Within For Forever
Dec. 05, 2023.
10 min. read. Interactions
Explore a dystopian future shaped by Neuralink. A fictional philosopher, Teddy Heart, confronts an unexpected apocalypse. Join Mindplex Community's debut sci-fi odyssey, where reality blurs, and survival takes unforeseen turns.
As the needle entered the middle of my back and into my spine, I felt my legs go numb instantly. I knew at that moment I was paralyzed from the waist down. Half a millimetre to the left, and I would have been fine. I was now a smudge on their, up-to-now, unblemished statistical record of patients without complications. My exhaled groan gave this away to the specialist, signalling that something was wrong. You could feel the anxiety in the room spread as they spoke among themselves, just out of reach of understanding but close enough to hear how it was being said. That’s when the panic set in.
A robotic nurse walked over and said, “We are working on it, but if we do not get you inside this MRI machine, you will be dead in the next few days either way.” I replied, “As quick as you can, please, do whatever needs to be done.” I had heard that this treatment was curing quadriplegia, so I put the thoughts of never walking again to the back of my mind. If this implant had not been inserted into my brain today, I would have died of the neurological complications I had been struggling with for so many years.
The machine started up and slid me in. I could feel a slight pressure at the back of my head, where the incision was being made to insert the chip. However, this life-transforming technology did not come without its negative consequences. As amazing as this chip was and could change your life in ways that were once only dreams, there was one scenario that had not been thought through yet, as I was about to soon find out.
This was the latest update to Neuralink, and being that it’s the year 2035, I strangely felt a calmness that I’d be OK. I was just given an extra dose of morphine, so the self-soothing delusion of the drug could have been what was speaking.
The telecom went off, and a voice said, “Well done, almost finished. Stay as still as you can and hold your breath for 5 seconds. Five, four, three, two, then bang! That’s when it hit. A sudden earth-shattering jolt with no warning. The sound of the floor and walls cracking and the ceiling collapsing all around. It was so fast that I had no idea what had happened. Was it a bomb? An earthquake? What just happened? All I could hear was screaming and what seemed to be a series of large explosions. As the floor began to stop moving, an eerie silence fell as the dust filled up the air, making it difficult to see and breathe.
I lay there for a second before trying to say something, anything, “Is everyone OK?” But could not get a sound out. I realized the giant needle was still in my back. It had not been removed, as they thought removing it would cause more damage and was likely to heal itself after the implant. I managed to pull my arms under my stomach, not to lift, but enough room to turn my head. If I was not already in trouble, this was now the worst-case scenario apart from death, and that felt unfair that I remained alive in my current condition. I was trapped by the weight of the building collapsing onto the MRI machine, crushing me from the waist down, with the needle still lodged in my back and my legs completely crushed by three stories of falling debris. Somehow, I was still alive. Fear had not kicked in yet, and I was in complete shock. Not the shock most people understand. I mean an emotional paralysis shock on top of just being paralyzed. However, the real fear was only just getting ready to set in.
I have not mentioned why I was getting this Neuralink implant. My name is Dr. Teddy Heart, a 37-year-old Philosophy professor. I recently had my first book published, “To Think a Way Out.” A New York Times bestseller that delved into the meaning of life while developing new tools and innovative insights into how the human mind solves complex problems. It was the culmination of my life’s work and earned me the distinction of being voted one of the top ten most influential thinkers of our time. However, I was not simply thinking my way out of this one.
I had recently been struck down by a mysterious neurological condition which was worsening with each passing day. These symptoms made me an ideal candidate for the first human trial in the pursuit of immortality. AI breakthroughs were happening faster than anyone had imagined, with countless new scientific discoveries daily. The Singularity, once debated among leading AI scientists, had arrived and with unexpected consequences, both good and bad.
Now the fear began to kick in. I was in an undisclosed location in the Swiss Alps, inside one of the 20,000 bunkers and fallout shelters built during the Cold War. This one may be the most privately owned and secretive for the scientific reasons mentioned. The general population was at least ten years behind even hearing about what was being done up here, let alone knowing. The entire facility was hit by a 7.9 earthquake, and we were right near its epicentre. An eerie silence filled the room, and daylight was beginning to glow, filtering through the thick smoke and dust as it began to settle.
I was half crushed, half exposed, and the only survivor. I did not know that I was the only one to survive, but it wouldn’t take me long to find this out. I was not in pain from being crushed as I had no feeling from the waist down and had the latest chip inserted, cutting the pain signals from the brain while surgery was performed. My mind began to think and process at speeds it never could have dreamt of, and I was connected straight to the internet from a satellite connection. I could access live video feeds from anywhere around the world that were still functioning, and what I saw did not even register. We were hit by an asteroid that triggered nuclear facilities to launch responsive and reactive attacks towards their aimed targets. The world was obliterated and on fire. Everything was gone! The satellites that carried the connection to the backup internet had been triggered, and that is what I was connected to and had access to. I searched every part of the globe looking for life, but it was gone. Tsunamis, earthquakes, fires, and nuclear bombs all at the same time. Every disaster you could imagine had annihilated everything. Except me! How was this possible? I had just survived an extinction event!
All my panic and pain subsided as this chip flooded my brain with exactly the right chemicals for what was needed for any given situation. “Alleviating all human suffering” on almost every level and degree was in the latest Neuralink update, rejuvenating every organ when needed, keeping you healthy and living forever unless hit by a proverbial bus. You would never die! My perception and neurons in my brain fired at incredible speeds as they connected while, at the same time, being as calm as you could imagine. Trapped and half crushed with the X-ray-guided needle still lodged and broken off in the middle of my spine, with the new knowledge I would now live forever. It didn’t matter how cold, how hot, rain, hail, or scorching shine. I was now exposed to the elements on some half-collapsed mountain in the Swiss Alps with no help, fully awake with all emotions constantly updated and calibrated for the situation at hand. This new reality I found myself in was worse than what I thought the concept of hell could be.
I was emotionally fine and able to survive without the need to eat, but I would never be able to taste food again. I would never experience love, anger, jealousy, happiness, or any other human emotion except a flatline response to the situation in front of me at any given moment, and that was this one, and it would remain. I was trapped in an apocalyptic nightmare. Stuck between a paradox of terror and calm, able to feel both emotions simultaneously with no way of changing the emotional channel. This chip was not producing happiness but a constant survival alertness that I could not turn off. The latest update also gave me HD vision and surround sound that could be adjusted exactly how you wanted. Just before it had been placed in its perfect position, the vibrations of this event moved it just enough that I could still see and hear, but through an intermittent static interference. This alone is torture! Unable to turn it off, with the sound turned up too loud.
If anyone is reading this, if any life from a distant star or galaxy finds this story version of an SOS, I am on a planet called Earth, part of the Milky Way Galaxy. Coordinates 46.5588° N, 8.5664° E, Switzerland. It’s been 1800 years since I wrote my first SOS and have heard nothing. We used to hear stories of UFOs and possible alien visitors, but it has been completely silent, not a single trace of life from any part of the galaxy. I remain the only living, breathing form of life it seems. Floating through the emptiness of space, with the knowledge I will live forever and unable to move from the position I’m in. If only I was on my back trapped and crushed, I could at least look up at the night sky and count the stars. I can’t even do that. My head to one of two sides or laying face down. There is only one satellite that is responsible for keeping this chip connected, and I’ll never reach it to turn it off. I remember learning that in roughly 5.5 billion years from when this event occurred, the Sun will begin to expand as it runs out of hydrogen, eventually vaporizing the Earth. Every day I look at the date and count down the days without fail. It’s the only thing that keeps me sane for now, knowing it will eventually end. It was the dream of science to live forever, now I almost will with 5.5 billion years to go. This was not part of the dream.
On that day it turned to night, the nights turned to weeks, turned to months, turned to years, and if you can imagine a film scene where the camera speeds up, quicker and quicker, and every speeding second is a year passed as the camera pans out further and further until I’m unseen. You are unable to see me by now yet I’m still here. Stuck, surviving, with no off switch, not as a robot or some soulless machine but as a human. Lying on my stomach face down or with my head turned to one side, unable to die.
In the 1,800 years I have been surviving, I did manage to solve one thing – the pressing question of the meaning of life. Now that I truly understand how profound it is, the irony of being a professor of philosophy and the last human survivor, with so much time to ponder the true meaning behind the question in this situation is beyond comprehension. Irony is an understatement. What I thought the meaning of life was and what it truly is, with so much hindsight and time to think, makes me feel intellectually small when I look back at my old self. My former understanding, of the subject I confidently taught and was so well-known for, was completely wrong. Now that I know what the true meaning is, I have no one to tell and no one to share it with.