Weee! It's about as done as it ever will be so I am posting it. Weee!
This is how it began. With a foggy memory, like the glass, the frosty glass window. The casket ensuring that he never leaves. Time will give him up to the cold. Time will tuck him away for safekeeping, and he will never remember the sterile, motionless solitude of the freeze.
It doesn’t bite, nip, or refresh. It’s numbing, a surrender to death, and the cold.
Moments pass. Time has approached him again, tentatively. With its arrival, the cold was disappearing. It retreats reluctantly. Its loosening grip allows him to feel his blood pulse again. It enters his eyes, and he is once again endowed with the strength to open them. The window in front, smooth as it was before, though fine cracks ran along its length. He was aware of the familiar dull grey walls. Meanwhile, the temperature inside rose, his awareness again reached normality, and fully formed thoughts crept back into his fully thawed brain.
A hiss. The bottom of the chamber ejected. Tubes snapped back from his veins; their freezing liquid no longer needed. He was thrust into the same hospital as before, but the clean white lights were gone, the white plaster was torn and decayed. The room was empty. He turned. What used to be a few chambers, perhaps nine at the most, there were now over a hundred lighted receptacles, with peaceful faces propped up behind the windows. There were names above them. Jesse Burton, Kyle Woodall, Serena Lele, Hale Hansen.
“That’s me.” he mouthed silently, for his tongue was dry. Hale. It was not as if he had forgotten.
The sign above had bright red floating letters dizzily swirling and shifting until it read:
CRYOGENIC PRESERVATION. BROUGHT TO YOU BY ALCOR CRYONICS.
A sign that was not there before, using technology that could only exist in the future.
“Here I am.” Hale said aloud, as people often do when they believe they are truly alone.
He stepped back out of the operating room/storage room, into what he remembered to be the main lobby. Suddenly, Hale was startled to hear a hum from behind him. The doorway was blocked off by a shimmering, almost-invisible screen, which slowly darkened until it was impossible to see through.
He pounded it with a closed fist, but it felt like solid wood. Triggered by this disturbance, a holographic screen switched on by the side, asking him for a bio-scan. A wide beam of light searched him from all directions, and it took only a few seconds for it to finish.
“Hale Hansen. Age: 465, Biological Age: 42. Registered member of Boston Medical Center Cryogenic Patients Society.”
The artificial door disappeared.
Not wishing to return yet, Hale began to explore the changes in the building. All his life he had been told the future would be glorious and… clean. But the walls were festering with mildew, and the ceiling tiles were yellow and brown in various splotches of sewer leaks, though it was unlikely that anyone had flushed a toilet in this facility for the past few years.
The outside must be better, thought Hale, his head filled with images of flying cars and beautiful buildings stretching to the sky. The future should be better.
He walked up to the main door, and it vanished.
There used to be a lawn, trees, and sidewalk leading to the streets of Boston. But quite disappointingly, yet another door barred passage, except this one was solid metal, and around it was a curved wall high enough to block out his view of the sky. There were no windows and the wall was not made of any special material; it was concrete.
“Open.” he commanded the gate.
It was silent. Apart from the muffled “plick, plick, plick” from the other side of the wall, the gate did not respond.
When he returned to the main lobby, Hale saw a man. He was plainly dressed, with dark brown hair, and he was staring at Hale with interest.
Hale cleared his throat. “Hello. Who might you be?”
The man smiled, “Archaic English. No problem. I’m quite fluent myself.”
“Sorry, I’m… confused. Who are you?”
“I am your great-great-great-great-great-great… well, you get the idea. It is strange to meet my ancestor in such a way. You aren’t much older than me. Hmm, care for a drink? The freezing process sucks up lots of water.”
Hale took the water bottle, eyeing the man suspiciously. He gulped the cool water down, which only made him realize how thirsty he was.
“I don’t believe you. I only have one child, well, had only one child.”
“Yes. That’s his name.”
“And I am Zaccheus.”
“What are you doing here?”
Zaccheus took the water bottle and slid it back in his coat.
“I’m here to save you.”
“I’m perfectly fine.”
Hale was uneasy. He had no great desire to be whisked away by this stranger claiming to be a descendent of his family.
Zaccheus merely walked towards the elevator door and beckoned with one finger.
“Come. Let me show you.”
Hale followed reluctantly. As the elevator rose silently upward, higher than any hospital Hale had known, Zaccheus was keenly examining him.
“You know, Hale. I am well-versed in our family history, and though I ask this question to many, I am dying to know why you chose cryogenic preservation.”
Hale responded as if he were stating the obvious. “To survive, of course. I didn’t want to die before my time.”
“But,” Zaccheus pondered. “400 years later, are you satisfied with your longevity?”
“Of course not! I’m only 42 years old. I still have a life to live, things to experience, a future to see.”
“Indeed!” said Zaccheus “And here we are.”
The elevator ended its ascent, and the doors slid up. They were on the roof of a tower, on the hospital, and there was no wall to shield them from the sky. The clouds were the first thing Hale noticed. They were black, thick clouds, and the sun was completely blocked out. White lightning flickered, but with no thunder to accompany it. The clouds released dark raindrops of foul water, acid rain, but an invisible force shunted them away from the building. Hale’s nose crinkled at the thick, noxious stench of polluted air.
Zaccheus ignored it, and continued on to the landing pad reserved for the emergency helicopter, but there was a sleek black vessel so strange in its design and shape that Hale could not imagine how it could fly, even with those enormous engines.
“Hale, I need to take you away from this wretched world. We will travel to the Hansen colony in the Beta Pictoris system, where our family has thrived for decades. That is where you belong.”
Hale stood, dumbstruck. He looked again at the black spaceship, and said, “No.”
“There is nothing left for you here. You may have been born here, but your family needs you now. There is civil war breaking out within our lands. Foreigners have landed and some of our own kind have sided with them. We need to have proof that our dynasty is real. We need you.”
Again, he shook his head.
“God damn it, Hale. Why won’t you come?” Zaccheus pleaded.
“I… can’t. I live here. Just south of the harbor, on Winchester Street. It’s the third house over, lovely neighborhood, lovely house… I did the landscaping myself. That’s where I live.”
“Hale!” He dragged the bewildered man over to the edge of the roof and forced his head downwards, so that he could see the city streets, all of them, all at once, all of Boston.
The mob of skeletons surrounding the hospital; he realized that they were actually people, crawling out of the ravaged buildings, making fires of wood and bricks for warmth. The skyscrapers had all crumbled to the ground, and entire throngs of naked men and woman huddled amongst the rubble. The muffled sounds Hale had heard behind the wall were of sick and desperate people pounding at the gate, chiseling the wall, and colliding against it with their own frail bodies. Twisted silhouettes of steel structures, streets flooded with sewage and rain, the dried up Charles River; Boston goes on for miles, but all of its inhabitants were gathered at the hospital, vying for entrance.
“This is your precious home. Do you see them? Those people know that for the first time in centuries, in a locked down hospital, one of the cryo tubes is open, and every last one of them want it. They want it more than anything else; more than food, water, shelter. They want to escape the suffering that they inherited yet do not deserve. Look at them. Is this your home?”
Hale did not need further explanation. He was wallowing in the worst kind of despair, and he was unable to lift his eyes from the ground below. His mind rejected what his eyes saw so clearly.
“No.” he whispered. “No. No. No.”
Zaccheus let him go, but he remained in the same ridiculous bent-over position. It all sunk in, the reality of his situation. He could never go back. He would never see his wife, his son, or his dear city.
“No. No… NO!”
Hale launched himself into Zaccheus’ chest, pounding, clawing. Despair turning to fury, rage against the one he felt was responsible for it all.
Zaccheus yelled in pain. He tried his best to defend against the enraged Hale, but fear can never overcome passion. Hale grabbed Zaccheus by the throat. He stepped to the edge of the building, and let Zaccheus’ head hang back.
Hale threw Zaccheus’ head back and forth, shaking it with both clenched hands and screaming while he did so. Zaccheus let out a groan before his neck snapped and his lopsided body slid off of the edge.
Hale wanted to cry, but his tears were suppressed by intense hatred. He hated the future that was now the present. There must be a better one. There would always be a better one. He entered the elevator and slammed the “ground floor” button. Shaking, stressed to the point of insanity, he ran back to the storage room, the door slipped away to let him pass.
A tremor. The outer wall was breached.
Shouts broke out from the main entrance. They had broken through, but they were too late. After finding the empty tube under his name, Hale slid back into it. It was like returning home. Zaccheus was wrong. This is where he belonged. The tube sealed shut. Nobody would be able to break in.
Hale’s emotions cooled off and the angry noise of the mob died away. Time was abandoning him once more. Screw it. He hated it all anyway. His eyes closed; the feeling in them had been sapped by the low temperature. Slower breaths, calmer breaths, until they stopped altogether. Fingers and toes, then arms and legs, his head, then his torso; all becoming numb. Anti-freeze surged through his veins, and again, he was plunged into the cold.