shock to make complete sense out of it.
“How… how long have I been in here?” she asked.
“A few hours…” he replied. “Time alters between realties. You spent more than 21 years there, but here it’s just a few hours.”
A few hours?… she thought. Is that even possible?
Just at that moment, Josie felt a little dizziness. She took a deep breath and tried to stay clear-headed.
“But… But why didn’t you just…kill me?” she questioned. “Why go this far?”
Professor Williamson sighed. “Because Josie, you mean a lot to someone who means everything to me.”
“What?” she called out in surprise. “Who?”
“My daughter Ellyse.…” he replied. “Ellyse Williamson.”
“You’re Ellyse’s father?” she gasped in horror.
“Yes Josie…” replied the professor. “I know we haven’t met in the real world, until now, but I saw how devastated she was when she heard that you got shot, and all these months she’s been worried about you. Killing you, would have broken her completely. I didn’t want to do it.”
She stared at the old man in disbelief. Is this all a dream? she wondered.
“So what are you going to do to me now?” she asked.
“Well…Although Eva did retrieve the memory of that night from your unconscious mind, you got detached from her before we could initiate the deletion process. Therefore we have to connect you again and erase it. Don’t worry Josie. We will erase every memory related to this incident too. You won’t remember any of this at all. Your life will go back to normal.”
“What?” she exclaimed. “Please…Please let me go,” she begged. “I won’t tell anyone.”
“I’m sorry Josie,” Professor Williamson objected. “We can’t let you go.”
Suddenly she felt that dizziness again. And this time it was much worse. Everything was starting to get blurred. She shook her head and tried to get rid of it, but it was all in vain.
“Wh…What’s happening?” she cried. “I….I can’t see…”
“It must be the sedative, Josie,” said the professor calmly. “We gave you a high dosage of Triazolam just before you got disconnected from Eva. It should work by now.”
But Josie didn’t hear any of it. She was already in a deep trance.
It was way past midnight. And the creatures appeared to be engaged in a conversation. There were five of them in the room. They had all gathered around a girl who seemed to be asleep on a bed. None of them had any distinguishable body parts. Each of them just appeared as a mass of vapor, concentrated in a small volume of space. They were floating a few feet above the floor. There were no voices, as the creatures didn’t appear to be communicating orally. Only a small amount of lateral movement in their upper body signified their talking.
Suddenly the girl opened her eyes. It was none other than Josie.
At first, she thought she was dead. She could not move her arms, her legs, or anything except her eyes. It was as if her whole body was petrified. Her mind felt empty, as if something had just escaped from it. She took a deep breath and tried to look around. And that’s when she saw the figures, five hazy figures, floating in her bedroom. None of them had a definite shape. They almost looked like…mist. White…and smoky.
She tried to scream, but she couldn’t open her mouth.
And then one of the figures moved. And suddenly she heard a voice…her voice.
“Do not fear, human. We mean you no harm,” her own voice told her.
What…What’s happening? she thought. Am I dreaming? …And where…where is that man? …That professor?
“You are not dreaming, human,” again she heard her own voice. “And that man is no longer a threat to you or us.”
It was evident that a particular creature was talking to her, but she could not understand how it possessed her voice.
“We do not converse verbally, like your kind, human. It is not a mode of communication in our dimension. If you want to communicate, just think what you want to say to us.”
She could not believe her senses. Did it just say that it talked through thoughts? she thought.
“Yes, that is correct.” In came the reply. “We communicate through our minds.”
“Who are you?” she asked. Well, she thought. “What are you doing here?”
“We are Rubrumians, the inhabitants of the planet Rubrum,” the creature replied. “The planet which, in your dimension, is identified as Mars. Tonight we came here to finish what we started.”
“Finish what you started?”
“Yes. We have been eliminating each and every person related to the infamous Project Zero.”
Project Zero…That name rang a bell. Suddenly a flood of thoughts entered her mind. Professor Williamson, Dr. Trent, Eva…Who were they? she barely remembered. Was that all a dream? she thought. Am I going crazy?
“You are not crazy, human,” said the creature. “And that was not a dream. What you experienced just now was a consequence of our minds connecting to yours.”
“What?” she asked in surprise.
“Allow me to explain,” replied the creature. “A few months ago a scientist named Williamson used Artificial Intelligence to access your unconscious mind. He had wanted to erase a memory that existed there. He did it successfully and erased all of your memories related to that incident. As a result, you totally forgot about it, and your life went back to normal. So tonight we came here to see how he did it. How he did it without your consent. We entered your mind and watched those erased memories. But as our minds were connected, you watched them too. So you were not dreaming. You were just watching your erased memories.”
Josie was utterly baffled. This has to be a dream, she thought.
“But…but if those memories were erased by him, how did you manage to watch them?” she challenged.
“Your technology cannot overcome the capabilities of our minds, human. We are much more advanced. We can manipulate your minds at will.”
She got an eerie feeling that it might be telling the truth. After all, it appeared that this creature could really read her thoughts.
“But why?” Josie asked. “Why do you want to eliminate everyone related to this project?”
“Because Project Zero is a potential threat to our existence,” replied the creature.
“Yes. A technique that allows humans to access their unconscious mind can make the human race evolve into a highly intelligent species. Your minds will be as advanced as our minds. We cannot let that happen. We cannot let you evolve beyond your current stage. Otherwise, you will become a threat to us.”
“What…What are you saying?”
“The truth, human,” the creature said. “I am telling the truth. Why do you think the man never went to the moon again? Because we made you not to. We have always watched you, your progression as a race. And we have always kept it under control. We have always eliminated concepts that could lead to technological advancements beyond our control. Besides, if we let you evolve beyond this point, you may not only become a threat to us but a threat to yourselves as well. Look at the destruction your kind has caused to your planet with the limited amount of technology you have. Day by day you are losing your ethics, your integrity, and whatnot. You might soon be extinct if we do not intervene. So consider this as a help to humankind.”
Josie was totally speechless. After all, it did make a lot of sense.
“So… what did you do to those scientists?” she asked. ”Those who were involved in Project Zero? Did you kill them?”
“No human, we didn’t,” the creature replied. “We wiped their memories related to the project and inserted false memories. They don’t remember anything about it now. They all have gone back to their normal life.”
Suddenly a disturbing thought crossed Josie’s mind. She realized the inevitable. It was all clear.
“Is that…Is that what you are going to do to me as well?” she asked. “Wipe my memory?”
“Yes, human,” in came the reply. “All of your memories related to this meeting will be wiped from your mind. You will forget everything and we shall never meet again. Just go back to sleep. Everything will be fine.”
And just at that moment, Josie felt a tingling sensation in her head. And that was it.
4 weeks later…
Ding dong….The doorbell rang.
It was Thanksgiving Day. And Josie knew exactly who was at the door.
“Ellyse! Hi!” she squealed with delight, opening the door. She gave a hug to the short blonde girl in front of her.
“Hi, Josie!” Ellyse squealed back. “It’s so good to see you again. Here, meet my parents,” she said, showing an elderly man and a woman behind her.
“Hello Josie, it’s so nice to finally meet you,” said the woman, giving her a hug. “Ellyse has told us a lot about you.”
“Nice to meet you too, Mrs. Williamson,” she hugged her back.
“And this… is my father,” Ellyse said. “Professor Ben Williamson, he used to work for DARPA, he’s been wanting to meet you for a long time.”
“Hello Josie,” the tall bald man smiled, shaking her hand.
“Hello, Professor Williamson,” Josie said. “Nice to meet you. I’m sorry… but what’s DARPA?”
“Oh, DARPA is a government agency,” replied the old man. “It stands for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. I worked there as a Cyber Security Consultant.”
“Oh, wow, cool…” Josie marveled. “Okay, come on in.”
They were thoroughly enjoying the supper when Josie’s father turned on the news. And what the reporter said, immediately caught everyone’s attention.
“…There has been a decrease in the sightings of Unidentified Flying Objects in the Massachusetts state, the locals say. During the period from March to May, there were as many as ten UFO sightings reported by the locals in the Massachusetts state and five in the Boston city alone. The frequency has then decreased significantly, with only two such cases reported in the entire state during the last two months. Some conspiracy theorists claim that these objects are extraterrestrial spacecraft, carrying Martians, while most people remain skeptical. Now we move on to the weather report…”
Josie’s father started laughing. “Do you believe this rubbish?” he asked, looking at Professor Williamson.
“No, absolutely not,” he replied. “NASA has landed four rovers on Mars but still hasn’t caught any Martians.”
“But what if that’s because they exist in another dimension?” Ellyse asked suddenly.
“Huh?” asked her father.
“Come on dad… you know the physics. You know about the Many-Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, right? How it predicts the existence of alternate realities? So… what if they’re from one of them?”
“What do you mean?”
Ellyse took a deep breath. “Okay, I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time,” she said. “Consider the moment right before the origin of life in our solar system. What if it was in a condition similar to a superposition? What if there was an equal chance of life being originated here on Earth and, say, a planet like Mars? Then theoretically, at that superposition state, there would be life on both Earth and Mars, right? And something like a measurement could split the reality into two, with each branch consisting of one possible state. So, what if something like that actually happened? What if… in our reality there’s life on Earth but not on Mars, but in another reality, there’s life on Mars but not on Earth?”
Professor Williamson took a few seconds to grasp it all.
“So, are you saying… that the origin of life was… something like a macroscopic quantum phenomenon?” he asked curiously.
“Yes, exactly,” Ellyse replied. “And, if they are advanced enough to cross the realities, they should be able to come here, to Earth. Maybe that’s what they call as space travel.”
Josie tried to understand their conversation. She took a glance at others and realized that it was Greek for them too.
“Hmm. Interesting…” Professor Williamson said. “Very interesting. Josie, what do you think?” he turned towards Josie.
“I don’t know, professor,” she replied. “I’m not a physics major like Ellyse, but something tells me that she could be right…”
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