“This won’t be like your average rainbow-riding operation. We’ll be placing you inside of a research-grade kaleidoscope,” she explained to me as we ascended. “Hundreds of bifurcations per square millimeter. The human brain can absorb the patterns and colors of maybe half this, but the optic nerve is going to attempt to take it all in at once. I can imagine that you’re worried right now, but I promise that you’re going to witness something really special.”

After ten minutes of climbing the spiral stairs, we at last arrived at the cylindrical pool’s surface. Despite all that climbing, I’d just be heading back down. Eight parallel rows of lantern-like diodes led underground several miles, converging into a single vanishing point. “It’s powered down right now. The chamber that we’ll be lowering you into is filled with a blend of purified water and unreacted solar oil. It’s similar to the fuel that stars run on, but cold and dilute enough that it won’t ignite while the machine is running.”

Two technicians began strapping me into my harness as she continued. “Beneath that is the acceleration layer. It’s a soup of liquid mirrors- free-floating globules of gallium and mercury suspended in diamond nectar. We actually commissioned Tiffany and Co. to produce the separation lenses- the manufacturing process is protected as their trade secret, but it involves simmering crystal in a plasma broth. Think of it as a prism that’s not just splitting light, but also the mind perceiving it.”

 I could hear the machine groaning to life. Its maintenance lights were spiraling out of service, one after the other, all the way down. Darkness was being stirred, thickened. My reflection became more defined. “Can you tell me one last time what’s going to happen?” I asked.

She sighed. “Why, are you having second thoughts?”

“No,” I lied. “I just want to hear it one more time before we get started.”

“Very well.” She took a long, deep breath before her explanation. “Once the pattern’s complexity reaches its neurocritical point, the shock will cause your mind and brain to decouple. We call the state that you'll be entering kaleidonoia. Your body will emerge from the kaleidoscope with all your memories and personality, but it won’t be you entirely, as you are now. The current state of your consciousness will remain behind, preserved as though mellified, for us to study in the laboratory. The rest of you will go on living like nothing happened at all- but down there, you'll experience eternity for yourself.”

The rest of you. I thought once more about my family, and if they’d be okay without me. Don’t be selfish- you’re not going anywhere. What comes out will still be you. The money from this donation would leave them much better off, but would it really be the same? You’re a process, a state in the system. Who you are will go on, even if who you are now never leaves this vat. Would my wife not see some spark missing behind my eye? Superstition. Your being is more than this instant- you echo across time.

“Sir?” She waved her hand in front of my face. “Any other questions? Do we still have your consent?”

“Yeah, sorry.” I shook my head. “Let’s get on with the show.”