'Soul Mates' by Victor Aquista one of the sixteen amazing short stories in the Scifi Roundtable's new anthology The Quantum Soul.
First step required that the chamber be cooled. Mike watched as the temperature within the box chilled to 7 0 Celsius. The cricket had slowed and now remained still except for a twitch of antennae. A puff of ether gas erupted as Mike injected the anesthetic. He included this step in the protocol for humane reasons. It probably didn’t influence whether or not the insect suffered, but as experiments advanced to lizards, chicks, mice…all the way up to dogs and cats, he would feel guilty if they needlessly felt pain. The ether likely minimized any animal suffering.
While writings from the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Hindus, and Chinese all
demonstrated a basic understanding of life energy, Mike realized it was only a qualitative understanding. In 1907, the French philosopher Henri Bergson published his essay, The Elan Vital and Self-Evolution. Bergson’s exploration and philosophical analysis still informed much of Mike’s understanding. That same year, and Mike hardly thought this a coincidence, Dr. Duncan MacDougal published, The Soul: Hypothesis Concerning Soul Substance Together with Experimental Evidence of the Existence of Such Substance. MacDougal remained convinced that the soul had physical mass and he measured the difference in body weight pre and immediately post-mortem. His conclusion: the average weight of the human soul calculated to 21 grams.
Chilled carbon dioxide filled the container next. This food preservation technology, borrowed from cold storage of fruit—how else do you think you can have a crisp apple off-season—served a dual purpose. The odorless, colorless CO 2 suffocated the animal within the box, while the temperature and lack of oxygen within diminished cellular degradation. While Mike observed the cricket through the view panel on top of the chamber, his eyes remained focused on the pair of gauges measuring élan vital. One measured the force within the container, the other calibrated the life energy within the adjacent collector.
MacDougal had the right idea in so far as measuring the soul, just another name for this life energy. But it wasn’t physical mass, it was energetic and not electromagnetism. Whatever the energetic “substance” happened to be, Mike still could not say for sure. In his mind, he imagined it as quanta of consciousness. The theoretical physics and mathematical formulae explaining this life force led straight to quantum mechanics. Mike had a decent IQ, but the theoretical basis didn’t matter to him. Measurement. That was the key.
The two gauges measured identical changes, the box down by a fraction, the accumulator up by the same fraction. Although Mike had no electrodes or way to monitor whether or not the cricket was truly dead, he felt certain the insect within had passed and its spark of life energy no longer animated its insect body. He reversed the polarity, vented the CO 2 and began to raise the
temperature. Heart racing, Mike saw the gauges flip back to their previous baselines. The cricket twitched a couple of times then resumed exploration of the chamber. Success!
“Honey, I think it worked.” He crawled into bed next to Julie. Her boss asked that she put in extra hours as the firm had taken on a big case. It seemed the paralegals bore the brunt of that extra work.
“That’s nice, sweetheart.” Her sleepy voice told him a love-making all-nighter would have to wait. “When do you get the Nobel prize?”
As his wife’s gentle snores lapped his consciousness like waves upon a glorious beach, Mike lay wide awake beside her. Abruptly, he shot up and went down to the basement. As the light flipped on, the cricket ran to the corner of the terrarium where he had moved it. It’s still alive!
The Quantum Soul is available now and you can find more books by Dr. Victor Acquista on Amazon.