Fred Killington was uncertain where he was or of the date.
He was pleasantly surprised to be awake. Fred figured he was in a hospital recovery room but there were no scents of disinfectants.
No oscilloscopes with pale green screens and jagged phosphorous lines pinging how far he was from RIP. At least he had come out of the procedure. No pain, only a slight pressure on each ear. He was wearing some kind of headset, oversized earbuds is what it felt like.
“I guess you’re a bit confused,” said a voice from the center of his head. Ah, that would be the stereo effect of the ear buds, made you feel as though the sound originated between your ears, in the middle of your brain. The voice belonged to Susan, his ex. Susan, good old Susan, and all those millions. Maybe he should have stayed married to her but he loved her too much to forgive her.
“This operation seemed to have worked out,” Fred said, his voice sounding like it came from a dolphin. Several operations ago the surgeons had removed most of his vocal cords to get rid of the bacteria that was eating him up. They’d fitted him with a voice prosthesis. He had a different voice generator now. This one seemed more like his real voice. Good. That was an improvement.
“How do you feel?” Susan was reassuring and gentle floating out of the darkness.
“Numb. Doesn’t seem like I’m connected.”
“It’ll all come together. The team is delighted with your progress.”
Fred thought about the hospital and the operations and the years with Susan … college when he had met her and then he thought about his mother and his father and Ojai in Southern California where he had grown up.
He liked to run on the beach with the dog. The dog’s name was Cloud. A grey ghost. A Weimaraner. Smart dog. Closest thing he had to a brother. He had loved the animal.
After Cloud died he tucked him in a deep freeze. Fred had planned to take the animal’s remains to a taxidermist one day. That had been ten years ago. Maybe longer. Time was a funny thing to deal with. “I’d like to have a chocolate milkshake,” said Fred.
“I’ve been out for almost a week?”
“Give or take,” she said.
“You don’t mean two weeks?”
“No worries,” she said. “The team will answer any of your questions.”
“Tired after the last operations. Wide awake this time. Focused,” he said.
“All good signs,” said Susan. She was being helpful but evasive. All her money and all her connections had turned her into a control freak. He could have dealt with that but not her screwing around. Bitch.
“What the hell did you ever see in me?” he asked.
“Do you mind turning on a light?” he asked. “I want to have a look at you. A look at me.”
“Until the team checks your optical nerves, it’s best to leave the lights off.”
“My eyes feel fine.” He tried to blink but couldn’t feel his eyelids.
“Your tactile responses need to adjust.”
“Great. I want a chocolate shake.”
“As soon as the team evaluates you.”
“Susan, remember when we met?”
“I was doing my laundry and you walked into the place and I helped you sort your clothing and we talked about how college was a disappointment to both of us. I think we fell in love because we both had our Weimaraners with us.”
“When did we end up in the sack?”
“Same day, stupid. Laundromat Love.”
“What day was that?” he asked.
Everything went black and when he woke up she told him he had nodded off for a few moments.
“What day did we meet?” he said, picking up where he had left off.
“Saturday, silly. It was a long weekend. Lincoln’s Birthday or something.”
“Squeeze my hand,” he said, surprised at his request. He needed reassurance. Something was off-kilter, not quite right.
“First the team has to evaluate you.”
“Then I’m getting up,” he said.
Later. He was aware of his breathing and wondered if it was still Friday. When he blinked he still could not feel his eyelids. Numb all over. Fred thought about his dog. He sensed Susan was in the room. “Please tell me what’s going on.”
“The team induced sleep.”
Probably some kind of IV. He thought about his dog and the beach. Everything was crystal clear. No fuzziness. Absolutely vivid and in full color. The warm shifting sand. The bright sun. The ever-changing water. The taste of sea salt. He had never had such clear memories.
Whatever kinds of post-op drugs they were shooting him up with were astonishing. He remembered jogging in the ocean surf, the dog bounding through the white caps. He thought it would be great fun to be a
dog. “How long was the operation?” he asked again.
“About two hours,” she said.
“Thought it was going to be eight hours.”
“That was the earlier operation in Los Angeles. That lasted most of the day.”
“So something went wrong and I was out of it for a while and I just had a second operation. A two hour one with the new
team.” He wondered where the team had come from. “How long was I ‘out of it’ between operations?”
“We should wait for the team,” she said.
“Can you just answer the question, Susan? Please.”
“I don’t want to upset you.”
“If you tell me what happened I won’t be upset. You know me I can handle the truth.”
Long pause. “What year is it?” she asked.
“It’s 2014. And it’s Friday. If you’re telling the truth about Friday.”
“It’s 3013. And I’m telling you the truth about Friday.”
Goddam Susan and her mind games. No wonder he had divorced the silly twit. It was all that family money that had made her into a twit. “I think the oldest person in the world only made it to 132 years old. Some Russian who lied about his age,” he said.
“Tell me what’s going on, you unfaithful bitch!”
“They couldn’t wake you up after that operation at UCLA. I froze you. Popped you in a freezer just like you did with Cloud.”
“I made it to 86 and I had things set up to freeze me. Nine hundred years later they thawed me out. By then Daddy’s billions had turned to trillions. I am one of the richest bitches on earth.”
He decided to play her stupid game. “You must have more wrinkles than a Manhattan lease,” he said.
“Nope, they downloaded my brain into a computer, then transferred my mind to a living being.”
“Well, goody for you,” he said.
“After I defrosted I had you thawed out. You would not believe how medical science has changed in the last 1,000 years. Your mind was transferred to a living being.”
“Shut up! Get me a nurse and give me that chocolate shake.”
“How do you know I have a chocolate shake?”
“I’m on the other side of the room. There is a lid on the chocolate shake. How can you smell it?”
“Liar. It’s a foot away from me,” he said.
On came a soft spotlight and he could see a glass or plastic container on the other side of the room. It had a lid. He could smell the chocolate coming from it. He could smell the sugar in it. He could smell the vanilla. Damn strange. The operation
must have activated odiferous nerves he never knew he had.
He could barely see her outline. “I loved you so much,” she said.
“A lot of guys heard that one before.”
“Okay, okay there were others but no one like you. So here we are–a thousand years later–sitting in the darkness. Occupying wonderful bodies. Three cheers for nanoscience and cryogenics.”
More soft lights came on. His eyes took in the room, a room such as he had never seen before. A Weimaraner across the room watched him. No Susan. What the hell was going on?
More lights glowed and he saw his reflection. Fred realized he was inside the body of a Weimaraner. It looked like Cloud.
Now he could hear Susan in his mind. Fred was not wearing earbuds. He had floppy ears.
She said, or rather thought: “It’s still illegal to use human clones. Both our minds are in replicas of our dogs.”
He said something and his voice came out as a bark. He got up, staggered to the bitch and they nuzzled each other.
After he figured out the telepathy, they sloshed through the surf of the Pacific. She owned seven miles of the Malibu coastline. (Got to love the elegance of a well-set up a family trust.)
Fred and Susan
found themselves quite taken with a world that was a thousand years older than they remembered it.
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