Episode 11: Sophia Page Mitchell
She could have collapsed, head in hands, and cried, for hours, for days. No food, no water, just allow the body to succumb to an ultimate neglect. Walk away. Give up. Let it all go to shit. No strength left to watch over the big implications of a tiny edit. Maybe not as big as they could have been, a myriad of potential consequences was understood from the beginning, and the risk was ignored.
‘Then who am I to act as some kind of watcher,’ Sophia often said to herself, because her judgement was flawed from the start. ‘Then why not give up.’
Except there was no one else to do it. No one else knew, not in the entire world. And it was her mess.
“One year was the agreed upon timing and we have given you eighteen months,” the voice of the man on the screen stated, authoritative with the hint of sensitivity for the situation. “We are being more than fair.”
He was a tall and sturdy man, late sixties, wearing the standard political appointed blue suit. Ex-military, retired colonel, and his demeanor was still straight-backed and at attention. He had close cropped hair, was clean shaven, and possessed an ever-serious gaze accented by a sun-ripened face and wrinkles that jetted from the corners of his eyes.
“I understand,” Sophia responded.
She was a magician who desperately wanted to show the trick. All that was promised was achieved and more, she just wasn’t sharing.
Her discovery may as well have been magic. Science had only scratched the surface of the potential of quantum physics. Her work was as unbelievable as cavemen seeing fire for the first time and interpreting it as a God. From ants to skyscrapers, footsteps to lightspeed.
That summer at fifteen, following the truly transformative experience with the lights, she went back to the quarry every night alone, on foot, a six-mile hike. Fifteen, an irreversible course was plotted into discovery that would become a decades long obsession.
By all accounts, the lights were sporadic and unpredictable. Go every night at ten pm for six months and never see them, go once at ten of five and there they were. That’s how anyone who was lucky would see them, by chance – except Sophia. After the night one entered her body, she could see them every time. There was some… attraction.
She didn’t interpret it as a willful act, more like the way metals are attracted to a magnet. There wasn’t any intelligence behind the lights. They were an energy source, that simple. An immensely powerful energy source that somehow operated somewhere between dimensions, if that was the way to describe it, but energy none-the-less. Sophia’s advanced fifteen year-old mind fathomed certain possibilities as she went every night to cautiously observe (only observe). It wasn’t until reaching the Ph.D. level that possibilities shaped into a hypothesis and at the conceptual center was the idea that consciousness in all its unknown complexities, was somehow a conduit for remarkable travel.
“You will have our decision within the month.” The screen went black.
Sophia disconnected the video call. Within a month and for certain they would take everything away. She was playing a shell game and there were only so many moves in the slight-of-hand arsenal, only so many times she could palm the tiny marble and shuffle the shells to watchful eyes before she would have to show what she could do or admit failure. They wanted results. Return on investment for the tax payers, for the good of the country. The good would be entirely destructive in their hands, a fact that Sophia pained over. Her simple action had created immeasurable damage, imagine if They had control. She started the journey blinded by the fog of a decades long remorse and a feeling of cosmic injustice. The trap that many have fallen susceptible to, the ends and means justification excuse, the idea of tamed or controlled power, the arrogant belief that somehow one person could justly determine acceptable risk for others.
Sophia stared at her eyes in the reflection of the screen, and her skin, and her long brown hair that was beginning to go gray. The imprint of her face was still trapped in his mind, but it wasn’t that face looking back. It was a much younger one from too long ago, when she was seventeen and they sat together on a bench next to the concession stands. Cotton candy sickly sweet and popcorn butter richness wafted in the breezy summer night air. The smells mixed in with the taste of artificial watermelon gum that hung on Sophia’s tongue long after the experience. The taste was a constant during her teenage years, completely absent at some point when it was decided the things of before should disappear, like the thick black eyeliner and fingernail polish.
Nervous, Sophia glanced at her glossy fingernails. Each one projected a feeling of an infinite void. To stare into them as she often did, in which she would get completely lost when she needed to be lost, was the start to a lifelong journey into understanding the mysteries of time and space. Beyond the glossy black, hands were not something she gave much thought to as a teen with other parts of her body drawing more insecure self-condemnation. How that changed years later, when the age shown more in the hands than anywhere else. For that time and temporary space, she wasn’t older and her hands, for the present seconds that were passing by too quickly to reach out and grasp, were free of imperfections and age. Fingers that would spend irreplaceable moments interlaced with his.
The time travel experiment was set up for actual transport based on the theory that time was not linear and that it was possible to pass through the membrane that divided the present spacetime from all others, a portal experiment using immense amounts of energy projected to a point as tiny as a pinprick.
The concept of the consciousness travelling and not the physical body was an unexpected breakthrough, as accidental as the discovery of penicillin. Not so much travelling to another place, consciousness of an individual was linked throughout spacetime. Less a highway with exits, more a pool of water where all water molecules are bonded together. She didn’t become her younger self, she was her younger self, in a way, and her older self, and all ages and experiences bonded together.
What hadn’t made sense to Sophia was how memory remained a constant. The brain could remember only experiences from the past, not from the future. When Sophia went back to the present, she left with the knowledge, her younger self unaware, like moving computer data, there could be an imprint left behind, but once the data is moved, accessing it again would not be easy, especially if the user didn’t know the data existed. He had dreams, as did the others, about the original past before the edit. Sophia hypothesized that maybe the data was left in places only accessible by dreams.