Listen. This is how it began.
A dream of immortality. A dread of endings. A belief in the machine.
The Soul© was implanted in the cerebral cortex at birth. A chip so small it was almost invisible, yet it recorded all the images, ideas, sounds, smells, touches, tastes and beliefs that build an individual. It compiled dreams, catalogued emotions, and at the end of life, was removed and inserted into the mainframe. There the Soul© could live for virtually ever.
The mainframe promised to be realer than real. Ice would be colder, chocolate sweeter and passion hotter.
But there were problems, unanticipated, unexpected, unplanned for, unbelievable.
The Soul©s were flat. They had a register of attitudes, but no feelings. Memories, but no emotions. Desire, but no love. Hunger, but no satisfaction. They were like student actors given a new script, unsure which line to stress, what emotion to feel, or what pinnacle to strive towards.
The scientists and technicians went back to their labs and their screens and tried again.
The defective chips were disposed of.
Some protested that this was murder.
“We must save the unborn and protect the undead,” the dissenters cried. “It’s, literally, virtual eugenics.” But as protesters protested, technology advanced.
Soul2© was inserted in vitro so as to capture all those floating embryonic imaginings. Perceptions passed between mother and child. Visions circulated through blood vessels. Dreams without which a person could never be whole. Embryonic musings made a big difference. Who would have imagined that those nine months were so important, who except mother and babe?
But though more successful, Soul2© was still nowhere near complex enough to be considered a soul.
We’d completely overlooked the gut, which was full of bacterium emitting messages to the brain. So, we inserted Soul3© invitro in both the cerebral cortex and the lining of the stomach. It was a delicate operation.
Sometimes it seemed that the more we learned the less we knew. The more we understood the more daunting the road to eternity.
It was becoming clear that our bodies, like earth, were intricately connected biomes, containing hundreds, and thousands, and millions of diverse ecosystems, each containing hundreds, and thousands, and millions of species of bacteria and virus. The more powerful our tools, the more varied life we discovered. So, we inserted Soul4© in the cerebral cortex, the lining of the stomach and the small intestine.
Soul5©’s insertions correlated identically with the seven chakras, but nobody liked to mention that. It was too mystical, with its implication that humans were more than a complex chain of chemicals and neutrons that were ultimately understandable.
By the time we achieved perfection, the Soul© was so intricately incorporated into all parts of the body it was impossible to retrieve.
This story previously appeared in Sci Phi Journal.
Edited by Marie Ginga
E.E. King is cohost of the MetaStellar YouTube channel's Long Lost Friends segment. She is also a painter, performer, writer, and naturalist. She’ll do anything that won’t pay the bills, especially if it involves animals. Ray Bradbury called her stories “marvelously inventive, wildly funny and deeply thought-provoking. I cannot recommend them highly enough.” She’s been published widely, including Clarkesworld and Flametree. She also co-hosts The Long Lost Friends Show on MetaStellar's YouTube channel. Check out paintings, writing, musings, and books at ElizabethEveKing.com and visit her author page on Amazon.