The Phasing Machine

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With zeal in his movement, the old man reached for the last wire that would complete the phasing machine, his life’s work. His dexterous fingers fastened the wire into its proper place onto the contraption.
Phineas realized his life pursuit one day when he was sixteen, laying in his room on his bed with his best friend. The two had been throwing a tennis ball at the wall, musing about the probability that it would pass through the wall. His friend that it was surely impossible, but Phineas had hope. It was highly improbable, but not impossible. The improbable part being that the atoms would have to be aligned perfectly for one solid object to pass through the other. But surely, it wasn't all up to chance. There were a few things he could control to help the atoms align, like temperature, light wavelengths, and so on. Eventually these ideas led to the machine Phineas was standing in front of today.
The machine itself was small, only reaching about half a meter in height. It was shaped like an igloo and made up of mostly metal. Several non-matching knobs and switches sprung out at peculiar places, some of which didn’t even work, but it would have been too much of an effort to disassemble the machine to remove or replace knobs, and so Phineas just let them be. On the front side of the machine was a clear, Plexiglass door. Once opened, it would lead to a small chamber on the inside of the machine where the phasing of objects would take place. And inside the chamber were temperature regulators, electron rays, and all sorts of other facilities to help create the optimal atmospheric conditions for phasing.
Phineas winced as a small jolt of electricity ran through his fingers as he connected the final two wires that would hopefully be the last addition to the machine. He glanced at the plug in the socket in the wall adjacent to him. He rubbed his fingers regretfully; perhaps he should have unplugged it, but forgetfulness and recklessness were two traits that never left his side. His wife often chided Phineas about it, saying that she was surprised that he had gone so far in life without sustaining any major injuries from his carelessness. To be honest, he was surprised too.
And there, done. The machine was complete. The man grinned so widely that his cheeks hurt, but no matter how much discomfort he felt in his face, the smile wouldn’t let up; he was ecstatic. Decades of trial and error, new ideas, failures, and dedication led to the completion of the phasing machine. Phineas quickly scrambled up, the aches in his joints all but forgotten, and reached for the closest two objects his hands could grasp: a glass cup and a water bottle.
Phineas opened the door of the machine and placed the two test materials in. He slammed the door shut, sealing and soundproofing the space inside.
He flipped a switch and fiddled with several knobs and switches until it was ready to operate. Lights and temperature flickered and fluctuated inside the machine, creating the conditions necessary for phasing.
It was ready. Now began the phasing. Two metal arms inside the machine gradually pushed together the glass cup and water bottle as the old man’s eyes fixated upon the scene and held his breath in anticipation. Every molecule, every single one of the trillions of atoms composing each of the two test objects were perfectly aligned in such a way that would allow the two to phase.
A centimeter of the glass cup had passed through the water bottle. Two centimeters. Gradually, the glass got halfway through the bottle.
Phineas pumped his fists in the air and yelled out a hearty shout, jubilant that he changed the future of humanity. He brought his fists back down and resumed focusing his attention on the phasing process. Well, he would have to publish his results first. His mind raced to think of the endless possibilities this invention would foster. Soon, maybe even living matter could be phased. Walking through walls was now a possibility. Perhaps it could be turned into a beam, or a weapon, or a-
At that moment, quite unexpectedly, something went amiss. Phineas’s acute eyes observed the events unfolding in the chamber. The glass cup and water bottle were three quarters of the way into each other when they shifted ever so slightly. Atoms jolted out of their precise, aligned places and the entire scene changed.
The glass of the cup cracked. The plastic of the bottle morphed. The two objects forcibly ripped apart into thousands of fragments and spread themselves all over the chamber. And the machine, in turn, reacted as a result of the conundrum taking place inside it. The bolts shot out. The screws became undone. The circuits of the machine caught fire and spread to the surrounding air in a frenzy. Flames leapt off of the machine and ignited in a tremendous blast.
The chain of these events, this utter catastrophe, occurred in less than a second. From the moment the glass cracked, to the moment the flames engulfed Phineas’s being. Less than a second was all it took to destroy his life’s work. Less than a second was all it took to end his life.
With regret, his last thoughts were of how he neglected to take thorough notes of his beloved contraption. And the few notes and diagrams he did manage to write down would probably be destroyed in the fires of the explosion. Phineas feebly hoped that at least something of his machine and legacy could be salvaged. Perhaps someone would remember Phineas, the creator of the phasing machine.