Fiction Fragment Friday
This week’s story takes inspiration from a book I’m currently reading called “The Dark Forest” by Cixin Liu. In it hibernation is used to prolong the life of individuals planning for a distant alien invasion. This made me think about how that type of planning could be used in other stories. I also had the first two lines in mind and they shaped where the story went. As usual I started writing with a very basic concept or question and a story developed from it that I would not have anticipated when I started.
Like many stories I post here I have a much bigger version of the tale in my head than what makes it in. The process for stasis and revival for example is thought out, but doesn’t really fit into the story itself. You only get glimpses of it. After removal from stasis the patient is put into a medical coma while being brought back into normal functionality.
A warm sensation spread throughout my body working it’s way from the inside outward. My thoughts felt far away so I focused on the sensation as it felt more real than my own mind at that moment. The warming seemed to originate from a needle taped down onto the back of my right hand. I realized that it was an IV and my mind desperate to put together the puzzle pieces decided I must be in a hospital. Searching for confirmation I heard the familiar sound of health monitors beeping. With my location seemingly confirmed I struggled to open my eyes.
“Good you’re awake.” The voice sounded entirely too cheery, and I instantly decided I hated this woman. I could hear her shuffling about the room doing her tasks, but to my eyes it was just a blur of motion. They could not focus yet, and the harsh light felt like a personal assault.
“What.” I wanted to ask what was going on, but only the raspy first word came out. It was all I could manage through the pain of a burning throat. The woman I assumed was my nurse came over and leaned down over me. She had an obnoxious smile, but there was also a look of pity that crossed her face. I didn’t need anyone’s pity and decided then and there that I would somehow, someday, make this woman suffer unimaginable hells. This thought gave me pause to wonder what kind of person I was.
“Oh no dear. Don’t try to talk yet. I just took your feeding tube out so your throat must be mighty sore. You just rest up for now. That nice assistant of yours will be by this afternoon and you can try talking then.” She patted my cheek like I was a child, picked up her tablet, and rushed out of the room. For lack of the ability to throw anything I decided to begrudgingly take her advice and just lay there silently.
My body was still, but my mind was a raging storm. I took in all the sensory input I could get and indeed it did confirm I was in a medical facility of some sort. It was not busy as I could hear no footsteps in the hallways. No one came to check on me, but the incessant beeping of the monitoring equipment never ceased. I felt weak and vulnerable. These were sensations I strongly disliked. Gradually as I lay there my mind began to focus and my memories returned to me.
That afternoon a gray-haired man came to my bedside. His face looked strikingly familiar, but different. Like he was perhaps a relative of someone I knew, but not the actual person. I decided to let him speak first and preserve my voice until I needed it. My throat was already feeling better, but there was no reason to strain it.
“It is so good to see you awake again sir.” He was smiling, but unlike the nurse his smile felt genuine. I believed him when he said he was happy to see me, but more importantly I recognized the voice.
“Madison is that you?” The voice was clearly my assistant, but he looked so much older than I remembered him. Suddenly I was struck by a terrible thought. “Wait a minute, how long was I out?”
He looked pained and I could tell he didn’t want to answer my question. “Uhm, well sir there were a few slight issues with the project.”
“HOW LONG WAS I OUT?” It felt like I had ripped my throat open by screaming and I fell into an uncontrollable coughing fit.
“Sir please calm down. You need to rest. You just woke up.”
“How long?” I meant for it to come out strong and demanding, but through the pain my body betrayed me. I hated how weak I sounded asking.
“You gave the explicit orders not to bring you out of stasis until phase one of the project was complete. I tried to make them wake you up, but they were too afraid to counter your orders.”
“It’s been thirty years sir.” His head tilted down and he refused to make eye contact with me.
“Thirty years? Phase one was supposed to be completed in ten years.”
“Uhm, yes sir. There were complications once you went under though. See the governments of the world blocked our supplies, your rivals stole some of your top scientists, and well the world changed quite a bit. I really tried my best to keep things on track, but I’m not you. They wouldn’t listen to me. They don’t fear me.”
“Of course, they don’t fear you. Fear isn’t your tool its mine. You are an administrator.”
“But sir all my authority comes from you. Once you were in stasis people didn’t see me as an extension of you anymore.” He did not look like my trusted assistant in that moment. He looked like a tired old man who had given up hope. I decided in that moment that he needed to be replaced, but I couldn’t do it until I had regained my strength. I needed him dedicated until I had reliable help and could eliminate him.
“It’s OK Madison. We just need to remind the world who I am. We can fix this. Before I can plan though I need all the variables. Tell me, what has happened in the last thirty years?”