𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝟵𝟵

by Kirtan Desai



The singularity and immortality arrived hand in hand and rather abruptly. With the invention of the Graphene Unimolecular Friable Filigree, affectionately known as ‘The GUFF,’ humanity finally had in its possession an electronic, AI-mediated vessel for the soul.


But, you can always count on the universe to furnish a ‘but,’ there was a boundary condition that couldn’t be surpassed: The GUFF didn’t function without an Einsteinium-triiodide-7 seed crystal with a half-life of 5 billion years implanted in each nodule of the graphene matrix, and there was only enough Einsteinium-triiodide 7 in the universe until you reached Nevinsky’s Limit — 99 souls’ worth, to be exact.


Professor Cointreau, a humanoid manifestation of the GUFF hovered in the air above their desk, lost in thought, holding a holographic pipe… ‘Only one spot left,’ they mumbled, 98 voices cohering into a single audible waveform. ‘One spot,’ they kept repeating in their head until the words formed a little ditty. Then, suddenly came the magnanimous chorus: ‘Our method has gotten us this far!’


Their method had gotten them to 98. The first ninety-eight souls in human history to taste immortality—the 99th, ‘TBD,’ as they now scribbled on their virtual notepad, drawing fuzzy lines around the letters. Cointreau tapped their imaginary pen rhythmically against the ‘paper’ in staccato bursts.


The music in their head stopped abruptly.


“The last one’s always the hardest, right?” Their secretary’s voice brought them back to the world that existed outside their collective mind. “Your three o’clock is here, what shall I…”


“Oh yes, yes—I haven’t forgotten. Send her in, Ichabod!”


“Dr. Cointreau, an embodied construct of The GUFF?! I can’t describe what a pleasure it is to actually meet you!”


“Yes, I have 98 elements, and hopefully a 99th will be added to us when we are done here—please have a seat, Dr. Oloye.”


“Call me Poto.”


“Very well, Poto.” Cointreau smiled, “Can Ichabod bring you a drink?”


“No, thank you.”


“Well, let’s get to it, then, Poto…”


“It’s truly amazing isn’t it?” Oloye interrupted with a smile before Cointreau could speak.


“What’s amazing?”


“The GUFF!”


“Quite.”


“I mean, the fact that there is only enough Einsteinium-triiodide0-7 in the universe until you reach… Ninety-nine bloody souls—wow, I really wouldn’t want to be in your position right now!” Oloye let out a puff of air followed by a hearty laugh.


“We have to trust the method.”


“Your method.” Oloye smiled, pointing at Cointreau.


Cointreau nodded.


“Dr. Oloye—Poto…” Cointreau corrected themselves and adopted a more serious tone, “Do you believe in a higher being?”


“I do—the GUFF is the most supreme being to ever exist!”


“An impressive answer… Now, there’s no reason to doubt your enthusiasm or question your unparalleled intellect and achievements—you’re the only scientist in the world to have received three Nobel prizes in disparate fields. But…”


“But?”


“You can always count on the universe to furnish a ‘but,’” Cointreau said, “But that’s not the only criteria we use.”


Oloye let out a sigh of relief. “Fair enough! All I ask is for you to allow me to make a case for myself.”


Cointreau’s holographic cat, Orange, meowed loudly and scurried off.


“Alright then, the rest of the interview will take place in a simulation of The GUFF,” said Cointreau, ignoring the cat, “Please prepare yourself for temporary transfer.”


“Oh, I was hoping you would say that... And, doctor, I’ve been ready for this my entire life!”


Quite suddenly, an apparatus akin to surgical lights in an operating room was activated. It made Oloye feel a bit lightheaded. After a few moments of disorientation, an initially fuzzy image coalesced in her mind—she was 7, in the living room of her parents’ home, the walls lined with bookshelves.


A glitch—the image was overrun by static.


“What’s happening?” Cointreau cried.


In a matter of seconds, their immortal soul would be silenced forever.


Oloye had switched on a holographic computer at a desk. “I’m uploading a little something to your filigree,” she said.


Within seconds of uploading the virus, the 98 carefully chosen and vetted members of The GUFF, including Cointreau, were booted out. Oloye’s consciousness now presided solely over The GUFF while her body could go on with life as usual.


“What have you done?” echoed Cointreau’s voice as they receded into nothingness.


“This has been my destiny since the day I was born—you were all just too dumb to figure it out!” Oloye calmly exclaimed.


Indeed, the young Poto Oloye had thought about the possibility of immortality mediated by machine intelligence all the way back when she was just 6 years old, and she had designed an algorithm to hijack any device built to act as a vessel for human consciousness when she was 8. All she needed was an access point, conveniently provided by the audience with Cointreau and invitation into the simulation.


This was how Oloye secretly took over The GUFF and repopulated it with 98 of her own associates.


‘My goal is to advance scientific knowledge,’ Oloye said to themselves.


In the first year after Oloye’s seizure of the GUFF, hundreds of serious scientific problems were solved, including a theory to unify all of physics. Millions of scientific treatises were created and thousands of volumes of book-length manuscripts churned out.


But, you can always count on the universe to furnish a ‘but,’ Oloye wasn’t the last one to hijack The GUFF. Over time, others would find creative ways to take control of the quantum filigree, kicking out the existing scientific dynasty and bringing in their own gang of ‘temporary immortals’ with them, even though The GUFF was fortified immensely thereafter.


The most memorable of the hijackers created 99 holographic copies of his narcissistic self to reside in The GUFF; however, this destabilized the filigree so much that they were booted out almost immediately. This briefly created a vacuum where The GUFF remained empty for years until a new method to choose the 99 was developed.


A final cohort, which took over about a century before human extinction, lasted the longest…


And they kept going—unchallenged.


Several billion years passed. The 99 continued to think, construct models of reality, and churn out calculations, long after almost all life on the surface of the Earth had ceased to exist.


The last conscious thought that ever flowed through the quantum filigree of The GUFF was the following equation: V=(2K.E./M)^½, which is used to calculate the expansion velocity of the remnants of a supernova.


It took a fraction of a second to complete the calculation, and as soon as they were done, the planet was engulfed in flames and devoured by the corona of our dying sun, taking The GUFF with it. ✦




Kirtan Desai (they/them) is an interstellar fan of science fiction and fantasy who dabbles in poetry. They live with their cat Jonesy and alternate between Earth and Altair VI. Their work has been published in Granfalloon and the (now defunct) Space-iFics Magazine. At the moment, they are both fascinated by supernovae and are avidly awaiting the next one that will be visible from Earth—Jonesy feels it’s been too long since the last one.



A Speculative fiction ZINE