Author : Ossian Ritchie

Frank Henstein stepped into the Huvver lift and was propelled upwards through the daily debris of handywipes and food wrappers that bobbed in the impossible antigravity lift field. The office stinks of fake pine and ice-cream aftershave.

Frank was born in Croydon, 1987, his brother Barry had been the one keen on Cryo. At twenty-nine Frank begrudgingly signs up to help promote Barry’s faltering Cryo business. The full body scan and physical checkup reveals Frank is dying of an incurable cancer. Without blinking, Barry enthusiastically suggests Frank freezes himself until science can find a cure.

Frank does not want to die. Getting frozen seems as much like death to him – and Barry wanted the Cryo done right now. Frank explains this to Barry, the two embrace and Barry cries and tells his little brother that he does not want to do anything to hurt him. It is touching. Frank wakes the next day, one thousand years in the future: his cancer cured.

On his break, Frank opens one of the few cartons of cigarettes left in the world and smokes at his desk. It is somebody’s birthday, but he can’t remember their name, or their nickname, or hair group. He is sure half the room are at the party right now: impossible to tell when the party is inside the computer.

Barry has already been and gone. They told Frank how long Barry lived, but four hundred and fifty years is too long for Frank to fathom. Frank can only wonder why his big brother hadn’t called for him.

His sister lived next, she barely lasted a year before calling her mother and father back from the dead. She died for real at the age of sixty, and their parents both went around the same time. The records don’t say why they died, or why they did not call on Frank. Maybe they all felt like he did, that this was unlivable, that they would not share this hell with the ones they loved?

Frank tries to relax, but only succeeds in starting another cigarette. He wants to watch more about what life was like two hundred years ago, when his parents lived. Frank remembers the last time he tuned in to History Unlimited – the next day, everyone turned up for work dressed as prehistoric men and spent the day throwing mud and staging crude, electric wars.

The girl that Frank tries to talk to every single day stops at the end of his desk.

“Chup,” she says.

“Chup,” he copies. She laughs and walks on. She greets her friends with a manly ‘chup’ and there is more laughter. Then she dances in a caustic 3d haze. It hurts to look at it if the broadcast is not meant for you and Frank winces as he tries to pick out details in the fizzing digital mush.

Frank wonders what to do after work. Even in his daydreams he goes home. Home to cushions that behave like pets and beds that burn his covers off in the morning with a fake fire he will never get used to. He dreams of the robot kitchen and how he will react, disgusted by every single meal he is presented with. He wonders how his sister lasted, almost a year, like this.

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