Liza's first day in the lab was exhausting. The clinical trials were going well but the work was nevertheless draining. Her last subject, a man in his late 30's though already balding, collected his pay from Liza and left, leaving the door slightly ajar. Liza tried to finish her notes as quickly as she could so she could rush home to bed, but a high pitched whistling stung her ears at their deepest points. The whine sizzled in her brain. She walked to her office door and the sound abruptly stopped as she shut it, as if it were sucked out of her ear canals by a vacuum.
Liza made some notes on a few more PET scans before heading home. The brain images were by far the most fascinating part of her research. The study picked up where Tsutomu Oohashi's left off, considering the hypersonic effect. The concept had greatly enthralled Liza, how frequencies inaudible to humans might affect our brains. There were all these sounds in the world that our eardrum's measly range of 20-20kHz could not perceive. But what do the frequencies outside of that range do to us? Can we feel them in our bones, on our skin? Do they beat around our brains to make us feel something we aren't consciously aware of? Liza wanted to know and she was going to. Today's images were wonderfully enlightening. Liza played music for the subjects that contained frequencies up to 30kHz and the brain scans started to light up. The frequencies were doing something, something never researched before, and Liza was elated that she would be the one who found the answer.
The next seven days of research went by without a hitch. On the eighth day, three subjects had opted out of the research. Reasons varied, one had a daughter who had fallen ill and no longer had time. Time was also an issue for the second subject who had just been promoted. The third had a stranger story. In writing, she gave her reasoning:
"Henceforth, I opt-out of the research study taking place at ATR Human Information Processing Research Laboratories on the topic of the hypersonic effect. I wish I could continue as I feel the study truly need to be carried out but I fear for my health. I have been fraught with night terrors of a demonic sort every night since starting the study. I have seen Hell in its entirety with vivid clarity. I could replicate my visions with great detail but on nothing less than a massive brick wall and painted only with blood. Creatures that had human features melted and pressed onto rigid black forms. They were shaped like the rocky cliff sides of mountains and bolted to the ground. They had eyes that leaked out of their sockets. I have memories of fire, spouting from their cavernous mouths and a scream that sounded like it came from a thousand throats in sequence, passing through one and feeding into the next. I only hope these sights fade but a part of me senses they will be forever etched in my soul."
Liza read the letter at her desk and shut her eyes. She tried to visualize the nightmare from the letter and was certain she could only comprehend on a level that a toddler could understand calculus. She could picture the scene but couldn't feel the fear that was obviously evident in the letter. Liza couldn't stop her research on this one slip and hypothesized that the woman might have some underlying psychological issues. As she considered how to get around this complication, a new email flashed on her computer screen. Another subject was dropping out. The message was nearly identical to the other subject's letter. The man described a scene of fire burning across a rocky field of hardened corpses. Screams that came from a feedback loop of deformed mouths, agape and contorted. He too mentioned a fear that the images would never leave his memory, mentioning how they had "crystallized in his mind, a permanent structure until his death and maybe after." Liza's eyes welled up with tears, she saw her research slipping away. The board would see it as dangerous and the grant money would dry up.
Her decision to shred the letter and delete the email was not an easy one but it was necessary. This was not a time for a moral debate, she was on the cusp of discovering what could be perceived beyond what we know is humanly possible. This research was going to make great strides in trans humanist technology, and she needed her name on it. She needed to be part of the pantheon that told people they were not limited by their senses. That there was more to being human than what only our senses perceive. We could be more than human.
The next three days of research were rife with more letters of subjects dropping out. They all recalled hellfire, and the smell of ash so thick it coated the sinuses and let through only a sliver of lava-hot, black air. Liza tore up every one.
On the twelfth day, Liza was brought into a board meeting where she was questioned by her colleagues on the rampant drop-out rate of subjects in their study. It was severely hampering the research and it needed to be known if there were reasons to stop the work altogether. Liza put on her best face and explained the subjects all had time conflicts in some way or another. One of her colleagues pulled out a letter from a stack of papers, slid it over to Liza, and asked her to explain it. It was from one of the drop-outs from day eleven. They had sent a copy of the letter to every researcher, desperately asking for the study to be put to an end. They went on to describe their decimated life. His wife had moved out from the fear that her husband would slice off her face in her sleep. She had awaken to him one night standing over her in a trance and holding a kitchen knife, pressed hard against her lips. Liza saw no way out. This man had been perfectly sane before the study and eleven days in had gone mad. She had no defense. She was let go from the research that day and would be facing a hard road if she wanted back into any sort of research. She would forever be known as one who did not work within the scope of morality, she would be admired by few and spurned by most.
Liza made her way home, her mind cloaked in despair. She never felt desperation like this, the want to go back in time, to not tear up the letters. To face the facts that there was something dangerous in her research, in exposing people to great amounts of frequencies higher than their ears could perceive. Maybe that would be her next endeavor, to learn what sort of devil hid in those sounds. But did she dare? The fear the subjects felt, the sick states their minds had been left in... did she dare expose herself to even more of the trigger of these experiences, in the name of science? She questioned why she had been safe this whole time, why she never had the nightmares. She went through the experiments too, as she applied them to her subjects on a daily basis.
More fatigued than she had ever been before, Liza collapsed into her bed, weighted down by the sorrow of losing her future. She switch the bedroom lamp off, but didn't close her eyes to sleep. For in the shadow of her room that should have been tinted black was a sea of grey faces. And Liza knew that darkness would never be dark for her again.