Yuri watched the odd-shaped bowl sitting slightly askew on the dog’s head. Colored lights sparkled across it in a poor imitation of a festive Christmas display. Data was collected from the dog’s brain, fed down a tangle of wires to a nearby computer. Yuri wore a larger similar bowl, which flashed in the same distracting manner. Max was a good dog, and sat patiently with his eyes focused on his trainer, Analiese, instead of investigating the odd scents and noises throughout the lab.
Yuri reached forward to unhook the brain scanner from Max and the doberman sniffed his fingers, searching for a treat or piece of kibble as a reward.
“So Yuri,” Analiese asked, “A bunch of us are heading down to Kylies for beer and pizza after work, want to come?”
It was the third time Analiese has asked him out after work in the same number of weeks. He suddenly felt awkward and self-conscious of the flashing metal colander he wore as a hat.
“Uh..yeah! Erg, I’ll be um there!” he stammered. Analiese guided Max towards the door and smiled at him. He felt his cheeks begin to redden. She glanced up at his brain scanner.
“So what were you checking again?”
“Um.. its uh, for comparative brainwave diagnostics, um, between higher mammilians and mesio-predictive behavial outcomes..” His cheeks continued to redden.
She looked at him blankly.
“It’s a new way of doing brain scans for hospitals, so they can maybe do early detection of tumors or even early onset Alzheimer’s. I’m checking to see if there are also medical applications for animals too.”
Analiese brightened, “Oh! That’s great! I love it when you guys come up with stuff that helps people!”
She smiled at him as she left his lab. He hadn’t lied exactly. Those were the normal applications of what he was working on, but he was too embarrassed to tell her about its use in testing his other theories.
Yuri removed the scanner and put it back into its cradle. He noted the time down onto his clipboard and sighed, disappointed that he didn’t have more earth shattering data to share at today’s quarterly presentation. He looked down at his notes, various items were crossed out: precognition, telekinesis, pyrokinesis, aquakinesis, astral projection, levitation, remote viewing, etc. Towards the bottom of the list he drew a line through the words PET PSYCHIC, and headed upstairs towards the cafeteria and auditorium.
The auditorium burst into mass chaos. People screamed in terror as the gunman burst into the room. Shocked, Yuri turned and saw the skinny bald man rushing the stage with a vest loaded with dynamite, like some cartoon terrorist or zealot. He heard shots and ducked reflexively, was the gunman shooting at the terrorist? Or at Anders?
Yuri felt time slow as beams of light spat forth from Henry’s equipment on the stage, connecting with the explosive blast from the terrorist’s bomb-vest. White energy engulfed him and he felt his atoms split into a billion possible states at once. A kaleidoscope of images filled his mind, versions of himself.
Was this what it was like to die? Was this what they meant when they said your life flashed before your eyes? Surely not, it was strangely more than that.
He saw himself if he’d made different choices, met different people, lived different lives, and had been on different worlds. Some mundane, like what happened if he’d had pancakes that morning instead of skipping breakfast. Some were exotic, a life where he trained at the East Point Psychic Warrior Academy. And some were terrifying. Humanoid tentacle faced horrors beat him and other slaves, while they worked on some unknowable device. A million billion trillion possibilities flooded his consciousness.
In so MANY of the versions he saw his psychic abilities. Sometimes just bending spoons, in others a psychic avatar stood against the darkness. All of this happened in less than an instant. He realized his previous research was like trying to discover calculus with just addition and subtraction. It was on another level of consciousness entirely. He’d found the trigger in his mind, and had unlocked something powerful.
He felt a pressure, then the coolness of dirt on his cheek, smelled the scent of fresh cut grass, and his vision cleared. He felt woozy, disoriented. He was outside the complex! Yuri realized he WASN’T dead! Relief washed over him. Then puzzlement, how did he get here? What happened?