An essay by Nikola Tesla, presented by Adam Israel
Illustration by Katie Nyborg
The beginning of the end started on 22 July, 1899. I stood outside my laboratory atop Pikes Peak, near Colorado Springs. The frequent electrical storms the area was known for made this an ideal location to carry out my research. Forks of lightning danced across the sky and thunder crashed in the distance as a storm front approached. The system moved swifter than I expected and soon small drops of rain pelted my face. Inside, my devoted assistant Czito prepared the equipment. Previous experiments proved the existence of stationary waves and now it was time to test my theory that energy could be transmitted wirelessly. Tonight, the world would be changed forever.
The laboratory’s wooden structure had been built with care. Its roof rolled back to prevent it from catching fire during experiments, as it was now. The metal mast extending from the center of the building reached over a hundred feet into the air and was topped by a copper sphere that would discharge the excess energy. Light from its open door flooded the pasture and Czito stepped into view, waving his arms to get my attention. It was time to begin the experiment.
The magnifying transmitter was the largest Tesla coil I had ever designed. The primary inductor stood in the center of the laboratory and the secondary inductors and the resonant transformer lining the far wall formed a proverbial arrow pointing towards my workshop in New York City. I often sat in my chair in the center of the maelstrom, observing the ongoing experiments. Tonight would be no different.
Electricity from the storm would be magnified through the coils and transmitted over focused waves of energy through the crust of the earth. Receiving equipment in my Hudson Street laboratory waited to record the signal. Tonight’s experiment would be the first of many performed here to perfect the transmission of power and information across the world without the need for wires.
“Czito,” I said, leaning back against the chair, “open the switch for only one second.”
The diminutive mechanic stepped up to the relay and pulled a stopwatch out of his pocket. His free hand grasped the handle of the switch and slid it into position. The air between the coils sparkled and cracked as power from the El Paso Electric Company surged into the transmitter. An eerie blue corona flickered in the air above me briefly before power drained from the coils. Czito stood beside the disengaged switch, looking at me for confirmation.
“Everything is ready, Czito. Close the switch and hold it until I tell you to release it.”
The coils sprang to life and a steady hum filled the room. Sparks of blue and white leapt through the air as electricity raced up and down the windings of the coil, and the blue corona returned. The hair on the back of my neck stood on end and my skin prickled. Overhead, the storm reached its peak and lightning streaked across the sky.
A bolt of lightning struck the copper sphere, sending a torrent of electricity into the coils. The arcs danced at such a fevered pitch that my eyes could not focus on them and the corona expanded at an alarming rate. I tried to stand, to escape before it reached me, but my muscles refused to move.
The world as I knew it resonated around me. Light clawed at my body and my skin tingled painfully as if there were thousands of bees inside my body trying to escape. The last thing I heard before the blue light swallowed me whole was Czito screaming my name.
I do not remember the passage of time. The familiar surroundings of Pikes Peak were gone. I found myself sitting on an empty street, surrounded by visions of pervasive gloom. I recognized the tall spire of Trinity Church–or what had become of it. What had once been the landmark of downtown Manhattan now stood like a skeleton looming on the horizon, a shade of its former glory.
The weathered asphalt was cracked and deserted. The visages of the buildings that still stood were crumbled and thick vegetation clung to them like poorly fitted curtains. Twisted lumps of rusted metal, like tortured versions of Ford’s auto carriage, littered the street. Whatever span of time had passed had not been kind to this place.
To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Summer 2012 collection.
Nikola Tesla, a Serbian-born scientist, set the world on fire with his ideas and inventions — sometimes literally. At the time of his death in 1943, he was penniless and largely forgotten. It wasn’t until the declassification of his journals a century later, following the successful deployment of his Teleforce technology in the first extraterrestrial war that the true vision of his work was acknowledged.
Today, he is heralded as the father of the modern age, whose work provided the foundation for free energy, force fields, and teleportation.
Adam Israel was born with one foot on the road and a book in his back pocket. Having lived in Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles, he’s expatriated to Ontario, Canada with his wife, three dogs and three cats. With his nomadic lifestyle a thing of the past, he spends his days working as a software developer and writing.
Katie Nyborg’s art, plus information regarding hiring her, can be found at http://katiedoesartthings.tumblr.com/