This actually started as a nice Easter story about rebirth and stuff, although it seems to have changed since then. Never mind, at least it still has some mild science-fiction.
As ever, more Friday stories available on the FridayFlash website, and if you’ve enjoyed this piece, why not read my comedy-detective serial, which has a lot more jokes.
Anna was expecting drops of moisture inside the tube, but it was dry as a bone. Not that she’d ever touched a real skeleton, and soon she wouldn’t be able to feel her own. Or would she?
“So,” she finally muttered to Liam, “I guess this is it.”
“Yeah.” He was hanging back at the door, watching the tube nervously, as if he thought it would freeze him too if he came near. “I guess.”
“Come in, Liam.”
He glanced at the doorframe, as if checking for traps, and finally stepped towards her. There were six of the glass pillars in the room, four occupied and one open for Anna. The final tube was dead, not humming or lit up. Everything in here was so clean, and why? She’d be frozen solid, surely germs wouldn’t affect her?
After all, if cryo-stored people could still get sicker, why was she doing any of this?
Liam had finally reached her now, having made a two metre walk last as long as possible. And she duly collapsed into him, despite promising herself she wouldn’t make a scene – maybe she should’ve let him stay over there after all. Now she’d just embarrass herself in front of the six CCTV cameras.
“It’ll be fine,” he nodded. “They’ll find a cure and wake you up. The guy says it’s only a year or two away.”
She nodded her head against his shoulder without saying anything. Finally, she pulled away. Apparently she was going to compensate for the dry cryogenic freezing tube by moistening her own face. “And you can get me out of here whenever they’re ready.”
Liam sighed. “What if it takes longer than they think and I’m old?”
He looked really stricken by this possibility, so much she just laughed. “You’ll be able to show off your much younger girlfriend to the other wrinklies, it’ll be fine.”
“Mm.” He didn’t laugh.
And neither of them had time to say anything else, before the intercom on the wall binged a sharp noise, then hissed out a message: “Miss Parnes, please enter unit #3432E.”
Like many public announcements, it was sitting right on the line between human and automated robot, Anna cocked her head for a moment as she thought about which it was. There had been a quiver of annoyance in there which betrayed it as a real guy, she suspected, a bored jobsworth watching the CCTV, rolling his eyes and muttering at her to stop making small talk with her boyfriend and get in the damn tube.
“Okay, I guess it’s time to chill.” She gestured at the tube and forced out a smile, without making any movement towards it.
“Yeah.” Liam glared at a camera, seeming angrier than she was with the snotty nature of that announcement, but rightly didn’t waste their last few minutes together bitching about it. He was a practical guy, and she liked that. After all, she was being pretty sensible right now herself.
And it wasn’t really their last minutes together, after all, because she’d wake up.
“What if I just miss you?” Liam’s eyes slid back onto her. “How long do I wait for that?”
“They can’t re-freeze me,” she sighed, “so a while.”
The intercom binged again, but before it could utter a single passive-aggressive syllable, Liam looked straight into the camera above his head and told it to “kindly fuck off”. She almost didn’t jump on him and kiss him, until she remembered she might not get to do it again for a decade or two.
Then again, she thought, as she pulled away from him, that decade wouldn’t seem like any time at all to her. What a horrible selfish thought.
“Love you,” she added, mostly because she meant it and not just to compensate for that.
“Love you too,” he nodded back, with a amusingly inadequate small wave. And then, deciding that was a good note to finish on, she finally stepped inside the strange, dry glass tube.
She might feel a slight shock, apparently, as the cold took effect. The door hummed shut, and she suddenly realised something.
“Liam,” she said, pressing herself against the near-soundproof glass, “wake me, okay? Eventually, before it’s too late, even if they don’t cure… I don’t want…”
And then the cold came and Anna’s mind jumped out of her skin.
Icy SedgwickMarch 29, 2013 at 2:22 pm
Ooh that's an ending and a half. I like the fact you withheld what was actually wrong with her, but their mutual annoyance at the anonymous voice added a touch of humanity to this.
nickMarch 29, 2013 at 3:18 pm
Ta very much. I didn't think the nature of the disease added much to it. Kept it short.
Larry KollarMarch 29, 2013 at 3:59 pm
I agree, the nature of the disease wasn't important. The moment was the important thing. And it was a well-done moment. I give Liam props for telling off the intercom. 😉
The closing line was great. Where did her mind GO?
Beverly FoxMarch 29, 2013 at 5:22 pm
Oh, a very dark world you've created here. The annoyed announcer made it feel very real among two people trying to hold intense emotions back. Great job!
Eric J. KrauseMarch 29, 2013 at 5:34 pm
Excellent story and ending. Though I guess it's not really their ending at all, is it?
nickMarch 30, 2013 at 2:44 am
I'm hoping it's not their real ending. I'm kinda rooting for them to work it out. Glad everyone enjoyed this, it was quite an involving experience writing it all down.
Katherine HajerMarch 31, 2013 at 7:17 pm
This was really well-depicted! The intercom-person's annoyance with the extended good-bye (surely if timing was that damn important loved ones would say good-bye farther away from the tube room?), plus Anna's uncertainty of the subject experience of cryo-freeze, tells me that a cure for Anna's disease isn't the only thing the technologists haven't quite figured out.
nickMarch 31, 2013 at 11:16 pm
Yeah, this is one of those "not too distant" futures, I like to think it could happen at any moment. Glad you liked it.
brainhazeApril 1, 2013 at 2:19 pm
Powerful piece, great descriptive narratives, all in all a blinding story – Great work
Kevin MackeyApril 1, 2013 at 6:59 pm
I wonder if Liam knew of Anna's last request.
Excellently done. Just the right balance in all the interactions.