Welcome to Synchrotech where you are frozen at -238 degrees Fahrenheit and eventually brought back to life at a specified date. This is called cryonics. What would happen if one of those in very cold storage decided she did not wish to sleep in frozen slumber? What if one of the attendants heard her plea for help. Immortality is a really good thing, but it's not for everybody. Meet Barry Jennings, just an average guy working in the deep freeze of Synchrotech who hears a little girl's cry to get out of her unit.
This story is part of a book I am currently writing of short stories entitled Tales Beyond Any Reasonable Explanation in which I call on the ghost of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone, a show I loved as a child and felt it was some of the best writing of the time. This story has some of the elements, I hope of that beloved television show.
This story is part of a book I am currently writing of short stories entitled Tales Beyond Any Reasonable Explanation in which I call on the ghost of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone, a show I loved as a child and felt it was some of the best writing of the time. This story has some of the elements, I hope of that beloved television show.
I had never heard of Synchrotech as these places were sprouting up like weeds, many not much more than a storefront like those old Hollywood sets where the town was no more than some old wood painted to look like a real building. Not that some of these places weren't legit, but there were a lot of hucksters and let's face it, there are no complaints since the clientele were all deceased. Yeah, that was the ticket in, but I know for a fact that there were more than a few who were suffering from some horrible malady who accepted a needle to end the suffering. Sometimes death likes to dig his fingernails into a person so the final chapter reads like a slip and slide filled with razor blades and a needle can spare the person the painful ride. My mom, rest her soul, went the hard road and even her beloved Jesus would not spare her a minute of torture. When death finally decided to come, it was a peaceful morning with a golden sunrise and birds singing their joyful tunes in the trees. It was a relief to all including me after spending six months as she puked up most of her guts and constantly complaining how uncomfortable she was.
So how do I feel about cryonics? I'm okay with it and Synchrotech has all the latest equipment and current information from the Deep Freeze to the Resurrection as we call it with the dials set for sometime in the future when they will come forth like Lazarus and walk among the living once again. Now we can get into a big discussion on morality, but I am one of the dudes who controls the dials. Went to two years of training just to be certified in this science. I am working on the Second Level online at home at my own pace which will put me in the control room where all the decisions are made. I'm taking it slow, but I figure in another year or two, I'll have me an office up there.
But I don't think you want to hear my story, the Barry climbing that corporate ladder Jennings, you came to hear about one of our cases. I should not be telling you what happened, but as unfounded as my morality is about this business, this case, Client K-122B, has still got me by the heart and squeezing it as hard as she can.
She came in with her mother, Kendra Lucassici, in the last stages of terminal cancer, her eleven year old face looked like a death mask with her eyes deeply sunken into the sockets and an off gray tint of her skin. I've seen clients come through those doors that make me question God's mercy and she was certainly one of those. They went upstairs to have the conversation. Her mother tearfully tells them that Kendra's tumor is getting bigger and will rupture the artery it is wrapped around leaving her to have massive internal bleeding that will drown her in her own blood.
Next day on my shift, I see her container stacked with the rest, Kendra Lucassici, Client K-122B, meaning she is filed in Section K in Lot 122 in the B slot. Each Lot has twelve clients with slots A through L labeled for quick access. You might think I'm a little off center, but sometimes I like to say "hi" to some of the clients especially if they are recent arrivals. I knocked on her container and told her Barry would be keeping an eye on her.
What happens is once a human body is placed into the slot, liquid nitrogen and oxygen are pumped in to preserve the dead tissue. Once the extent and cause of death has been determined, the boys upstairs begin to reproduce the faulty tissue that caused the person’s death. Once the organ or tissue has been grown, you can then operate on the person and then begin the process of reviving. This is a very complicated procedure that is still being perfected, but results have been encouraging. Many of our occupants have requested a much later date to begin reviving so that the procedures will be more “routine.” Synchrotech has scheduled some reviving for twenty years from now in hope that these procedures will be mastered. In the meantime, our surgeons are working on pigs and have about a fifty percent success rate at this point. Since most of the occupants have paid an extraordinary amount of money, success rates will have to get closer to ninety five percent. A few of the contracts, signed by brave clients before their demise have paid reduced fees in agreement to become some of the first to undergo the reviving procedure. There are rumors that some of the occupants are indigent street people who will become the first to go through this procedure just to make sure we are on the right path. To an outsider, this all sounds so scientific and heartless, but then what is the true value of immortality, eh?
Working on the floor, we must check the gauges to make sure we are maintaining the 123K or -238 degrees Fahrenheit required to keep nitrogen and oxygen in a liquid state. Sometimes it can get a bit chilly on the main floor, so we usually wear parkas and gloves, because if he touches anything with our bare hands, our skin will instantly bond to the frigid surfaces like that kid on Christmas Story who is goaded into putting his tongue on the metal pole. One of the crew made the mistake of putting his coffee cup on one of the units. That cup is not a permanent part of that unit.
We have clipboards and the columns correspond to the units. I am assigned Section K where Kendra sleeps, her tumor no longer growing, no longer a threat to burst her artery ending her life. She is in a state of suspended animation. None of the scientists have a clue about what is, if anything, going on in their heads. I would love to ask one of them, but I’m afraid of the answer.
When I was a kid, before my mother died of cancer, she would take me to church, to mass and I’d hear about purgatory or worse limbo where they stuck all the unbaptized babies, because without the original sin being washed away, these babies cannot enter Heaven. Thoughts of limbo used to give me nightmares. When mom was struggling to breathe, about a week before she was taken to pass away at the hospice, I told her about how I was afraid she’d wind up in limbo, but she just laughed and told me not to worry about such a thing. I was only nine years old at the time. Still I was worried that she’d only be able to get up to Limbo, because she would be out of breath and would not make it to Heaven. I prayed hard, hoping my prayers would help her make it.
“She was such a sweetheart when she came in.” Malinda replied casually when she saw me checking Kendra’s unit. “Such a shame someone so young could be so sick, eh?”
“Yeah.” I held my clipboard close to my chest, because I thought she had caught me talking to her like I did when I checked her temperatures and monitors.
“Did you ever wonder what they are thinking about?” She asked as she checked her last unit.
“Sometimes.” I shrugged. I kind of like Malinda, because she was friendly and outgoing. It’s just that I've never been very good at talking to women, but she made it easy for me at times.
“I’ll bet some of them have some pretty cool stories to tell...if they could.” She chuckled and I added my own off-beat chuckle that lasted just about a beat too long.
“Cool...because it’s so cold in there…” My voice trailed off and she maintained her smile out of politeness. I was used to women being polite, because they didn’t know what else to do when I was behaving awkwardly or saying something stupid.
“Yes...I wonder when they are going to wake her. From what I heard, she is one of the first to rise and shine. They will remove the tumor in the frozen state that she is in and then begin the process of reviving.” She bent over to look at her tag. “Just as I thought, ten years. Some of the indigents have earlier dates.”
Ten years. Without a tumor, Kendra would be about twenty years old. Still young, but her friends would be adults by then while she would still be just a child of nine.
I know you are thinking that this whole place is one ethical violation, but then I did some reading about the Tuskegee experiment where the Public Health Service in conjunction with the University of Tuskegee to inject syphilis into almost four hundred impoverished African American sharecroppers from the local area to study the effects of untreated syphilis starting in 1932. When penicillin came along, the study was declared unethical and discontinued in 1972. While some of our practices could be considered unethical at times, we have a signed patient contract, a legal document of consent.
Mr. Jennings, I don’t want to be here anymore. Can you get me out? I am sooo cold...
I sit up in bed. Her voice, a voice I have never heard, was so very clear in my head. So clear. I get out of bed and walk to get some water from my kitchen sink in my crammed two room efficiency apartment. The water tastes like iron sometimes, but better than some of the chemicals I know they like to sneak into the water. Her voice was so small and she sounded so sad.
Next shift, I see Malinda. She smiles as she checks her units. I want to tell her I heard Kendra, but I know she will start to think I am a weirdo if she doesn’t think so already.
“Girls can be so cruel.” I told my father one evening before he was able to finish his bottle of whiskey.
“Yes Barry, you are so right.” His voice was heavy and his eyes were already red. “Women can rip your heart out and stomp on it.”
He had been trying to find someone to replace mom, but so far he was only succeeding in digging his own hole to bury himself in. Before I graduated from high school, he passed away of sclerosis of the liver. I went to live with my aunt while I tried to finish college, but after two years, I just couldn’t take it anymore and I took the bus to San Jose just before the great technology boom. A friend of mine told me about Synchrony. And the rest was history. I came with no attachments or any preconceived ideas and little or no morality issues about the process.
But now I was feeling something I had not felt before. Empathy. It did not seem fair that Kendra was here and she was complaining about being cold.
“Hey Barry, would you like to join us for a couple of beers at One Eyed Jack’s after work?” Malinda asked as I finished recording Kendra’s vitals.
Would I? Would I? Drag me over hot coals.
“I’d love to.” I answered.
“Great.” She smiled and returned to her duties.
One Eyed Jack’s was about a lively place as there ever was, but then I seldom ventured out into the real world and it felt good to see everyone drinking beer and having a laugh without having to wear parkas. Malinda was so easy going and easy to talk to, but then so were some of her friends. People like Jan and Abbie who I never talked to, because I was always so busy. Justin was quick with a joke and Simon was always talking politics.
“Government is watching us closely like Big Brother.” He commented as he took a handful of peanuts.
“Most people don’t have a clue as to what goes on inside.” Dr. Raymond Cznek said in his Eastern European accent. A jolly round man with olive colored skin, Dr. Cznek was one of the boys from upstairs who had written several scholarly papers as he was pioneering the reviving procedures, “What will they think when we bring all these people back?”
“When they just suddenly show up at Walmart one day, eh?” Justin quipped.
“What about the reanimation? Will they appear as they did in life or will this be another episode of the Walking Dead?” Simon asked Dr. Cznek.
“I did not do all of this work only to turn out the next Spielberg horror flick.” His accent made his statement even funnier, but then his facial expression got serious, “We must be careful not to rush to this whole thing. We are still working on what the expected results are going to look like.” His ominous tone made us all cease our laughter, but it did not last long as we took our cue from him to resume our merriment, “But we should not worry about such things. We are all professionals. We will always do the right thing. Others may not see it that way, but in the end, we will be the ones to get it done.”
I talked to Simon who believed that this research would be the one to save the planet as long as we could find a ride to another place as our climate slowly suffocated us to death.
“If we wake up those folks and the climate change is for the worst, what good will all our work do us? We must look for alternative answers.” He said after downing his second beer.
“Glad you could join us, Barry. Some of your coworkers were beginning to wonder if maybe you were one of the stiffs.” She chuckled and I could tell she had a good buzz working.
“I’m just a regular guy.” I said still nursing my first mug of suds.
“How regular are you?” She put her finger to her purple lips.
“Regular.” Was all I could managed to say, but she stepped closer to me and I could smell her rose scented perfume and the hops on her breath.
“I’d like to see how regular you are sometime.” She kissed my ear and I nearly lost my balance. “You are so efficient and so dedicated to your job.”
“I am?” I could feel her tongue on my ear lobe.
“Yes, you are.” She giggled and pulled away for a moment to give me time to regain my balance. “I think you could use some company.”
“I suppose.” My apartment had never had anyone buy me inside. “You wanna come up?” I could not believe my audacity as I had never asked a member of the opposite sex up to my place, but here I was.
“I suppose we could do that.” She leaned close to me where I could smell her perfume and the beer on her breath.
We barely made it into the door before she was pulling at my shirt and pants while I struggled to get her clothes to come off. Her breathing was heavy as we made it to the bed still partially clothed. I had not had much practice unlatching a bra, but she was more than willing to do that for me while I kicked off my pants.
“You are a virgin.” It was not a question, but she smiled as I admitted it.
Most of the rest of what happened was like machinery as I did not last very long once she put me in place. The warmth and motion set things off in just a few seconds. I felt embarrassed as I lay next to her in my unmade bed with some of my dirty laundry still on the sheets.
“I’m sorry.” I sighed as she ran her finger down the bridge of my nose so playfully.
“Please, don’t be. We can try again if you’re feeling up for it.” She threw her head back letting the hair out of her eyes and I got a great view of the curves and lines of her nakedness like an old masterpiece in one of the best museums in the world.
Slowly she began to work her magic, her hands in places no hands had ever been in before and slowly I felt the urge come over me again. We tried a new position and I felt as if I was floating on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. She left before the sunrise as we had to get ready for another day. I sat on the edge of my bed, my eyes filled with the orange sunrise as it spread its arms over the landscape outside my apartment window.
Barry, I am in Limbo. Help me! Limbo is so cold! I am freezing!
I got out of bed, went into the shower and was dressed before the coffee was finished perking. Her voice had called out to me.
She was cold. Limbo was a cold place. I had to get to her. I had to make sure she was alright.
I saw Malinda who gave me a big smile when she saw me, but I wasn’t sure what to do.
“You can say ‘hi,’ Barry.” She put on her parka and boots.
“Hi...it’s just I don’t quite know what to say.” I blushed.
“Did you enjoy it?” She asked, staring at me through one open eye.
“Very, very much.” I nodded.
“That’s how it’s done.” She stood up ready to get on the floor, but she put her gloved hand against my cheek and left the dressing room.
It was hard to concentrate on what I was doing as I kept looking at her out of the corner of my eye, remember her naked body in the sheets and how she seemed to know what to do. It felt even better than I had imagined it in my head. I was nearly twenty five and this was the first time I had made love to anyone other than my own hand greased down with some sort of lubricant. This was so much better.
Barry, I’m so cold. It is so cold down here in Limbo.
“Darling, what is it you want me to do?” I heard myself saying as I passed her unit.
Let me out of here. Just open the lid. I don’t want to live forever. I don’t want to be immortal. I just want to die like I was supposed to. Can’t you see how cruel this is? How cruel it is for me to stay here? Just open the lid. I know you know how to do it.
I did know. It was part of my training for my certificate. While most of the cryogenics was becoming routine, there was still some room for error. Last week one of the main unit refrigerators stopped working. While we scrambled to regain the unit, we found that the client’s tissue damage was minimal. One of the doctors said that the flesh that thawed began to have normal blood flow. It was not something that was general knowledge, but I just happened to be in the area when it happened and I had helped restore the unit. In closing the unit, I noticed the client’s arm, it was pink and appeared to be warm. In less than ten minutes the flesh was frozen in -238 degrees.
If I pressed the main power button on her unit, she would slowly come back to life as she was before entering the cryogenic unit. Malinda winked at me as I put my gloved finger on the button.
“I feel like giving this one big poke.” I laughed.
“Better not, you bad boy.” She giggled.
“You are right. How awful would that be if I did that, huh?” I hooted.
The monitors overhead are on, watching our every move out here on the floor. Some of the stiffs have paid a lot of money to be here so we must watched over our investment closely.
Mr. Marcel Randerstand was an investment banker in K-122C. If I were to press his button, his whole team of lawyers would be down here to sue us for every penny for malpractice. From what I was told he was a greedy miser like Ebeneezer Scrooge who had little respect for those who worked for him. It would serve him right in death to press his button and send him off into the Great Unknown. It may be cold where you are lying right now, but if I press this button Mr. Marcel Randerstand, things would get pretty toasty in a hurry as you slide your ass down there.
Getting laid had changed me. It really had. These thoughts would have never entered my head before, but now it seems I am being bombarded with wicked impulses. Push the button. Push the button, it was like a song, a steady beat. I would refrain, but I might not if I got laid again.
At lunch we sat together and said little, we just kept looking at each other and smiling. Justin came into the break room, took one look at us and an evil smile suddenly appeared above his curly Van Dyke. We ended up feeding each other our lunch and giggling.
After work, I rode to her apartment which was several times better than my small hovel as she had all the amenities of a modern space. She pushed a button and cool jazz filled the room. She had a balcony that overlooked the city below at twenty stories up.
Laying beneath her sheets, I heard the voice. It was a little girl and she was crying. I sat up because I knew it was Kendra. Malinda was a heavy sleeper and she did not stir as I sat up.
The next day, I took a few minutes to upload her file after my first round. Scanning the report, I saw that the pain she had endured prior to coming here was to say in a word, unbearable as the tumor squeezed against her skull causing her to black out from time to time according to Dr. Reynolds, her oncologist. Some of the notes described her mother’s anguish at listening to her daughter scream out in unimaginable pain. I could not imagine having a child like Kendra in constant agony. How could God allow someone to go through that?
Glenna Boyce Jennings was just twenty-nine when she passed away from leukemia. Her chemo treatments made her lose all her hair and made her puke several times a day. Due to her digestive complications, she lost over sixty pounds which was a considerable amount of weight for a woman who was 5’3” and one hundred forty-five pounds before she got sick. At the time of her death she weighed just eighty seven pounds and had lost two inches of her height. Bedridden for the last five months before passing, she was unable to get out of bed unassisted and was wearing an adult diaper due to the diarrhea she would have for the five months remaining in her life. Slowly her lungs filled with a fluid and any attempt to keep her lungs clear seemed to be a losing battle. She had just one son, Barry, age nine and her husband Gregory age thirty two who is a machinist at the Cast and Dye Company up in Fremont, CA. Current insurance is covering about 70% of her treatment costs and Mr. Jennings says he will have to sell his house in Union City.
My mother died before my father had to sell the house in Union City, but he would pass ten years later and there was nothing left. Both my parents were cremated so I have nothing left of either of them. Catholics are not supposed to be cremated, but this was their way of leaving nothing behind of themselves, just a name in some family album somewhere. I didn’t even have that really. Just a couple of old photographs of smiles and happier days. When I moved in with my Aunt in Martinez, she was only forty years old, but looked older than my grandmother who passed away at eighty two. She was my father’s sister Mel, but she had enough child rearing by the time I showed up with a single suitcase in my hands. I was able to help out around the dilapidated house her and her husband Julio lived in, but I could tell I was more in the way than not. I don’t even get a card or anything from her or Julio and so my family tree is in a state of constant decay.
I wanted to push the button. I wanted to end the tears of a little girl who was in pain. She was in Limbo. She was in a state of suspended animation. While her body was still in my custody and care, whatever was left of her, had ceased to be and the cage she was confined to was K-122B. None of the other clients were complaining.
If I pushed the button, I could end her suffering and anguish. But I’d also lose my job and any possibility of moving upstairs. I was getting bored with the cold floor even though Malinda and I were doing quite well. It was hard to believe she was my first girlfriend. I wanted to reach out and touch her just to make sure she was real. I didn’t want to do anything weird or she might leave me.
What to do? What to do? I was caught in No-Man’s-Land. Pushing the button meant I would lose everything, but I could hardly bear to hear Kendra’s tears any longer.
The next day, Justin called a Code Red which meant his refrigerator unit was failing as the temperature was rising inside the unit. Refrigerator units failed a lot after they had been on the job for a while, because it is really taxing on a refrigerator to maintain such cold temperatures. Justin is over in Q Section, so I would stay put while the other floor personnel installed another refrigeration unit.
Malinda decided to see if they needed some help since there seemed to be some complications. I was alone at Section K. All my units had been checked and all were within the parameters.
Plllllleeeeeeeaaaaassssssseeeeeeee, Mr. Jennings.
My gloved finger was on the button. More tears, more pleading, more anguish, suffering. The muscles in my hand stiffened and before I knew what I had done, I had depressed the button. I heard a clank as the motor shut off. It would take several minutes for anyone to notice since everyone’s attention was on the failed unit in Section Q. No one would even notice until it was too late. Temperature was rising. It was at -177 degrees, the nitrogen and oxygen had turned to gas and unless there was a reversal, Kendra would start to thaw out. She had been induced when she arrived, so I figured that she would not wake up. Her tissue would begin to die because of the lack of oxygen and no blood flow, but at least she would not be in that horrible place where it was cold and she would no longer be in suspended animation. Some might call what I did murder, but in my mind what I did was merciful to a child who spent most of her life in intolerable pain. I would do what God would not do for her.
I released the lid of her unit and it opened with a hiss. Now the alarms would go off. Now the security would come down and see what the heck was going on.
Her eyes fluttered open as the sirens started. I stood there with my mouth agape as she sat up. Color spread in her cheeks. Her tiny hands reached out for me. I could see security come streaming from the stairwell. Without thinking, I reached down and scooped up her tiny body ravaged from her illness. Her skin was still quite cold, but I could feel it warm as I ran for the exit with her clutched to my chest.
“Stop!” I heard one of the security men yell after me, but I was already out the door as I knew this place very well after working here for over ten years. I could hear her breathing as I ran for my car, keys clutched in my fingers as I held her. I was inside my car. I put her in the passenger’s seat as I started the engine. Two security men were on the hood of my car when I put the car into reverse and screeched out of the parking place. Slamming it into drive, I saw the smoke from my tires in my rear view mirror as well as both security men fall to the pavement as I left the parking lot for what I believe would be the last time.
“Thank you for saving me, Mr. Jennings.” She smiled at me, her brown eyes sparkling.
“We have to find a place to hide out.” I said as I heard sirens in the distance. I would head up the 580 in heavy traffic as I had planned to hide out in the northern counties of California. “How are you?”
“I’m fine...now.” She said with a yawn. It was hard for me to believe that she had been asleep for over two months. Later I would text Malinda and explain everything, but I figured that whatever we had was no longer. Helicopters began to fill the sky, the shadows fell across my hood.
As it turned out, I was some kind of desperado as some of those choppers were television news helicopters. Of course some of the story got mixed in with the thoughts of kidnapping and child abduction, but I didn’t care what folks were saying, I just wanted to get to a safe place. There was congestion near Oakland and Berkeley, but once we got into Richmond, we were fine. The police kept trying to maneuver to force me off the road, but with Kendra in my car, they wanted to avoid any collisions that would injure her. She sat there quietly, so quietly, I could hardly believe it as I zipped in and out of heavy traffic where a lot of the hot and tired drivers gave me the official state salute as I weaved in and out of traffic. Luck be a lady, I was always catching a break just when the police started closing in on me, I’d find an empty lane and leave them behind me. The only problem I had was as I was leaving the city limits of Richmond, I saw my gas gauge was headed toward the big white E and if I stopped to get gas, the police would be on me before I got the nozzle into my tank. I pulled into a convenience store and up to one of the pumps. I could hear helicopters hovering overhead, but I was not going to look to see which were from the television news and which were from the state police.
“Hey bud, are you the dude on television?” A man who had just filled up his car asked.
“Yes, I am.” I answered figuring there was no harm in answering at this point.
“I heard all about what you did. Hey, the cops are coming. Take my car.” He handed me the keys just as I heard the sirens. “I’ll take your car. Quick before it’s too late.”
“Kendra, c’mon.” I reached in and got her out of my car and within a minute we were leaving the Kwik Stop and on our way up north with a full tank in a compact car. Later when the smoke cleared, I found out the police with guns drawn surrounded the stranger who had taken my car keys. It must have been quite a shock for both the police and that stranger.
We crossed the bridge into San Rafael, but in a car the police had not yet identified as our get away car. The stranger, a dude named Myron Payton, told the police that I took the car while he was inside getting a drink and since it was a rent a car, he had no idea what it was. It was all a lie, but with his friendly smile and deep brown eyes, the police bought every word.
Meanwhile we headed for the coast on a two lane winding road near Sevastopol. She had fallen asleep in the passenger’s seat looking very much like an angel.
At a small seaside town, I stopped. I had not heard a siren in quite some time and I was feeling pretty good about things for the moment. I knew it wouldn’t last, things like this, don’t.
“Kendra.” I nudged her. “We’re at the ocean.”
“Really?” Her eyes fluttered open.
“Take your shoes off, let’s go get our feet wet.” I said exiting the car and removing my shoes. She sat on the ledge of the open door and removed her shoes, shoes she had worn for over three months. I could hear the waves smashing into the shore on a regular beat.
“It smells.” She said holding her nose between her fingers.
“It’s the smell of the ocean.”
“I’ve never been to the ocean” She said as she ran with me to meet the breakers. “It’s so cold…”
“You’ll get used to it.” I said feeling one of the waves soak my pants.
“I’m sleepy.” She said over the roar of the waves washing over the rugged shore.
“C’mon, we’ll take a nap. And when we wake up it will still be here.” I said carrying her to the car as her eyes fluttered. I put her in the front seat and I climbed into the backseat suddenly feeling very drained and exhausted.
I woke up when someone shone a flashlight into my eyes. The jig was up.
“Step out of the car, Mr. Jennings.” The officer holding the flashlight.
“Alright.” I tried to wash the cotton out of my mouth with my tongue.
“You have the right to remain silent…” He began to say as he placed my hands in handcuffs behind my back.
“Sir, come here when you get a chance.” The other officer also holding a flashlight waved to the one restraining me.
“What?” He walked over to the passenger door where Kendra was asleep.
“You’d better take a look.” The other officer was lifting the child out of the front seat.
“We found the missing child.” He shrugged.
“She’s not breathing.” His voice rose a bit.
My heart sank when I heard him say that. He put her down to administer CPR as I tried not to pass out. After a few minutes, the officer bowed his head and said, “She's gone.”
“Did you kill her?” The officer who handcuffed me grabbed me by the throat.
“No.” I nearly gagged.
“No, there are no signs of foul play.” The officer attending Kendra stood up. “Jake, let him go.”
Jake let me go.
“Arnie, he killed her. He took her out of that place.” Officer Jake insisted, his hand still gripping my throat.
“Jake, she was dead when they put her in that place. All of them are deceased when they are put on ice.” Officer Arnie sighed. “Was she alive at any time, mister?”
“Yes. We went wading in the ocean. She said she had never been.” I was now choking on my tears.
“Synchrotech is still going to press charges.” Officer Jake opened the back door of the patrol car. “We need to file a report.”
Malinda was waiting for me there when we pulled up to the police station. She was perhaps the last person I wanted to see at this moment, but she stood up when I came in with the two officers.
“Why did you do it, Barry?” She asked, her eyes filled with tears.
“She told me she was cold and frightened.” I answer knowing she would not believe me.
“I heard the same thing.” A woman sitting next to Malinda stood up.
“Barry, this is Mrs. Lucassici, Kendra’s mother.” Malinda introduced me and besides Malinda, Mrs. Lucassici was really the last person I wanted to see.
“I am so sorry.” I turned to the grieving woman dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief.
“It’s alright. I heard her crying in the night. At first I thought it was my nightmares, but then the more I heard her, the more I knew it was her.” She paused, “Kendra was always scared of the dark. She had Mr. Bunny, but when I got her to Synchrotech, I realized I forgot to bring him. She asked, but I told her I would get him later. Then they administered the medication. I can’t believe I stood there and let them put that into her vein. I watched my own daughter die right in front of me. I have been grieving ever since. And when I heard her cry out for me, I knew I had to do something. But you heard her, too?”
“I did.” I shook my head slowly.
“My husband thought I was crazy. He left me a few days ago.” She dabbed her eyes again, “But I knew it was her.”
“Can you hear her now?” I asked.
“Just once, to tell me she misses me, but not to worry, because her tumor is gone.” Malinda embraced her as she began to sob.
My final report was completed on my last day at Synchrotech, explaining why I did what I did. Melinda and I kept seeing each other for a few months after I left, but then we just sort of drifted apart. I keep up with the gossip when I can, but mostly I have been busy with classes at the university. On weekends, I drive to the coast and splash in the water as the breakers come in. In my report, I explained that some of those who come to Synchrotech do not really want immortality, but those left in charge, the executors of their estates have made that decision for them. In the case of little Kendra, they considered her reviving process a complete success vindicating some of the doubters of the project and establishing funding over the next few decades.
As you can imagine, my own opinion, which means nothing at this point, differs from the official reports. Kendra only lived for a few hours after I revived her and I received a brutal reception in the press, but I never regretted what I did. I did end up with some legal expenses, but I never went to jail and I never felt as though I had really done anything wrong. You may not agree with my conclusion, but justice is not always consensual. I still think there are some things in nature that are perhaps better off left alone, but I know that we, as humans, won’t.