Harold Oppenheimer had been sent to Geneva by the paper. His assignment was to cover the latest development made by the European Organization for Nuclear Research also known as CERN. The organization had drawn quite a lot of attention to itself, after they managed to observe the Higgs boson, or the ‘God particle’ as some papers like to call it.
Harold did not know a lot about physics. He knew he shared his last name with J. Robert Oppenheimer, the leader of The Manhattan Project and one of the fathers of the nuclear bomb. Harold had never really been sure whether being related to him was a good or a bad thing.
Most days Harold stuck to doing what he was best at, which was philosophy. They mostly dealt with the social sciences at the newspaper, so it had come as a bit of a surprise, when Harold received the ticket to Geneva. His editor had recently read a couple of articles by the late Danish physicist Niels Bohr and was attracted to the idea of combining physics and philosophy.
No one at Harold’s paper had any expertise in physics. Harold’s name and his knowledge in philosophy of science meant that his editor had found him most suitable for the job. Harold did not need much persuasion to take the job. He had wanted to visit Geneva for a long time. Located right next to Lake Geneva and surrounded by both the Alps and the Jura mountains, it is a city of great beauty. Harold also liked the fact that Jean Jacques Rousseau loved the city. He found rather fitting, that scientists discovered the ‘God particle’ in the city that Rousseau described with the following words: “It is, perhaps, given to the city of Geneva alone, to produce the edifying example of so perfect a union between its clergy and men of letters.” Rousseau might have exaggerated in order to please the city elite, but that did not weaken Harold’s expectations for the great city.
Harold had had some time to prepare himself for the job. The days leading up to his departure had been very hectic, so when he left the JFK Airport, his knowledge of particle physics was still very limited. During the flight, Harold managed to get a grasp of the basic concept of what CERN was doing. He discovered that it was actually quite simple. CERN’s main attraction was their Large Hadron Collider, which apparently was another word for a particle accelerator. Tiny particles were put into the accelerator and spun around the 27 kilometer track until they were travelling at almost the speed of light. At this point, the particles smashed into each other and are broken into even smaller particles. As Harold understood it, this was also, what happened at the Big Bang. The experiments could apparently lead to the creation of a black hole, the material said. This was however less likely than being struck by lightning. Even if it did happen, the black hole would not even live long enough to be observed by the human eye. The concepts of quantum physics was a bit hazier to Harold. How can two particles “feel” each other, even though they are at opposite ends of the universe? Moreover, how can a cat be both alive and dead at the same time? Harold knew he had to study, but he could not help himself from wondering about the philosophical aspects. He came up with the idea that his article should begin with a philosophical study of the universe. This he should be able to write without learning about cats and quarks.
Harold knew what one of his philosophical heroes Bertrand Russell would say, or rather what he would not say. Because Russell would simple state that the universe is there, and that is all. We cannot experience the universe as a whole, and therefore we cannot talk about the cause. Harold thought about proposing this solution to some of the scientist, thinking that most of them probably would agree with Russell. The scientists are interested in discovering what happened at the Big Bang, and they know that something was there before the Big Bang, but they are just not that interested in finding out what that was. Being from the US, Harold was very well familiar with the concept that some sort of omnipotent being, usually known as God, created the universe.
Before Harold could get any further with his article, the loudspeakers announced that the plane was descending into Geneva. He stored his laptop in the overhead compartment as instructed.
Standing in front of the entrance to the Large Hadron Collider, Harold still was not sure whether it had been a good idea to accept the job. He did not even have time to see the sights of Geneva before the more serious parts of his journey. He had been picked up at the airport and driven directly to CERN. So much for the beautiful mountains and opalescent lakes. Now he had to be serious. Little did Harold know that his journey was far from over.
Harold’s editor was obviously not the only one who had caught an interest in what CERN was doing. Harold has been expecting a private tour, but he was just one in a group of almost 20 journalist and what not. After a short tour around the facilities, the group had reached the apparent high point of the tour, the command center of the Large Hadron Collider. Is this it? Harold wondered. How was he supposed to write an article about this? The room was nothing more than a large office room packed with computers and monitors. Harold did not know what he had expected, but it was certainly not this.
“You are very lucky, because the Large Hadron Collider has just started up, and tiny particles are building up speed around you,” a scientist in an ugly shirt covered by naked women, told them. “You might all be witnessing history right now,” he continued with great enthusiasm. Harold did not feel a thing. Harold and the other guests could not to do much else than observe the scientists in action. Harold suddenly sensed that not all was right. The scientists started talking louder and a sense of panic spread through the room. Something was not what it was supposed to be.
“We had better leave the room, the experiment is out of control,” the guy in the ugly shirt tried to whisper to another scientist, but everyone in the room could hear what he was saying. The scientists told the guests to remain calm.” Not to worry, just a minor hiccup.”
All of the sudden an alarm started and panic filled the eyes of most of the people in the room. Harold however stayed calm. He trusted the scientists and there could be many reasons for an alarm. Perhaps one of the particles were stuck or something. Then Harold saw the most amazing thing happening in front of the windows of the control room. It was as if a giant painting by Dalí covered the entire view. Trees were twisting and cars started melting. Everything was dissolving and it literally seemed like a huge vacuum cleaner was sucking all matter from the ground and towards a single point.
“Are you guys watching this?” Harold asked, but no one but silence answered him. Harold turned around and realized that he was the only person left in the room. He had been so occupied by the scenery outside, that he had not noticed that even the scientists had left the room.
Outside, things were still getting weirder. Still more things seemed to abandon their beliefs in gravity as they were swept off the ground. Harold noticed how the sky was getting darker, even though it was in the middle of the afternoon on a summers day. Something blocked out the sun, but Harold could not quite make out what it was. Then it dawned on Harold. What had been described as almost impossible had happened, the LHC had created a black hole, and it was growing rapidly in size. Even though he knew this meant trouble, Harold could not help to be fascinated by the sheer beauty of the black hole. It was an almost perfect circle and the darkness was so deep that it was impossible to describe.
The black hole kept coming closer to Harold, or maybe Harold was getting closer to the black hole. He could not really tell who was moving, all he knew, was that he was trying to get away, to run away as fast as possible, but he could not move a muscle. His feet were no longer touching the ground, as he was dragged through the walls, or what used to be the walls of the command center.
It was as if Harold’s entire body was stretching towards the black hole. It felt like the growing pains from childhood, but just all over the body. All Harold could see now was the black hole. Harold senses registered what happened but it was impossible for his brain to process the information. He could feel himself being sucked in to the vastness of the black hole and his body kept stretching. It was as if he was going through a pasta machine over and over again. Harold was far from the only thing in the black hole. It appeared as if the entire city of Geneva had been sucked into the black hole. Harold did however not see another human being, but there was a lot of cows with bells that made an intolerable sound that resonated within the surreal walls of the black hole.
The complete darkness went on for hours but the Harold started to notice what appeared to be some sort of light at the end of the dark tunnel. Harold was speeding towards the light at the speed of light and his body was still stretching. The pain was immense and Harold was sure that his body would break apart any moment know. Harold could feel all the blood leaving his brain and he knew that his life soon would be over.
Harold opened his eyes and to his great surprise, he was laying on the ground of what looked like the deserts of Arizona. Even more surprising, Harold’s body looked completely normal and the pain was gone. Now this was going to be quite a different article than expected. If this had only happened to Harold, then it would be sensational news. Harold started to walk, hoping that he soon would find civilization. However, something was not how it was supposed to be. The landscape seemed familiar but the sky was a different colour. Harold started walking but nothing seemed to change. Harold kept on walking for days but he found no signs of civilization. Harold soon gave up hope of finding another human being.
The black hole kept appearing almost every day, and it kept getting smaller. Harold could feel that he was losing a little bit of himself each day. He had tried killing himself several times, but to no avail. Every time Harold tried to end it, the black hole would appear and take him to another place or galaxy. Harold was almost certain that the black hole knew what he was thinking. When the black hole spat Harold out in a new place, a small part of Harold’s body was missing. He had started to believe that this somehow was the black hole’s way of punishing him for trying to kill himself. The black hole was trying to shape him into a useless lump of human flesh so that Harold would have no free will.
Harold knew that soon he would not have any hands and he could feel how his brain was starting to decay. Harold could no longer remember where he was born or where he used to work. It seemed as if an infinity has passed since he got caught up in the loop of the black hole.
Harold found a small piece of paper and a pen in one of his pockets. He did not know where it had come from, but at this point Harold had stopped wondering about random occurring events.
“I hope these words someday will fall in to the hands of someone able to read them. I hope my notes may bring knowledge to future generations of humanity. I have reached the end of my history, and I have no hope of ever seeing my loved ones again. My mouth is gone but I must scream. I must somehow express the indescribable pain I feel, but the black hole will not let me. These words will soon be the only thing left of me that is human.”