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Superposition: #1

By Kalila
Created: 11th December 2022 01:31:32 AM
11th December 2022 03:31:51 AM

  1. It’s an incredibly frigid evening. At least compared to what you’re used to. The breath from your mouth is vividly recreated by the sub-zero temperatures that had been hammering the West as of late. A few frozen droplets hung from your beard like ornaments on a tree. It would have been oddly fitting a month ago, but unfortunately for those who thrive off of free family meals, Christmas has come to pass. Which means, cold as it might be, the money needed to keep you fed wasn’t going to grow on trees.
  2.  
  3. Well technically, nothing is growing on trees right now; but that’s beside the point.
  4.  
  5. You hurriedly stroll along a concrete path that runs through the local University’s campus, the salt used to melt snow crunching loudly beneath your boots. The sun had set not too long ago, leaving you with an almost cinematic backdrop of manholes spewing steam and traffic lights reflecting off the sprawling ice-covered roads. Today was no day to be testing the bald tires on your shitty sedan, that’s for sure. You’ve been in one-too-many fender benders to know it’s a battle not worth fighting.
  6.  
  7. Approaching your destination, you pull the phone from your coat’s pocket and hold it awkwardly in the mitt covering your hand. You attempt to unlock its screen using a finger, but the gloves ensure that’s not happening any time soon. With an annoyed sigh, you resort to using your nose to open up the phone and navigate to your email app.
  8.  
  9. An email is pulled up that depicts the details of your outing. You glance down at the address provided in the email, then back up to the building you’re approaching. Yup, this seemed to be the right address. Odd, given the lights inside were completely off. Maybe you were late?
  10.  
  11. Rather than skim the email any further, you elect to test the building’s door. Thankfully, it opens right up. Relief washes over you as you hastily step inside and close the door behind. The building was heated, ridding you of that painful, frozen sharpness from the air outside.
  12.  
  13. As you’d predicted from the exterior view, the building was surprisingly dormant. Lights were shut off, chairs were tucked away, and a desk that read “reception” was empty with its computer completely removed. Or what you assume was a computer. All that occupies the desk now is a messy knot of chords and an outlined shadow of dust depicting what once sat there. Interesting…
  14.  
  15. You bring your phone back into view and reread the email.
  16.  
  17. Trial Scheduled for 5:30pm
  18.  
  19. Nope. Almost perfectly on time. Maybe they typed the wrong building name or something?
  20.  
  21. Before you’re able to scroll through the email for a number to call, there’s a shuffling in a dark hallway from beyond the reception desk. Looking up from your phone’s screen reveals the silhouette of a man walking toward you. The figure waddles in such a way that tells you this man is far from his younger years. Not to mention the obvious cane held in his leftmost hand to keep him upright.
  22.  
  23. “Hello?” you call out.
  24.  
  25. “Good evening,” the man in the hallway responds. “Apologies for the aesthetic, we’re amidst a renovation.”
  26.  
  27. His voice is calm and sincere. Enough to quell the fear you’d otherwise be feeling from such an unordinary setting. As he closes the distance between you both, you can make out more of his features. Wrinkles and bruises, coupled with a limp that makes sense of the cane held tightly in his grip, provided you with an almost textbook display of an exhausted old man.
  28.  
  29. “I’m assuming you’re here for the 5:30pm trial?” the older man questions.
  30.  
  31. “Yes, sir,” you answer. “I was worried for a moment, though! Haha. Looks a bit like a horror movie in here.”
  32.  
  33. The older man chuckles, finally reaching you in the lobby. His free hand extends in a request to shake yours.
  34.  
  35. “Doctor Kvan. You must be Adam?”
  36.  
  37. You grip his hand lightly and oblige. The man has to be at least a foot shorter than you, but that wasn’t terribly uncommon being six-four yourself. Brittle would accurately describe him, but the expression on face was a lot more fierce than the meat on his bones. His voice wore a defining lisp, but it wasn’t indicative of any sort of impediment. Just a subtle characteristic of someone who already looked much like a character himself.
  38.  
  39. “Yes, sir. In the flesh.”
  40.  
  41. “Wonderful. Please, follow me to the back and we’ll get everything squared away.”
  42.  
  43. You nod and trail behind as he leads the way. His slow waddles are enough to throw you off for a few steps, your strides being much larger and all.
  44.  
  45. It only takes about three and a half decades, but you’ve soon made it to an office tucked away in the building’s corner. It was sizable. Fitting for someone with this level of prestige. Or so you assume. You weren’t terribly well versed on the entitlements of an esteemed researcher with tenure.
  46.  
  47. You scan the room as you make your way toward a chair he’d gestured for you to sit in. Surrounding you on all sides were books upon books upon books. Except for a portion of the wall located behind his desk that was reserved for framed academic documents and achievements. You’d seen little personal libraries and studies before, but something about this one bombarded you with endless stimulation. This man was definitely one of his craft.
  48.  
  49. As you sit down, he offers you some of the expected formalities. You’re not a picky person, so you decline his offer to grab you a drink or readjust your chair. An accommodating man, this one.
  50.  
  51. Eventually he seats himself at his desk, face-to-face with you while he pulls out a clipboard and a pen. There’s a small nameplate in-between the two of you that reads “Dr. Thomas Kvan”.
  52.  
  53. “I’m going to assume you signed the waiver we sent over email?” he asks, clicking the end of his pen with a thumb.
  54.  
  55. “Yep!” you answer looking away from the trinkets on his desk and back up at him.
  56.  
  57. “Good,” he nods. “So, Adam. Can you tell me a little bit about who you are, what you do? A simple summary is fine.”
  58.  
  59. And a simple summary is exactly what he gets. You tell him about your obsession with film, your degree in communication, some favorite foods and activities, and your love of the outdoors. While he’d pulled out his notepad to seemingly take notes, he just stares on, listening intently while the pen rests motionless in his palm. Perhaps he was just offering you more small talk, or maybe it was part of the trial? You admittedly only skimmed the waiver, so you weren’t entirely sure what to expect. Having done this quite a few times before, though, you knew that these psychology studies were often snooze-fests.
  60.  
  61. “It sounds like you have quite a fulfilling life, Adam,” he offers with a genuine smile.
  62.  
  63. You shrug.
  64.  
  65. “Yeah, it’s been nice. A little difficult lately, though. Given the economy and where the world is headed. That’s why I’m here doing this and not at a job,” you chuckle dismissively. It wasn’t good money, sure, but trials were always an easy way to earn enough cash to cover a meal or two.
  66.  
  67. “Well, either way, thank you for taking the time.”
  68.  
  69. Dr. Kvan adjusts himself a little in his chair, leaning forward to position the pen in his hands close to the notepad. He then looks back at you.
  70.  
  71. “What’s your favorite color palette?”
  72.  
  73. Color palette? You hate to admit you’re a little confused by the question. Mostly you’re just embarrassed that you can’t remember exactly what a palette is.
  74.  
  75. “Hmm.. Color palette,” you pretend to ponder.
  76.  
  77.  
  78. “You do know what a color palette is, yes?” he quizzes.
  79.  
  80. “Uhh, yeah. Like… one of those things an artist uses to hold all their paint?”
  81.  
  82. “Well… yes and no. Think of it as colors that contrast each other well. You know, like a sunset. The pinks, oranges, and blues that swirl together to create something beautiful.”
  83.  
  84. You rub the hairs on your chin in thought. Memories of colored fan decks from Home Depot come to mind, but you have no clue which colors are meant to work well together. What a strange question.
  85.  
  86. “I uh… I like the night sky? So like, dark blue and… more… blue?
  87.  
  88. The doctor snorts.
  89.  
  90. “What about snow and ice? The light blues and whites?” he suggests.
  91.  
  92. “Yeah, I mean, I like snow,” you answer lamely.
  93.  
  94. He seems to take great interest in your response, despite it being fabulously uninteresting, jotting it down quickly in his notes.
  95.  
  96. So he wants to remember that you like the color of snow, but he doesn’t need to remember that whole life summary you gave him? Okay?
  97.  
  98. This back and forth of arbitrary questions continues for the better part of fifteen-ish minutes. You stopped keeping track of how diverse the questions were and just began answering them mindlessly. At one point you think he asked you about your relationship with your parents, which elicited some pretty sour emotions. It’s funny because right after that, he asked you what your favorite fruit was. This better have an interesting pay-off because it started to feel like you were providing words for a round of mad-libs.
  99.  
  100. Despite the increased momentum of conversation, he abruptly ceases his question asking to flip through his notes. The sudden silence is heavy, especially considering you have no idea what prompted it. One moment you were answering questions and the next you were staring awkwardly as the man worked as if you weren’t there. You nervously pat your legs with your hands in an attempt to diffuse some of the tension, but it doesn’t help.
  101.  
  102. “You know, I took some psychology in college myself,” you blurt out, trying to rid the wordlessness with some conversation.
  103.  
  104. "You did now?" the doctor asks, still fixated on his notes.
  105.  
  106. "Yeah. I mean, not a whole lot, but I was always fascinated.”
  107.  
  108. "Well not as fascinated as me, I'm afraid," the doctor looks up, smiling gently. "I don't know if you can tell but, I've wasted some years on this silly subject.”
  109.  
  110. "You got me there."
  111.  
  112. The doctor tilts his head inquisitively, his eyes still focused on your own.
  113.  
  114. “Did you ever learn about the Milgram Experiments?"
  115.  
  116. "Milgram... Milgram.." you murmur under your breath. "I can't say I ever did."
  117.  
  118. The doctor takes off his glasses, resting them gently atop his notepad
  119.  
  120. "Ah, well. This was far before our time. Considered very unethical, but it did rattle our understanding of the brain."
  121.  
  122. You raise a brow.
  123.  
  124. "You see, after the second world war, many questioned the authenticity of claims that Nazi conspirators could be commanded to perform the miserable things they did. No person could simply be told to do something so unfathomably evil... Or could they?"
  125.  
  126. "Waaaiiit" you respond. "I think I do remember this. Was this the one where people pushed the button or something, and someone in another room screamed?"
  127.  
  128. The doctor's gentle smile returns.
  129.  
  130. "Very good. Men, like yourself, were chosen to partake in a study that would test their response to authority. There were three individuals involved in the process," he continues.
  131.  
  132. As he speaks, he slowly maneuvers his frail body to stand from his chair, reaching for the cane he’d set aside when he sat down.
  133.  
  134. "The participant, the learner, and the experimenter. The experimenter was dressed to seem like an authority figure, often sporting a lab-coat.”
  135.  
  136. After rising to his feet, the doctor carefully waddles himself over to a shelf that was littered with cables and circuit boards. From the jumbled pile he pulls out a device no larger than a shoe box, configuring its dials and rearranging some cabling while he lectured.
  137.  
  138. "The experimenter would instruct the participant to push a button that would shock the 'learner' every time they answered a question incorrectly. Now, the learner was just an actor and was not harmed, but the participant did not know this.”
  139.  
  140. Giving a satisfied nod with the device in his hands, he turns his attention to you.
  141.  
  142. "For every incorrect question, the voltage would increase until seemingly reaching lethal levels," he moves toward you and sits down in the adjacent chair at your side. Turning your head to maintain eye contact at this angle is a tad troublesome, but you manage.
  143.  
  144. "Over half of the men they tested allowed the learner to die by their own volition," he sighs. "Proving that obedience, even in such horrifying circumstances, is a trait that comes naturally to those influenced by authority."
  145.  
  146. You remain quiet for a second, not expecting the doctor to have gone into such detail.
  147.  
  148. "Anyway," the doctor asserts, dismissing his little ramble. "Are you ready to begin the next part of the trial?"
  149.  
  150. "Oh, uh, yeah!" you answer. "Is this like the virtual- or alternate reality part of it or something?"
  151.  
  152. "Correct. May I see the back of your neck."
  153.  
  154. You crane your neck to give the doctor easy access. Everything about this trial seems a bit unusual, but you chalk it up to him being old and his brain being a little less sharp than it perhaps once was. The doctor begins to shakily wipe the area down with an alcohol pad.
  155.  
  156. "Whoa, hah. That's cold," you sputter nervously. "Just disinfecting everything for the headset?"
  157.  
  158. "We use a different type of hardware here. You did read the waiver, yes?"
  159.  
  160. "Ye- well. I mean I skimmed through it."
  161.  
  162. "No worries, dear. Close your eyes and just relax."
  163.  
  164. You nod. Following his guidance, you take a deep breath and close your eyes. The action rewards you with some temporary relief. The calmness is short lived, though, as a sharp pain in the back of your neck reels your attention right back to him.
  165.  
  166. "Ow!" you shout, jerking away.
  167.  
  168. What in the fuck was that? It felt like a bee-sting on steroids! Did he.. stab you? It takes a second to notice the collection of needles in his palm, but once you do, panic rears its ugly head. The warm, fuzzy feeling of life-ending fear clouds your thoughts and adrenaline quickly follows. You were absolutely terrified of needles, and those he held were some of the most intimidating you’ve ever seen. Nothing in the waiver mentioned anything about being pricked!
  169.  
  170. As you feel a panic attack bubbling to life in your chest, you move forward at lightning speed to raise yourself from the chair. Before you have any semblance of balance, though, a numbing *zap* travels down your spine and you fall limp to the floor. The 'thud' of impact is meaty as your head crashes against the hardwood.
  171.  
  172. “Oh, goodness. I’m so sorry,” the doctor apologizes. “That part usually frightens people but they don’t often fall. Here…”
  173.  
  174. He leans down to place a throw-pillow beneath your head. You do everything you can to try and protest, but nothing in your body will respond. All you can manage are strained breaths and wildly flicking your eyes around like a tranquilized animal.
  175.  
  176. That’s when you notice it…
  177.  
  178. Attached to your neck was a cable. It ran along the floor connecting to the shoe-box-sized device he’d carted over just moments earlier.
  179.  
  180. "Deep breaths, okay? This will go by quickly," the doctor gently reassures as he attaches a wire to his own neck. Except, from the look of it, his neck already has what looks like a cable-port in the back of it. What in the year 3000 star trek cyborg shit is this??
  181.  
  182. The doctor then hovers a hand over a large green button on the device.
  183.  
  184. "Unlike Milgram, though," he continues with his earlier tangent while you lie there paralyzed, heart racing. "I don't send my participants home traumatized."
  185.  
  186. He then presses the button and the world around you fades in an instant. All that greets you is a lifeless void of pitch black nothingness.
  187.  
  188. That is, until you dart awake, eyes wide open and completely out of breath. You gasp desperately, trying to fill your empty lungs with something, anything. The pinging in your head is still there, like a migraine on crack, and your vision is so blurred you might as well be blind. Worried that there could be something constricting your access to air, you grab at your throat. Rather than being met with your digits, though, a firm thud smacks right into the spot you meant to examine; ironically causing you to cough and gag even more.
  189.  
  190. Having the wind knocked out of you alongside the sharp pang in your throat is enough to convince you that this is how you’re going to die. There’s nothing you can do to pacify your mindless panic and it seems to only be getting worse. Is this it, then? Is this your body tossing in the towel? You always hoped death would be a little more peaceful…
  191.  
  192. As you cough and hack and cry and heave, your vision experiences a small moment of clarity that absolutely shocks you into a statue-like stillness.
  193.  
  194. The room you're in… your surroundings… None of it is recognizable to you. Wherever you were before this… well, you’re not there anymore.

Superposition: #2

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Superposition: #1

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Superposition: Introduction

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YLC: Chapter 2

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Your Local Clinic: Chapter 1

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