Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

It was the physical changes that were the hardest to get used to.

I’m not just talking about the year of physiotherapy. I’m talking about the grey hairs. I’m talking about the soft skin. That and the gradual discovery that life had passed you by. People looked at you and nodded but that close trust was gone. The connection was severed. Parties, deaths, deals, power struggles, marriages, births. They’d all gone on while you slept. You showed up years later with canes and an older body.

There were no prison visits. There were no gyms. It was a snap of the fingers and they took years away. Parole for good behaviour didn’t exist. For guys that had been sentenced to really hard time, it was a slow execution.

You get caught, you go under. That had become the answer to the prison crisis. People were put on trial, sentenced, and given a shot. They were slotted into a sleep chamber in a penal hotel somewhere to carry out their sentence in a dreamless sleep. The liberals loved the humane aspect of it all, the conservatives loved the cruelty of it all, and the general populace had a nice, happy image of cons sleeping like babies. Everyone wins.

When a criminal’s time was done, they were woken up. The light on the front of their chamber changed from red to green with a little ‘ding’ sound, just like a toaster oven telling the cook that the pizza inside was done.

Muscles do a little shrinkage if you don’t move them for a few years, even with the electrical stimulus in the coffins. It’s really painful to get those muscles working again. It takes a long time.

But like I said, that wasn’t the hard part. I’d been under for twenty years. I went in when I was twenty-six. I’m forty-six now. When I went in, I had the body of an athlete. My memories were full of sex, murder, fights, and running from the cops in a body that did it easily. Those memories end, in my mind, about eight weeks ago.

I don’t recognize the cars or the fashions. I walk so slow.

I looked up my old gang friends. All dead except for three of them. Those three took pity on me and gave me some cash but I could tell from the look in their eyes that they’d never let me back into the syndicate.

I looked up my old girlfriends. Couldn’t find any of them. Names changed because they got married or they’d died as well. None of us led a good life out here. We all wanted to die young and most of us got our wish granted.

I feel like a ghost. Time to make some new friends. I don’t have the faintest idea where to begin.

I could feel the need to commit a crime and go back to sleep twisting around inside my head like a hot wire.

I felt too weak to deal with this new life.

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