Sunday, 19 February 2012

Resolution: a story

He had awoken after a long coma. He was now convalescing in an expansive sanatorium by the seaside. Still very weak, he took walks on the beach, watching the grey sea heaving under the cloudy sky. Seagulls danced erratically. When he got back from his walks, he always licked his salty lips; every time, his appetite was a little better than the day before.

On the fifth day, he was well enough to feel the full weight of boredom, unimpeded now by the fading weakness in his bones. He was itching to return to the world he had so long called his home: the world of biological research. In fact, to his own surprise, he was now beset by a youthful, exuberant enthusiasm for the simple pleasures of his subject, and he was beginning to spend his mornings scouring the local flora, watching the feuds of the ants, cataloguing the local wildlife. All species were now fascinating to him, and he satisfiedly ascribed this to the newly-blossoming bios in his own self.

After three such blissful days, he was longing to have some equipment. He had always been particularly interested in cell biology, and its study via the optical microscope. He finally decided to mail-order one; sure, it cost a bit, but he was sure to find a good use for it in his lab once he got home. He passed the days until its arrival quietly observing the seagulls, noting their flight patterns, trying to remember all he knew about behavioural ornithology.

Finally, the day came that the microscope arrived; the porter handed him the heavy apparatus with a friendly nod. Eagerly, he took it up to his room, erected it on his desk with a few practiced motions, and trained it upon the subject he had ready: a nettle leaf that was befallen by a certain interesting parasite.  Taking a step back, taking a quick breath, he smiled to his reflection in the mirror; anon, he sat and gazed into the microscope.

It was a beautiful leaf at forty times magnification, with deep valleys and high furry peaks.

It was a bewildering network of canals and ridges at a hundred times magnification, giving pause for reflection upon the structure of this intrinsically important yet amazingly autonomous part of the plant.

At four hundred times magnification, individual cells should have come into view.

They did as well, after a fashion. Cells were there… but they were strangely blurred, somehow. He was beginning to have doubts regarding the microscope – perhaps there was something the matter with it.

He adjusted the magnification to 800, the farthest it would go. And then he saw it. What he saw had already been there, quite clearly at 400, but it had made no sense, so he had not allowed it. But now, what he saw were pixelated cells. Genuine, living, throbbing cells; but presented to the viewer as an array of approx. 100×150 picture elements each. He rotated the leaf; the pixels rotated with it.

This was an optical microscope, containing no electronic tomfoolery but only good, honest spheric lenses. He knew this for certain, and yet he made sure of it by disassembling and reassembling the instrument. Frantically, now, he inspected the leaf again, turning it this way and that; he took other flat objects he could find – his driver’s license, a brochure, a fingernail. All gave the same, pixelated result.

A new optical phenomenon, he thought. Or an existing, surprisingly-little-known one. But it made no sense; nothing was in any way extraordinary about the experimental set-up.

He took another intent look through the microscope. He could make out the cell organelles, just about, serenely floating in the cytoplasm. Then something astonishing happened. The resolution suddenly halved. Four pixels became one. He could now only guess the location of the organelle he had just before observed. A strange shiver worked its way up his spine and along his

It happened again: what had been sixteen pixels were now one. He could hardly make out anything amidst the godforsaken unicoloured blocks. And again: the resolution halved.

Frantically, he took his eyes off the microscope. His mouth open with an inane grin, his eyes darting at his hands, everything looked normal. As expected. He waited. His shiver became stronger, although he felt strangely calm.


Pleasant Beach Sanatorium received a few press inquiries regarding certain bizarre rumours from the local area about the mysterious disappearance of a patient, and the equally mysterious appearance of a large cuboid object on its premises; but after hiring a renowned public relations company that started releasing verbose press releases offering multiple banal explanations for all reported phenomena, interest soon waned.

The only observable sign nowadays of any past disturbance lies in the frightened tales that a certain nurse will impose on any travellers to the village, if they choose the wrong time to visit the King’s Head public house.  Then, one may hear words like, ”Do not listen to them, they are suppressing the truth! Oh, when I found this… giant cube… it was as of no Earthly material, so shiny was it! And everything else – the furniture, everything – in his room was gone, gone… they will tell you I’m insane, they will, but it is not true, oh no…“