Trentar steadied the pod as it rose from the storage facility and guided it onto the transport beam.
“Medical Floor R2.”
The shiny pod disappeared from view.
“That’s the last one for the day.” Xintona consulted the screen and passed her hand over it. It faded to silver.
“It was a very old one from 2063,” said Trentar. “Female. Pod contains original digitalized documents.”
“Adenoid cystic carcinoma of the esophagus with multiple metastases to the liver.”
“Ah. Simple. She’ll be up and around within the hour.”
“Re-culturization may be difficult for one from that long ago,” reflected Trentar.
“It is for all the Suspends, no matter when they were ‘put down.’” Xintona considered.
“I suppose. What’s the forecast?” Trentar tilted his head toward the window and the artificial sunset painted the sterile white lab a rosy hue.
“Let’s see. Wednesday, June 25, so sunny with cloudy periods. as it has been every June 25 for the last 156 years. You’d think someone would program a little randomness into our lives.”
“It’s not as if we go out. Or ever will.”
“No.” Xintona sighed.
Laura McPherson stretched her fingers. The doctor shone a light into her eyes again, then passed a sensor over her forehead, chest, and abdomen.
“How do you feel?”
“We’ll take care of that. A considerable amount of time has passed since you went to sleep. Do you understand?”
Laura trembled. “How long?” she whispered.
“It’s 2649. I’m pleased to say you’re cancer free.”
Almost six hundred years! The family she’d hoped to see again were gone, then. Twice lost! Suspension was supposed to last only ten years or so.
“Laura? We’re going to jet-infuse you with fluids. Then, you’ll go with a social worker to begin your re-culturization process.”
Laura’s skin tingled as vapour was forced through her pores, and she immediately felt refreshed. Cancer free? The memory of the nightmare weeks before the suspension came back - the numbing diagnosis, the harrowing decision, the final good-byes.
A gentle touch on her arm.
“I’m Milta. Ready?”
Laura gingerly stood up and was relieved that she could walk steadily.
“Very good,” Milta congratulated. “You’ll be running in no time.”
Milta showed Laura a tiny apartment, explaining it would Laura’s place of residence from then on. She showed Laura how to replicate food, call for assistance, use the shower.
“You’ll have classes to help you understand how society works now. Questions?”
“Why was I asleep for almost six hundred years?”
“War. The program was suspended; the pods were hidden away.”
“Where’s the door to go outside?”
“You can’t go outside. It’s toxic. Destroyed in the war. What you see is programming on special windows. The moon rises; the stars move. In the morning, dawn will emerge. Vegetation changes with the seasons.”
Laura’s frowned. “Everything was destroyed?”
“No trees, rivers, cities. Then ocean levels rose and re-created coastlines.”
“That is ancient history. Yes, it’s gone, along with most of the western United States and Canada. Eastern seaboard, western Europe, the United Kingdom.”
Laura sat down on the comfortable sofa, but it gave her little ease. Everything she knew and loved, gone?
“Why don’t you rest? Think about something you’d like to eat. I’ll be back.”
Laura’s eyes were closed before Milta had finished speaking. She dreamed of the Golden Gate Bridge, Vancouver Island, and the Thames. She cried in her sleep, feeling as adrift as the new continent, on the periphery of nowhere. Why come back?
When she awoke, Milta was there, her arm around a diminuitive older lady. Both were sipping tea from china cups, munching on scones, and giggling conspiratorily.
“Gramma?” Laura blinked groggily.
“No, not your grandmother. When we rouse patients from suspension, we try to do so in DNA clusters, especially because of the unfortunate time lapse. So you’ll have family... and hope. Laura, meet Catherine, your great great-granddaughter.”
“Nice to meet you, too. I’m twice your age, yet you’re my great great-grandmother,” laughed Catherine. “Can you imagine?”
“Is that all you can say?” Milta smiled.
It was a strange sensation, seeing this older woman who was actually Laura’s descendant, laughing with blue eyes so like her grandmother’s. How could Laura have been given her life back hours ago, when it seemed she had just gone to sleep with a death sentence ringing in her ears.
The earth outside was dead... but her heart lived.
“Pass me a scone, please. And I believe I’ll have butter.”
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