Billy-bob groaned and his body twitched. The dim light in the room made Lasetter, Forysthe and even the two guards grow suddenly silent and inch closer to look down upon his face. The lamp cast long shadows and each person now had to be certain what they were witnessing. As they leaned closer and shuffled in Billy-Bobs direction, the moaning grew in intensity.
Lasetter hoped Billy-Bob would change into an ape, a lizard…anything, so Forsythe could see this for himself.
Bill-Bob was stuck in the middle of a dream within an hallucination. The nanites were not finished. The gate between man’s earthly consciousness and the consciousness of the entire universe had been opened, and, Billy-Bob’s pain was not finished.
How long had he existed in this state? A whole lifetime? No, infinite lifetimes…time simply did not exist here…wherever “here” was.
Before he could awaken, Billy-Bob had to relive and remember every moment of his life as a man, as Billy-Bob, chief cook and BBQ master at North Carolina “Grill Pit for Oakies.” Unwittingly, he knew he had stepped into a giant trap set by the unassuming Lasetter and his DARPA friends for some Government experiment.
Now he had stepped into the trap and the nanites clamped down on his consciousness as forcefully and painfully as the piercing metal teeth of a bear trap hold an animal again its will, and he could only watch in wonder as his mind raced from one Universe to another; encountering visions and sights which were beyond his comprehension and which would leave him unalterably changed.
He saw EveryAngel smiling at him and opening the curtain to reveal the strange chaos of the Quantum Universe upon which the fabric of reality is knitted. The strange lettering behind the curtain said something like “ego…or ergo…or ergot” but Billy-Bob couldn’t be sure…everything was moving too fast and he had never been much of a reader.
It seemed as if EveryAngel tried to invite him to enter the portal behind the curtain, but he had a tingling feeling of fear, a feeling that he would never return, never escape, and so he refused to move forward.
Then that moment was gone in a flash. His journey was reversing; he had reached his ultimate destination and was being sent back to his physical form.
He knew he was in a strange sleep, but he also knew he was not wholly unconscious. Like the dark drifts of barbeque smoke or a heavy fog creeping through the Bayou, he knew that something was invading his mind. He sensed it only dimly, for if he had been fully aware the sensations would have destroyed him as swiftly and easily as the fires raging throughout the barbeque pits which he managed and tended daily.
He mind was racing at ever-accelerating speeds, down infinite corridors of light to return to his body. But before he could return he was doomed to feel the pain and horror of every animal he had ever butchered, every deer he had ever shot, every man or woman he had ever beat, pummeled or raped.
The springs of Billy-Bob’s memory were being tapped. He was reliving his past, reliving the horrors and pain he had caused others; being drained of all knowledge and experience as he swiftly returned to his body. It’s as if his entire mind was being deleted, wiped clean, reprogrammed. But even then, he sensed that nothing was being lost; that all that he had ever been, seen, or felt, was being transferred to another location for safer keeping. Perhaps it was being stored behind the curtain held open by EveryAngel. Billy-Bob somehow knew that infinitely-chaotic Quantum soup behind the curtain was capable of storing the memories and experiences of all mankind. Then he knew that he wouldn’t die…he would never die…he would simply change.
The exhaustion and horror was finally too much for Billy-Bob, and the pain and terror which filled his mind and soul caused him to fall into a deep, numb blackness. A sleep so silent and black, it was like death. And, in this moment,death felt like a gift. It was only the absence of pain and the absence of consciousness which saved him.
For ages Billy-Bob existed in this dark, death like sleep floating in limbo. He was fully aware of who he had been, what he had done, and the horrible pain he had caused other living things; but he had no concept of who or what he was becoming. He was in a state of flux—somewhere between chrysalis and butterfly—or somewhere between man and God.
And then…the dark eternal night was broken: time reentered his consciousness. He knew he was on a bed in a small room, and his eyes opened and he could see the gray-bearded, wide-eyed Lasetter staring down upon him, and a newer, younger companion beside him.
Billy-Bob, in a rare moment, simply smiled.