Quill Shiv has offered us another episode of Flash Fiction Faction. The prompt this week is a quote:
Truly the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. –Anonymous
The idea is to use the prompt for inspiration, however it might do so, and write something that it inspires in us. For Quill’s piece as well as the other participants, just click on the link above.
While much of my fiction tends to be dialogue and action, I took a different route this time, more of a telling than a showing. Why? I don’t really know, perhaps it was the nature of the quote itself. Anyway, this is what it inspired in me…
Cheating Death (672 words)
Charles Masters Garrety was a rich man, perhaps one of the richest in the world. He was also an old man, eighty-seven this month. He was in perfect health, all the fitness money could buy; trainers, doctors, dieticians.
But time was catching up with him. He was slowing down, had been for awhile. He had outlived all of his children and even two grandchildren. But his joints were beginning to ache infernally and it took him longer and longer to limber up when he rose in the morning.
Charles Masters Garrety was terrified of dying.
He wasn’t a religious man, he didn’t believe he would suddenly wake up one night and find himself in a pit of fire and brimstone. And he certainly knew he wouldn’t find himself floating amongst the angels – wouldn’t want that anyway, what a boring way to spend eternity.
His terror came from the unknown, the eternal question, does something of us linger after death, or is it just the end? The thought that the body could die, and his spirit might linger in limbo was even worse than it just ending. He hated thinking about it. He still had so much to do, years of unfinished business.
People were living longer and longer now, why in another 50 to 100 years, 87 might still be considered as young. But he didn’t live in the future, he lived now. And all the money in the world couldn’t buy a man any more time.
Or could it?
Ten years before, Charles Masters Garrety had bought out a research facility, fired all but the best scientists, hired some more, and put them to work on a special project. The concept itself wasn’t new, the idea of cryogenics had been around for years now, even some success in early experiments. But most of the research had dried up for lack of funding. Except for Cryo-Futures.
The team had come to him several weeks ago. They had succeeded in preserving a chimpanzee for over 5 years and had recently brought it back to life. No tissue degeneration, no brain damage, in fact, the chimp was in perfect health. They had told him they could suspend him for 50 years, or more, however long it took for genetic research (another of their projects) to find the longevity gene and figure out how to apply it.
Many meetings with lawyers and department heads and technicians and scientists had ensued, and finally everything was ready. Tonight Charles Masters Garrety would be eased into a cold sleep, and awake in the future, able to live many more years.
It was time. Charles Masters Garrety could feel his heart beating steadily in his chest. The doctor had given him a mild sedative. He had almost refused, but now was glad he didn’t. This was his last moment of life in this present time. When next he woke, he would be meeting strangers, new scientists will have taken over for these, many of whom would be long dead. The idea fascinated him.
They helped him into the cryo-chamber, naked as the day he was born. He could feel the cool air circulating around him, getting colder, so slowly, barely even noticeable. He felt his heart slow as his eyes closed, heavy and insistent. Soon he would be asleep, suspended in time, and the next time he opened his eyes, he’d be in a whole new world. His breath slowed along with the heartbeat, and he wondered if he would dream during these long years? His mind drifted, and he observed as if from far away that there was no longer a perceptible heartbeat, no breath moving in and out of his lungs. It was as if his body was gone, no sensation, only thought.
His mind was suspended in darkness, floating in a sea of black. Awake and aware.
Realization drifted in like a dark whisper in the night. No dreams to come, just fifty years of waiting.
Charles Masters Garrety screamed silently into the limbo.