By Jonathan Clark

The man awoke to a dull pounding inside his head. It wasn't loud or very fast, but every few seconds there would be a "ba-dump" and then silence. It took him several minutes to realize that that was the sound of his heart, barely beating. It took him even longer to realize why his heart was beating so slowly and why that was the only thing he could sense. His whole body was numb. It had been frozen stiff for a long time and was still recovering from the shock of the deep-freeze.

"They must have figured out how to fix my cancer! I'm going to live!"

He and his family had argued long and hard on his decision to try cryogenics. Three days after his thirty-sixth birthday he had been diagnosed with lung cancer and was told that it had spread too close to his heart to operate on. Had they caught it earlier they might have been able to stop it, but he hadn't thought anything was wrong until his breaths were coming in ragged painful wheezes.

"What good will I be to the family," he'd argued, "if I die?"

"What good will you be to the family you wake up to? Do you think we'll still be around?" they'd argued back. "They might- might, find a cure for your disease. They might be able to cheat death in your case, but can they cheat old age? How can you fight time?"

"Can't you see, though? I'll be dead in a couple years anyway!" he'd replied. "What's the point in living if death is just around the corner?"

"That's a couple more years that we'll be able to be with you!" was their response.

"Do you really want to see me waste away? Do you want to watch as my health fades and I'm forced to breathe and speak through a respirator, doomed to be kept alive by machines until the cancer eats its way into my heart and kills me? Is that what you want?"

He won the argument.

He went into the hospital three months after his cancer was diagnosed as terminal with a smile on his face and a spring in his usually strained step. He was confident then. They were going to freeze him and he was going to come out all right.

A light tingling, faint and barely noticeable engulfed his body. He'd been told about this. He couldn't open his eyes yet, but they'd told him that he would feel something close to pin pricks all over his body. Like when you start walking on your foot after it's fallen asleep, that was how the doctors had described it. He should be lying on an operating table now, tubes and sensors or whatever snaking from him to other machines and as his life signs picked up they'd put him under heavy anesthesia while his entire body finished thawing. He didn't know why, but he'd heard stories that the pain would be unendurable if they didn't.

So he waited.

When he'd met his doctor they'd talked for a long time, and by the end of the interview he'd felt like he could do the process himself. It all seemed simple enough.

"They're going to put you under for most of the process," he'd been told. "Your body's main functions will be slowed down drastically. Your heart will still be beating, but extremely slowly. You'll take a breath every minute or so and your mental processes will seem to have stopped. Once they've prepared you for deep-freeze, you'll be put in your "room" and super-cooled air will be pumped in. You'll be frozen in less than a minute and a steady flow of frozen air will keep you that way until a cure is found.

"You'll have therapist assigned to you to help retrain your muscles, since they'll be relatively weak after a long period of disuse.

"Also, you'll have a group assigned to you to fill you in on all the years you've missed, a crash course in world history, if you will. You'll not only be caught up on the major events of the years you missed, but we'll keep track of your family for you and update you on who's who there.

"Now, any questions? If not, I'll let you go say goodbye to your family and then an orderly will take you to the OR. Good luck."

The tingling had grown more intense and, as he waited for the peaceful bliss that had taken hold of him when he first went under, his thoughts went to his family.

"I wonder if I'll be able to recognize them. Who do you think Sarah married? I hope not that Billy kid down the road. I warned her to stay away from him. He was nothing but bad news."

More and more of his senses were coming back to him and he could hear his breath rasping in and out of his lungs, sounding much the same as when he went under, but he attributed that to all the time he'd spent frozen and dismissed it. With an effort he drew a breath through his nose, smelling the air around him, and it seemed especially cold and crisp, like the air on a mountain peak. The pin pricks began to feel like nails and he started to wonder when they were going to put him back under. Now would be great, in his opinion.

Too bad he didn't know about The War. World War III struck nearly fifty years before and decades after he'd been put under, leaving western America a decimated, radioactive heap, transformed by the same nuclear weapons the Americans had developed and then let slip into the black market.

The cryogenics facility had survived because the developers didn't know how long the place would be around and they felt that an underground site would best keep it from normal wear and tear. The power supply had been hit, though, and the generators had lasted only a few years before the air stopped flowing.

The man's eyesight slowly came back to him. His teeth gritted against the pain, he peered through half shut eyelids into nothing for a long time until objects gradually came into focus.

It was then that the man started screaming.

His eyes hadn't been able to fully focus, but he was able to see enough to see the dull metallic gleam and the black padding around a clear portal. He'd never been taken out of his "room." He'd never know why.

His screams rose, hoarse and choked, his vocal cords straining against the beating they were receiving after such a long period of disuse, but pushed out by the terror that welled in his heart. His screams reverberated in his cell and rose through the door and padding and into the large cavern where the giant main unit was kept. There his screams merged with those of others, as they too realized that the containers they'd looked to for life had become their coffins.

Copyright 1998 byJonathan Clark

Jonathan Clark is a high school senior with aspirations to become a great writer. He writes everything from stories like the one above to essays to poetry to commentary on life to stories that actually don't end with the character dying. He has only been published once before and is hoping to publish again, if possible.

Another of his hobbies lies in the publishing field. He has designed and run his own literary magazine/collection for well over a year now and enjoys putting together and designing books for family and friends.

The above story was inspired by a poem of the same name by John McCoy which Jonathan published on his web site and therefore hopes Mr. McCoy won't mind that he ripped off the title, since he couldn't think of anything else to name it.

Jonathan has this weird complex that unless his work is torn apart by those that read it, he feels as if he has done something wrong, so he looks forward to hearing any and all comments.

His email address is and his 'zine, Dreams and Dragons, is at Comments welcome. Readers wanted.

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