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Autocatalytic 1

Story by Raf Rennie

The lights were always blinding when they first bolted on, neutral fluorescent white. He moved slowly taking off his layers, it was late and the winter air didn’t encourage these late night hours. He hung his well worn wool coat on the rack, left his boots on, and took off his cap. “It wouldn’t be so cold if I didn’t have to shave my head for this,” he begrudgingly muttered to himself. Of course, no one forced him to, he’d recount. This whole thing has been his idea, his thesis really. It had been years working to get to this point—he counted, twenty-four years since CERN first turned on, seventy since Bell, twenty long years since he first formed his hypothesis, and twelve since the first miniature black holes were created… that was the first step. As he took his seat on the medical table, he picked up the half empty jar of Vaseline, and began coating his shaved head. Who would have thought of all the parts, it was the printing of an empty vessel that took the longest for technology to achieve. It was macabre, thinking about that thing, he kept it sitting elsewhere in another room where he didn’t have to look at it. Though he oversaw it’s creation he couldn’t help but shake the feeling it was a part of him, they did use his raw material for it, it was—in a sense—a part of him. The scar on the back of his crown made that clear, he felt it as he finished up coating his head and slipped on the EKG cap. They did these things late at night as an energy matter, it just added to the macabre of the whole thing however.

“We’ve just about reached top speed, ready to cross when you’re ready”


He looked up to the window and nodded. Lifting himself up, he positioned himself in the bed propped up with a pillow behind his head. He took a deep breath, then laid there in still silence. “What am I going to say?” Twenty-four years and he never decided on what it was he wanted to say, he was just always more interested in the possibility than the usefulness. It’ll come to him, he thought, one of those things that just come to you in the moment—he wondered, if Armstrong had written his lines long before. For now, he focused on his breathing, trying to relax, clearing his head, imagining his thoughts running down the wires from the cap to the room next door, through the vessel, and from there through more wires to the collider where they would be reduced to their simplest string of electrons. Breathe. He gave the woman in the window a thumbs up.

“We’re ready… and go”

He laid there waiting, waiting for the words to come to him. What to say. He waited for a way to know everything was working, then he’d kn…

The sound of screaming flooded his ears, cutting o the thought, panic took over his body. His internal monologue seemed to be trying to shout over itself and he couldn’t make out his own thoughts through the layers and layers of his own voice. He couldn’t sit up or move, he shook and squirmed with pain until he fell to the floor with a hard bang. The voices kept shouting and shouting and shouting. Everything grew louder and louder. His fists clenched digging his nails into his palms, his legs locked and pulled up in fetal position. The voices grew only louder the clearer they became;

“Don’t take that position”
“She leaves you in 6 years”
“Bet on the Nets”
“You win the Nobel in 4 years”
“They take your research”
“Don’t turn the thing on”
“Don’t be the vessel”
“Don’t turn the machine on”
“Don’t be the vessel”
“Don’t be the vessel”

This story originally appeared in WAX 8.