Michael struggled to sit still in humble submission as his supervisor Ben studied the photos. Normally a quiet, even stoic man, every part of him wanted to cry out in victory. He pictured himself dancing on his desk, this discovery would change everything, forever. Michael’s internal party quietened down when he noticed the absence of unrestrained glee that should have been flying at him from across his desk. Ben’s face was flat, nothing was going on. He flicked through the pictures like they were taken by a photography enthusiast; too keen to practise his skill capturing uninteresting subjects. Ben was near the end of the significant pile of enlarged photographs, he slowly shook his head.
“Is this it?”
Michael opened his mouth, then closed it again, that was not the first question he was expecting. Finally a response, “Are you serious? You’ve been looking at it for the last ten minutes. The evidence is clear.”
“The evidence of what exactly?” Ben turned the last picture he was still holding to show Michael. It was a young lady laying down with her eyes closed as if having an MRI body scan. However, there were two succinct images of her, one on top, the other very close below. The lower one took the form of a typically clear high-definition photo. The second image was ghost-like in appearance in the sense you could see through it to the one below. It was the same woman but dressed differently in strange, unearthly garments. They were tied together, joined by a bright white blur at the torso. The eyes of the top image were open, looking right into the lens that captured them. They were kind, peaceful eyes with an unfamiliar glow. They were communicating more than looking, focused on something beyond the hardware that stole this image. She was otherwise engaged. Michael sat back in his chair, brought his hands to his mouth as if praying.
Ben pointed at the second image of the young lady, “I’ll tell you what I see. You have a problem with your machine.”
“No, impossible. I know not to come to you without due diligence. We ran every diagnostic ten times, rebuilt it twice. There’s nothing wrong.”
“Evidently not, it’s producing shadow images. Might be an issue with the shutter, you’re capturing two points in time.”
“No sir, I assure that’s not so.”
“So what then?”
“Can’t you see?” Ben reached over and picked up the pile of photos, flicking them onto the desk rapidly, “It’s the same for every person tested, thousands of them now, over months. This is proof.”
“Of what, time-lapse photography?”
“No! We’ve stumbled across a way to see the unseen. These pictures prove what millions believe. We have a soul.”
Ben couldn’t contain his grunt mixed with a short, mocking laugh. He stood up quickly and composed himself, “If you do go public with this, you’ll do so without my support. You know what that means.”
“But sir, my whole team unanimously agree and there’s more evidence in our report.”
“Be that as it may, I’m in the camp of real scientific evidence, not artistic photos that feed the masses what they want to hear.” Ben took a step towards the door, stopped and looked back at Michael. “It’ll destroy your reputation and career.”
“Truth so often does.”
Ben shrugged, “Take it to the oversight committee if you want,” Ben gazed quickly at the Bible resting on the edge of the desk. “They’re so weak now, they’ll probably let you do it.” Ben shut the door behind him, he didn’t slam it but it was still violent. Michael stared at the back of the door trying to understand what just happened. More importantly, what to do now? He shuffled the photos neatly and opened his detailed report and read it again.
The oversized doors to the presentation room were beautiful and frightening. Made of stunning polished timber they stood tall, firm and proud. The shine was so strong Michael could see a reflection of himself; the blurry presence didn’t compare to the images neatly filed in his briefcase. When a member of the oversight committee slowly opened up for him, the invitation was laid bare. Exuding infamous power, he was dared to enter. It permeated Michael’s entire being, body and soul with its domineering stench. Humility was the only way forward if he was to be heard in this place. Ben had bruised his confidence, he imagined scorn would be resting on his face even now. It will silently shout at him to give up and stop wasting time, but Michael knew what he had. Emboldened by his conviction to the truth he would graciously present his findings passionately unashamed. It was going to be a long morning. Tangible judgement rained down from the lintel above. Nevertheless, he marched in, briefcase firmly in hand.
“May we take a short recess?” The panel agreed with Michael. Exasperation spilled over from everyone’s faces regardless of which side they were on; if they had chosen. The room filled with superiors and colleagues erupted with the familiar sounds a large group of people make when they move. Michael swallowed his entire glass of water. This has been hard but it’s a worthy fight and he thought he just might be winning. Ben passed by without any acknowledgement inspiring all those on his team to do the same. But many came over asking more questions and wanting to see the photos. To them, waiting for the next session was out of the question, they demanded answers now.
Ben summarised for them as best he could, reminding them that five separate machines had now been built and all yielded the same results. All the images possessed the same fundamental characteristics, they manifested every time for every person except the deceased. All the souls were a young adult regardless of the person’s age, nationality or gender. There were a variety of manifestations showing the soul in various degrees of health. Hidden ailments and conditions could be seen in the photographs. In some cases, they revealed an undiagnosed condition. Other ailments were evident but could not be identified or corrected by human treatments. Nevertheless, updated pictures showed that many were healed but that was another topic altogether. Michael was tired but the enthusiasm surrounding him was palpable. The decision was made without deliberation by the committee because the hunger of the believers was insatiable.
Humans can be loud but that has already been proven. Michael and his team walked into the noisy press conference to a mix of flashing lights, clicks, the murmur of a thousand conversations and countless eyeballs following them to their seats. Revealing that a team of scientific engineers claim to have irrefutable proof of the existence of the human soul guaranteed attention. As everyone took their seats Michael had to ponder the absurdity of it all. He saw himself as a creative man who loved his job searching for ways to help humanity. In going about his business to build the ultimate human photographic machine, he found something else entirely. He would go down in history as the man who proved the existence of the unseen realm, of eternity itself. Millions will be watching, so he was told. It was hard to silence his mind, it’s always been a struggle for him. Perhaps that’s why he loves creating so much, to test new ideas. Now there may be an inkling as to where those ideas were coming from.
His racing mind filled the time, Michael was called up by the dominating voice of the reporter. He was ready for this, had to be. The reporter shared some introductory remarks, then invited Michael to say a few opening words. It was amazing how quiet it had become. He gently cleared his throat.
“I know this discovery will generate more questions, new questions never asked before. That is a good thing, we humans are curious beings. Nevertheless, I propose we have found an answer to an old question. Do we have a soul? Yes, we do. I believe we’ve started on a brand new path that will bring hope for all humanity. Why? Because now we know, there is more, there is a purpose to our lives. We’re not alone.”
This short story was inspired by a prompt provided by Reedsy.com. If you're interested in participating or would like to read other short stories, you can find the Reedsy Weekly Writing Prompts by clicking here.
Prompt Used: Write about someone who never planned to make history but is now about to deliver a speech in front of millions.