The 3D-Dead


Deep within the concrete catacombs of Gabor Labs, a renowned research institute just outside of Boston Professor Gilbourne was working feverishly on his new obsession. It was a project that eclipsed anything else in his life in its importance. The thirty-nine-year-old professor was conducting a series of experiments meant to bring back the dead by illuminating the alleged metaphysical forms said to inhabit a plane of existence inconceivable to the living.
For the last seven months, he spent every waking hour he could locked away in the lab. Breathing the sterile air and constantly immersed in the electrical buzzing emitted by the menagerie of machines he was working with.
He had recently lost his mother to cancer. His friends and fiancee thought this was just him avoiding grief by burying himself in work.
 This was partially true. Gilbourne was a jovial and often playful man the glare from his glassy blue eyes when his mind lost itself in the cold void of its cold logic.
Medical doctors are advised not to get too attached to their patients so they can maintain a professional distance and keep themselves from being emotionally overwhelmed by their work. Physics was a field, which for some could also be psychologically breaking.
Being a physicists Gilbourne had become intimately acquainted with reality. He had some ability to grasp the finality of the infinite. He knew the mechanisms of the universe ran like machinery and its grinding gears were cold and indifferent to us. His recent confrontation with death forced him to think of the inevitable in the same logical terms of how he understood all things, and most frighteningly how he understood infinity. This was something Gilborune simply could not accept. He had to find a reason to believe there was something that linked life and death that there was somehow a way he could blur the line between the planes of existence and make one perceptible to the other. He had to do what few physicists are prepared to do. Take a leap of faith and light is where faith led him.
 Light exerts a strange presence. It had mass but could still be everywhere and nowhere. Everything interacts with light and if a permanent human presence, a spirit for lack of a better term existed it too would have a form that interacted with light on some level. If he were to give form to phantoms, then the careful control and manipulation of light would be his only means of doing so. Holography is where he placed his hopes.
Gilbourne's lab assistant, Scott was a grad student just over a decade younger than the doctor himself. He was hardly passionate about the hypothesis. He thought of the doctor and his work as an amusing curiosity, but he was a reliable and competent lab assistant while also being the lowest bidder for the job. An important detail given Gilbourne was receiving no university or private funding of any kind and had to pay Scott out of pocket.
Besides the far-fetched premise, there were more than a few glaring holes in Gilbourne's methodology. The pinpoint beams of light projected by holographic generators had to be set to specific points. Only if there was the presence of the deceased exactly where the lights were being directed would they be painted by the beams, or so the theory went.
There was no way for Gilborne to guarantee an aberration would place itself in the right position at the right time, especially given the possibility they may not even exist. The best Gilbourne could do was leave notes everywhere he went and just hope the invisible dead who may or may not be there happened to read them.  He had even taken to announcing to the empty hallway when he was about to perform his experiments on the off chance the silent corridor contained a wondering specter.
The night was going like most. Scott sat at the computer that controlled all the settings they could use to manipulate the lights. His attention was divided between a textbook, his constantly vibrating phone, and the control interface on the computer screen.
Gilbourne sat just opposite of him recording results. It was a chart with four long columns, the one at the far right filled with the word “negative.” They were about two hours into their work today and naturally at this point Gilbourne's optimism was running low, so he decided to pass the time was small talk.
“Any plans tonight?” Gilbourne muttered in a halfhearted attempt at small talk.
“Sorry, what?” Scott said looking up from his phone.
“Are you doing anything after this?” Gilbroune asked again.
“Oh, meeting up with my girlfriend we're going to go to her apartment for a little dinner and a movie.” replied Scott.
“I didn't know you had a girlfriend,” Gilborune said.
“Oh, yeah been going out a while now I guess,” Scott said dismissively.
“How long?” asked Gilbourne.
“Uh, about four months now I guess,” Scott answered.
“Huh,” Gilbounre grunted. There was a lull in the conversation. Scott returned his attention to his textbook and phone. Gilbourne was in no mood for silent contemplation though and endeavored to keep the chatter, no matter how inane going.
“What does she do?” he asked.
“Oh, uh she's getting her masters in communications.”
Gilbroune grinned “Oh, that’s a fascinating field.” he sarcastically sneered.
“Uh, yeah,” muttered Scott while pretending not to notice the doctor's snide remark.
“Has she learned to write an email yet?” asked an indignant Gilbourne.
“Hey, I thought of a name for this project,” Scott blurted out. Hoping to quickly changing the subject.
“Yeah?” Gilbourne glared at him with crossed arms.
“Yeah, Dead Lights,” Scott said. A large grin crossed his round red face.
“I don't get it,” Gilbourne said flatly.
Scott's grin instantly vanished. “You know from the movie “IT” with the evil clown. He had his deadlights,” he explained feelingly slightly embarrassed now that he was explaining the reference.
“Is that the one based on the Stephen King book? The one with Tim Curry and he's a killer clown that lives in the sewers?” Gilbourne asked.
“Yes, that's the one.” Scott snapped, the enthusiasm returning to his voice.
“Never finished that one,” muttered Gilbourne turning away and returning to his data.
A few moments passed and soon it was time for the computer to change the optical settings which it did automatically. In that immeasurably small fraction of a second everything humanity understood about consciousness and indeed, its very presence in the universe, changed. The lights refracted and diffused through the invisible particles in the air, the little crumbs of creation that were nothing, yet made everything and created the glowing almost transparent right side profile of an old man.
“Holy shit!” exclaimed Scott, his phone, shattering against the tile floor. 
“Oh, my God it fuckin worked!” Gilbourne shouted. “Scott quick, adjust the lights so we can see more of him!”
“Yes, doctor!” Scott said as he snapped into action.
“Can he see us?” Scott asked.
“I don't know,” Gilbourne said. “Excuse me, sir!” he blurted out.
The ghost turned and faced the astonished scientists. His full face was now constructed by the light. He was a very elderly man, with dark wrinkled skin and deep-set eyes swallowed by crows feet. He had a few wild strands of hair on his pockmarked scalp. He stood before the astonished scientists as a faintly glowing specter. The elderly aberration pointed to himself and his lips moved, but there was no sound.
“He knows we can see him!” announced Gilbourne. The old man's mouth was chattering, but no sound came from his lips.
“I can't hear him,” said Scott. “We can't hear you!” he shouted at the old ghost. “I can't hear him,” he repeated back to Gilbourne.
“Quick we need to hunt down the most sensitive microphones we can find!” barked Gilbourne.
Fortunately, the institution was one that received ample defense department funding and perhaps it was fate that a colleague had been working on a project that utilized audio capturing devices that could record conversations from satellites in space. It was only a matter of hours before they were able to give the mysterious visitor from beyond a voice, albeit a faint one.
The researchers had finally confirmed existence beyond death and naturally they had an abundance of questions.
In life, his name was James Kohler. He had fought in the second world war and had raised a family in a small town in upstate New York. The ghost had an infinite amount of time and just as much patience, and he allowed the two to interview him through the night. He couldn't remember how long ago he died, by his estimate it had been about twelve years, although it had been a long time since he visited his own grave.
“Can you see other ghosts?” asked Gilbourne.
“No, can't say I ever have. At least I don't think.” The old man said in his labored and raspy voice.
“Wait, do you like being referred to as a ghost or should we think of something else?” asked Scott
“Eh, ghost is fine I guess,” he replied dismissively.
Gilborune rolled his eyes at the question. “I assume you saw my notes. May I ask why you were hanging around this lab?” he asked.
“Well,” said Kohler “being dead, I have nothing to do. Literally nothing. I don't get hungry. I don't need to sleep. I can't talk to anyone, so I've had time just to wander around. After a while, I was really looking for a way to pass the time, and then I remembered the atomic bomb.”
“The atomic bomb?” repeated Gilbourne
“Yeah, it won the war, and I was always curious about how it worked, but raising a family didn't leave me a whole lot of time to learn about that kind of thing. So I decided I would just hang around the scientific movers and shakers to see where this world was going next. Then I found out about this place and decided it would probably be better than walking all the way to New Mexico.”
“You know we do defense research here?” asked Scott.
“Yeah, it's not really a well-kept secret and being a ghost, it was pretty easy for me to get through security,” James replied.
“Do you ever visit your family?” asked Gilbourne
“I went back to my house for a while, but eventually, my wife died. I was hoping she might turn up, but she never did, and the rest of my family is sort of all over the place. I figured it didn't make a ton of sense standing around my children if they couldn't see me and I couldn't talk to them,” James explained.
The researchers fell silent as they contemplated the lonely existence of the dead. It was a fate that awaited them all. 
“I tried everything to get them to notice me, but I can't touch anything either,” continued James.
“What do you mean?” Asked Gilbrourne.
“Here, poke me with your pen,” said James pointing to a pen in Scott's shirt pocket.
Scott took out the pen and poked the spirit. The tip of the pen passed right through James's transparent form.
“Oh, Wow,” gasped Scott.
“Wait, if matter passes through you how come you don't fall through the floor?” Gilbroune asked.
“Don't really know. That would be a question for God. If I could just find him,” retorted James.

                                   ****

The next day Dr. Gilbourne and Scott revealed their findings to an astonished world and Gilbourne and his young assistant enjoyed a meteoric rise. Their discovery got them instant notoriety, not just in the scientific community but massive worldwide fame.
They became instantly wealthy and scarcely a day went by when they weren't requested for an interview by the world's most influential media outlets.
Scott was quick to embrace his new found fame and fortune and all the decadence that came with it. Dr. Gilbourne, the man who had concocted the idea of illuminating the dead became ever more reclusive. It was nearly six months later that the two came together again. According to the experts, or at least people on television who have seen fit to include the word expert in their title, Gilbourne and Scott would be shoo-ins for a Nobel prize. The committee had reached out to the pair but hadn't received a response from the doctor. It was up to Scott to bring the hermit out and after some time he managed to do just that.
The two met in a restaurant in a downtown high rise that loomed above historic downtown Boston. It was an enclave for the elite of the East Coast. The tables were draped in ebony cloth and candlelight accompanied by a small orchestra that created a classical and comfortable ambiance. Even though, it was the most exclusive spot in the city the Nobel Prize nominees had no trouble getting a table.
The establishment was filled with politicians, business leaders, and those who just happened to have the money and influence to be there. They dined while discussing business deals, politics, and market trends. They were accompanied by friends, partners, wives, or mistresses. Some even dined and chatted with the glowing dead who had now been resurrected by a very expensive consumer holographic prototype. The rich had become immortal.
Scott's wardrobe had changed quite a bit. He traded the modest garb of the grad school student for a tailored designer suit. He had just finished ordering his first cocktail of the night when he saw Gilbourne by the Maitre D podium.
The haggard figure stood in stark contrast to his young colleague. He was a slouching disheveled mess. His face was unshaven, and he wore tattered clothes that were wrinkled and dirty. His now long stringy hair was graying and unwashed. His eyes were set in the middle of large dark circles and his skin, wrinkled from exhaustion and stress made him appear twenty years older than he had seemed just six months ago.
He shuffled over to Scott's table mumbling to himself the whole way. The other patrons who donned black ties and shimmering dresses murmured to each other. The doctor looked more like a homeless man than a world famous scientist.
“Doctor Gilbourne, how are you?” Scott said standing up to greet him.
“Fine fine,” muttered Gilbourne before dropping into his chair. Scott still wearing his smile in the hopes of salvaging something from this encounter sat down too.
“So what's been going on with you? No one's heard from you in a while,” He said in as congenial a tone as possible.
“Eh,” shrugged Gilbourne.
“Did you get the invitation from the Nobel Committee?” Scott asked.
“Oh yeah, them. Yeah, I guess I'll go,” sighed Gilbourne.
“Fantastic! We're going to be Nobel laureates!” exclaimed Scott “Another round over here, please.” he called to the waiter. The doctor slumped in his seat looking far from elated. An awkward silence settled in and Scott took a sip from his glass. “Is something wrong doctor?” he finally worked up the nerve to ask.
“This whole thing is just weird,” Gilbourne muttered.
“What do you mean?” asked Scott.
“Well, just look,” Gilbourne said motioning to the illuminated specter of an elderly socialite sitting at a table, a full martini in front of her she could not even raise to her lips let alone drink.
“I don't understand. Thanks to our....your discovery, we no longer have to be afraid of death.” said Scott. “We don't have to lose people anymore.”
“Is that really a good thing?” snapped the doctor suddenly sitting up in his chair. “They’re all around us you know. You're never alone. There's never any privacy. We can't miss anyone because they never leave us. What does that say about the value of life.” Scott sat silent.
“you know why I started this whole thing right?” asked Gilbourne.
Scott shook his head. “I couldn't stand the idea of never seeing my mother again. She had just died of cancer, and the idea that she simply didn't exist anymore was too much for me. It wasn't enough to believe I had to see it and now that I did I'm not sure it's such a good thing. I don't know why it is so, but the dead are supposed to leave us for a reason, and now even after all this, I still can't find her. Which I can only take to mean she doesn't want to be found.”
Scott took another sip of his drink. He had no words to offer the distressed doctor. It was their last meeting. Afterward, the dejected scientist returned to his home where he decided to join the ranks of the unseen dead. He disappeared forever into the lonely oblivion never choosing to reemerge in the world of the living as a holograph.
THE END
Now, a little note from the author:
About seven years ago two stories I submitted were printed by an Australian based literary magazine called Skive. Just a few months later more of my work was accepted by a publisher in Scotland and another in Kentucky. That’s when I knew the first time hadn’t been just a fluke! From then on I wrote as much as I could and submitted work anywhere I could.
As it stands, my work has been printed in 11 different volumes and has been featured in numerous ebooks as well as distributed on literary-themed websites. I try and be as industrious as possible and strive for at least two short stories a month. Usually, these are about 1,000-3,000 words. I have no plans to commit myself to a novel my style just works best at that length. So take a look at my work. If you donate, you have my undying gratitude! Even if you don’t but at least come back and see what I’ve written from time to time that would be greatly appreciated as well.



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