🤓 Ep. 94 - Chambered Echoes
written & read by Allen Brown
Daniel Feltner stepped off the bus in front of WARPCorp’s main headquarters in downtown Sacramento while noticing that it was bigger in person than it was on the ads on TV or the internet. It didn’t intimidate him, but he did notice. The gorgeous building stood 37 stories tall with tinted windows that reflected the sky and buildings around it. Had it not been for the black trim that bordered that countless windows, it appeared as if the building was cloaking itself.
As Daniel slid through the revolving door and into the main lobby, he reflected back on what led him to this morning’s interview. Having just graduated with a degree in structural engineering from Cal State, he found himself with a warm, freshly printed degree in one hand, but no corporate ladder to climb with the other. Being eager and ready to work hard, he was stuck between being ‘over qualified’ for even the simplest of entry level jobs, to being ‘under qualified’ for anything that would get him where he wanted. So, he struggled, as his degree became cold and further buried underneath a growing pile of bills labeled with first and second late notices.
That was a week ago. A week ago, when he was sitting in his small studio apartment where he had spent his entire college career, watching a ‘Twilight Zone’ marathon on the Sci-Fi channel, when the commercial for WARPCorp came on. The ad was modeled after the 1917 ‘Uncle Sam Needs You’ campaign that the government used to recruit for the first and second World War. Only, in this version, it was an attractive female scientist pointing to you with the slogan “The Future Needs You” and at the bottom “Contact WARPCorp today! We need volunteers today--for tomorrows future!”, followed by some phone numbers and web addresses.
Daniel didn’t hesitate, he was desperate and he figured if he could get in as a volunteer or possibly inquired about internships, that he could upgrade from eating top ramen to dining at 5-star restaurants. He leaned over and grabbed his laptop that was sitting next to him, flipped it open and typed in the web address. Once on the homepage, he clicked the tab that said ‘Volunteer Now’, and it led him to an online application that he filled out. Because of his dry spell with work, he was surprised when he received an email a few days later, asking him to come in for an interview and possible testing.
So here he was, walking up to the lobby desk in business casual attire ready for whatever they threw at him. Any experience was good experience on a resume. As he approached the older secretary sitting at the desk with a wireless headset on, he couldn’t help but take in how large and impressive the lobby was. In big, bold letters, on the wall above the secretary, the company name ran vertical. And then from each of the letters in WARP, a separate word was spelled out:
Daniel had done some research on the company before taking the thirty-minute bus ride down. He was sharp enough to know, that in an interview, the more you know about a company, the better chances you have of getting in are. He learned that WARPCorp was started 20 years earlier by two brothers who wanted to change the face of science. They wanted to bring science fiction alive through innovation and research. Basically, if it had been written in the works of Bradbury or Asimov, they wanted to make it a reality. Daniel felt that this could be a place where he would fit in and was surprised he had never heard of them before. Although the company had been around a while, only within the last few years had they started developing breakthroughs that would catch the attention of wealthy investors. Now was the perfect opportunity to get in.
On his right, as he continued walking towards the front desk, was a display case that housed early prototypes of various inventions and creations along with frames detailing the history behind each item. On his left were smaller display cases housing various awards that the company had won over the years. It all looked very promising from his perspective.
When Daniel arrived at the front desk, the secretary greeted him with a warm reception and even warmer smile. She was wearing a name tag that read ‘A.U.D.R.I.’ and sat with perfect posture. For someone in their 60’s, she could still type incredibly fast and appeared to be able to multitask better than most people in her position, let alone her age.
“Good afternoon sir, how can I direct or assist you?” A.U.D.R.I. asked as she sat in her chair looking up towards him, while her hands completed some sort of task on her computer.
“Good afternoon as well. My name is Daniel Feltner, I have an appointment here at 1. I am just checking in.” He replied while squaring up with the desk and looking as professional as possible. “I received an email a few days ago, it was for an interview.”
“Great, let me check you in then, Daniel.” She said as she glanced back to the monitor and continued to type. “Ah, yes. I see you here. Let me go ahead and check you in.” She continued to type. “I see that they want you in room 212. That is going to be on the floor above us. You will want to take the elevator up one, and then the room will be on your right when you exit.” She was making eye contact again. “Was there anything else I could assist you with?”
“No Ma’am, that will be all. You said to take the elevator up one and to my right. Room 212.” He repeated as he looked around for the elevator and made motion with his hands as if he was pointing himself to the right place.
“Yes. Dr. Ferguson will be the one interviewing you today. It’s his office. Can’t miss it, the name plate on the door will assure you are at the right place. Good luck.” She smiled and waved him off. “Feel free to let me know on your way out how it went. I always love hearing how these things go.”
“Will do!” He finished, and then headed towards the elevators. He kept looking around trying to take everything in. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but he knew that today was going to be good and that he would finally have a bit of luck. Optimism can go a long way and his stride showed that.
He reached the elevators and pressed the call button. Instantly one to his left opened up and he stepped in and pushed ‘2’. The doors closed without anyone else getting on and the elevator rose. He noticed that there didn’t seem to be a lot of people in the building today. He assumed the time of day played a part in that, but also maybe, just maybe, WARPCorp was very select in who they brought in and interviewed. His mind raced and wondered and played out different scenarios till the doors of the elevator opened again revealing a large ‘2’ hanging on the wall in front of him. He stepped out and turned right.
Dr. Ferguson’s office was just a few doors away from the elevator. The name plate assured him he was at the right place, just like A.U.D.R.I. had said it would. Daniel placed his hand on the door handle, took a deep breath, stood tall, and then turned the handle and walked in, ready for anything.
“You must be my one o’clock!” came a deep and confident voice. Dr. Ferguson rose to greet Daniel from the desk he was sitting at. He wore a white lab coat, thin glasses, and a name tag. He was a well-kept, aged man with a trimmed grey beard. “Daniel, right?” His right hand extended towards Daniel.
“Yes sir. Daniel.” He reached out with his right hand to shake. Dr. Ferguson had a very firm grip Daniel thought to himself and then expressed his thoughts openly, attempting to build rapport. “Quite the handshake you have there, you must have been military at some point.” He withdrew his hand and shook it once to wave life back into it.
“Well…not exactly.” Dr. Ferguson chuckled with a smile breaking on his face. He then raised his right hand till it was in front of his face and stared at it, still smiling.
Daniel stood motionless as his eyes doubled in size as he watched before him, Dr. Ferguson’s right arm disappear. He was stunned and shocked.
“OH NO, what happened to my arm?” Dr. Ferguson screamed as he began shaking frantically searching for his suddenly missing arm. He spun right and then spun left, searching for his missing limb. “Oh, wait…here it is!” And as quickly as it disappeared, it reappeared. At this point, the doctor couldn’t stop from laughing as he stared at the pale-faced Daniel. Still recovering from his own laughter “Get’s ‘em every time!”
“What you see here,” as he waved his arm in the air, “is the newest prosthetic prototype from WARPCorp. Designed and engineered right here in this very building.” The arm now began to change colors. It went from red, to orange, to blue, to desert camo and back to flesh. “The technology is fascinating. The accident that took my arm, on the other hand,” He paused shortly to chuckle at his own pun, “isn’t fascinating. That’s a story for another time.” Dr. Ferguson explained as he finished showing off his favorite party trick. He motioned for Daniel to take a seat. “I trust you met A.U.D.R.I. downstairs?”
“Yes, she seemed very nice.” He mentioned as he settled into the chair in front of Dr. Fergusons desk. The office was smaller than he thought it would be as he glanced around. No bigger than a kid’s bedroom, there was a desk with two monitors, keyboard, mouse, a few motivational posters on the wall and a coat hanger. At the back of the office there was a door, a closet no doubt, but that was it. It could use warm coat of paint, he thought.
“Oh, she’s great. But she is actually an android. Another project that WARPCorp has their hands in. She is the newest model of android designed to replace humans in the ‘secretary’ or ‘information resources’ role. Think ‘librarian’ or ‘park guide’. We have a whole batch of them that are almost ready. They are being shipped over to Japan and are going to be put in a mall. I can’t for the life of me remember,” he began to tap his desk with this robotic hand, “what A.U.D.R.I. stands for though, something-something-resource-informationalist-something or another. Too many damn acronyms in this place. Besides, she’s not my department.”
Daniel was shocked to discover that the person that had greeted him wasn’t actually a person at all. He had only been here half an hour and he was already sure that this was the place for him. He wanted to be a part of this, of creating and designing technology that was on the forefront of the industry. His excitement grew as he sat up in his chair.
“My department,” Dr. Ferguson began to explain, “is experimenting with teleportation. Far more exciting than informational robots in my opinion. But let’s get back to you. When you completed your application online and sent it in, our systems use specific algorithms to determine where and what would be the best fit for the volunteer based upon your answers.” He reached for a stack of papers from his desk drawer and laid them on top of the desk. “I received your information and am very excited your made it in today.” He proceeded to inform Daniel that their meeting today was a working interview and, although it was a volunteer position, WARPCorp did compensate upon task completion. He was told that he was picked because of various reasons, none that really mattered to Daniel, he was just excited he received a call back. He was asked if he had any other questions before they moved on to the next phase of the interview. Daniel didn’t have any questions at the moment, so Dr. Ferguson continued.
“WARPCorp has the technology to teleport a person, it just hasn’t been tested yet. Sure, it has been successful with objects and with animals, but no human has stepped into the chamber yet. This is where you come in Daniel. On behalf of WARPCorp, I would like to offer you the volunteer position to be the first human in history to teleport.” Daniel sat listening intently until he heard the last part of what the doctor in front of him said, and then his eyes doubled. Even his heart rate increased. The possibilities raced through his head.
“That sounds like an amazing opportunity Dr. Ferguson. I can understand why this would be a volunteer position and I have just a few questions.” He inquired as he leaned forward in his chair with his elbows resting on the arms. “You mentioned that you had this tested with objects and animals?”
“Why Mr. Feltner, the very chair in which you sit in was successfully transported!” Daniel leaned back in shock. “I have this video I would like you to watch. It goes over everything and I think it will answer all of your questions.” Dr. Ferguson pushed a button on his keyboard and then, on the wall to Daniel’s right, seemingly out of nowhere, a video started playing. No T.V. monitor, no projector, it was almost magical. Daniel thought to himself it must be one more piece of technology they are working on. This place just becomes more and more fascinating he also thought.
The lights in the room dimmed as the video began. Daniel sat in awe and excitement as he watched the short video. It began with a voice over narration of the early history of WARPCorp and described the different breakthrough technologies and innovations that helped the company emerge as a world leader in various fields. Then, this particular video, focused on the current stage of teleport testing. It showed a few successful attempts at teleportation with different inanimate objects. First a pen, after that there was a stapler, followed up with the chair he was sitting on.
The process always appeared the same. In a room, there were two four-foot-wide cylindrical chambers with clear glass that stretched from floor to ceiling situated six feet apart. The process began with the chamber on the left retracting the clear glass towards the ceiling, giving access to the pad. An object would then be placed inside the open chamber, a few seconds would pass and then the glass would come down from its open position, closing the object within the chamber. The scientists would then start the process. Both chambers glass would then slowly tint to black. You couldn’t tell in video, but the narrator explained that the tinting protected the onlookers from a bright light that was created in the process. After a few seconds, the glass would then slowly fade back to clear and whatever object was being transported would now be sitting in the chamber on the right.
Then came the animals. The first being a small cat with the largest being a gorilla. The process continued to be the same. The clear chambers would tint to black, then a few seconds later they would tint back to clear with the animal now being in the opposite chamber it started in. After each successful attempt, Daniel could hear the roar and excitement of the scientists in the video. He couldn’t believe he was about to be part of something this big. The video ended with the narration explaining how important the volunteer’s role is and how it will affect humanity for generations to come.
After the video ended, the lights in the room became bright again. “Exciting isn’t it Mr. Feltner!” Dr. Ferguson exclaimed as he leaned back in his chair. “Amazing technologies. Did you have any other questions?”
“No actually. That pretty much covered everything.” Daniel shook his head as if he couldn’t think of any questions to ask. “What happens next?”
“I thought so. They did a good job with it. Now, according to our lawyers, I do have to acknowledge that this is a scientific trial and that there is potential for error. Therefore, I have to have you sign a bunch of release forms before we start, if you are interested. You can understand the paperwork trail, I’m sure.” Dr. Ferguson explained with a frustration stemming from the paperwork side of things. It only ever created more work for him.
“Oh, I completely understand. I’m not really worried about anything. The video was pretty clear. I say, when do we start?” Excitement filled his voice as he contemplated the possibilities and how this was going to affect the dry spell he had. Maybe, just maybe, some of his bills would get paid. No more late notices in the mail. Oh, the possibilities.
“Great! Let’s open up your folder here and sign that paperwork and then we can get started.” He reached for the folder, opened it and thumbed through until he found the proper document he was looking for, then pulled it out. He grabbed a pen from his jacket and handed it to Mr. Feltner while pointing out where he needed to sign.
“There is really nothing here, just liability release to cover us in case something happens. But as you can tell from the short video, we have completed several successful attempts already. Nothing to be worried about Mr. Feltner.” Dr. Ferguson explained with a certain positivity in his voice. Daniel glanced over the form, not really reading any of it and moved towards the bottom and scribbled his name and date.
“Double great. Now, if you would just follow me, lets head on over to the chamber.” He directed as he gathered up the release form and led the way out of the room and towards their next destination. “I never really liked calling it ‘The Chamber’, if feels too dark and boring. I tried to get management to paint the room a welcoming purple or orange to help with the atmosphere,” He chuckled as he explained. “But they keep telling me no. I told them to at least change the name then.” He chuckled some more. “They never listen.”
They passed many closed doors down a narrow hallway that was brightly lit. Everything was painted white. They made a left turn and then a right turn. They passed a few more doors and then Dr. Ferguson halted outside of one with a placard mounted next to the door. The Chamber. “And we have arrived.” He reached for the knob and opened it.
As they entered, Daniel noticed lockers on the right side of the room with what he assumed was a changing room opposite to the left. There was another door in front of them, which he assumed led to the actual ‘Chamber’.
“Alright Mr. Feltner, just a quick clothing change and we will be ready to go. There is a smock in the changing room, along with goggles for eye protection. Feel free to place your belongings in any one of the lockers when you are done.” He expressed with purpose while reaching for a clipboard that was stuffed with paperwork that hung from the right side of the room.
Mr. Feltner entered the changing room and undressed. He found the smock laying on the bench just inside the room and put it on. The goggles were next to it, he simply grabbed those. He didn’t know what he was feeling in this moment. Nervous. Anxious. Scared. With all the emotion flooding his system he began to feel a mild adrenaline rush. The thought of being the first person in history to teleport wasn’t something he could comprehend at the moment…but afterwards, just maybe, it would hit him. He exited the changing room and put his belongings into an empty locker.
“Alright…looking good.” He said while motioning him towards the next door. “I tried to get them to find a smock with some color or pazzazz, but they shot that idea down too. Apparently, they invested all the budget in this next room that we couldn’t afford something with color or dinosaurs on it. Wouldn’t it be funny to have dinosaurs on there?” He chuckled to himself as he led the way into the Chamber. Daniel followed close behind him.
In the next room stood the two cylindrical chambers he saw in the video. On the wall to the left of them there was a window with three scientists ready to study and monitor him. “Mr. Feltner, don’t worry about the Suits watching us. They have invested a lot of money into making this a reality, so pay no attention to them. For all intents and purposes, it’s just me and you. Alright?”
“Sure, of course.” Daniel nodded as he glanced around. The whole moment was a bit overwhelming to him and his senses were being pushed to their max. He was for sure of one thing…that he was ready.
“Then let’s make history shall we!” Dr. Ferguson replied with excitement. “Go ahead and step into the open chamber here. You will feel a rush of air once the glass closes down around you. Don’t you worry though, that is all normal. When you are ready, you will give me a ‘thumbs’ up and then I will hit this button here.” He pointed to a giant push-button with a plexiglass cover over it. “Then, through the magic of science and a little proprietary technology, you will appear in the chamber next to you. Quite simple really.”
Daniel was silent as he entered into the open chamber. He was actually doing a lot better than he thought he would give that he had just received the phone call to WARPCorp a few days ago. He slipped the goggles over his head and onto his eyes. Of all things, he was most curious about how it would feel. Would it tingle, would it shock him, or would there be no feeling at all. He turned towards Dr. Ferguson and took a deep breath as the door was shut.
He could feel the tube pressurize and heard the locking of the tube that followed. He stood tall and frozen like a stone sculpture. Then, seemingly without knowing it, his left hand began to raise into the air and gave the thumbs up. There was no turning back now.
Dr. Ferguson looked on as the ‘ok’ was given. A huge smile emerged and spread from ear to ear. “Great!” And without taking his focus off of Mr. Feltner, he reached behind him and lifted the plexiglass cover and hit the button. History was about to be made!
Daniel could hear fans turn on from some air duct. The tube began to turn black, just like in the video, as a light brighten inside the chamber. His body began to tingle and his muscles tightened as the light engulfed him. He shut his eyes and even with the goggles, he couldn’t escape it. He squeezed them tighter trying to block the light but it only got brighter.
About the moment he couldn’t take it anymore, his world went dark. It was minutes before he realized that he fists were still clenched and his eyes were still closed. He opened his fist and stretched out his fingers and pulled the goggles off as he opened his eyes. His first thought was that he was still alive. His second thought, as he ran his fingers through his hair, was where had everyone gone. He had, indeed, teleported into the adjacent tube and, in fact, made history. But why was there no one in the room?
Dr. Ferguson and the on-looking scientists waited for the tubes to become transparent again. As they faded back to clear, it was evident that something had gone wrong. Their test subject was not in the first tube, or the second tube. In fact, Daniel Feltner was not in any tube or anywhere to be seen. Dr. Ferguson with a look of shock on his face, turned towards the Suits and put his hands up in the air as if he had no idea what to do next.
One of the Suits leaned forward and pushed a button. His voice traveled through the telecom with ice cold clarity. “Dr., mark this down in your paperwork as a failure. We will have our men look into what happened and see if it can be fixed. As far as the test subject, make sure there is no record of him showing up today. As far as you know, he never made his appointment and neglected to call us to cancel. Ok?”
“Of course. I will relay this information to A.U.D.R.I.” There was no cheer or excitement in Dr. Ferguson’s voice any longer.
“Great work.” The telecom announced. With that, the suits gathered their belongings and left the room. Dr. Ferguson stood a moment longer in the chamber, staring at the tubes, wondering what had gone wrong.
Daniel couldn’t tell if it had been hours or days. He had tried everything to open the tube and get out, but nothing worked. He had kicked and punched. He tried to shimmy up by pressing his feet on one side and his back on the other but got nowhere. He screamed until a hoarse whisper was the only sound that echoed. His body was exhausted, scared, and stuck. His mind, though, was racing and trying to make sense of everything.
Teleportation worked, he knew that, but Dr. Ferguson and the Suits were gone, which was also evident. The only explanation was that he had been teleported into a different when or a different where. A when and where without the others and without a way to get out of the damn tube.
The welcome video kept replaying in his mind. He kept looking for something, anything, that could clue him in on what might have happened. It wasn’t until he paid attention to the gorilla that everything made sense. As he continued to think about it, the paler he became. In the video, the gorilla entering the tube had a small patch of white hair on his shoulder. Nothing that one would notice unless they were looking for it. The gorilla that exited the adjacent tube didn’t have any white hair. He was sure of it as he kept replaying the video in his mind.
With a great sense of fear, his hair began to stand up. Goosebumps began forming and his stomach sank. He realized that it was a hat trick. A sleight of hand. The whole god damned thing was nothing more than a show to con him into thinking this had worked before. To give him the illusion that everything would work out because it had already been tested. Who in their right mind would step into the chamber without knowing if it would work or not. He had been duped and it was just sinking in. Daniel sank down against the tube and wrapped his arms around his legs. He buried his head and began to sob while the echoes of his weeping began to fill the chamber.
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