“…and this is how an antibody looks like…”
“…as you can see, it binds to…”
“…unless activated, the T cell is dormant, like our friend over here.”
You wake up with a jerk. You see a figure smiling at you. A figure without a face.
“So as I was saying, immune cells need to be activated…”, the faceless professor
You look around. You‟re in a class. Immunology. You are surrounded by people.
People without faces.
Smiling people without faces.
You don‟t feel fear, though you normally would, seeing someone without a face. You
can discern some details. Some faces look…clearer than the others.
As you look over you shoulder to see more faces, you see something.
Far away, a face, fully formed. You seem to know that face.
It‟s bright, like a lone lighthouse on a dark night in a turbulent ocean.
It calls to you.
You want it. Desperately.
You start moving towards the face.
“Kùnhuò, what‟s wrong?”
“Sit back in your seat, Kùnhuò.”
“I can‟t see the board, Kùnhuò, sit down”
Who‟s „Kùnhuò‟? You wonder as you keep moving towards the face. The voices rise.
“Kùnhuò, let‟s watch a movie together tonight”
“Hey Kùnhuò, you wanna try out some grass? It‟ll be good, I promise”
The face still seems far away.
“Your refrigerator is negatively bleeding soy sauce, Kùnhuò”
“Kùnhuò, are you aware that I don’t support Technicolor parfaits and snobby petit
bourgeois is common knowledge in Oceania”
“You know Kùnhuò, elephants are mystery fusion freedom elements…
There‟s nothing around you. Emptiness. All over.
“…and when I told her that you‟re now my girlfriend, she was so furious! You
should‟ve seen her face.”
You are in a restaurant. Across you is the face you were looking for. She‟s pretty.
“So Kùnhuò, what do you think we should order?”
A faceless waiter is standing by your side.
“What would you order, Sir?”
“Sir?”, you ask, confused.
Everything around you starts dissolving.
The pretty girl sitting across you deforms and twists, and is now a man. A faceless
one.You look around, you‟re in a general medicine store.
“Here are your condoms, Madam.”
“Condoms?”, you ask, confused.
Everything around you starts dissolving, again.
The store employee sitting across you deforms and twists, and is now another man.
Again, a faceless one. You look around, you‟re in a lab-office of some sort.
“Mr. Kùnhuò, your academic record is impressive, and you‟re welcome to work in
“Lab?”, you ask, confused.
Everything around you starts dissolving yet again.
The researcher sitting across you melts and molds, and is now a woman. Again, a
faceless one. She‟s standing. You‟re standing. You look around, you‟re in an
auditorium. You‟re facing a crowd.
“Dr. Kùnhuò is awarded the best thesis award for this academic year!”
“Best?”, you ask, confused.
The crowd disappears, along with everything else, obviously.
The woman standing besides you distorts and contorts and divides into five different
persons. As expected, all faceless ones. They‟re sitting across you.
Looks like an interview.
“Dr. Kùnhuò, you‟re awarded professorship. Congratulations and welcome to this
“Wow”, you say, still confused.
This time, the face is back. The pretty face. She‟s standing along you. Dressed in
“Do you take her to be your lawful wedded partner?”, says a faceless voice, robed in
“Do you promise to love and cherish her, in sickness and in health, for richer for
poorer, for better for worse, and forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto her, for
so long as you both shall live?”
“I do”, you say with her, you feel happy. Contended. But still confused as fuck.
As you bend to kiss her, she dissolves, she separates from you, and is now sitting
beside you. You are holding hands with her.
“Mr. Kùnhuò, I am very sorry to say this, but, you are diagnosed with Pancreatic
cancer. T4 stage.”
Sitting next to you, she holds your hands tightly. She‟s tough. You can feel the
anguish building inside her. But she doesn‟t say a word.
“Prognosis?”, you ask the doctor, very well aware of the answer yourself.
“Four…”, she says.
“Four?”, you ask, confused, “Four what?”
But she‟s dissolving already.
“Hey, wait!” you scream, to no avail.
“Forever”, says your wife, before dissolving.
There‟s nothing around you. Emptiness. All over again.
I wake you up with a gentle nudge.
You look around, confused.
“Hello, Kùnhuò”, I say.
In me, you see a fully formed face. A face you‟re too sure of. Your own face.
“Am I dreaming”, you ask, incredulously.
“Well, you can call it that. A dream”
“So am I talking to myself? My own consciousness?”
“I…am an image. I was programmed to look like you”
“Oh, so what is this place?”
You look around. It seems like a hospital bed in a small room.
“This is an environment created from your most recent memories, before your
“Yes, you are dead. Your wife signed you up for a trial by a Chinese science start-up.
Your brain was digitized and stored in this virtual medium before you died. You
didn‟t remember your death, and were suffering from something termed as „upload
amnesia‟. So, what you experienced, was a short tour, to refresh your memory”
“Oh”, you say, unable to say anything else.
“So as you seem more or less calibrated, you have it all to yourself. A virtual world.”
“Okay”, you say, dazed.
“I was uploaded as a virtual construct to aid you in understanding your current
position. But as the server has limited processing power, I‟d have to go now. And if
you wonder who‟s Kùnhuò, it‟s the Chinese term for a confused person. The Chinese
AI couldn‟t think of a better name for you”, I say, with a pretentious smile,
As I recede into darkness as the code that makes me is being deleted, I couldn‟t help
but feel sorry for you. The trial was never meant to go public. The technology was
too underdeveloped. Corporate greed and competition led to the premature green
light, and now, your consciousness is stuck forever, in a glitchy, bug-prone and
abandoned wet dream of some selfish individuals.
By Sumit Garai, IISER Kolkata.
About the author: Sumit is a 2nd year BS-MS student at IISER Kolkata. He’s eager to understand life from the perspective of the cell, which is nothing but a bunch of lifeless molecules coming together, leading to the emergence of ‘life’. Other than that, he’s into philosophy, fiction and music, as a way to escape the constant existential dread every human is condemned to.
Illustration credits – Void Illustration by Rune Fisker | © Rune Fisker (https://theculturetrip.com/europe/denmark/articles/meet-rune-fisker-the-danish-illustrator-that-will-blow-your-mind/)