Read an Excerpt
The voice came as if from far away. It was a pleasant, deep female voice, saying over and over, “Flora, wake up. Flora Fielding, wake up, Flora…” on and on.
I’m awake, Flora tried to say, but her mouth, her lungs wouldn’t obey. Her eyelids felt too heavy to lift. And she was cold. Her body was ice. If she moved, surely she’d snap like an icicle—if she could move at all. Her skin hurt everywhere from the bitter, malevolent cold. Her bones ached, all over.
The voice stopped its endless chant and said, “I detect that you are conscious. Don’t struggle. The machine is slowly bringing you back. You’ll be OK.”
So it worked. It must have worked, Flora thought, and a feeling of triumph lent her energy enough to force her eyelids open. The research she’d funded must have found a cure, and now they were resuscitating her.
At first everything was a liquid blur, then she found herself gazing at the sight she’d seen before going into suspended animation, before she’d been frozen. A network of plastic pipes descended from a pastel yellow ceiling. They were filled with fluids of different colors: red blood, creamy yellow food, a blue one, another with clear liquid.
“Move your fingers,” the voice commanded. Flora tried, and after several attempts felt them twitch, then bunch up. The cold now felt less excruciating. She took a breath that made her chest rise. “What year’s it?” she managed to mumble.
The voice answered, “Thirteen hundred and twelve”.
This was meaningless. I couldn’thave gone back in time! Flora thought in panic, but then the voice explained, “You have been in cryogenic storage for 1433 years. We now have a new system of dates, from the establishment of Control.”
A feeling of unreality, of complete disbelief swamped Flora: It can’t be true. It just can’t! “I… I expected to be asleep for maybe ten,” she said, her still-weak voice quivering. One-and-a-half thousand years! She turned her head slightly, looking for the source of the voice. She saw no-one.
As if reading her mind, the voice said, “I’m Artif. I’ve been directed to resuscitate you.”
“In your terms, I’m a computer, sort of.”
This was encouraging. If their technology was this advanced, then surely they had cancer beaten.
A new, masculine voice spoke, a deep, musical baritone. “Welcome, Flora Fielding. Tony Califeri had records of several of your movies, and I’ve seen them all. You were marvelous.”
The female voice cut in, chidingly, “Abel, Flora knows nothing of Tony. She has no more knowledge of our history than a newborn baby.”
“Just the same,” the man’s amusedly unrepentant voice answered, “I’ve seen the movies, and Flora was wonderful.”
“Thank you,” Flora spoke, a little more strongly now, and became intensely conscious of being naked. Her fifty-two-year-old body was not for a man to see. Or fourteen-hundred-and-eighty-somethi ng year-old body, if it was true.
To her surprise, the man said, “Flora, I’m not in the room with you, but on the other side of the earth, in the Arafura Sea. And don’t worry, there are no visuals on. Judging from the records, we guessed that you wouldn’t want to be seen.”
She could only say “thank you” again, but then asked, “Are you a doctor? Have you got a cure?”
The deep voice sounded a melodious laugh. “We leave doctoring to Artif, it’s more efficient. What do you want cured?”
“Cancer,” she said in surprise. Wasn’t that why they’d revived her now?
There was a silence. Then he said, “My translator is looking.”
The female voice spoke, “Abel, that’s a condition where uncontrolled growth of rogue cells occurs. I’ve met four cases this year.”
By now, Flora’s body felt almost normal. She raised herself on an elbow. Black spots swam before her eyes, then cleared. She asked, “Er, Madam, what do I call you?”
There was a smile in the wonderful voice. “Whatever you like. Naturally, I’m not female. I’m the support system for the planet, the executive arm of humanity.”
Copyright © 2004 Dr. Bob Rich