Sunday, 27 May 2012
The Baltic States
It had been tiring work, once the method had been worked out and they were on their way. The equipment needed for the experiment was only composed of the most simple things, but was a nightmare putting it together. Most of the equipment was composed of everyday things that you could find in the home, or in the nearest electrical supply store, things such as radios, microphones, tape recorders and a hell of a lot of wiring.
The room used for the experiment was a simple store room, now thankfully clear of all the things strewn around. It was a rather large room that now seemed a lot smaller with the mass of equipment scattered around on tables and on the floor. The walls were painted a slightly darkened green colour, the floor and ceiling was painted a thick dark brown that reflected the light from the overhanging electric bulb.
The room was quiet, aside from the constant movements of the two researchers moving from one machine to the next, mumbling inaudible comments to each. The constant low crackling of the tape machines and the sound of empty spinning black tape filled up the rest of the silence.
The two researchers, Gerhard Stempnik and Konstantin Raudive were both specially trained for this completely new and mysterious experiment. Stempnik was a well trained and competent oboist in the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and as such knew certain sounds simply by hearing them a few times. He could sometimes determine what possible instruments or equipment where being used to make the sounds.
Raudive was a very intelligent psychologist who taught at the University of Uppsala, Sweden. His mind, and that of Stempnik’s were both intelligent enough to understand the possibility of proof behind this mystery, and both of their individual skills were excellent for what they attempted to unravel here tonight. Raudive and Stempnik were both middle-aged men, but where far from weak and unable. Raudive was by far then oldest of the two. He wore a dark grey suit and patterned tie and wore a large pair of black spectacles. Stempnik wore similar attire, except for the glasses and had more hair than Raudive.
The two of them worked quietly as they prepared the equipment , delicately fine-tuning each individual recording device and triple checking each machine to ensure their was enough battery power. Raudive checked the microphone, lightly tapping his finger on the sensitive part. The result was a fairly loud sound, almost similar to the sound of a mouse ferrying around in trash for a meal. He concluded that it was working well. They tested the equipment with other small sounds, such as the sound of them clicking their fingers or speaking something near it. A small box sized machine on one of the tables with a small circular shaped glass window lay in the centre. When switched on, the screen displayed a horizontal green line running from one end to the other. When a sound was played, the line fluctuated and showed a succession of spikes, similar to a heart monitor.
After painstaking work that lasted months and spending hours carefully checking each individual machine and wire, it was finally ready and waiting. Both men stood up from their constant crouching and raised themselves to full height. They groaned and rested the weight of their backs on their hands, their backs ached as their bones and muscles worked to get them stood up.
This was the first time that they had been able to get a good look at their makeshift laboratory since bringing it in and setting it up. The result was a thick jungle of machinery and wires set on large metal tables, chairs, the floor and any other available space. The air was thick with incessant clicks and ticking from the machines, as well as a growing heat that came from the guts of the machines. Raudive asked Stempnik to open the small window in the wall. He had opened it before he had a chance to finish his question. The claustrophobic atmosphere was lifted a little by the refreshing cool breeze coming from outside, joined by the tiny flickers of rain. Both men breathed a deep sigh as the breeze cooled them down. Everything was ready, now the experiment could begin.
Raudive activated a large tape machine on one of the tables, the large circular wheels of black tape began to spin. He checked the frequency, it was correctly in-between two frequencies. In this frequency, it was not possible for any ordinary outside broadcasts to be picked up. Anything that would be heard would not be anything ordinary. He nodded to Stempnik that it was ready. Stempnik stood by to watch the proceedings as Raudive leaned forward to the microphone on the table. He spoke aloud to it in his native German. “This is Konstantin Raudive, you are going to hear some samples of recordings belonging to group “A”, experiment done on July 17, 1965.” Raudive finished and watched the spinning tapes to ensure it was still recording. He waited for a few moments as he contemplated what questions he was about to ask to whoever answered. He tried to put himself in the point of view of the listener, how they would answer and what answers they would give to his questions. After a few moments, he began his questions: “Who are you? Where are you? Are you well?” He felt slightly stupid asking the final question, but left it as it was. Both men checked that the transmission had been recorded and it had, sooner or later, they would probably hear something come back.
The two of them waited for a possible transmission to return by checking and carefully going over again each and every piece of equipment. It was an annoying, but reasonable thing to do, anything was better than sitting around waiting for something that may not happen. At least this way they wouldn’t get bored.
In the slowly passing, and agonising minutes, both men contemplated what they were doing here. They had gone into this field of research purely by reading up about the subject in old books, long since thrown away by a sceptical public. They had read how the phenomenon had first come to attention in the early part of the century, and how it had been studied by a small number of people. The experiment done today was the first real attempt to understand it using the most modern equipment they could find. They had received quite a number of confused and sceptical expressions and words from the people they had told about it, but in a way, he could see their point of view. No one could accept that technology, no matter how powerful could break through the walls of the spirit world and record the voices of the dead. Technology represented science, and mixing it together with spirituality seemed an impossible, almost heretic thing to do.
After an endless eternity of deliberation and careful checking, both men turned suddenly as they heard the faintest crackle of sound on the tape machine. They almost knocked over equipment that was in the way in their frantic efforts to reach the machine. Raudive was the first to get to it. He turned up the volume to its highest but heard only faint, soundless static. His didn’t matter. They had definitely heard something and they would work on that. Raudive switched off the recording and pressed rewind. The tape made a loud whining noise as it reached the beginning of the tape. With nervous shaking fingers, he pressed the play button.
Raudive’s recorded voice played first. “This is Konstantin Raudive, you are going to hear some samples of recordings belonging to group “A”, experiment done on July 17, 1965.” Both men were stood mere inches away from the machine, carefully taking in every single note of sound that came into their ears. They lowered their heads and closed their eyes. The tape played only static for a few moments, for a short while they thought they had caught nothing, that its was simply their excited imagination playing tricks on them. Their heads jerked upward as they caught the faintest sound of what they knew to be a voice. Not wanting to get over excited and crush something with their feet, they contained their excitement. Raudive was open mouthed as his arm reached out to play the recording back again and pressed play. He pushed the volume control to its limits. They two of them waited in muted excitement as they placed a set of large earphones over their ears. A thick spread of sweat had appeared on their faces, their muscles tensed with anticipation. They listened closely to the incredibly loud static in their ears.
‘Let us sleep,’ a voice said in Latvian. Raudive and Stempnik looked at each other in utter amazement. They had done it, they had broken through. They had successfully recorded the actual voice of a deceased person. They uttered a silent shout of triumph, shaking their fists in their air. They returned their concentration to the recording.
‘Vous tapez.’ the next voice said. “You beat.”
A great smile appeared on both men’s faces. They pulled the earphones tighter over their ears.
‘Here is the Land of Soul.’
The voices ceased as the final statement ended. Raudive and Stempnik smiled and removed the earphones from their ears. Raudive shut off the tape machine and walked up to Stempnik. They immediately hugged each other and shook each others hands. They had finally done it, they had proved that these voices did actually exist. The feeling was amazing, almost like the feeling one would get if they were told the meaning of life. True, they had only recorded three separate voices, but at this stage it was enough. This was only the first step, but it was a giant leap forward. Good things could only come now and the feeling was indescribable.
“We have done it, my friend,” Raudive said excitedly. “Go and get the Champagne, we will celebrate tonight.
Stempnik rushed out of the room, his feet never touching the floor once. Raudive listened to his excited frantic footsteps down the silent corridors outside.
Stempnik returned holding a full bottle of unopened champagne and two glasses. He handed one to Raudive and poured in both glasses. In a spirit of humour, he took one third glass, filled it up and placed it in front of the tape machine. The two of them laughed. “Without him,” Stempnik said, “none of this would have happened.”
They clinked their glasses with the third and raised them into the air. “To future success and more friends on the other side,” Raudive said. The two of them drank from their glasses, contemplating what was to come in the future.