By H. E. Remus
I feel his fingers grip mine for the last time, before we plunge into dreamless hibernation. Before we crawl into the hard-coated, white shells before us. Others stand around while I hold his hands, while I kiss his lips. His soft kiss, affectionate yet powerful, holds my mouth there, as if time suspends for our kiss the way it will suspend our bodies in a few moments. Emotion floods over me under the bright lights of the laboratory. The sound of the oxygen in the shells hisses through corridors of plastic to make its way into the tank, so I can breathe in stasis. It pierces my mind and hovers on the edge of everything else I experience in this room.
It’s easy for me to be frightened, but Alex said this is the best way. I let his kiss linger on my damp mouth as he pulls away, towards a man who helps him into a strange suit. It crinkles, like a plastic bag, and I wonder if we’ll make it to the other side. The woman who will help me comes to my side, offers to assist. She can tell I feel afraid.
“Come with me.” She gestures to a small room, where I can’t see my husband. “We can have more privacy.”
“No, I don’t care about privacy. I want to stay with Alex.” I assert.
Alex looks over from the gear he adorns. He’s down to his underwear, steps into the wrinkly, loud legs of the suit. I smile at him. He smiles back. Something in my heart feels wrong. This makes me more nervous.
“87% of all cryogenically kept bodies will experience little to no change.” She says to me. “You needn’t worry.” The cold room we are in reminds me of a hospital center. I look around while I undress, wondering who in this day and age still says needn’t.
She reads too many books. I think, looking down at the goosebumps that cover my skin when I expose it to the cool laboratory air. What does ‘little to no’ mean? What percentage is that? It sounds like Internet garbage. Thoughts crowd in my mind, fight to break free of their physical prison. The time-frozen shells gleam in the bright light. The floor is white linoleum tile, sterile. There is no particular smell in the room. I smell myself a little, but I can always smell myself. Chewing gum, sage, marijuana, sweat, cigarettes, french fries… They’re all there somewhere on me, at some time. I am left remembering my father and his incessant reading. He used to say ‘needn’t’, I think. Does it come from ‘need not’?
“Legs in.” Says the girl, and I wonder at all the tubes, buttons, and beeping machines, the heart monitors, and brain activity scanners, and machines I don’t know of. Nor will I. The sound of the crinkly plastic brings me back to my own motions. Step in, pull up.
“Please place this heart rate monitor on your chest.” She peels the back off a sticker shaped like a nipple, with two circles inside it. There are flat metal coils, Aluminum? I think, that lap one another over and over within the circles.
I take the sticker from her and stick it to my bare skin between my breasts, careful not to stick it to my bra. Ugh, my bra. I don’t want to wear that shit into the future if I don’t have to.
“Do I have to wear a bra?” I ask the woman. She looks up in surprise.
“I suppose not.” She replies. “Although the material of the suit might feel scratchy on your nipples.” She says this academically, her motherly tone from before completely drained to a droll tonal quality. It’s hard for me not to giggle at her, nervous, excited, wondering. I look over at Alex. He’s ready to go, for the most part. He looks so eager, so interested to try this new thing. I wonder if he knows how frightened I am right now. Why didn’t I tell him how scared of this I am? I’m an idiot. Might feel scratchy on my nipples, huh? Fine. I’ll wear the damn bra.
“Then I want my shirt.” I demand. “I’m not going into this thing and coming out all scratched up by a plastic bubble in a hundred years.”
The woman sighs, and turns around to get my previously discarded blue t-shirt. It feels light, gentle, cottony. I bought this a few months ago. I remember how much Alex likes it. How much he likes touching me through it, because he says it’s soft. I look back at him, and he is looking at me.
“You sure you want to wear that shirt?” He asks. “It might not be hip in the future.” He grins.
I do giggle now. This feels so absurd. I put my shirt on.
“I don’t care.” I throw back. “I want to be comfortable in my stasis.” I make a fake pouty face, push out my lower lip. Alex laughs. It feels good to relieve the tension, the waiting. Why can’t it be 100 years from now, and we’re already laughing together under the future’s skies? I think to myself as the attendant helps me zip into my plastic suit. Everything but my face is shrouded in protective blue wrinkled material. The wrinkles run like veins all around me through the blue fabric. Once I’m inside it, it reminds me more of a tarp material than a plastic bag. Sleeping in a tarp for a hundred years… Classy.
Alex gives me one last kiss before we descend into stasis. His affectionate gesture reminds me what it means to be human, malleable to the world and to history, never ready for the change the days bring to us. I leave his warm flesh for the cold pool of liquid inside the hard white shell. My life-sustaining prison, guarded by people like the woman who just put me in here. I close my eyes as she zips the plastic bag shut, and the sleeping drugs take effect.
Who will check on us after these doctors are dead? My last thought haunts me as I drift away. I fall into darkness, hoping the next 100 years will go by quickly in my dreamless, drugged sleep.