Across the room, I hear him. I can’t see him, can’t see anything for that matter. Too far gone. But I can hear him, leafing through a magazine, every few seconds friiip. Steady, a syncopated rhythm with the bleeps of my heart monitor. Bleep, bleep…bleep, bleep, friiip. Magazine after magazine, for two days now. A hundred of bucks an hour I’m paying him. For two days now.
What I’m paying him for is to wait me out. And yeah, a hundred bucks an hour is a lot of money to pay anyone, especially if that particular anyone is just brushing up on celebrity gossip. A hundred bucks an hour is a lot to pay anyone, but where I’m going cash isn’t all that useful. At least for a while.
When I go—and I’m pretty far gone as is—then he’ll earn his keep. Five hundred pounds of equipment, a hundred pounds of ice, a retrofitted van. When I go, he’s got his work cut out for him. But right now he waits. And I wait too. Bleep, bleep…bleep, bleep, friiip.
* * *
Number one consideration with cryopreservation: viability of the brain. What’s the point of being brought back to life in a decade, century, millennium if you’re retarded? Or worse, a vegetable. And brain damage, it starts just ten minutes after you kick it. In an hour, your circulatory system is totally shot. No matter what, you won’t be getting any oxygen to the old noodle. After a few days, your brain’s completely liquefied. When it comes to cryonics, time is definitely not on your side.
This is why there’s a professional periodical reader camped in my hospital room. An employee of Frozen Futures Incorporated on twenty-four hour standby. When the bleep, bleep degrades to a long steady drone, then he’ll go to work. Immediately, he’ll ice my head, slowing any brain damage. He’ll toss me in the ice bath, the ice bath in the van.
Most people say this is a joke. Freezing your body in hopes of being brought back sometime in the future. Sometime in the distant future. Most people say this is crazy, something out of pulp sci-fi novels. A liquid nitrogen bath—negative three hundred and eighty five degrees Fahrenheit—virtually stopping any cell decomposition. Most people say it’s for those who can’t deal with their mortality. Me, I say I’ll have the last laugh. Long after most people’s great-great grandkids are nothing but maggot farms, I’ll have the last laugh.
* * *
My breathing slows, inhales and exhales come with less regularity. Across the room, the pages continue to turn. What I wonder is, if there’s a heaven, do I still get to go? If there’s a hell? When they thaw me out, will I be evicted from the pearly gates? Thanks for the hospitality, see you again in a little while. What I wonder is, am I buying a life extension, or peace of mind?
Across the room he stands, puts the magazine down, paces back and forth. The clack of his footsteps forming a whole new beat. Bleep, clack, bleep, clack… He’s impatient and that makes two of us.
If I have to keep him on the payroll much longer, I might not be able to afford a full body freeze. I might end up a neuro. That’s what they call the head-only freezes, neuros. The idea being, when the technology is there to reanimate a frozen body—a frozen dead body—the technology will be there to perform a brain transplant too. What’s more, human cloning. Imagine: your brain transplanted into the exact body you had as an eighteen year old. That, and neuro’s are a whole lot cheaper.
Now though, now’s not the time for counting beans. Now I count footsteps. Now I count bleeps. Now I count minutes because I’m done with hours, days, weeks.
* * *
The biggest myth about cryonics: somewhere, Walt Disney is frozen stiff. Somewhere he’s awaiting his reanimation. Really, Walt is buried in a Hollywood cemetery, right off the Glendale freeway.
The second biggest myth about cryonics: nobody’s ever been brought back. Get this: human embryos have been cryopreserved, thawed out and developed into totally healthy people. Sure, they look like some sort of prawn, but an embryo, that’s a human.
I mean, this is science. They don’t just throw a corpse into the deep freeze in some guy’s garage. This is science. This is a process. A whole team opens you up, replaces sixty percent of the fluids in your body with this liquid. This liquid, it freezes a whole lot better than blood. It freezes better, but what it does is turn you all yellowish, goldish, orange.
Then the big freeze.
They stuff your body in a metal pod, like a camper trailer or a subway car only considerably smaller and constantly cooled with liquid nitrogen. Negative three eighty-five. But get this: you’re not alone. Likely, there are another eight or so folks in the pod with you. Sounds crowded, sure. But don’t worry, half your roommates, they’re just neuros.
* * *
I hear potato chips. Across the room, chewing away. Bleep…crunch, crunch…bleep…crunch, crunch… And by the sound of it, I’m getting there. By the sound of it, they’re kettle cooked.
What I wonder is, maybe the future turns out to be a downer. With terrorism and global warming and bird flu. What I wonder is, maybe no future is better than a crapshoot future. Blackness and nothingness and peace. What I decide is, it’s too late to wonder about that now.
The biggest problem: aside from the hundred dollars an hour currently disappearing from my bank account like an odometer in reverse, I still have to pay for the procedure, the storage, the maintenance. Not chump change. One hundred and sixty thousand United States Dollars.
I’m no mogul, no tycoon, no lottery winner. So what I’ve done, I’ve signed over my life insurance to pay for the cryopreservation. My beneficiary doesn’t happen to be my wife, my kids. It’s Frozen Futures Incorporated. But hey, how many guys get to enjoy their own life insurance settlements?
What I wonder is, maybe that was a selfish move. Left to fend for themselves, money spent on dead man’s gamble. What I wonder is, maybe the only place I really live forever is in their memories. Memories I’ve tarnished, memories that now come with an asterisk. What I wonder is, why’s it been so long since I’ve herd a bleep...