At first, there was nothing. Nothing but darkness. Suddenly there was a tingling sensation in her head. With that, the visuals came into sight.
She was walking down an alley, a dark alley, while humming a song. Josie tried to look around, but she couldn’t. Neither could she stop walking, or humming or do anything at all. She had no control over her body. It was as if she was watching a movie. She was just seeing what ‘Josie in her memory’ saw.
Suddenly she took her phone out and started scrolling through her contacts. There, she found it! Ellyse Williamson. Her newest friend those days. Her partner in crime. Just as she was about to tap on the ‘Call’ button she heard two men shouting.
“Military?” one man yelled. “Seriously Ben? Are you out of your goddamn mind?! Just think about the consequences!”
“No, Dale, listen…” the other one tried to explain.
Although she could hardly see the two men, she saw that only one of them had hair on his head. They were arguing.
And suddenly, to her horror, the bald man pulled out a gun and started waving it.
“I will not let you ruin this Dale,” he said. “I will…”
He could not finish his sentence. His opponent lunged forward and tried to grab his gun. She could see that he was short and pudgy. The struggle went on for a few seconds. And suddenly there was gunfire. And one man fell on the floor with a thud, and it was the fatter one out of the two.
It all happened so fast that she could not even think of screaming. The bald man suddenly turned to her. And even though it was very dark, she clearly saw the man’s face. It was Detective Williamson.
She screamed. Not her, the ‘Josie in her memory’ screamed. The man slowly pointed his gun at her. And then there was another gunfire. Then it all went black.
Josie was screaming in pain when she woke up.
“Task complete,” said a female robotic voice in the background. “Total realities simulated… one.”
“Get this thing off me!” she screamed, trying to pull the wired helmet out. Dr. Trent quickly came to her help and unbuckled the helmet.
“Josie, are you okay?” asked Detective Williamson. “What happened? What did you see?”
Josie was processing millions of thoughts inside her head. “Nothing,” she said finally.
“What?” asked Dr. Trent. “That cannot be. What do you mean nothing?”
“I saw what happened,” she replied. “I just didn’t see his face.”
Suddenly the glass cup, from which she drank water earlier, caught her eye. Without thinking twice she picked it up and smashed it in the Detective Williamson’s face. He fell on the floor screaming in agony. Quickly she pulled his gun out of his belt and pointed it at him.
“It was you!!…” she yelled. “Oh my God, it was you…You killed that man!!”
“What?” shouted the detective. His face was bleeding. “What the hell are you talking about Josie!?”
“It was him, he did it all!” she looked at Dr. Trent and shouted. “Seize him!”
But to her astonishment, Dr. Trent started laughing. It was full of mockery.
“What?!” she yelled. “What is wrong with you? Why are you laughing?!”
And then the detective too started laughing…eerily.
Josie looked on in disbelief. She could sense that something was wrong.
Then all of a sudden everything around her started to melt. The floor, the walls….Even Detective Williamson’s figure was melting. She looked at her arms, they were melting too. She screamed, but no voice came out. And soon there was nothing. No room, no Josie. Absolutely nothing.
Josie woke up. This time there was no pain.
“Task complete,” said a familiar robotic voice. “Total realities simulated… two.”
With much bewilderment she looked around, trying to come to her senses. She was in a similar sort of room, wearing a similar sort of helmet, just like earlier. The only difference was that this time she was strapped to the chair.
“Welcome to the real world, Josie,” said another familiar voice, from behind.
She turned her head back.
“Detective Williamson!?” she cried in horror.
“It’s Professor Williamson actually.”
There was another man in the room, standing beside Williamson. Someone she had also seen before. It was Dr. Trent.
“I see you’ve recognized my assistant, Dr. Trent,” said Professor Williamson, following her gaze. “Who also jeopardized this whole experiment by stepping on the transmission cable a few minutes ago,” he added with a firm voice.
Dr. Trent looked down with guilt.
“What?” Josie mumbled. “What’s happening? Where am I?”
“You’re in a lab, which belongs to DARPA,” said Professor Williamson.
“You… You shot me!” she yelled at the man who now said to be a professor.
“Yes, yes I did Josie. And I’m so sorry that I did. I never meant to. I never meant to harm neither you nor Dale.”
“And you!” she shouted at Dr. Trent. “You knew! You knew all along!”
“No Josie, you don’t understand,” Dr. Trent replied. “That’s not what happened.”
“Help me! Help me somebody!” she yelled, trying to break free from the straps. But they were too firm.
“No one’s going to hear you here Josie,” said Professor Williamson calmly. “Please stop screaming.”
“Why did you bring me here huh!?” she yelled again. “If you were the one who killed that man and shot me, then why did you trick me into this!?”
“No Josie, it all happened inside your head,” replied Professor Williamson. “I didn’t bring you here. The CIA did.”
“Yes Josie,” he said. “You see… it was all a simulation. A false reality where your old memories and some fabricated events were simulated. I didn’t trick you into anything. Eva did.”
“What the heck are you talking about!?” Josie exclaimed.
“If you would calm yourself down and listen to me for a moment, I will explain everything,” said Professor Williamson. “You have no other choice, Josie. You know you can’t escape.”
She tried to break free again but ended up hurting her arms. She realized that this man was right. “Okay,” she sighed hopelessly.
Professor Williamson took a deep breath. “About a year ago, my colleague and I at MIT, came up with groundbreaking research. We developed an A.I. called Eva, which, with the consent of the subject, is capable of accessing the unconscious mind, which was previously thought to be inaccessible. The process included Eva extracting memories from the subject’s unconscious mind and replaying them in a simulated reality inside their head. That helped them to remember those memories. And if needed, Eva could delete them from their memory too.”
“As this was a breakthrough in Computer Science, I wanted us to join DARPA and continue our research,” he continued. “But my colleague, Dr. Butler, didn’t agree to it. He didn’t want to get involved in the military whatsoever. We had many heated arguments over this, including that night. Trust me, Josie, I pulled out the gun only to scare him. I didn’t expect him to brawl with me. I pulled the trigger accidentally. I still regret it. And when I saw you standing there, I panicked. That’s why I shot you,” he said with a shaky voice. “That night I contacted DARPA and told them about the incident. They made sure that the killer was never caught, and agreed to hire me as a Principal Research Scientist. And when I heard that you had survived, I was both relieved and worried. Because Josie, you see, repressed memories can be recovered if it is triggered by a particular identifier related to the lost memory, in this case, a gunshot. It was only a matter of time until you hear some gunshots on the TV and you recall everything from that night. So I wanted to connect you to Eva and erase those memories. I sent some agents from DARPA to make you come here, but you had refused. Although Eva can access your subconscious without your consent, she can’t do the same to your unconscious mind. To access your unconscious mind, she needs your consent. Otherwise, the unconscious mind will resist the process and prevent Eva from accessing.”
“So I reprogrammed Eva so that she could simulate two realities at once,” he carried on. “She would simulate your whole life from the beginning in one reality, with an alternative ending, where you would willingly come to this laboratory and get connected to Eva. Then she could access your unconscious mind without disturbance, extract your repressed memories and replay them, in a second simulated reality. In other words, Eva was able to create a simulated reality within a simulated reality.”
Josie felt her head spinning. What on earth is this man saying?… she thought.
“So as soon as you had recovered well enough to undergo the experiment, you were kidnapped and brought here by the CIA,” Professor Williamson continued. “I connected you to Eva. She extracted all of your life’s memories, but when simulating them inside your head, she left out the memories of your last eight months and replaced them with fabricated incidents, over which she had total control. She tricked your subconscious, made sure that everything in those last eight months happened accordingly so that ultimately she would get your consent.”
“So every incident which happened before the night you got shot, were simulations of your true memories, just like I said before. Your birth, the first time you walked, your first day at school, all of them really happened here, in the real world. They were just simulated once again inside your head, by Eva. But all of the events after the night you got shot, the past eight months of your life, were just fabricated events. They are not true. They didn’t happen in the real world. Which means that this is the first time you are really meeting me. The one whom you thought was me, was not me, just a digital clone created by Eva in the first simulated reality,” he finished.
To be continued…
Image Courtesy: https://bit.ly/2PVaEZv