Watching in a Trance

This story was written while listening to Shiny Toy Guns’ cover of “Major Tom” on loop. If you would like the full experience while reading it, the song is on YouTube ( as is the original (

“Experiments require precisely controlled environments and must be repeated many times for significant results. In the time before replicators, our science was full of bad experiments.”


The scientist sits at his workstation, fresh coffee on the table beside him, and switches to a terminal.

cd ../ChimpCompiler
gcc -c -o chimp_08464
./chimp_08464 –mode=test –run_tests=all –test_iq=95

The machine hums and symbols spit down the screen in rapid succession. He takes a sip of coffee, frowns at it in surprise, and gets up to go brew another pot.


The test has gone well. The scientist sits at his workstation again, fresh coffee on the table beside him, and focuses on the terminal.

cd ..
cd ChimpReplicator
python –program=../ChimpReplicator/chimp_08464 –tolerance=6 –log_level=Error –test=True / 2>&1 | tee log_chimp_08464_060849.txt

The machine hums and symbols spit down the screen in rapid succession. The scientist sips his coffee and is satisfied. He switches tabs and watches a video to pass the time.


After a while, the scientist gets up and walks across the room to a video monitor. The monitor is split screen; each side shows a large floor mounted capsule in an otherwise empty room. Lights on the capsules blink a repeating sequence in perfect unison. After a minute, this sequence is interrupted by a short burst of blinks, and finally, silently, the lights switch off, and the capsule doors slowly open, still in perfect unison.

Fog settles to the floor from inside the doors, and from each capsule emerges a chimpanzee in a space suit. There are subtle, intentional differences; the scientist inspects these and smiles with satisfaction. This won’t be like the first pot of coffee.


The chimpanzees now stand idly on conveyor belts, each carried forward down a hallway.

They emerge through automatic doors, each in a room with a perfectly fitted transport pod, glass canopy raised open overhead.

Their training kicks in, and they waddle over to their craft and climb aboard. The chimps strap themselves in and put on helmets which have electrical cables running into the spaces behind their seats. They push buttons in perfect unison, and the glass canopies descend. After a moment, conveyor arms appear from the sides of each room, lowering to the floor, grabbing each pod from the underside, and raising it up and out of the room.

Now the monitor switches viewpoints. The podcraft are deposited in long tunnels. Lights blink in succession as structures are attached to the pods. The chimps sit quietly, occasionally fiddling with dials. Finally the main status light on each side shows steady green.

One chimp scratches himself.

The scientist nods to himself and returns to his terminal.

cd ../ChimpAccelerator


A deep and audible thrum builds from the floor beneath the chimps. The pods levitate off ground, centered in the tunnels, and begin to accelerate under magnetic impulse power. The scientist reads the accelerator status from one tab as he watches video on another.

1.004 * 10^-8 * c

The acceleration process is slow. The scientist opens another window to do more work, refactoring some code, periodically checking the accelerator status window.

6.901 * 10^-6 * c

The chimps sit patiently. Already the speed is high enough to blur the tunnel through their viewports.

After an hour, the status window reads

0.84 * c
Approaching warp threshold in 2:57

The chimps remain patient. Another readout indicates they are continuing to pass physiological tests.

0.96 * c

Approaching warp threshold in 0:45

The scientist switches back to the accelerator terminal, where a prompt awaits the final commands.

0:30 WarpPrep, Align0:50 Warp, Collide


A curious thing happens during a Mori Inversion Warp. Acceleration is smooth at sub and super light speeds, but there is a jump discontinuity at the speed of light. Human subjects describe it as feeling “like time stops for an infinity”, and early instrumentation readings often (but not always) reflect this. Edwards and Tillman developed a method to partially shield instruments, allowing for readings at the singularity, but it doesn’t work on living brains; subjectively, humans continue to perceive an infinite stoppage of time.


The pods shift into the same tunnel and bear down on each other just as the warp discontinuity is reached.





Time stops.

The chimps are frozen, pods just a few feet apart, separated by nothing but empty space. They stare at each other through their glass viewports.

They stare deeply into each other’s eyes. They can’t move.

They stare at each other for an age. Incomprehension turns to shock turns to rage. They hate each other for a long time.

After more than a century, one chimp unexpectedly softens. The second chimp recognizes this, sensitized after so long staring at his clone, and softens as well.

Hate turns to understanding turns to love.

They love each other with all the understanding of a nearly identical pair. He is the tragic lover of himself, forever.

But their differences are flaws in a perfect diamond, and over centuries, these flaws shatter under pressure. Each chimp hates the other, simply for being different.

They pass eons, divorcing, remarrying, divorcing, remarrying.

A million years have passed, and, exhausted, each accepts the flaws in the other. They will remain together forever.

Their love lasts more lifetimes than all the loves of all the beings that have ever lived on earth.

And still they know it will end. Even this infinity is subjective, and it will end.

Time doesn’t return all of a sudden. It returns gradually, agonizingly. The pods begin to move, just barely at the edge of perception. Then slowly, so slowly, the pods touch, and grind each other to pieces. Fire, slow beautiful painted fire engulfs the chimps, and they die still staring into each other’s eyes.


The scientist sips his coffee and watches the explosion on his desk monitor. He smiles with blearly eyed satisfaction as he switches to the terminal.

cd ../ChimpCompiler

He still has a long night of work ahead of him.


The Journal of Astrophysical Psychology publishes “Reactions of Chimpanzees at Relativistic Speeds” to widespread acclaim.