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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Monday, April 30, 2018

Future Fear: A Science Fiction Story

In the year 2040 Adam Jackson had started to strongly suspect that he had seen a ghost. How else could he explain having a conversation with John F. Kennedy?

It had all started when Adam was in the office, working at his job as an android robot designer. Adam began to feel a strange pain in his arm. Before long he felt a terrible pain in his chest he had never felt before. Adam touched the small wafer on his 100-purposes utility wrist-band, and requested immediate medical assistance. Then he blacked out.

Given what had happened, Adam would not have been surprised to find himself waking up in hospital bed. Instead he was surprised to find himself waking up in what looked like a hotel room. He asked himself: where am I? He looked out the window, but it was dark, and he could see little.

Adam decided to do a little walking around to try and found out where he was. He opened the door of his room, and walked into a hall with many rooms. Adam went to the room next to his, and tried opening the door.

The door opened, and Adam walked into the room. There inside the room sitting on a sofa was what looked exactly like John F. Kennedy, the US president who was assassinated. Adam was startled.

Where am I?” asked Adam.

Good fellow, I'm sure you're better capable of answering that than me,” said the man in a voice matching the distinctive Boston accent of John F. Kennedy. “But sit down with me, and we can discuss some secrets I've never told about how I handled the Cuban Missile Crisis. Or, if history bores you, we can discuss my incredibly interesting sex life.”

Shaken by what looked just like a man who had died many years ago, Adam left the room. He walked down the hall, and opened another room. Inside he saw a woman sitting on a sofa.

Excuse me,” said Adam. “I know this sounds strange, but I don't know where I am. What is this building?”

My name's Lizzie,” said the woman. “Lizzie Borden.” She raised up something that was on the sofa, and Adam saw it was what looked like an ax. Adam quickly exited the room, shutting the door. In the hall Adam remembered the famous rhyme inspired by the grizzly murder long ago:

Lizzie Borden took an ax
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one

Adam walked back to his room. He started to think about what he had seen after waking up. What could it mean, seeing two people who had died long ago? Then a terrible thought occurred to him: maybe the people he had seen were ghosts. Maybe he had somehow ended up in the most haunted of haunted hotels.

Adam thought to himself: there's one way to test my theory – the next time I see one of these “dead” people, I'll reach out my hand to touch him; and if my hand just passes through him, I'll know he's really a ghost. Adam went out of his room, and walked further down the hall, opening up a door he hadn't opened up before.

Walking into the room, Adam couldn't believe what he saw in front of him. Standing there before him was a figure from history he recognized. It was Joseph Stalin, who ruled the Soviet Union with an iron hand.

Another visitor – welcome!” said the man in a thick Russian accent. “Tell me, comrade: would you consider me your dear friend?”

Adam was just about to say, “Why, of course not; we only just met.” But then he remembered something about Stalin. During the 1930's, before World War II, Stalin had sent millions of people to their deaths in the Great Purges. If there was ever the slightest suspicion that someone was not an ardent Stalin loyalist, that person would be shot. Terrified that he might be shot on the spot unless he answered exactly right, Adam chose his words carefully.

Why, in the worker's paradise you have created, Mr. Stalin,” said Adam, “there is no more ardent supporter of you than myself.”

Adam remembered how he had to test his theory that he was seeing ghosts. “In fact, it would be the greatest honor of my life,” said Adam, “if you only let me touch your shoulder.”

With trepidation Adam reached out his hand, trying to touch the shoulder of the figure before him. His hand didn't stop when it reached the figure's shoulder.  His hand seemed to disappear inside the body of Joseph Stalin. Adam gasped, and ran out of the room.

Adam rushed back to his room. My worst fears are confirmed, Adam thought. I'm in a hotel filled with ghosts. Maybe I'm dead myself. Maybe this is how it's like when you die. You start seeing lots of other dead people, and then you slowly realize it's because you yourself are dead. I probably died from a heart attack! That's what those chest pains were – a heart attack that killed me!

Adam decided to try to leave the building. He walked down the stairs. He ended up in a lobby that looked like an ordinary hotel lobby. There he met some ordinary flesh-and-blood people. After asking lots of questions, and making some electronic queries, Adam was able to finally sort out what had happened.

He had indeed had a heart attack, and had been rushed to a hospital. There the doctors had given him the Karposky treatment, which completely cures heart problems, but causes 36 hours of unconsciousness. Given the penetration of a genetically engineered epidemic into the hospital, a dire need to free up hospital beds, and the lack of any further need for the patient's medical treatment, the doctors ordered that Adam should be returned to his home. The doctors had correctly identified Adam's home using his wrist-band, as the location of 1670 Richards Avenue #7F. But, misled by some sloppy doctor's handwriting, a pair of medical transport workers had mistakenly dropped the patient off at 1610 Richards Avenue #7F, a suite in the newly opened Hologram Hotel.

The historical figures Adam had seen were not ghosts, but holograms. A manager at the hotel explained the idea of the hotel to Adam.

A hologram is a three-dimensional illusion that resembles something solid, but which is merely a projection using lasers,” explained the manager of the Hologram Hotel. “Visitors check into our hotel rooms, and are able to wander into other hotel rooms, meeting some of history's most famous figures inside the hotel rooms. Those figures are just holograms – but they look just like the real thing. And our chatbot software controlling the holograms makes them talk just like the real thing. It's all great fun for our hotel guests.”

I could have sworn they were ghosts,” said Adam.

We're sorry that you were scared by the mix-up,” said the manager. “Don't worry, we'll make things up for you by giving you a 10% discount coupon for your next stay at the Hologram Hotel.”

Discount coupon – are you kidding?” said Adam. “I'm gonna avoid this crazy place like the plague. I wouldn't be caught dead here – which is just what I thought had happened.”

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