I’ve never much cared for religion. I mean, it’s interesting and all, the old parables and philosophic insights from people two millenniums removed from the present. I particularly enjoy the books of the Apocrypha, and the Bible’s magnum opus of Revelation if for nothing else then interesting stories. Even some of the tenants like an emphasis on family life and good moral statute I can resonate with, but in terms of a giant entity observing us all from unseen planes and loving us unconditionally, yeah, I don’t know about that.

Things I can observe, and test firsthand have always taken precedent over more obscure concepts like an afterlife and the topic of the soul. My parents never really broached the topic either, choosing instead to teach me logic and reasoning skills and allowing me to set my own path. I was an accidental atheist, rather than one turned by the triumph of rational argument over dogmatic rhetoric. I’ve pretty much always been that way, which I guess is what drove me to pursue a career in STEM after high school.

I still don’t ascribe to a singular religious doctrine, but knowing what I know now… well, let’s just say the title of atheist would be a little disingenuous. Staking my flag in that camp would contradict all my principals of the scientific method and firsthand observation. Try as I may, I cannot in good faith deny or refute what I myself witnessed.

All too often science becomes this sort of monolithic and infallible institution, that suffers from the ostracization of fringe concepts that fail to breach the egotistic blockade. Too often outlandish claims are torn asunder because no metrics exist to properly digest them. We must remember that science is not an absolute. Nothing is. Absence of proof, is not proof of absence. And what happened out there, in that lab deep below the frozen streets of Stockholm now stands as a testament in my life, to all the things humanity has yet to discover. It serves as an anchor, and if ever I find myself drifting away into the blissful seas of cognitive dissonance, it is there to remind me how small and naïve I truly am.

I graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor’s in physics, and an incredible opportunity landed in my lap. One of my professors had put in a good word for me, and I was contacted by a lab out of Stockholm and offered an internship. They were apparently impressed with my thesis which delved into the topic of string theory and mathematic application to universal process. I accepted the offer without hesitation.

From there I moved my happy Silicon Valley girl ass halfway around the world to the frigid north of Sweden. I have never experienced cold like that before. Most of my summers were spent in a bikini, frolicking on the sandy beaches of Santa Monica and lounging in the sun. Sweden was like stepping onto another planet. Temperatures would plummet to negative 30 in the winter, but luckily for me, I had a marvelous host family who helped me acclimate myself and integrate into Valhalla.

I was brought on to the team and slowly began the arduous process of assimilating into the group. They were all incredibly kind and welcoming, but still the feeling of being woefully outclassed by my colleagues was thick as tar pitch. The project consisted of over fifty men and women, all of them among the best the world had to offer. They hailed from Germany, Japan, Poland, Hong Kong, South Korea and many other sovereign states. It was a melting pot of some of the greatest minds the world had to offer. Seeing them in their element, and marveling at the way their minds hurdled asinine topics to delve straight to the cortex of reality was altogether incredible, and more than a bit intimidating.

Swedish is a tough language to learn, but after 4 years in the country I felt the barriers of foreign dialogue slowly begin to erode. I still struggle from time to time, but I get a little bit better every day.

The expressed goal of the coalition was to study the behaviors of particles and the subatomic realm and further decode the complex world of theoretic energy matrices. By extension the group also allotted resources to better understand quantum entanglement and the aforementioned string theory. These principles were still in their infancy at the time, and none of us had any idea the enormous magnitude of the things that were to come.

The lab had its very own particle accelerator, which I myself pretty much obsessed over from Day 1. Most of the concrete data however, was relayed from the lab in Geneva, home of the large hadron collider. I even got to see the magnificent machine in person on a few occasions. One thing that has always staggered me, is the amount of incredible achievements capable when pursuit of knowledge guides the way. However, the complete polar opposite is also true, as curiosity without empathy all too often yields crimes against humanity.

As you may already know, the large hadron collider was the first machine capable of synthesizing the particle known as the Higgs-Boson. The machine is a particle accelerator built in a 27-kilometer loop. It uses a state of perpetual vacuum and temperature colder than that of outer space to accelerate particles to 99 percent the speed of light. The particles collide with one another, creating spectacular outbursts of radiation and results theorized to be similar to that of the big bang on a much smaller scale. It is also through this process that the infamous Higgs-Boson can be synthesized.

Some call it the ‘God Particle’, but many in the world of physics are not fond of the omnipotent moniker. It is in a way suitable though, as it is ubiquitous and can spontaneously manifest or dematerialize through processes which are not yet entirely understood. It is a sort of bridge between matter and antimatter. The entity that binds the digital with the corporeal. It is the place between light and dark, hard to define, as once light ends shadow begins and vice versa. The exact moment of intersection is difficult to pinpoint, but there is a definitive moment, and that moment is the Higgs-Boson.

It was once thought that matter could only exist in one place at a time, however the particle slit test of our progenitors proved otherwise. They used a particle accelerator to eject protons between one of two microscopic slits. They naturally assumed the particles would pass through either slit A or slit B, and when directly observed their premise was corroborated.

However, when an imprint background was utilized instead of direct observation, they noticed something strange. The particles produced what is known as a wave or interference pattern. This meant that the particles were interfering with themselves while simultaneously passing through both and neither of the slits. It was at first thought to be a false-negative, but thousands of repeated experiments all reached the same conclusion. There was denying it anymore. Matter can exist in more than one place at a time, and reality is altered simply by viewing it.

The world of particle physics is a strange one, and one which we have only just begun to glimpse the majesty of. At times it may even require us to suspend our own limited human understanding of things, to contemplate things initially deemed impossible. It was this idea which was the tabernacle of all the group was trying to achieve. To unravel the mysteries of the subatomic universe, and better understand reality itself.

The group was funded exorbitantly, and state of the art equipment was provided from lavish secular nations from all around the world. My contemporaries and I began to study the processes again from square one. This consisted primarily of monitoring the nature of protons and testing the same process over and over ad nauseum. Progress was slow, and many failures and errors were soon under our belts, but you can’t build a house without chopping down a few trees.

It took years to decode part of the formula, but eventually we learned that the behavior of these particles could be predicted under certain pretenses. They could also; to a certain extent, be altered. Programmed to inhabit separate locations at the same time, giving them the perceived ability to exist in two places at once. In reality though, it was more akin to a transfer of locale via microscopic slits in the Higgs-Boson. We realized it was not a matter of travelling to, but instead travelling through. Through the fabric of space itself.

With electrical stimuli and coordinate based geo-synchronization, we soon gained the ability to manipulate these particles to transfer locations faster than the blink of an eye. The machine used was primitive compared to later iterations, but it did possess the ability to essentially generate miniscule wormholes and transfer matter between them.

Time went on, and this technique was further refined, most readily in the distance particles were able to be transposed. It started as only a few nanometers, but eventually we could transfer particles several feet.

It was through this process, that blueprints for an entirely new type of machine were first drawn. The main difference was in the way it operated. Instead of electrical stimuli sent through circuits and wires, it was transferred directly from one location to another. Wireless energy transmitted through space. This greatly improved computing capabilities and allowed the machine to respond much quicker than anything ever seen before.

Through trials and tribulations, we began to better develop the capabilities of the machine. The extent of its power was initially believed to eventually plateau, but as time went on that belief began to dwindle. The machine was soon able to decode language and encryption like it was nothing, translating unsolved codes and equations in the blink of an eye by use of mathematic cipher and binary pattern recognition.

Human physiology itself was soon deciphered and converted into convenient little anagrams and simplistic formulas. This soon gave the machine the ability to replicate human tissue and organs from fetal stem cells. When given raw biomass it could quite literally print a heart or a lung. One which was genetically coded to be indistinguishable from that of the donor’s DNA. On one occasion, the machine even managed to regrow the arm of an amputee war veteran. Most of us thought it couldn’t possibly work, that the nerve endings on the man’s arms would be unable to be resuscitated. But after seventeen hours in surgery, when I saw the vet move his new fingers for the first time after transplant, I knew we had discovered something special.

Disease and deformities were also unlocked, able to be observed on a molecular level and eradicated before gestation. A virus or bacterial strain could be mathematically reprogrammed to attack and destroy itself rather than the host. HPV, AIDS, the black death, the common cold, strep throat, gonorrhea, none of them stood a snowball’s chance in hell against the unrivaled power of the machine. It could even reprogram human DNA to desired proportions, eliminating extra chromosomes and restoring neural pathways to reverse entropic cognitive illness like Dementia and Parkinson’s. Even pre-birth conditions like cerebral palsy and lissencephaly were in the process of being all but eradicated.

It wasn’t just organic material either. The machine could take a block of iron and transform it into a solid gold nugget. By rearranging the number of electrons around the atomic nucleus, its atomic weight and isotopes were altered, thereby turning it into another element altogether. The machine held the power to alter the very building blocks of the universe itself.

I think it was then that we first realized the scope of what it was that we had created. The applications for the machine seemed endless. It could write books, create living organisms and alter the very elements beneath our feet. It was the philosopher’s stone, the holy grail and the all-seeing eye in one convenient little package. The Deus ex Machina. The world’s very first quantum computer.

One important distinction I would like to make, despite prevailing rumors, the quantum computer was not in fact an AI. It had computing power which trumped everything else on earth a thousand times over, and the ability to perform almost any task given to it provided the necessary accommodations were implemented. It did not however possess the ability to make decisions for itself. Many of my colleagues were justifiably nervous at the prospect of an artificial intelligence somehow gaining sentience and going rampant with the power of quantum manipulation. The decision was made early on, to prevent it from thinking on its own and going all Skynet on us. The computer was a beast of burden, happily doing any task given to it, but it was us that steered the ship.

That was when the bureaucratic troubles first began. A lot of donors for the project, and even a few of my fellow team members had their own ideas on how to best utilize the machine. Every nation involved wanted it for themselves and had their own vision on how best to use it’s potential.

Several members of the coalition ended up leaving the project or being outright dismissed, promising to return with a battalion of lawyers at their back. One man was even caught attempting to smuggle data from the lab, and detained to await prosecution. The reigning project overseer was also relieved of duty. In his place; Dr. Henryk Lundgren assumed the mantle of director of operations.

Dr. Lundgren is a dear friend, and a brilliant mind. That’s what makes his fate lie so heavily on my heart. It’s a tragedy what befell him, but I won’t act as though he wasn’t responsible for stoking the flames.

Lundgren managed to settle the group down and unite a divided faction of scientists who all held their own agendas. He made the executive decision to keep the computer in the hands of the team and continue to study it for optimum replication and continued data analysis. All those who didn’t abide were dismissed or removed physically as the need arose.

Lundgren had toiled for years on development of the machines simulation capabilities, and decided more testing on the computer was needed before it was ready for public display. It took months of development, but soon a fully-functional Sims-esque program was up and running. It was incredible. The simulation was made to be an exact carbon copy of our own world and held all the coordinating pieces within it. All the people, animals and nations. Those who were exposed to the program, soon found discerning simulation from reality to be altogether impossible.

The simulation was so visceral, that none could even perceive that they were in a simulation at all. Test subjects were exposed to their own loved ones within the program and could not tell them apart from their real-life counterparts. I even took it for a spin a few times. I was hooked up to the monitor via a neural cortex interface, and had my mind rendered into the simulation.

I awoke to the sights of sunlight peeking through my blinds, and the sounds of cars outside. Around me on the walls were posters of Harry Potter and JoJo among countless others. I recognized immediately where I was. It was my childhood home, an apartment complex in Sacramento. My parents were both there and acted in accordance to how they would behave in real life. My dad even made new corny jokes as he always used to. It wasn’t a memory though, it was an entirely new scenario, concocted by my mind and the quantum simulation.

My parents are both deceased in the real world and getting to spend time with them again was… indescribable. Even if they were just simulations, the experience was altogether esoteric. I ended up leaving the simulation in tears, overwhelmed by the experience and the ability to speak with my parents again. The event was so profound for me, being able to resolve things I myself have failed to properly deal with. I found myself never wanting to leave the matrix.

Dr. Lundgren subsequently questioned me about my experience, and I was all too happy to relay the things I had seen. He listened intently, with simple occasional nods and one-word responses. His face wore a smile, but his eyes were focused far from the present.

We held a meeting with all staff members sometime after. Lundgren stood and paced in front of the group, silent and lost in thought for a while. When he finally spoke, he held our undivided attention. He walked through all that our little group had managed to accomplish, and all the things we had learned on our journey. All the miracles unraveled and translated into digital coding, and all the mysteries solved. He then first proposed his theory.

Here we were, with an entire simulated universe at the tips of our fingers. A digital reality created and maintained by the quantum computer. Once which was so authentic, that none could tell it apart from reality itself. And if we had the power to create that, how did we know that our own universe was not the result of the same process? How did we know our reality was not in fact a simulation?

An unnerving silence befell the rest of the group as Lundgren concluded his epiphany. All in attendance seemed to silently contemplate the idea. There wasn’t much said after that, but there didn’t need to be. We had an entirely new goal.

Upon returning for work the following day, I immediately noticed that the vast majority of our colleagues had abandoned the project without so much as a ‘goodbye’. Only 7 of us remained, among which was the prestigious Henryk Lundgren. He was changed though, his upbeat demeanor and inquisitive attitude reverted to an impatient gibbering wreck of a man. He became hostile to prolonged questioning, and I could see the idea consume his mind from within. At times he appeared on the verge of catatonic psychosis. He would ramble and talk to himself, and pretty much stopped leaving the laboratory altogether.

We set our sights on a new task; to dismantle and test the hypothesis of Lundgren. To develop an ability to break through the boundaries of our theorized simulation and pier beyond our own reality to glimpse whatever may lie on the other side. Nothing else seemed to matter anymore by that point.

Life may be accidental, consciousness too, hell even complex organisms like human beings could be the result of simple evolution and luck. However, simulation is not. It requires an immense amount of dedication, programming and logistics. The ability to synthesize digital worlds is not something learned or accomplished by accident. It takes time, resources and brainpower to even attempt it, and even then, it’s no guarantee. The one concept that was off the table immediately, was that the simulation of our own reality was the result of natural phenomenon or random cosmic alignment. If Lundgren’s hypothesis was correct, and our universe was indeed a simulation, then someone or something had to be pulling the strings behind the tapestry.

Powerful as the quantum computer was, even it did not have the ability to glimpse directly into higher dimensions. As stated before, it took commands only from us, and could only perform tasks which we could coherently articulate to it. How does one tell a machine to perform a task that they themselves have no concept of? It’d be like commanding a toaster to teleport back in time.

Through remedial experimentation and dozens of ponderous sleepless nights, we finally had a breakthrough. Our reality is based on laws. Laws of motion, laws of attraction, laws of physics. These laws cannot be broken accidently, but with quantum technology, they can be manipulated. Many believe that intelligent extra-terrestrials were first alerted to humanity when the atomic bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Ours was essentially the same idea. Demonstrating that we had the capability to toil with the quantum world in hopes of eliciting a response from a higher being. If we could ‘break’ or ‘bend’ one of these laws of reality, then perhaps the supposed orchestrator would be compelled to respond.

One of the earlier discoveries we had made was that of the concept of reverse time. Time is a measurement of something that occurs, and without anything to observe, time is meaningless. The concept only makes sense when in the presence of matter. The two concepts of space and time are coterminous, like light and dark or hot and cold, one does not exist without the other. Where there is space there is time, and where there is time there must be space. The opposite of matter is not nothing, but anti-matter. A true nothingness or void of anything substantial does not exist. It cannot exist based upon the nature of existence itself. Anti-matter is the invisible material which operates unseen and fills all the gaps which matter does not, held together by the Higgs-Boson.

If an opposite of matter exists, then an opposite of time must as well. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and all reactions must remain proportional to force exerted. By utilizing the quantum computer, we had the ability to send protons back in time, sort of. We could make them exist where they once had not before they existed there, by using dark energy matrices and propelling them backwards in the space-time continuum.

The discovery had actually been made many years previous, but never officially tested. It was restricted up to the highest level of top secret, as many of our patrons were rightfully concerned by the prospect of unintentionally altering the past. Doing so could create a butterfly effect and wreak havoc upon the present. We were told vehemently that the reverse-time experimentation was forbidden, but now we had a legitimate reason to take interest.

It took some convincing on our end, but eventually we were successful when we promised to unveil the greatest discovery yet. The parameters were set within the machine and the lab was prepped for the operation. A single seed of dianthus caryophyllus was placed in a transparent reinforced container in the center of the room. The specimen was placed on damp resin paper, and several little green tendrils had sprouted from its shell. The idea, was to reverse the symbiotic metabolism of the test subject and cause it to rapidly revert to a zygote state in expedited fashion. The machine was programmed to force the seed into commencing life cycle backwards, thereby contradicting the natural forward flow of life and time.

The stipulations were finished, and Lundgren stood by the machine. He glanced to each of us individually with a nervous fervor on his face. He looked to me last, and I nodded. Lundgren flipped the switch.

Immediately the tendrils within the seed began to recoil and contract. They disappeared within the shell soon after, and the seed shrunk until the point in which it was no longer visible. The quantum computer alerted us that the task had been completed, and silence descended upon the crew.

We stayed that way for several seconds until a commotion from the computer drew our attention. An array of flickering lights began to sound, indicating an error of some sort. Suddenly, the seed reappeared and began to grow at an impossible rate. A mass of wriggling green tendrils erupted from the shell and pressed firmly against the case within seconds. The chamber violently ruptured a moment later, causing shards of glass to catapult throughout the room. I managed to duck away just in time, but others in the group were not so lucky.

One man; Reginald Diabek was struck with a shard in the neck. The piece cut a gash across his throat, causing a thick crimson to spill forth from his gullet. He collapsed to the ground, as others began to rush to his aid. Before we could reach him, the serpentine appendages of the seed slithered around him. Diabek gurgled and terror filled his eyes as the green pythonic roots began to constrict him.

I watched, at a loss for words as Diabek’s wound sealed and his grey hair turned to a dark brown. The wrinkles on his forehead and bags below his eyes dissolved into his skin in a matter of seconds. The blackheads and liver-spots on his cheeks soon followed suit. All of us watched, gobsmacked as the process continued onward as Diabek appeared to age backwards.

Diabek had to have been nearly sixty years old, but in a matter of moments he appeared as though he was a young man in his early thirties. He then went young adult, then juvenile, then teenager. Diabek screamed in terror as his voice cracked from a gruff, raspy tone to a high-pitched pre-pubescent shriek. His body shrunk in his clothes and his extremities retracted within his coat. By the time we had reached him, he was gone.

We didn’t have time to marvel, as the computer began blaring a warning siren, and a flickering plethora of lights designated an external problem of some sort. The display was a failsafe designed to protect the computer from malicious outside sources. It was implemented, but had never before been activated. If ever an outside source were to gain control of the quantum computer, their potential for devastation would be almost unlimited. Most of us thought the firewalls of the quantum computer were enough to prevent any attempted breach, but apparently, we were wrong.

One of my colleagues scrambled to the kill switch. He was poised to throw it, when he was halted by a sudden shout from Lundgren. Lundgren stood, eyes wide as dinner plates and mouth agape as he stared at the main monitor of the computer. The warning display had ceased, and only a single screen remained active. Upon it was displayed a single loading bar, with approximately twenty percent of it being filled in. This indicated only one thing, something was being downloaded.

We immediately surmised that it must be a virus or other malware of some sort. A prospect once though impossible based on the security measures of the computer, and yet the download continued.

We exchanged nervous glances with one another, torn on whether to pull the plug and save our creation from hostile insurgence or allow it to continue to whatever ends. The call was eventually made by the investors outside the room, who had since been notified of the development. They demanded power be cut, and the machine be saved. The computer represented a colossal investment, and the costs to repair or replace it if any damage were to ensue was simply out of the question.

Begrudgingly, Lundgren followed orders and commanded shutdown protocol. It was done straight away, but the machine did not power down. It continued, impossibly, and without a direct power source sustaining it.

Panic began to erupt from the lab, and power to the entire facility was ordered to be cut from the mainframe. It was done within moments, and the room fell into darkness. The only light that remained was that of the main monitor as the download reached the halfway mark. The computer groaned and whirred under enormous duress as hundreds of fans shot to life to attempt to cool the leviathan machine.

We stood back, unable to make heads or tails of the development. There was simply no possible way the machine should’ve remained active, and yet it was. It continued to fill up the progress bar, powered by the fuel of some unknown outside source. With no other viable solutions at hand barring physical destruction of the machine itself, we could do nothing but await the culmination.

The download finished several minutes later, and the room fell into pitch black. We deliberated for a moment, before deciding our only recourse was to power up the computer once again. The mysterious file weighed in at an impressive 100,000 terabytes, enough to fill hundreds of normal hard drives, but just another drop in the ocean for the quantum computer. Once full mobility was achieved, a single never before seen prompt filled the screen.

“Unknown file type. Do you wish to execute the file?” All attempts made to bypass the prompt failed. We quickly used a separate program on another screen to trace the file’s origin, but to no avail.

Now, there is no hiding from a quantum computer behind a proxy or VPN. It uses algorithm-based process combined with ping response speed to determine probable origin up to an accuracy of 99.999%. We’re talking response time measured in millionths of a second, but for a quantum computer, it’s as simple as the ABC’s. Sure, it gets it wrong once in every million attempts, but it always has a guess. This time however, we received a new message.

“Unable to determine file origin.” Lundgren took a step back and pondered the situation. With nothing else at our disposal, he realized there was only one option left. And so, he gave one last command.

“Open it.”

The computer began to render the file, the process taking several minutes to complete. The file was entirely in binary code, and eventually translated to a single message. Upon completion, two words in white font sat silently amidst a black background.

I never thought two simple words could have such profound and lasting effects on my psyche. The computer fizzled out moments later and shut down. All attempts made to reactivate it failed, and the quantum computer lay lifeless. All of us just kind of left after that.

I returned home, overwhelmed by the events and left with a mystic sense of terror instilled deep in my stomach. The following morning, I was called by one of the investors. He informed me, that someone had broken into the lab late the previous night and sabotaged the operation. The lab was lit ablaze and soon reduced to a smoldering pile of ash, and the quantum computer was damaged beyond repair. Whoever had done it, possessed a security card and seemed to know the exact process required to dismantle the automatic sprinkler system.

Police held a single suspect in custody. A man who appeared as a neurotic mess in the center of a maniacal nervous breakdown. He was tried and convicted some time later and declared clinically insane. He was ordained to a mental health facility in northern Sweden, and it is there that he remains to this day. That man’s name? Henryk Lundgren.

I’ve never been able to properly assess what it was that happened that day. The event has left me shaken and confused in more ways than I could possibly list. I don’t suppose I’ll ever be whole again, I just can’t be.

I know the truth, and the reason for our meager existence. We had reached out beyond our own reality, and something had answered our call. I don’t know for certain that it was what most would call ‘God’, but I don’t know what else to call it. Whatever it is and whatever it aims to do I cannot possibly imagine. It holds us all within the palm of it’s hand, and with a simple flick of the wrist, we would cease to be. One thing is certain though; it is watching us, and it does not want us meddling in its affairs. We are set amidst an ocean of infinite black seas, and it was not meant for us to travel far. That final message could not have been clearer, and anytime I find myself drifting, I remember those two simple words relayed by the quantum computer.

“TURN BACK.”