Ashtar Deza
by Ashtar Deza
5 min read


  • Fiction
  • Horror


  • dark
Content warnings: Gore, disturbing imagery

Sometimes an invention comes along that changes everything. The wheel, the printing press, the Internet. And now we had the teleporter. When it was first invented, people were skittish and sceptical, but in only a few short years it changed the world.

Traffic jams became a thing of the past, cities became walkable again while the car industry collapsed. Suddenly, achieving carbon goals became feasible and the spectre of climate change vanished as if it had never existed.

Some luddites called it “the murder machine”, arguing that the ‘you’ that appeared on the other side wasn’t really you. That it was an identical copy but that the real you had died when your body dematerialised on the sending end. Religions had a hard time deciding whether the soul could be transported along with the body.

Scientists pointed out that every 2 years or so, every atom in your body has been replaced just by you eating, shitting and losing skin. That you really had no way of knowing if the you that woke up in the morning was the same you that went to sleep the night before, or an identical copy with all memories intact.

The debates went on for a while, but people quickly lost interest. And honestly… After the first time of being teleported and arriving happily at their destination, nobody really cared.

You got strapped into the sending booth, they closed the door and you got put under. Next thing you know, you woke up in an identical booth at your destination, and you felt like you. So yeah, maybe the metaphysical ramifications still weren’t worked out yet, but instantly moving half-way across the world and all it takes is a short nap? Who could argue with that.

The opponents kept protesting for a while, calling the sending booths “coffins” and the transportation hubs “Death Factories”, but their numbers dwindled quickly as the benefits became abundantly clear.

I was getting ready for work, late as usual. I burned my mouth on my coffee and was still fixing my tie as I was rushing out the door to the office. I heard that a few decades ago during the Great Plague, people had telecommuted. No more though. Once teleportation became widely available, offices had enjoyed a huge renaissance. Managers saw a chance to finally have all their workers within their sight again, and the cubicle farm got a second lease on life.

I was lucky that my local transportation hub was around the corner, so I sprinted in there with about 5 minutes left before I was expected to clock in. I worked the phones for an insurance company, and my employer was big enough to have their own receiving pods. They were one-way only, since for some reason that I never quite understood sending was only possible from officially licensed transportation hubs. They’d explained it once when I was still in school, but I was too busy staring down the top of the girl next to me to pay much attention.

They also explained why you had to go under… I don’t remember the specifics, but something about people going into a psychotic rage on arrival, because their mind couldn’t take it. Or maybe they just puked a lot. I don’t know. I just remember… Well, boobs.

At first transportation hubs were strictly government run, but it didn’t take long for the budget cuts to follow. “The market can do this better” was the magic mantra, and transportation got privatised. One of the big multinationals won the bid. You know the type. They made movies, made medical systems and consumer electronics, toys for kids and adults. They sold detergent and soft-drinks, protein bars and candy bars. They ran a series of charter schools, and now they also ran the transportation hubs. Service got shittier and the hubs looked more grubby every year, but hey… At least it was cheap.

Meanwhile, I got strapped in and the lid closed. From this perspective, the luddites had a point. It did look a bit like a coffin. I waited for the hiss of the knockout gas to come and tried to glance at my watch. I could just about make my morning shift and I’d just grab an espresso to ward off any residual drowsiness.

Something seemed off though. Normally I was out within a second or 2, but this time I heard the techs rummage around and crack jokes to each other. A red light started blinking that I’d never seen before. What the fuck? Next thing I know the straps came undone, and before I could really see what was happening I fell a couple of meters and landed hard on a cold metal surface. The surface was angled, and it formed a funnel leading to a big dark metal slot in the middle. There wasn’t much light, just a red emergency bulb but I could make out two big spiked metal rollers. I’d gotten lucky not to hit those on the way down, but I felt myself sliding down towards them. I grabbed for something to hang on to, and my hands found a scrap of fabric that had gotten wedged in an edge somewhere. I hung on for dear life.

Meanwhile, I heard a panicked voice above me. The metal casing amplified the sounds, so I clearly recognized the voice of the younger tech.

“Fuck, we got a live one! The gas nozzles were blocked, he didn’t get the nitrogen! What the fuck do we do?”

The other tech sounded calm, almost bored.

“It happens, no worries. The copy is already at the destination, none the wiser. Probably getting coffee as we speak. We just need to get rid of the redundant here. Hit the button, the grinder will get him.”

The grinder started rotating, and I could feel my grip on the scrap of fabric start to slip. I recognized it now, it was a bit of the t-shirt the guy before me had been wearing. My fingers slipped and I slid, the huge grinder waiting eagerly.

The older tech rolled a cigarette and handed it to the pale-faced younger one. “First live one is always hard, it gets easier.”

“You know, we used to actually vaporise them… Turn them into free-floating atoms a split second after we’d sent the data. Cost a ton of energy, but it fit the idea that people had from Sci-Fi shows. Then someone in accounting had a better idea. Why waste resources? After cows went extinct making those protein bars became damn expensive, and here we were wasting perfectly good protein.

See my boy? That’s the beauty of the system. The market will always move towards the most efficient solution.”

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