“Have you been diagnosed with a terminal illness? Are you suffering in pain and torment knowing the end is near? What will happen to your loved ones if you leave them behind?
“At Eternally You Inc. we have solutions that could solve all of death’s problems. From cryogenic stasis to our patented, cutting edge SoulWave, your last breathe doesn’t need to be your final goodbye.”
Her eyes tracked away from the LCD screen hanging on the wall, annoyed by the commercial. The smiling faces of attractive, vigorous people spending time under a blue sky captured the dream beyond the reality. This service wasn’t for the healthy; it was for the desperate and dying.
I’m already here. No need to keep pushing the sell.
For her comfort, the reception area was luxurious decorated with almond finish on the wooden tables and firm wingback chairs with rich, cream colored upholstery. Tall vases full of fresh sprays of tropical flowers graced the end tables. At the desk, the receptionist was dressed in a designer suit, her hair perfectly styled and her makeup finely applied. She was the centerpiece to the illusion crafted by design to cater to a clientele who could afford the services offered by Eternally You, clients exactly like Lindsey Roker.
Her hands shook as she lifted the glass of water given to her for her wait. It was a real glass, not the cheap paper cups usually found in a doctor’s clinic. The water was cool as it slid down her throat; not enough to sooth her nerves or the endless pain in her muscles. It was better than sitting still. Patience was not her virtue.
“Ms. Roker,” a young nurse called from the doorway, chart in hand.
Gathering her purse and jacket, Lindsey teetered uneasily to her feet. Her life was full of accomplishment. Wealth, fame, family; she was highly regarded for her philanthropic contributions to the less fortunate. She lived the dream most people would strive for in vain. It felt rather unfair that her existence was to be cut short by an incurable illness.
Following the nurse back into the sterile white clinic, the atmosphere retained the well-polished appearance of luxury. A series of small interview rooms lined the corridor to her right while to the left the area opened out into larger rooms encased in glass.
Futuristic white machines edged in blue light hummed quietly on standby settings. Human-sized tubes where bodies were frozen were easily recognizable. In the farthest room to the rear of the clinic, a large orb-shaped machine reminded her of a free-floating eyeball stared in her direction.
I’m walking through a damn sci-fi novel.
It wasn’t far from the truth. Eternally You was the first to have their cryogenic containment approved and sanctioned by the government. The SoulWave technology was the latest craze to hit the media; a promise of true immortality beyond the hope of being revived if a cure was found.
It was an exciting time to be unwell for the wealthy.
The nurse stopped at an exam room door and motioned for Lindsey to enter. Her smile was warm and patient but well practiced.
“All of the legal waivers are in order and your payment has been approved,” she said cheerfully. “Dr. Mentz will be with you momentarily.”
“Thank you,” Lindsey said, taking a seat on the exam table.
It was a familiar dance over the past eight months. Wait in the reception area, sit in the exam room, discuss the test results and prognosis, worry herself into a frenzy. Her company needed her. Her husband needed her. Her daughter needed her. She wasn’t dead but she felt useless in this endless parade of doctor visits and experimental treatments. The idea of laying helpless in a hospital bed waiting for the end was not appealing.
When next the door opened a young man with dark hair stepped in; his white lab coat and serious expression the pristine uniform of the medical profession. He surveyed her chart, making notes.
“Your lab work and preliminary exam have all come back with good results,” he spoke without lifting his gaze. “You are within acceptable ranges for all of our procedure options.”
She found it ironic that his use of the word “good” merely meant she was close enough to death to legally flash freeze her body. If nothing else, it lessened her concerns that she would be forced to wait and retest once her illness progressed.
“Have you gone over the pamphlets we sent you home with last time?”
“Yes,” Lindsey said, folding her hands in her lap. “I’ve decided on the SoulWave.”
Dr. Mentz nodded, writing that into her chart. “You’ve discussed this with your family?”
“Yes,” she said, but it was lie. This was her choice, not theirs.
He looked her firmly in the eye, concerned. “No one chose to be with you today for the procedure?”
“It was my decision to be alone. I don’t want them to see me looking like a corpse.”
“All right,” Dr. Mentz said, nodding absently.
He set the chart down and sat on the small rolling stool by the counter. Leaning forward, rested his elbows on his knees and lanced his fingers together. “Before we beginning there are a few things that you should be aware of that other patients have reported.”
I don’t care about them; I just want to get this over with. She gave him a tight lipped, tolerant smile. She knew it was the law to discuss potential side effects.
“You will feel disoriented at first. You may experience dizziness. Although you will no longer require food or sleep, you will have phantom sensations for these activities. Much like having an arm or leg amputated, your mind will try to compensate in awareness for what has been lost.
“To lessen feelings of hunger, it is suggested you spend as much time in the sunlight as possible. Solar energy will sustain you. If you feel as if you can’t function due to feelings of fatigue, it’s recommended you find a safe, quiet place to rest where you will not be disturbed. Patients report that these sensations begin to fade after a few months.”
“I understand.” Not needing to eat or sleep would be beneficial and add more hours to her day, she didn’t think it would be a problem.
“It is also common to experience depression and anxiety associated with grief and loss. If at any time you feel overwhelmed by these feelings our psychology staff is here to help. Also, your body will be kept in complimentary stasis for thirty days. Should you choose to reverse the procedure we will preform a reversal, however results may vary on your functionality once revived. It isn’t the same as cryogenics.”
“I know.” Lindsey frowned. “I highly doubt I will want that.”
“Lastly, you will no longer be a physical being. You will have a presence which appears tangible, but you will not contain matter as you do now. Some patients find the ability to move in any direction they please freeing, while others try to mimic their old life. Just be aware that you will pass through objects and will require assistance for many tasks you take for granted.”
“I did read the brochure fully. Can we please get started?” Lindsey said, unused to be lectured.
“Of course,” Dr. Mentz stood up and offered his hand. She shook it, confused. “The last time you will shake hands.” He smiled but she was not amused.
He left her alone to remove her clothes and dress in a hospital gown. She ran her fingers through her sandy blond hair, feeling the strands pass between her fingers; soft and rough and familiar. It was either this or disappear into the unknown of eternity. Losing her physical form was worth it to leave the pain behind but remain in the world she loved.
The nurse returned to lead her to the white orb at the center of the clinic. Multiple assistants were present, all dressed in surgical gowns and masks, their eyes hidden behind protective goggles. Her heart began to pound. Lindsey allowed the nurse to help her lay down on the narrow table where the machine opened at the front.
“This is going to be similar to an MRI. If you think you’ll feel claustrophobic we have a mask to help keep you calm.”
“I’ll be fine, I’ve had many MRIs.”
The nurse gave her that same sad smile people offer to the dying; gently squeezing Lindsey’s shoulder once to remind her of her bravery and walked away. She lay still, staring up at the ceiling while the final preparations were made. In the pamphlet it said the procedure only took two minutes. It would be over soon.
“We’re going to step into the protective area now, Ms. Roker. Do not be alarmed.”
“I won’t,” she said.
The room became quiet when the door shut. Only the hum of the machines remained to keep her company. Slowly, the panel began to slide into the small opening in the SoulWave. She clenched her fists as the light dimmed and she was encased by the smooth walls. Tiny blue lights flickered to life all around her. They began to blink in disorienting patterns. Lindsey closed her eyes. This wasn’t like an MRI at all. Was this the last thing she would see with her eyes?
Her breathing was loud inside the tube. The pain in her bones screamed at her for laying on her back. Behind her head, the crackle of an intercom startled her.
“We’re going to begin now,” Dr. Mentz’s grainy voice said. “The chamber is going to spin around you and you may feel dizzy. Keep your eyes closed to prevent nausea.”
“I’m ready,” she said, upset at the tremble of fear in her voice.
The whir of the machine grew louder as the turbine began to spin. She felt the air press against her, a false wind generated by the motion. Flashing light penetrated her eyelids until at last she was bathed in a solid blue glow. Her mind raced as the memories of her life flashed before her in succession.
Learning to ride a bike, her days in private school with her friends, music lessons, graduating university with honors, her first date with her husband, their first kiss, starting her own business, her wedding day, growing into a multinational corporation, the birth of her daughter, the deaths of her parents, the diagnosis of her illness.
Everything blended together into a blur of time and space. She felt herself lift up off of the table. Her pain eased into a vague ache. Lindsey looked down at the SoulWave machine spinning and humming. She could see the bottoms of her feet in their white surgical booties at the end of the tube. It took several moments to realize she was hovering near the ceiling.
The lights in the machine began a steady pulse and the spinning slowed. Once it stopped the door to the safe area opened. The Eternally You clinical staff stepped out, applauding their success. Lindsey Roker was free of her disease riddled body.
“Let’s get her into the cryo chamber before she flatlines,” Dr. Mentz instructed.
Lindsey watched them lift her lifeless body onto a stretcher and rush it into the next room. From here she looked so frail and old; a worn out suit left on the floor after a long day of work. Within a matter of moments she was placed into the chamber and flash frozen into stasis.
“To keep your loved ones at ease, it is best to hover at eye level,” Dr. Mentz said, looking up in her direction. “The best way to accomplish that is through concentration. Movement will become more natural for you in time.”
She thought about how the room would look from her normal height. After a few moments she descended downward and found herself in a reasonable proximity.
“Very good,” he said. “Now you can take a look at your new form.”
The nurse who held up a large hand mirror. Instead of the haggard, exhausted face she was used to there was nothing more than a glowing orb of pale white light reflected back.
“Congratulations,” Dr. Mentz smiled. “You have achieved immortality.”
This ends part one of my two part short story series SoulWave. Check back next Saturday for part two!
I hope you enjoyed the story. Please feel free to leave a comment.