f Bogleech Creepypasta

Bogleech.com's 2017 Horror Write-off:

Déjà Mort

Submitted by Cinis Kai

The NeuroScope, one of the biggest contributions to neuroscience since the MRI, hit the market during the Christmas season of 2042. It was patented 10 years prior by Josef Vogt, who was commissioned by a wealthy bureaucrat for a means to communicate with this severely disabled child. It combined the latest developments in brain wave recognition with the convenience of a simple set up that could connect to any screen. After a decade refining and simplifying the production process, the product was ready for public consumption. It was, unsurprisingly, a massive success. In addition to its medicinal uses, the NeuroScope was also handy for painters to use as reference material, parents to present their toddlers with vivid bedtime stories, and people who generally just struggled putting their ideas into words.

It took under a year for someone to hook it up to a corpse.

Stephen Johnson, a resident bad boy, used a pair of stolen keys to break into his local mortuary late one night after getting into a spat with his friend, the mortician’s intern. After thoroughly trashing the premises, Steve thought it would be funny to hook up a cadaver with his high-tech Christmas present. His resulting horror lead him to risk jail time by contacting the police. When he plugged the auxiliary cord from his Neuroscope into his phone, a distorted image of a family dinner popped up on his screen. The initial reaction shared by him and the police was that the coroner somehow made an error and that the corpse in question wasn’t a corpse quite yet. But a second and third opinion confirmed that the time of death was three days before the incident, and that the subject was indeed pumped with formaldehyde to the point of no return.

The story caught wind with reporters faster than Steve’s mother could pay his bail, and it didn’t take long for academia to pick up on it either. Researchers had toyed with the concept of monitoring the short burst of brain activity that occurred post mortem, but getting just one subject to observe during their dying moments was enough of an obstacle to get over. Monitoring an already deceased brain, however, allowed for more wiggle room when dealing with ethicists in addition to being infinitely more interesting.

Beatrice Hilde Hinesburg-Holtz, a 27-year-old wunderkind neuroscience professor specializing in near-death phenomena, was the first to tackle this study. She and her team narrowed an endless stream of questions into three objectives: they set out to find possible causes of the NS’s activity, what factors affected it, and how long it took for activity to cease. To test as many variables as possible, Hinesburg-Holtz et. al carefully selected the brains of 50 organ donors with a wide variety of ages, ethnicities, and causes of death. Half of these were maintained in a solution of artificial cerebrospinal fluid (ACSF), and the remainder were preserved in embalming fluid. Oddly enough, none of these variables seemed to influence the outcome of the study. The results were actually quite uniform.

Though the signals weren’t as strong as the would have been with a living subject, a tangible scene could be observed under a layer of snowy distortion on each and every NeuroScope. Curiously, the deceased brains showed no neural activity when hooked up to MRI’s, EEG’s, and any other machine their funding would allow. The NS’s were picking up something, but that something didn’t seem to adhere to the laws of physics. Less unnerving but equally puzzling was the discovery that each subject (could they even be called that at this point?) displayed visuals that followed a linear and logical pattern. Instead of a jumbled screensaver, the feedback played out more like a movie. The subjects would have conversations with their families, go to school, complete a full work day, pet dogs, copulate, defecate, and fuck around on the app of their choosing, all seemingly in real time. And this was all constant. The visions would play 24/7, without fail, for the three years they were under observation.

The team did their best to remain objective, but it was difficult to shake the feeling that they were watching the lives of the deceased play out on each of the screens. After the initial existential dread wore off, Hinesburg-Holtz realized that she could work with this theory. The question of how long the NeuroScopic activity would continue was still unanswered. If these visuals were actually a retelling of the subjects'lives, then it would be much easier to monitor a subject who hadn’t lived much life to recall.

It took another two years and a settlement of 1.3 million dollars before Hinesburg-Holtz et. al were able to acquire a subject young enough to test this new hypothesis. Little Ethan Apple had died at the age of four due to a respiratory disease—too young to experience life to its fullest, but just old enough to form long-term memories of what he had.

The team speculated that Ethan’s behavior in the earliest sessions put him at roughly to years of age, or around the time humans could begin storing meaningful long-term memories. Many an intern watched intently as his parents helped him across monkey bars, blow out his three birthday candles with gusto, and wail as he fell of his hand-made rocking horse. For a year and a half, Ethan’s life was theirs. The air in the lab was never more electric than during Ethan’s presumed final moments in the hospital, with his tiny arms punctured with IV tubes. His breathing continually grew strained as his mother wept into her hands by the bedside. His vision blurred. A whispered "I love you" caused on team member to choke on his tears. Slowly, Ethan closed his eyes.

And then, nothing. But that nothing only lasted for about five minutes.

Time seemed to stop as the monitor flickered back on. It showed a tiny fist clutching a stuffed cow, shaking it rampantly with the lack of motor skill only a toddler could possess. For a good hour, the team watched the toddler interact with his surroundings with quiet bewilderment. The night snuck up on everyone. The researchers began filing out of the room after realizing it was more of what they’d come to expect over the years, though none of them were any less shaken by this sudden reboot.

After a few weeks, the visuals began entering familiar territory. The trips to the park, the birthday cake, the fall from the rocking horse. It took until four-week mark since the reboot for the team to reach the consensus that the feedback had restarted from the beginning. In fact, when the footage from the beginning of the study was compared to the latest footage, the scenes in question were almost exactly the same. Only mundane details like the color of someone’s shirt or if Ethan took a left or a right on his bicycle rides were changed. Another two years passed before Ethan was back in that hospital bed. Again, his parents said their weepy goodbyes. Again, he shut his eyes for the last time. Again, the feedback restarted with him whipping around his stuffed toy.

The study was concluded for the sake of brevity, and the results were published and met with acclaim despite being a failure for all intents and purposes. No one knew how or why any of this was happening, but it was sure god damned interesting. Maybe the post mortem hallucinations would stop once the brain had rotten away. But maybe it continued even after that. They didn’t seem to adhere to any worldly logic, after all. Either way, there was a lot of room for additional studies.

Though the test had reached an end, Beatrice Hilde Hinesburg-Holtz continued to observe Ethan’s life through the lab’s wide screen monitor purely out of self-interest. Room B213 is still considered Ethan’s Room, five years later. His undead brain is still submerged in fluid. The echoes of his consciousness are still being shown on the lab’s widescreen.

And nothing is showing any signs of stopping.

Outside the lab, Beatrice was handling her new status as the front of a scientific breakthrough surprisingly poorly. Maybe she was feeling the weight of the having such high expectations put on her or maybe all the religious protesters out for her blood were starting to get to her, but she had become increasingly withdrawn after the findings had been published.

After roughly three days of radio silence, Beatrice’s anxious lover took it upon himself to drop by for a wellness check. He used his spare key and let himself in as accustomed after she failed to respond to his text announcing his arrival. The young man called out to her, tripping over some stray laundry as he made his way to the back of his house. He was no stranger to the apartment lying in ruins: it was part of the package that came with dating someone prone to depressive episodes. He made his way up the stairs to her bedroom, still beckoning her with no response. He opened the door and stopped in his tracks.

Beatrice, who had more alcohol in her system than was reasonable, was leaning on the rails of the balcony in a dangerous position. The man, now with his heart in his stomach, attempted to lure her back inside with a hushed tone. She just laughed.

"You can’t honestly think I’d jump, right? After knowing what I know? There’s no escape from this painful monotony. If I end it, I just have to go through it all again."

She lowered her gaze to the streetlights beneath her.

"If this is really all there is, then I’ve been dead for years."