Author : Melinda Chapman

Specimen 459 cannot see its reflection, or the glass itself, or the woman entering the room beyond it.

Christine enters the small laboratory and settles into the office chair in front of the glass capsule. Contemplating the specimen inside, she sighs. She gently fidgets until her lab coat becomes comfortable. Lately she’s been wondering what she’s really doing here – they’re getting nowhere. Christine speaks a sentence to 459, again.

459 realises this, as it does every other day. Listening in its own way, the specimen knows that Christine means well. She is more or less saying that she wants its health to improve. 459 sends her its gratitude, and wishes the same for her; perhaps not quite the same. 459’s expression of goodwill is personal, as opposed to experimental like hers, so they do not resonate together and there is no real exchange.

Christine looks to the waves on the screen. The machine doesn’t detect any variation in 459’s biometric pattern. She makes a note of it and begins her next communication.

459 considers her new words, but they are difficult to translate. The message vibrates at a higher level than the last question, and 459 thinks it knows what it means. The researcher’s frame of reference is different to 459’s, however, and her message is obscured by clutter. Even so, 459 believes she has primarily asked if it has a soul. To which, 459 reverberates a resounding…


Christine touches the screen and zooms in closer on the biometric waves, hoping to detect some degree of change in the pattern, but there is none. She makes more notes.

459 waits patiently for her attention to return. It enjoys the questioning. It appreciates her dedication and has much time for her endeavour. But 459 also knows the device she is using to measure its responses is useless. The device can only measure certain frequencies, such as those that control biological functions. But these react much more slowly and minutely in response to other beings.

The device can’t measure high enough frequencies to detect the level of consciousness on which 459 communicates. As of yet, no machine can. 459 must wait for Christine to discover there’s only one device that will detect frequencies of that level and translate them as a response. She brings it with her every single day, to every session. It is consciousness itself. Even so, hers would need considerable tuning upward. Currently, it can barely detect anything. Christine predominantly uses her consciousness as a simple device for processing input from her other senses, not unlike the device she’s using on 459. She looks with her eyes at the patterns on screen for any suggestion of answers. She listens with her ears for the blips that she hopes will one day tell her that 459 has something to communicate.

The monitor flashes continuously, and Christine swipes her hand across it. Martin, a colleague, is using the screen to transmit to Christine that she needs to attend a meeting. He will come past the lab, and they will both walk a short distance in order to congregate with others and communicate using their basic physical senses.

Martin opens the door as he knocks. His eyes flicker with curiosity at 459, as if he might discover something ground-breaking in those brief seconds.

Christine pinches the corners of her tired eyes and picks up her cold coffee. As she walks through the door, Martin shakes his head and says “I can’t believe they pay you to talk to a plant.”


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