Seven

Working Chapter 6 of my Is it for us alone? novel in progress

“I am speaking to myself father,” Anders had once hissed, “I have no interest in conversation – it is droll and exhausting to listen to the opinions of others and the mindless episodes of their lives.”

It was many years ago when Ander’s father had walked into the garage where Anders was studying to give him his lunch.  Anders had muttered something about the book he was reading being wrong and his father had advised him that, “Perhaps it is wrong son, but that is how our human race evolves – by constantly learning from and reviewing previous observations to form new ideas.”

Anders had taken offence on this occasion where his loving father had tried idle conversation with him.  His father had never really tried again and Anders was left in the peace and quiet of his own mind and studious solitude that he so very much enjoyed.

It is this that was his greatest fear surrounding his impending experiment.  The world around him was intent on falling apart and not allowing him to live out his life – this did not sit well with him.  It had only been since he saw the channel four news piece on the impending apocalypse that he decided on his current course of action.

You see, for the years after his father’s death, Anders had gained a vast interest in extending the life of his physical body, or failing that just his mind in some artificial body.  He was deep into his research by the time he heard of this apocalypse that had the potential to blow him off the face of the planet, and so he changed his tact slightly.  For those many years he had only focussed on extending his own life, but now he had to ensure that no one else was around to interfere with him.

At first, he even admitted to himself that he was unimaginative.  How to destroy was all he thought of – this only wasted time.  He spent a whole month considering chemical, biological and explosive destruction.  Even if he had the resources to build any of those types of weapons, he most certainly knew they would not work at destroying the entire population of the planet and still keep him alive.  Besides that they all posed a problem with the destruction of his food sources and all.

Unimaginative.  He detested that he was being overcome by something as base and irritating as a lack of imagination.  Surely his logical brain, with all of his vast intellect could devise some way to destroy his perceived enemies and extend his precious life without any consequences.  While he knew this was a problem he put it aside to refocus on extending his life – without that piece of the puzzle the other was useless to him.

So he set about experimenting, postulating and unknowingly plotting a worse fate for humanity than the Triumvirate could ever have done.  This was no thievery of ultimate power Anders was hurtling towards, but rather a consolidation that would both exemplify and destroy the single greatest facet of humanity – individuality.  He desired to live forever in deep solitude – further the goals of the self while destroying every other self.  Arguably, the very root word could cease to exist.

For worse, Anders devoted brain was able to devise a method for absorbing all of the knowledge within a person’s brain – essentially downloading the unique bits into his and discarding the rest – leaving the subject deceased.  This solved his first problem – namely destroying humanity but not himself.  Of course, his quest for immortality was unfulfilled, like so many other’s quests of the same nature, but he believed the combined knowledge of the entire world under his direction could in fact uncover an ingenious method to keep a body alive forever.

He had run many simulations by this point, but he needed to test it on a small sample.  He was certain that he could isolate their memories from his if he was unable to remain in control, but so as not to be overwhelmed he would start with a small sample rather than the entire human race.  This is where his great fear came into play – he was unsure if he would be able to handle the memories of others within his own brain.  What if, he thought, it was as if someone else was constantly speaking to you?

In the end he wrote this off as frail nonsense – they would merely be memories in his head, like pieces of information in a computer.  If he so desired he could access them, but otherwise he would simply store them.  He, Anders, was in charge and not the information.

With doubts duly destroyed, he began his experiment.  For whatever reason, he thought it best to try it on a group of sea dwellers and therefore set off to the nearby peninsula to await the sailors of the dusk.  His intention was to quickly absorb the rest of humanity if his experiment was successful.  It was vital that this worked lest he face death the way ordinary people were forced to – it was an altogether unappealing vision.

The equipment to affect the memory transfer was relatively lightweight and simple for its most complex of tasks.  A dish sent out a wave of energy which collected the memories from the targets and then found their way back to the helmet that Anders wore in order to store the collected memories in his brain.  One thing that worried him was whether his brain could hold the memories of six billion, but he believed the helmet would compensate for that by compressing the memories prior to absorption – that was how he had designed it.

Anders began his stakeout for a lone boat off the peninsula into the late hours – there was always some lone boat tugging along out to sea or into port.  Some were simple lost sailors glad to see a safe harbour and others alcohol fuelled friends on a quest they hoped would lead safely to a comfortable bed with no spinning and no vomiting.  As we all know too well, this was unlikely for them and doubly so for the drunken friends.

Sweet was the thought of sleep, for Anders, but he endured through the night into the early morning not seeing any sign of a lone boat or even a pair.  One more hour he decided to wait and then he would try again the next day.  The world was about to end, but at least there was still some time to spare – there was yet a real rush.  As will happen from time to time, when a person is desperate for a particular set of events to occur, they do just that.

With a heavy heart Anders was about to abandon his experiment for that day, and then a sailboat approached on the horizon.  More accurately, its lights were turned on.  The red for larboard, the green for starboard and the solitary white at the top mast.  On went Ander’s machine with the flick of a switch and in a few short seconds when the wave hit the boat, Dan and Karin, Erik and Emilie, Linnea and Filip all collapsed – there bodies but empty shells like those hunted by tourists across the beaches of the world.

*

Inevitably, there was no immediate reaction following the absorption as his body rebooted to deal with the new memories.  He sat on the peninsula for some time, slumped over sitting on a small rock whilst his brain sorted through the new information.  It began to rain lightly, but Anders was not quite conscious of anything at this moment – he knew full well that it was raining, but had no idea how he was to react as the brain was sending out neither innate or learned responses to the body.  Some birds flew by and stopped on his shoulders, chirping their sweet song into his ears, but again no response from Anders – simply stillness.  Then with a quick jerk he was back.  It was still raining so he collected his gear and quickly ran back home.

Luckily the light rain had not disrupted the machine.  It was not that he couldn’t repair it or even rebuild it – he just was happy not to have to.  After he had stored the machine in the garage he went into the living room to sit down – I’ll conduct experiments on my memories after a short nap, he thought.  And odd thing for someone who had just been in a trance, nap like state for several hours.  A queer thing for Anders to do.  Perhaps an expected thing for someone who has taken on a new burden of memories that tire the brain.  Definitely something that someone with a hangover would do.

*

He woke with the kind of violent start one has when they’re late for the first day of a new job or an important morning only to remember that it’s not that day today.  Quickly he reasserted his mind and remembered what he had done.  There was no immediately obvious evidence that the absorption of the memories had been complete.  Perhaps, Anders thought, there had been some meshing of memories in a fashion he had not anticipated.  That is, perhaps he thought some of the new memories were his own.  Tests would have to be done, but only after food.

Greedily he gobbled giant tins of various ready meals until he was quite satisfied – a good ten in all.  Satisfied he trudged out the side door and out to his garage workshop where the necessary equipment for his tests were all set out.  There were some medical devices to measure brain waves and heart rate and all that you would expect (of course, much that you wouldn’t unless you were a neuroscientist).  In addition he had recorded several lists of skills and memories as well as video logs of the past several days.  His key concern was that he would be unable to distinguish between his actual memories and those absorbed, despite the work he put into preventing such an occurrence.  That the memories would become micro personalities within his own brain was still his greatest fear even though none had surfaced as yet.

Hours and hours he sat in his garage studying himself and feeling positive.  He could so far not tell that he had absorbed any memories at all.  It was entirely possible that the test had been unsuccessful, but he wanted to allow some more time as he was not altogether certain about the realm he was dealing with.

The test he had now moved onto consisted of several images flashing on a screen in an attempt to elicit a reaction that had no previously been there.  You see, he had prepared meticulously.  He had been through this test before the absorption and had no reactions in particular to some images.  Then in quick succession, there was a picture of a black standard schnauzer and a helicopter – both eliciting incredibly strong recognition.  Finally, he had unlocked it.

In a short moment he discovered how to access the memories hidden away in his brain.  There were six distinct sets of memories.  It was of little interest to Anders, but their names were Dan, Karin, Erik, Emilie, Linnea and Filip – a group of acquaintances from the next island over.  Many of the memories were fracture or incomplete due to the vast extent to which these people had poisoned themselves throughout their lives.  Anders quickly sifted through the available information, discarding bits that were of no interest to him, leaving only two skills intact – the ability to fly a helicopter and a very refined expertise in cooking.  After absorbing the latter and understanding the finer points of food, Anders decided it would simply no do to return to canned foods.

The memories were completely separate from his own and as far as he could tell there were no adverse medical effects nor had his worst fears come true.  He was still the same Anders – no blending had occurred.  This probably wouldn’t have been so troublesome as he wouldn’t have really known, but it was nice nonetheless.  Above all, he was happy the he was in complete control.

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