By Travis Hughes
When the news broke that the cure for cancer had finally been achieved, Mary Wollen Stein wasn’t thinking about her husband who had died so many years before, but instead she thought of her niece Alliah, who would now be saved. But it was a phone call from the Cryonics Institute that reminded her of her obligation. Her husband had achieved great things in his short life. A billionaire by the age of thirty, Frank Stein had ensured his family’s legacy for generations to come. But all that money couldn’t stop the cancer from taking him at age thirty-seven. It was a family secret, one forged out of embarrassment perhaps, that her husband had made arrangements to be cryogenically frozen in liquid nitrogen just as he was dying, fifty years before. Once the cure was announced, the cryo-lab had set about making several phone calls to families whose loved ones had died from the disease.
Mary made no public announcement. She didn’t even tell her children or grandchildren about it. She’d always been skeptical of the whole thing and assumed that instead of being buried or cremated, Frank had simply been frozen, but either way he was long dead and gone. She’d remarried, twice, once divorced and the second left her widowed. She’d seen more life without Frank than with him. She was pleased that her third husband Tom hadn’t been frozen.
It took her a few days to respond to the lab, but on a cold rainy morning she made the drive to Boston from Manhattan to be there when they revived her first husband. The place felt very sterile and the acrid stench of chemicals clung to the air as she was ushered through plastic curtains into a large room. A metal tank had been wheeled into the room and a hose drained away the liquid nitrogen, slowly as the body was gradually warmed. Still feeling the shock of anticipation commingling with fear and skepticism, she waited as the body was carefully lifted out of the tank and placed on the table. Several tubes were attached and a blood transfusion pumped the thawing body full of not only fresh blood but mixed in it was the nanotechnology responsible for eating the tumors and the cancer cells. Seeing Frank there on the table became overwhelming and she threatened to pass out. To what end would this venture take? His body had been preserved at thirty-seven, she was in her late eighties. What was the point of it all? More questions than answers swirled her brain as the procedure continued into the hours.
Finally, well into the night, with only a doctor, a lab tech and two assistants, Mary stood as they set about reviving her long dead husband. “His vitals are good,” said the doctor to the tech. “We are waiting consciousness.”
And then, in the wee hours of the morning, Frank’s eyes blinked and his fingers twitched. His toes curled and his mouth sucked in a deep draught of air. She could feel her limbs tingle and again the threat of passing out washed over her.
“Mr. Stein?” asked the doctor. “Can you hear me?” Frank’s eyes blinked open. They were pale and watery. But more than pale, they were dead. Lifeless. Frank slowly looked around the room, a frown of confusion his only expression.
“Can you speak?” asked the doctor. But Frank remained frowning and contemplative.
“Have you done this before?” asked Mary, standing to get a better view. But the lack of an answer concerned her. “Have you ever revived anyone before? What can we expect here?”
“We have not,” the doctor finally said. “You were the first family member to oblige the patient’s wishes.”
“What place is this?” Frank’s former body asked. It was enough to startle everyone in the room, but the one startled the most was Mary. Frank’s voice… It wasn’t Frank’s voice at all. Frank had a slight New York accent, having grown up in Brooklyn. This sounded nearly English.
“What manner of witchcraft do you play at?” Frank asked trying to sit up, but failing due to muscle atrophy. Mary screamed and covered her mouth.
“Who is this man?” she asked finally. “What is your name?”
Frank slowly turned his dead, pale eyes to her. It sent ice shards down her spine.
“I am Emptiness. I am Despair,” whispered Frank’s mouth in an English accent. Mary screamed and hurried out of the lab and down the long corridor. She wanted to run, but her aging body would no longer allow for that, so she walked as briskly as she could. She felt her hips pop, bone against raw bone. Once in her car, she looked back at the tall, unassuming building with its grey brick and subtle sign that read: Cryonics Institute. The lights flickered in the windows and then the streetlight snapped off with a spark. Screaming again, she floored her car and missed the turn. Her car careened off the road and down an embankment.