Yash Varram remembered the cold floor under his feet, the bright white lights, the stainless steel surfaces within the cryolab. He remembered a voice telling him to sit up on a steel gurney. He remembered a hissing sound, and the voice counting down from one hundred, and then nothing else.
He was itchy. He reached up to scratch his nose, but his arm was snagged on something. He moved his head but saw nothing, and then laughed softly. His eyes were not open.
Varram’s arm was held in a gentle grip. An electronic voice softly droned. “Please remain still for just a moment.” There was a pinch on his forearm.
“Ok. Might as well.”
He decided to try and remember something else. He had been asleep. He had been dreaming. There was a house in the forest. She had said that he might dream and she was right. He did dream, he just couldn’t remember what. She said that during the hypersleep, people sometimes dreamed. The doctor was very nice. A nice lady. She had a kind face.
“Dr. Closson is a nice old lady.”
“And if you’re a good little boy you can have some ice cream.”
Varram started at the sound of the Doctor’s voice. “Ice cream! Doctor? I can’t see you.. oh yeah.” He laughed to himself again.
“Just a moment. This is going to feel a little warm.”
There was a squishy sound as liquid flowed over Varram’s face, and ran down his cheeks. A mask was pulled away from his eyes, and a flare of light dimmed down to soft amber. He turned his head to one side, seeing a tangle of clear tubes with multicolored fluids drizzling though them, and twinkling lights softly pulsing in the background.
He made a fist and then relaxed his hand, feeling a thick wetness. He brought his hand up to his face and saw blue gel dripping off his fingertips in clumps. Cryonic medium, the hypersleep subject is immersed in it for the duration of their journey.
“Oh yeah.. Oh!”
He sat up suddenly and looked around in alarm. He was in a small white room, paneled with rounded cushioning and lit at floor level. There were medical machines here, affixed to the wall, or held on mechanical arms. He was sitting up on a bed, dripping with slime and naked, but for a loose-fitting pair of shorts and a few strap-bands that were fastened to his arms and legs, trailing wires and tubes. A matronly woman in white medical robes stood nearby, tapping a screen. A white cylindrical robot craned up to him on its four legs and extended a padded grappler towards his shoulder.
The robot chimed softly “Please remain still for just a moment.”
“Science Chief Yash Varram?”
“Yes. That’s me.”
The doctor tapped the screen and pushed it away as she turned towards her patient “Of course it is.” She pulled a stylus out of her pocket and held it towards Varram’s face. “Open wide. Say ahh. Look here. Do you know where you are?”
Dr. Closson shone a light into his eyes while the watchbot removed tubes and straps. “Recovery Room aboard the SS Trident.”
Her firm hands felt his jaw and neck. “Correct. Except this room is multi-use. Rooms are a precious commodity on a ship like this. We call this ‘The Clean Room’ – just to help you get your terms straight.” She smiled as she touched the back of her stylus to his chest. “Breathe for me, please.”
Varram inhaled deeply and exhaled while Closson held her finger to a bead in her ear. “Good, good. Here swing your legs over the edge of the bed. Stay like this please. Can you tell me the year you left Earth?”
He squinted and recalled the details of his departure. “It was 2051 AD when I left Earth for pre-flight at Luna Prime and then 2052 when I arrived at Olympus Mons on Mars, where I was put into hypersleep.. by you, Dr. Closson.”
Dr. Closson nodded and helped him to his feet. “Can you stand up for me? Good. And do you know what year it is now?”
“A journey of 36 light years, accounting for gradual acceleration and deceleration, I’d estimate 2092, Earth time. Ship time would be less due to relativistic spacetime compression.”
“The relativistic what now?”
“It was a 40-year trip, but because we were traveling close to the speed of light it was perhaps as little as 12 years to us on board.”
“Right. Whatever you say, Chief. You’re clearly doing fine. I have about a hundred more thaw-jobs to get through so…” She thumbed her computer screen, it bleeped and flashed green. Varram’s file was displayed, with the updated status line that read: ‘Approved for active duty’. She guided him to a narrow hatchway and pressed a button. The doorway opened, revealing a stall fitted with nozzles. “You remember post-cryo procedure?”
Hesitantly, he stepped into the compartment. “Um.. “
“Welcome aboard, Mr. Varram.” Closson smiled and waved as the hatch closed.
“Thank.. you.. Doctor..” He made an inspection of the stall and found a cluster of controls. He pressed his thumb against the ID scanner, which hummed and then flashed green. A row of green lights appeared on the panel. They were going out one after the other, the line shrinking one green bead at a time. “Right. Post-cryo procedure.. which one of these is..?”
Hot water sprayed him from every angle. He screamed with the shock of it, and then started laughing. It felt amazing, his every nerve ending was opening like a garden of blossoms in spring. Warm fingers of water massaged his skin, washing away the clinging clumps of gelatinous cyro-medium, and also –
“My pants! Hey!”
Varram grabbed at the soggy clumps of dissolving material that had been his only clothing and watched as they plopped to the floor and fizzled away into foam. “Hmm! I guess there’s no underwear in space.”
With a sharp clack, the water flow stopped and the stall was lit up with a brilliant blue. He felt the flow of air as warm wind blew up through the floor grille. There was a popping sound in his ears and his hearing became much clearer. Rotors and pumps were growling in the walls, drains and pipes were circulating fluids, and behind that, the thrum and buzz of servos. He smiled to himself and kissed the wall.
“Hello Trident. This is one hell of a first date.”
As if in response, the blue lights went out, and Varram was left momentarily in darkness, naked and confused. A heartbeat later, a crack of white light appeared in front of him, and a rush of cool air blew over his skin, raising goosebumps. The line of white widened, revealing an adjoining chamber. It was a small locker room, featuring a bench, four large cage lockers, and a full-length mirror. There were two large octagonal hatches leading out of the room, each one with a standard door control operated by thumb ID scanner. He stepped out of the shower stall and into the room, his bare feet twitching against the non-slip bumps of the cool floor.
He regarded his reflection in the mirror – his dark hair was gone, buzzed close to his scalp before he awoke. His face was also shaved smooth. He turned around, examining himself. “Not too bad for a 75 year old man.” Biologically he was about 35 years old, his metabolism having been slowed to a standstill during the hyper-sleep. Back on Earth, 40 years would have gone by. His family would be much older, his sister might have a family, his mother could have passed away.
Varram stepped closer to the reflective wall and looked into his eyes. He saw his father’s eyes looking back at him, and he grimaced.
© Dylan Edwards, 2012.