“Ahh noo meep?”
The older man’s deep voice kept repeating it. Over and over, slower and slower.
“Ahhhh dooo mmeep.”
I struggled to ascertain what he was saying, but I couldn’t; they were too fuzzy to make out. It was as if I had muffles over my ears.
There was more mumbling, followed by a female who confirmed with an equally fuzzy “uh huh,” and I felt a rush of energy through my veins. Suddenly, I could make out everything around me. Beeps, buzzes, wooshes, everything. I opened my eyes to see where I was. It was no sooner that I opened them that I wanted to shut them back and wake up to the reality of my bed. I cringed and closed them. Realizing my dream was a bit more lucid than normal, I blinked a couple of times, then blinked harder.
“Okay, very good.” I realized the voice was a doctor. Probably my dad’s age of 65 or so, bald on top with a crown of white trimmed neatly over the ears. He had a day’s worth of stubble, which I assume was normal if he were here all day.
I parted my lips to speak, but was welcomed with a mouth full of cottony froth.
“Oh, I’m sorry, spit here.” The woman rushed over to put a spittoon in front of me. I saw her name badge said “MIRIAM HO” with an expressionless mugshot just above it. She was Asian, small in stature, with stark black hair angled just above her shoulders, and big brown eyes that showed a look of concern as she watched me spit out what felt like a gallon of dry saliva. “Here’s some water. It’s cool so slip it slowly, don’t want to fry your neurons just yet!”
I took the water and sipped it slowly like she said. It was painful as if I swallowed ice directly. “Ugh, that kinda hurt…” I adjusted myself in the bed I was in until I was sitting up, but they wouldn’t let me get up completely. Not that I was going to, or anything. “Where am…no, wait.” I knew I was in a hospital, but the machines and monitors were nothing I’d ever seen before. Everything smelled pleasant, albeit sterile, but it didn’t feel like a normal hospital. I noted the wires attached to me were both electrical and intravenous — but the electrical weren’t just sensors. Two electrical wires were actually sticking into my neck. “I have a lot of questions, but I don’t know where I should start.” Before the doctor could draw a breath, I raised my hand to stop him. “I don’t know if I want to know.”
“Heh heh, you need to know. Garryn, you’re not going to believe this, but you’re in the year 2217.” He took a step back and waited for me to react, but I didn’t. After a moment of unexpressed, yet noticeable disappointment at my lack of response, he continued. “You’re in the year 2217. Two hundred years ago, you were shot and killed. Someone in the morgue decided you would be a perfect specimen to keep frozen as a time capsule of sorts for the future. After what we call “The End,” your frozen body was found in the rubble at what used to be Baylor Medical Center. How your body survived, we don’t know. Your body was the only one of the six they had stored that survived in tact and in a manner that we could operate on and revive you.”
I waited for a minute to see if he was done, then scoffed, “okay, time to wake up…” I started to pinch and claw my arm to get a reaction out of myself, then Miriam slapped my hand.
“Stop that!!!” She yelled.
“Okay, wait. I felt that, that hurt.” Then it hit me. “I– I’m not dreaming, am I…”
He looked up at a monitor — that was transparent — and mumbled, “excuse me for a moment….” He turned and walked to the other side of the room, which was a really long way away. It had to be over a hundred feet or more.
“Nope, you’re really awake!” Miriam looked pleased to announce this tragedy to me. She jutted out her hand to shake mine, which I took cautiously. “Miriam Ho, call me Miri.” Her smile was as bright as the white walls and ceiling…and sheets and her lab coat…
“Pleased to meet you, I think? I’m Garryn Dragon…” I shook my head, “sorry, you already know that.”
She giggled a little and replied, “it’s okay, we’ve just never revived someone who’s been dead for so long. Our oldest revival was dead for three days.”
“Wow, so…you can bring people back to life, now?” I scratched the back of my head as she helped me to sit on the side of it. I looked down at my feet that dangled off the side, just inches from the floor.”
“Yes we can, if it’s on your ID chip.”
“So…no more organ donation? And wait, an RFID chip?!?” At this point, I wasn’t sure if I was impressed or concerned about the medical advancements of the future.
“Yes, RFID! Wow, how did you know that?”
“Oh, I may be um…old, but I’m not that old. They started putting those chips in our pets back in my day.”
“Pets? It’s so sad, we can’t keep pets in the city limits, anymore.” She sighed. “The City allowed us to keep the ones we had until they passed, and mine passed away when I was eighteen.”
“Aww,” I thought about my parents’ two springer spaniels and how much they meant to me, and how sad it would be not to have an animal companion, then I thought about my parents, then my friends. “Oh, man, this isn’t going to be easy. Um, when did The End happen?”
“Almost a hundred years ago.”
The doctor returned with a tablet in hand, pressed a button, and a holographic image of a man appeared. Everything was green except for one orange spot behind the left knee. I felt behind my knee to see if that image was supposed to represent me, and I was right. “It’s just a bruise, I think.”
“Yes,” he said. “It’s just a bruise. Must have gotten that when they moved you to a new bed.”
“Okay, so let’s get down to your vitals.” He tapped his tablet a few more times, then stopped and looked at me. “Before we begin, my name is Doctor Peter Schwartzman, and I am the overseer of the mission to bring you back to life. Obviously this has been a successful endeavor, and I am pleased to be one of the first two people to greet you back into the world. It goes without saying that there is a lot to talk about, but you appear to be in good spirits, and thus far, you’re not overreacting like I anticipated. Is there anything you need before we begin?”
I thought about it for a minute. “Do we still have coffee, and can I have two spoons full of sugar in it?”
“On my way!” Miri bounced over to a machine in the wall, and came back with a steaming hot cup of coffee, and a small chunk of ice next to it. “Just in case it’s too hot.”
I thanked her, then looked at Dr. Schwartzman. “I’m all ears.”
“Okay…I won’t bore you with your vitals. Your heart rate is great, and your numbers are impeccable. Your brain sustained significant damage in the assassination, but we repaired all that.”
“Assassination?” I remembered getting out of the car the day I was…shot. I remember getting shot, but… “assassinated?!?”
“Yes, someone killed you on purpose.”
I was seriously confused. “What the hell for? I was…I am only 27… I was only giving a speech on –”
“Net neutrality,” he took over the conversation. “Human diversity and net neutrality. But we’re not talking politics, right now, we’re talking vitals and your alterations.”
“I’ve been altered?” I rushed to remove my gown and grabbed my scrotum, which was thankfully present and accounted for. Miri blushed and looked away quickly. “Oh my god, whew…”
“No, put that back,” he ordered, putting my gown back over my body. “Alterations as in cybergenetic alterations.” He waited for me to say anything else. “Can I continue?”
“Yes, sir, sorry.”
“You are fine. As I was saying, your vitals are in check, your brain was damaged, but we were able to sync the damaged neurotransmitters to artificial ones, 120,000 or more, and there is a MESH unit just under your scalp in the back of your head where you were shot. Everything healed quickly and perfectly, as we expected, and a couple of jolts of energy got us to where we are, now.”
“So I was basically jump started.”
The doctor laughed. “Basically.”
Feeling through my thick brown hair for evidence of the MESH thing, I asked, “What is a MESH unit?”
“Mental to Electronic Synchronization Harness.”
“What does it do?”
“It assists the artificial neurotransmitters with their functions. You were injured in the part of your brain that is responsible for logic, and the MESH unit acts as a conduit for your new logic center to operate properly. It’s very small, you won’t feel it.” He looked over at Miri and motioned for her to come closer. “Go ahead and unplug him.”
She started removing all of the sensors, then the IVs, and then unplugged the two electrical cords that were plugged in like headphone jacks to my neck. I reached up to feel two holes in the side of my neck — that were apparently permanent slots for the jacks she took out. “What is this?”
“Data jacks?” This had to be a dream. “What do they do.”
“Remember the RFID chip We talked about earlier?” Dr. Schwartzman pointed at his neck. “These jacks allow us to be revived if we are to die. The bottom one is incoming, top is outgoing, just like a modem from your era. It’s hard to explain, but there is a chip at the base of the outgoing jack, and if you die, whether you’re linked in or not, it sends a signal for Osiris to come pick you up and bring you here so we can revive you. It can take several days, but we are usually able to bring you back without many alterations.”
“Alterations like my MESH unit…”
“Exactly.” He sat his tablet on a table by my bed and asked, “are there any other questions?”
“I don’t think so…” I looked up at him and took a deep breath. I exhaled, “None that I won’t answer, myself, over time.”
He smiled proudly. “Good. Miri, get him some clothes and take him home, get him reacquainted with the times, and bring him to work with you next Tuesday.”
“Oh, Miri? There’s a packet of stuff for him, including some creds to get him started.”
“Speaking of which, what is the date?”
“Tuesday, May twentieth.”
“Okay, thanks.” I watched him leave the room, and looked over at Miri. “So you’re taking me home?”
“Well, not quite,” She explained. “You’re going to live next door to me, at least for awhile, or until you decide you don’t like it. Trust me, you’ll like it, this is the only truly safe place in New Dallas.”
“Ahh, so I’m still in Dallas…”
“Yes. There’s a small bag over there if you want to get it. I didn’t know what you’d like so I just bought whatever I knew fit you. I’ll stay over here, and there’s a restroom if you need to use it to change in.”
“Thanks.” I went into the bathroom with the bag, and she picked out some really nice things. My newest pair of underwear was black, same with the socks. They still had jeans, which was really nice, and I picked a pre-worn red t-shirt with a logo with the word Soliloquy on it to wear over a white undershirt. I threw on the lack lace-up boots and a matching belt, but left the red shirt untucked. Stepping out of the bathroom, I announced, “Fashion hasn’t changed much, it appears.”
“You’re right, to an extent.” She motioned for me to follow her out of the room, and continued, “it’s not really that fashion hasn’t changed, but we really don’t have the time or ability to really change things that don’t have to be changed. It’s a mess outside this building.”
As we left the room and went down the elevator, she told me about what happened in The End. Nobody really knows what triggered it, except without much warning, the whole world was at war. The massive heat from all of the bombs and weapons going off triggered a major global climate change that also seemed to happen overnight. Due to the cold weather and satellites going haywire, everyone lost all electronic communication. The whole world was isolated from one another. She said it was like a modern-day Babel.
After the thaw, which was about 75 years ago, cities began rebuilding, and relying on immediate communities for their resources. A man in Dublin repaired his computer, and when he attempted to connect to the internet using his own brainwaves, he was sucked into a very realistic alternate reality. It was so realistic that it introduced itself to him as AlterNet. He met someone else there who claimed to be from Japan, and the two met up in Russia via helicopter, where they began an expedition to reunite the planet via this AlterNet.
Miri shared some tabloid rumors about this AlterNet — she said a woman in Boston claimed to get pregnant after having sex on the AlterNet, which I laughed hard, but Miri said it could be possible, since people can get shot on AlterNet by some one who lived over 100 miles away, and they end up in the hospital with gunshot wounds — only no bullets. She told me Soliloquy is a sort of alternate reality travel company that’s pushing for people to get linked.
“So you’re telling me that this AlterNet is so realistic, it’s like a literal parallel universe of some sort.”
“Yes.” She pushed open the main door of the building, then led me to a walkway toward a bus stop. “As a matter of fact, since you’re still wet behind the ears,” her eyes locked on mine, “don’t go in it unless I’m there, too.” She jumped on the bus when it arrived — which looked like it drove straight from the wrecking yard, and continued, “as a matter of fact, don’t go anywhere without me for awhile, okay?”
“Sure, not a problem.”