Take 4 parts physics, 2 parts marketing, 16 parts music, 11 parts writing, and what do you get? A whole lot of parts would be one answer. Omer Wahaj is an amalgamation of all these and more: an independent journalist/writer and a part-time musician currently living in Toronto. He has written several short stories and is currently working on a few humorous/satirical novels. Omer occasionally DJs and has produced an eclectic mix of music in various genres of electronica. He also enjoys being an illeist. Follow Omer on Twitter @omerwahaj
The Last Button You Press
It’s raining slightly as I come out of my house and start walking towards the diner. The street is empty except for a long queue at the teleportation booth at a corner of the intersection up ahead.
“Good morning, Zed,” Elle waves at me cheerfully from the line, as she moves one step closer to a red rectangular box that looks like those telephone booths from the old 2020’s movies. “Haven’t seen you around for a while.”
“Good morning,” I reply and nod at her without slowing down.
“Walking again?” she says. “It sure sucks to be stuck in the rain. I wish I’d worn my mack.”
“The diner is just a few blocks down,” I reply. “The rain doesn’t bother me much.”
“All right,” says Elle, stepping into the booth and searching her bag for her credit card. “See you there.”
“You know,” Elle peeks out the open door just before she presses the button. “These things don’t kill you.”
Yes, they do, I think to myself but nod at her, a grimace pressing my lips together. Every time you use them.
I reach the diner and see that Elle is already seated, drinking from her glass of orange juice. She sees me and motions for me to take the chair next to her.
“Can you believe this?” she slaps the newspaper down in front of me and points to a column. “They’re raising the electricity prices again. This is going to affect everything, especially teleportation rates.”
“Hmmm,” I manage to sound, as I look at the menu and raise my hand to catch the waitress’s attention.
Elle shifts in her seat and looks at me with an uneasy smile. I can sense her restlessness through the menu as I order some poached eggs and salmon. I know what’s coming. She asks me the question as soon as the waitress leaves.
“Why don’t you use teleportation booths like everyone else?”
“I just don’t like them,” I reply as I place the napkin on my lap.
“Oh come on. Who doesn’t like them? You can go anywhere you like – any place, any city, any country in the world. At least anywhere they have one of those booths set up, and I think they’re everywhere now – well, everywhere that matters anyway. You know I visited my sister in Madagascar the other day for lunch and was back home for dinner. It might be a little expensive, but it sure beats the hell out of spending 8 hours cramped in an airplane seat.”
I look straight into Elle’s eyes and I know she is toying with me. I gave up long ago trying to convince people of what I believed about these teleportation devices and why I didn’t use them. Giving them the straight answer never works. For one, most of them never believe me. Or if they do believe me, they continue to deny it, because the truth is just too hard for them to accept. It would be for anyone. And those who do believe me and accept it have a bad habit of going mad. You would too if you found out that you have been killing yourself every time you stepped into one of those damned machines.
“Well?” she prods.
“Let’s drop it,” I tell her. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“But I do want to talk about it,” she smiles at me. “I want to know why you avoid the booths and why you insist on walking everywhere. Everyone thinks you are mad, you know. I might think so too if you don’t tell me.”
“All right. But you won’t like it.”
“Lay it on me.”
“Ok. Do you know how these teleportation devices work?”
“Yes. You get in one of the booths, swipe your card, enter the destination number, press the send button, and it teleports you there.”
“That is what you do inside the booths. But do you know exactly how your body is teleported?”
“Well, no. Not exactly.”
“Let me tell you. When you press the send button, the device penetrates your body with various rays that scan every single one of your molecules. The machine then sends the scanned data to the destination booth, where a perfect copy of your body is synthesized. Your body at the entry booth is instantly vaporized. You cease to exist. The person that emerges at the other end has exactly the same body, mind, and memories as you did at the time you were disintegrated. Your copy walks out of the machine thinking it’s still you. But it’s not you. You die as soon as you are scanned.”
“What?” Elle says, her smile fading. “That’s not what happens.”
“Yes. That’s exactly what happens. Have you ever sent a fax? It’s the same principle. Only in this case, the original is destroyed in the process because the machine can’t scan the molecules inside your body without completely tearing it apart – literally – piece by piece, molecule by molecule.”
“Wait a minute. So what you’re telling me is that when I went into the booth this morning to come here, I was killed, my body disintegrated, and a completely new body was created? And this, me, sitting in front of you is not me from the morning but a copy the machine created inside the diner?”
“No. That can’t be true. I am telling you, I am the same person that you saw entering the booth in the morning. I remember exactly what happened. I remember everything before that, my childhood, my life. This is the same me, the same Elle.”
“This is what happens. Your mind is also transferred into the new body. The data that the teleportation device sends includes all your memories, right up until the point when you are scanned. Your copy comes out with all your memories. It thinks it’s you. It believes it’s you. And it continues to believe it’s you until the next time it steps into another one of those machines. And then it dies too. Another copy is made that also believes that it’s still you. Just like you do, sitting right here in front of me.”
“No. I can’t accept that. What about all the feelings I remember? What about my soul?”
“Your soul vanished the day you first stepped into the machine and teleported yourself. It was left there without body or mind. It’s gone forever. We are all just carbon copies of our former selves, vacant bodies wandering around empty and soulless.”
There is a pensive silence as my words sink in.
“When did you realize this?” she slowly asks me.
“After I’d teleported myself a few times,” I tell her as the waitress arrives with my breakfast.
“No. You are wrong!” she shouts, standing up and walking away from the table. “I don’t believe you. It’s still me.”
I take a sip of my coffee and look up to see Elle heading towards the exit. She pauses in front of the teleportation booth, looks at it for a few seconds. Then she quickly walks past it, out of the diner, and up the deserted road towards her house.