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On the Mystery of Human Perception

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Since the dawn of time, mankind has been ignorant of various aspects of the universe in which we live. Centuries ago, man believed that the entire world was composed of only four elements: air, water, earth, and fire. Even today, humans are discovering that there are ten dimensions in space-time, rather than the three which we perceive daily, and that the majority of matter in the universe is an unknown substance often referred to as "dark matter." I propose that this obliviousness of the world around us is, in actuality, an evolutionary advantage over many other members of the animal kingdom, as this ignorance of unimportant and, perhaps, even frightening stimuli allows humans an opportunity for thought and ingenuity that is unique among the living organisms that populate our planet. With my doctorate in neuroscience, I intend to locate this proposed "perception filter" and remove or otherwise disable it so that humanity can gain a greater understanding of our universe.

That was the first paragraph of my doctoral essay from college. It was, as far as I'm concerned, the beginning. Of what, I can't say. I don't understand at all what's happened over these past ten years, but I can assure you that it was terrible. I'm not entirely sure if it's even over.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Now's not the time for self-pity. I have to record what's happened, as I've said, for the sake of science.

You came here for a narrative, and I intend to give you one.

I got my doctorate after submitting that essay. This was the beginning of a long, successful career for me. I worked at several institutes throughout the world and forwarded many studies in several fields.

However, that entire time, I longed for that one discovery. I yearned for this filter, knowing I'd find it.

So, I decided to look.

By this point in time, I'd already made a habit of collecting human brains whenever possible. None of my friends were ever put off by it, even when I began to dissect them After all, I pretty much worked with brains for a living, so why not?

I would often poke around inside this grey matter, looking for clues. Mapping the brain, using already known as reference points. This whole time I was trying to find an area that could give me some clue as to where this filter was. But these dead brains just wouldn't work. I would need to see a live one in action in order to be able to truly achieve my goal.

I wasn't performing any surgeries or anything, just carrying out simple CAT scans, so no one was opposed to my tapping into a local hospital's resources to help me in my studies. I had more difficulty finding willing test subjects.

Enter William. About twenty-six at the time, six-feet-tall, in good health, and average intelligence. Over the course of twenty months, I called Will in for periodic CAT scans, every other week. Our business relationship grew into friendship, and even today I think of him as a brother.

Over time, I began to zone in on a single area in the brain: inside the temporal lobe, (the area responsible for sensory input) right next to the hippocampus (the area responsible for forming and organizing memories.) However, even this discovery didn't provide conclusive evidence that I was right. I needed to test my theory.

The hardest part was going through all the legal junk and paperwork. The test itself was simple; I would put a device up to Will's head that would send an electrical pulse through his brain, deactivating this unknown bit of grey matter. If I was right, Will would get a glimpse into all of the as-of-yet unseen dimensions of space.

I'll never forget that day.

"Are you ready, Will?" I said, stepping into the room and seeing him already seated in an armchair.

"Hell yeah!" he said cheerily.

I smiled, approaching a control panel. I flipped a few dials and grabbed a headpiece that was wired up to the panel. After I placed it on his head, Will looked at me with only a slight hint of doubt.

"This won't hurt, will it?"

"Nah," I lied; I had no idea what would happen.

"Alrighty then. Fire when ready, doc."

I began to count down in my head.

3...

My palms grew sweaty.

2...

I could barely contain my excitement.

1...

This was it!

Zero.

I flipped the switch. In the split second afterward, I glanced at Will, whose eyes were shut tight before he jolted violently with shock and opened his eyes.

"Holy shit..." he said, looking around in wonder.

"What? What do you see?" I asked, practically hopping up and down with glee at my apparent success.

"I see... cowboys." He said, staring ahead before looking to his left and right and behind, "And, sharks... stars... indians... dinosaurs..."

He looked at me, obviously having difficulty finding me.

"THIS IS FUCKING AWESOME!" he yelled.

I couldn't help but laugh a bit, but I was more interested in the science of what was going on. It seemed like he was seeing into the past like it was just another point in space.

"There are horses running though you right now," he said, chuckling, before looking up, "Whoah! Flying cars! And... are those ALIENS?"

He was now seeing into the future, it seemed.

"Huh. That's neat." He stood and, with the device still on his head, stumbled towards one end of the room, looking down slightly.

Then he screamed. He looked up. He screamed louder. He fell to the ground. He shrieked. He began to writhe on the floor before me, his body convulsing erratically like some kind of worm.

I rushed to the control panel. I flipped the switch off. Will continued to convulse. I ran to him and yanked off his headpiece. I panicked. I shook him. I told him to come back. He screamed. Dear God, did he scream. He looked right through me; his eyes looking milky, dead, but at the same time filled with an unspeakable terror. He shut his eyes tight and lay in a fetal position, his yells shrinking into whimpers.

"No..." he breathed.

I stood over him, motionless, for a full minute. Without thinking, I walked over to the monitor and stared blankly at the screen. I sat there for a few seconds before a sudden motivation to find out what had happened to my test subject—no—my friend overtook me. I scanned the screen, pulling up countless models and programs. I looked at what brain scans from the device had detected during the test, and was greeted by a model of a human brain that glowed red and yellow. The model was color-coded to show brain activity; it seemed that all of the sensory and emotional, as well as the linguistic areas of the brain had been completely overloaded, and everything else was inflamed as well. That could mean...

I pulled out my phone and called an ambulance immediately.

They arrived at the testing facility in fifteen minutes, and were able to stabilize Will's breathing and heart rate. I sat in the chair, motionless, while the paramedics took him away. I had no idea what had happened. I wasn't sure if I wanted to find out.

Will recovered fairly quickly, or at least, physically. He couldn't speak at all, and was placed in a mental institution, and would probably be there for life.

I, on the other hand, was bombarded with lawsuits from his friends and family, as well as questions from my benefactors. I didn't care about any of it, though. When you have a friend as close to you as Will was to me suffer a fate that horrible, you rarely care about anything. I felt nothing but guilt for my friend, who had had nothing but faith in me, the entire time we had worked together. Then my thoughts turned to my own life's work, which had surely been for nothing, as the test ended in disaster.

I was able to avoid imprisonment, and I kept the device, which I stored in my attic, where it gathered dust. I lived alone in my large house in a secluded area near the Rockies for years. I became paranoid, as I began to see shapes from the corner of my eye and hear creaks coming from no identifiable source.

Nine years after all this happened, I received a letter in the mail; the first one I'd received in nearly a decade. It read:

Dear Charles,

I just got word that my husband, your friend William, committed suicide yesterday. He was discovered with several open wounds covering his body, looking self-inflicted from the angle of the wounds. He didn't leave behind any note and he seemed to finally be getting better the last time that I had visited him. I have no idea why he'd do it. I know you two were close, so I thought that maybe you could provide some explanation as to why he would do this. I hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely, Martha.

I didn't feel any sadness when I read the note. Will, the real Will, had died nine years before when I flipped that switch. I wrote a letter explaining that I had no idea why he would do this, and that since the incident he was probably mentally unstable enough to end his own life for any number of reasons, regardless of how he may have appeared.

I sent the letter to the return address, and that was the last time Martha and I ever contacted one another.

This blast from the past was what inspired me to bring out the device again. There was only one way to truly understand what had happened to my friend...

I put on the headpiece. I took a deep breath.

"This is all that's left..." I said to myself, trying to persuade myself to pull the switch. "You have to do this. For Will."

I took another breath and activated the device.

I felt a jolt of electricity in my head before my jaw dropped in awe. I looked around me, simultaneously seeing millions of figures and structures and animals: everything that had and would ever stand on this spot. I looked around, seeing countless shapes. It was beautiful and humbling, to see that this string of life had been here for so long and would endure for much longer. I saw war and peace. Famine and plenty. Plague and health. Hate and love. And I was a part of all of it. I walked through an endless field of Confederate soldiers, aliens, European colonials, and cavemen. Eventually, I looked up and I saw the sun, bloated like a dead cow, looming overhead. It exploded, bleeding hot gas over the planet. Eliminating everything around me, past, present, and future.

I then noticed figures surrounding me. These were different from the human shapes that had accompanied me. These were... indescribable. Tall beings with horrific bodies that contorted into odd shapes that were everywhere, and yet confined to one area. They looked like something that only hell itself could produce.

One of these entities leaped at me. I couldn't escape from its grasp. A loud ringing filled my ears and I was almost overwhelmed with pain as it squeezed me. The area of its body that must be a face leaned in closely to me, filling my nose with the stench of decay.

"This is what all things come to," it said in an all too familiar voice. "This world, this universe, will end in fire. Even the afterlife that so many glorify brings nothing but suffering."

"Will..." was all I managed to say before the thing began to claw at me.

I screamed and flailed my arms wildly in defiance. I managed to strike one of the arms, but that only annoyed it. It reached one of its claws into my eye sockets, mercifully depriving me of sight. Eventually, I managed to hit the headpiece in my blind attack.

I felt it fall off of my head. The noise around me died down, and all was quiet. I sat in silence and darkness, totally blind.

I knew that the beasts weren't gone. I just couldn't feel or hear them because my filter had been reactivated.

But they were there, and they were just as real as they'd always been. Always in this world, always able to affect us, but just beyond our reach. In a place in space-time where we could do nothing to them, but they could harm us as much as they pleased. I became distraught, to say the least, at the thought of all that this implied. They could be anywhere, doing anything, at this very moment.

And now they knew that I knew of them. I felt like they wouldn't be too happy about that.

Surely, they would come for me. They'd kill me, and I'd become one of them.

The next year was hectic for me. I went to see every authority figure I could get my hands on. From the national government to the state, the military to the local police, I tried to find all the help I could get.

Nobody believed me. I spoke in front of countless students at universities and was laughed at. I couldn't give up, though. As long as those things existed and the only means of protection we had was ignorance, we were in danger. Every last human being on the planet.

This is my hour of desperation I'm posting this here to give each and every reader a reason; spread the word. I don't care if you think of this as fiction or not, just get my story out there. I'm continuing to do what I can, but nothing works. I've been trying to get people involved in further testing to attract the attention of someone in power.

I'm sorry, Will. For everything.

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