An Impenetrable Mystery
The solid metal box was most unusual, Mckeral noted. For one, it was huge, about the size of a chest of drawers, and very crudely made. It was six square sheets of metal screwed into place. But, what was most arresting was that it was right in the centre of the place where the CERN Laboratory had stood before it was completely devastated by a series of explosions . The CERN Laboratory was located on the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. The lab had housed hundreds of scientists working on various projects. The explosions had been caused by a number of crudely designed bombs planted all over the area. A few of them had been planted inside the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) causing extensive damage to the machine. The LHC was a 27-kilometer ring buried deep below the countryside on the outskirts of Geneva, Switzerland.
Mckeral belonged to the team of investigators pooled in from across the globe to find the hand behind the bombings. “Jake,” Mckeral called out to the photographer taking pictures of the site, “I want you to take pictures of this box here.” As Jake proceeded to do as directed, Mckeral walked closer to the box. It was severely damaged and there were several dents in the body. The box had split a little at edges and on closer observation ,Mckeral noticed stains of dried blood underneath the box. Mckeral’s pulse quickened as he tried to shift the box and found it surprisingly heavy. He immediately dialed a number on his phone and spoke, “Salman, I want you to come to the lab site. I have something interesting here.”
He then called out to some of the men around and instructed them to open up the box. He was soon joined by Salman who was a short, dark guy with an athletic built. He had typical Asian features. “What’s that?”, he asked trying to catch his breath. “This box appears to be quite strange. I am trying to have it opened. You see, the opening has a trick lock, somewhat like a self locking lever. Once you shut the lid it cannot be opened. We are trying to unscrew the edges.”
“What do you think is inside it?” asked Salman.
“A human body, I guess” said Mckeral, pointing to the blood stains under the box.
“A man! In that box!!” exclaimed Salman.
“Could be a woman,” remarked Mckeral. Salman nodded in agreement.
Mckeral impatiently urged the men to work faster as they looked around for further clues connected with the box. At length, the men managed to unscrew one of the sides to reveal a gory sight. Bloody remains of what obviously had been a man, trapped in the box, were found along with a few strange objects. Mckeral instructed that the objects be cleaned and brought to his cabin.
Few hours later, the team assembled to study the items found inside the metal box. There was a watch, mangled remains of the man’s spectacles, a shoe, a wrench, an electronic gadget with a few buttons on it and a metal tube. It was evident that the man in the box had probably set off the explosions with the electronic gadget. While the other objects were pretty commonplace, the wrench and the metal tube were puzzling. The man had probably locked himself in the box hoping to survive the massive explosions, they figured. It was obvious that the key to the mystery lay in the metal tube, which was duly pried open. Mckeral straightened out the sheets of paper that fell out of the tube. The roll of sheets, neatly stapled together, were filled with writing on all sides and dated 14th April. Mckeral proceeded to read it out.
“I will be the happiest person who died on the face of this planet if this memoir serves the purpose it is being written for. I am writing in the queerest of circumstances which I will proceed to describe in the successive paragraphs, not to justify my actions but as an attempt to warn mankind.
I dislike making mistakes and I believe that I seldom do. But this time I have no qualms in admitting that I am guilty as sin to have assisted in committing the biggest blunder. And, after what I have witnessed last night, I have no doubt in my mind about the course of action to be taken. But, for you to understand me clearly, let me start at the beginning.
It was only a few days ago, on the 31st of March to be precise, when I and the other scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider were seated at the press conference held here at CERN. The reason behind the press conference was the first high magnitude collision that had taken place inside the LHC on that day. The collision set a new world record for the highest-energy man-made particle collisions. It was a momentous day for all of us working on the project.
An ecstatic Dr. Selvum declared, “We have done it. The LHC has delivered its promise. The first successful collision is a giant step for mankind toward finding out how life evolved on our planet.”
“Doctor, can you please explain to the layman, just what we have achieved by this collision?” asked the bespectacled journalist in his twenties.
“A lot, young man,” assured Dr. Selvum. “The data has just started flowing in. I am sure with successive stronger collisions; we will be in the position to unravel the greatest mystery facing mankind.”
“That’s what you say, Doctor,” countered the journalist, “Many learned men across the globe have warned that this experiment could lead to the planet itself becoming a black hole. Do you think generating explosions of the huge magnitude, as proposed, at the core of the planet, is advisable? Is this experiment really worth undertaking at the risk of destroying our planet?”
“You may probably be unaware that such explosions are constantly taking place in the universe,” replied Dr. Selvum , “I absolutely rubbish the claims made by these learned men. We do not perceive the risk of our planet being destroyed.”
“Doctor, there have been several reports of seismic activity in various parts of the globe ever since the LHC first recorded a collision in 2009. Would you like to comment on this?” asked another young reporter from the BBC. Dr. Selvum dismissed the reports as natural disasters that had nothing to do with the LHC.
Here, I feel it necessary to explain how and why the experiment came into being. Very few may know that the project was the brainchild of the three of us: Shyam (Dr. Shyam Pai), Dr. Selvum and myself. My association with Shyam dates back to our days at the university as students of particle physics. We worked together and earned a great reputation and admiration from colleagues and intellectuals all over the world. It was this popularity that led to our interaction with Dr. Selvum, the godfather of particle physics, in the winter of 1976. In him, we found the same qualities as ourselves with an additional one, a passion to discover the elusive particle, the Higgs Boson and thereby unravel the mystery of evolution of life on the planet. We joined him in his research and as we progressed, his passion slowly turned to obsession. One day he suggested that we try and smash a couple of atoms at the greatest possible speed and replicate the Big Bang.
The idea was lapped up by the scientist fraternity at CERN and we were invited to join in the greatest experiment of all times. That was sometime in 1980. In the years that followed, the LHC was constructed, and was expected to be the world’s most powerful particle accelerator. We predicted that its very-high-energy proton collisions would yield extraordinary discoveries about the nature of the universe. More importantly, it was anticipated that the collider, among other things, would either demonstrate or rule out the existence of the elusive Higgs Boson and thus explain the origin of mass in the universe. The project received an official approval in 1994.Our idea became a reality in November, 2009 when the first collision took place inside the LHC and today we had witnessed the second and a much stronger one . This, second collision, had undoubtedly been a grand success.
Though we were pleased with our success, some of the reports of shifts in the tectonic plates from several parts of the world perturbed Shyam and me. We spent the next two days studying these activities. Our findings made us arrive at the conclusion that the increase in the seismic activity could very well be a result of the explosions within the LHC. Armed with our findings we entered Dr. Selvum’s chambers.
I was shocked to notice the change in his appearance. His cheekbones jutted out prominently. There were dark circles around his eyes and they had a devilish glint. They were the hungry, desperate eyes of a mad man. His overall appearance was unkempt and ghastly and that of a man who had probably not eaten or slept.
“I hope you are keeping well, Doctor?” I asked, concerned.
“Of course I am,” he barked impatiently and looked at me with a gaze that held me transfixed, “But, we are not happy with the progress.” Before I could seek a clarification on the ‘we’ in his statement, he hissed through clenched jaws, “The tunnel has to be ready for the next explosion. We need to bang the damned beams fast. Time is running out.”
Shyam intervened, “But Doctor, you need to look at these reports. We feel that it is a strange coincidence that there has been a such a marked increase in seismic activity across the globe ever since the LHC began its collisions . We should not proceed unless we research this further….” Before he could complete, Dr. Selvum lunged toward him and seized him by the collar. He swung his arm with a manic force and sent Shyam flying to the other corner of the room where he passed out in a heap. As I rushed to his aid, I could hear the Doctor scream, “We are not in the mood to tolerate any nonsense. We want to see more collisions happening. Enough of the analyses.”
The voice sounded inhuman and froze my blood. I swung around to see his retreating back as he left the room. Matters took a strange turn after this. I know I may sound like a mad man, but I swear to God that whatever I am recording here is true. I slowly felt a change come over most of the scientists at the CERN Laboratory. They exhibited physical changes similar to those I had noticed in Dr. Selvum. I would still, in self doubt, have watched everything helplessly had it not been for what I saw last night.
I had been working till late in the night. A deathly silence prevailed as was expected at that hour in the lab. The hour hand must have just crossed One when a sound of deep anguish and terror cut through the silence. This was followed by sounds of struggle and a loud tormented shriek, beseeching and revolting at the same time. In a trice, I jumped up and followed the sounds of struggle. My sprint ended in front of Dr. Selvum’s door. I hesitated for a few seconds before quietly pushing the door ajar. I can’t describe the horror that gripped my soul at the sight I beheld. I saw the scientist prostrated on the floor with his eyes rolled back with only the whites visible. His mouth was open, arrested in the position after the bloodcurdling scream had left it. The most frightening sound emanated from deep down his throat and as it rattled off instructions I realized that I had heard the inhuman voice before. What was most horrifying was the sight of the bunch of creatures (that is the only term that comes to my mind for the deadly beings), clinging to his head like a pack of leeches. They seemed to bore deeper and deeper into his head as the voice grew stronger. Not able to stand the terrifyingly repulsive sight I retreated rapidly but the words haunted me. “We need more strength. One strong blow to the magnetic core and we will be released from our accursed existence. You will help us evolve. Your time on the surface is over. You must make way….”
I spent a restless night and after pondering over the events in the morning, was inclined to dismiss them as a nightmare. But during the course of the day, I have heard that voice speak to me repeatedly. It appears to originate from somewhere deep inside my head. It instructs me to move ahead with the experiment and help in the further evolution of the solar system. I wonder if I am sane. I am sure I am while I am writing this, but I am not sure for how long. I cannot take a chance. I have decided to stop the experiment before things get out of hand. I fear most of us here, at the CERN Laboratory, are in the grip of a force beyond our understanding. We have unleashed the dark energy that has set off a process of evolution of a new life form that threatens to destroy all the existing ones. I could be wrong but, frankly, I do not care. I have made arrangements secretly i.e. without the knowledge of my fellow scientists, to destroy the Laboratory and the LHC. But I cannot hide my intentions from the force that is now present within me. It probably knows. But I am sure it cannot stop the process of destruction that I have set off. Before long, this whole center along with the LHC will go up in a smoke. Probably, I will be gone too but this account of the events that caused it should reach mankind if I succeed.
I fear it may be dismissed by many as hallucinations of a schizophrenic, but I sincerely implore to the scientist fraternity to err on the side of caution. I trust that this memoir will serve as a future deterrent to anyone who may harbor a wish to replicate the whole experiment.
Dr. Atul Parasnis”
Mckeral looked up at the stunned faces surrounding him. The mystery had been solved but had revealed a deeper, darker and impenetrable one.