Author : Philip Berry
“Is it surprising, really? After what they did to you, that you can’t feel a thing.”
But I could feel. Too much. My skin was on fire.
“No Lana, I mean really feel. Perceive emotions. You can’t.”
But I could sense my own. Disappointment. Regret.
“Perhaps it will develop, like it does in a child. That’s what you are, in a way. The cold has wiped the slate of human experience clean. That reminds me, people used to put tech in the freezer to reset it when they forgot passwords. That’s what they did to you.”
He was smiling. I found his humour cruel. My face betrayed nothing.
“Who was it anyway? Who put you in the tank?”
I shook my head. I had no memories. Those too, had been wiped.
“You don’t know. Well I’ll tell you Lana. Your own parents. Why? This surprised me actually. I assumed it would be because you were dying, but it wasn’t.”
I touched a button and angled the head of the bed up. My pale gown moved over skin that was still over-sensitive. The nerves were proliferating and recalibrating after three centuries of stasis. Every touch was transmitted to my brain as a pain stimulus. I winced.
“More lidocaine? Let me turn it up.”
My counsellor touched the infusion pump.
“It’ll settle, the hyperalgesia.”
I tried to talk then, but the muscles of my mouth cramped. This reminded me of something. A pleasure, in infancy. A sweet pleasure. What was it? An ice cream, big as my face. I smiled, partially. My counsellor noticed moisture collecting under my eyes.
“You remember something! Excellent. Now where was I? Your parents. Actually your father. Your mother, according to the census, succumbed to the epidemic. She was working for an agency in Asia. So your father, watching the forecasts, seeing the viral front cross Europe and nudging the coast of France, decided to remove you from danger. Air travel was banned. A wall of drones was taking out the migratory birds. Universal septivalent vaccination was taking place, although the neuramidase targets were always behind the active mutation. So he put you in the tank!”
Images falling into place.
“Come on Lana. It’s all in there. I have other patients.”
The rim of moisture under my left eye formed a drop and fell.
He touched a tissue to my cheek.
“Well I’ll tell you what I know Lana. We skimmed this from your visual and auditory cortices, the last images and impressions before you lost consciousness. You came home from school. Your father was standing in the kitchen. The radio was on. Reports of the first illnesses were coming through. Via a fishing trawler in Northumbria. They hadn’t foreseen that. It was in the cod. A whole village down. So your father took the step. You walked in, and there were three others, dressed in grey. Two women, one man. No words. One of them jabbed you. Bang. Asleep, Within an hour your blood was replaced with polymerised albumin and you were at minus 196 centigrade.”
I remembered. I was smiling when I saw Dad; I had good news for him, I’d been selected for the hockey team.
“He did it to save you. There was 75% mortality, more in the young. It worked.”
The counsellor stood over me, put his face near mine.
“Don’t hate him Lana. The grief killed him before the epidemic took hold. Anyway, my job is done. To get you to feel again. I think I have succeeded, no?”
He was right. I felt everything.