Author : Seej 500

The technician placed the oxygen tube in Walt’s mouth. “Pure oxygen will make you feel kinda high, she smiled, but we’ve found the reanimation process is a little smoother that way than if we just gave you air while we flooded and activated the tank.”

Walt knew all this. He’d read the booklet they’d given him. Walt grunted as he nodded, unable to speak now the respirator was in place. Next they’d put the sedative drip in a vein, he’d remove the paper gown, climb into the tank, they’d pump in the suspension fluid, and begin the Stop.

People got Stopped for all sorts of reasons; cheating death was just one of them. Once the process had been perfected, it had become commonplace over the past few years. People now did it to avoid the boredom of long journeys (some particularly rich people did it to avoid even short journeys), to wait for the value of investments to increase, or to wait while a distant lover made the long journey to Earth. Groups who called themselves Bears even got Stopped over winter because they didn’t like the weather.

The body-temperature fluid steadily filled his tank, tinted blue from the dissolved electrolytes, and Walt stared ahead at the opposite row of tanks, waiting for future Stoppees. Afternoon sunlight spilled into Medium Duration Tank Room 17 as he pondered what it would be like in a century when the technicians spun down the Perpetual Power Source. As the fluid finally filled the tank, he smiled. An adventure into the future. The timer counted down the last few seconds of real-time.

Then the lights began to flicker.

Some of the earliest Stoppees had complained about this when they were recently revived. Neurologists and biochemists had all concluded it was simply a quirk of the brain as it Stopped. It certainly didn’t seem to have done any harm, and they said it only lasted a few minutes. Walt had meant to shut his eyes, forgetting in the excitement.

And then someone appeared in one of the previously empty tanks opposite Walt.

And then another person in the next one along.

And the next.

And next.

Walt wondered if he was hallucinating.

He tried to move, but was paralysed; the sedative keeping him still during the activation of the Stop.

The flickering grew dimmer over the course of a couple of minutes, but just when he was hoping it would end and the Stop would be complete, it began to get brighter. And it cycled like this, brighter, dimmer, then brighter again every few minutes.

He hung there, suspended, as time dragged on. After what must have been at least an hour and a half, the opposite row of tanks jumped a metre backwards. Then two dark rails appeared in the floor and, over to the right, by the wall, was… something. It was sat on the rails and looked like some kind of lifting equipment, but, somehow, it kept going out of focus. Blurring.

Suddenly, the opposite tanks disappeared. Red light briefly filled the room, then darkness for a few moments. Walt would have sighed if he could. This was finally the Stop.

And then the room disappeared, replaced by blinding light. As Walt looked out, he finally understood. He watched the tattered remains of Medium Duration Tank Room 17 in front of him, and the war-torn landscape beyond, being steadily repopulated in stop-motion by plants as the years flashed by. Saw the flickering was the Sun rising and setting. And he wondered if there was anyone left to set him free.

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