The Portrait

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By observing an event, reality can be changed. Einstein was not crazy about this. "I like to think that the moon is there even when I am not looking at it."- Albert Einstein
There is no space left on earth. People are everywhere. A confidential manifesto to our scientific group was read by the President. We are charged with determining moral means of reducing the population, preferably with a solution that could eliminate the possibility of an all knowing god recognizing inherent immorality.
A yard sale painting hung in my assigned room where it could be observed from my easy chair. The woman in the portrait looked with disinterest as I paced the room talking to myself.
“If life is a random series of events, it would avoid the question of moral judgement. We are just the improbable results of the big bang, just waves of energy at the subatomic level,” I speculated aloud.
Did the body of the nude in the portrait shift a bit? The woman in the painting smiled; I am sure of this. A scratchy voice came from the computer speakers and the portrait stared at me.
The computer crackled, “We don’t know who or what created the exponentially reproducing polluting humanity. Creation by a benevolent and loving god or gods.is just the kindest suggestion.”
I continued to talk to myself, pretending that I was not hearing computer voices, “There is a good probability that we are SIMs, perhaps holograms. Still, there are no obvious reasons why we have sex, eat, die or get sunburned. I guess we would require food for energy if we are simple robots with wet computers. Sunburn, however, suggests poor construction materials.”
I was having a conversation through an ethereal barrier with an inanimate naked woman. But with time she began to materialize in the chair across from me as dismembered parts came together. She took the exact position she had in the portrait – sitting on a red velvet cloth in a pair of grey socks and gardening shoes.
“Life is an illusion,“ she said. “The philosopher Kant told us we can only know experience and never know reality.”
“You are probably correct, but even an illusion requires an enormous number of random events in order to reach any specific event, including us. Obviously I have no idea who or what kicked this off initially. By the way, it is close to possible for scientists to make a small universe in the laboratory. If I make a little big bang in my lab bucket, will I get to be god with a throne in heaven looking down into the bucket through my flock of angels wondering what the hell is going on?”
“Perhaps, We and little dogs carried in purses were programmed by someone or –thing in another universe, which of course could be a product of yet another universe, etc,. “ she said. “If all universes are computer program happenings, then one virtual world made more virtual worlds and they made more and more until there was an astronomically large number of simulations. Statistically, the chance of us existing in the original universe are almost zero This is a good thing since we have totally screwed the planet we are on, and would certainly screw up billions of virtual worlds if given the opportunity.”
Her next message came slowly, “Everything is a computer. The physicist, John Wheeler, used water as an example. In order to make water, the oxygen atom is making yes/no decisions to determine the optimal 104.45 degrees for bonding with hydrogen atoms.
We never experience the real thing, only the mental. It is electro-chemical events that drive our perception of reality. When you look at me, you do not see me; you see something that causes electrical images that are converted to a picture in your brain. But I feel myself, you will say. But what you are feeling is what your brain tells you you are feeling. It is an illusion. The question we should be addressing is why the illusion dies.”
“And how can you ever be sure that it is you who is making your decisions?” I aaked gathering my thoughts. “If a test subject sitting in a MRI is asked to punch buttons randomly, the MRI shows that your brain knows 6 seconds before what you will do before you actually make the decision. What is driving our perception? “
My friend was silent and then came a final statement, “I don’t know, but I believe our universal computer is a little askew--there is a programming fault that leads to our destruction with age. We must go through life worshiping our gods because we are afraid of the destruct setting. Heaven is definitely a finer option than decay. I am returning to the parallel side. I am handing you the calculation so you will know which switch puts us into a two dimensional world. Perhaps I will see you there.”
Her portrait is still on my wall and she is smiling.
I know now we are all part of a computer game played in many dimensions by unknown forces. We were programmed by someone who has a tendency to grew weary of the characters in the game and let their functions go to shit. They certainly have a bizarre sense of humor to allow over- population. Somewhere they are saying, “Let’s take bets on how fast the garbage pile on earth grows. “
We will take a trial run to immortality by a simple diversion into the second dimension.
The greater part of the population, old and young, walked into rooms where we sat quietly on orange chairs and waited for our turn to go into the machine to become portraits. I took my place in line. The adults and children sang a song,
“We'll meet again,
Don't know where,
don't know when,
But I know we'll meet again, some sunny day.

About the Author: 
Third person: Ann (Adjie) Shirley-Henderson is a scientist. She has over a hundred publications in diverse scientific areas, ranging from molecular genetics, forensics, and anthropology to setting standards for environmental controls. Her short stories have nothing to do with these credentials.