Author : Roger Dale Trexler
Tom Jacobs awoke.
It was 9 o’clock.
It was always 9 o’clock.
His mind swam through an ocean of grogginess. He did not know where he was. It was dark and, in a moment, he realized he was floating in some sort of liquid. He tried to turn his head, but something prevented him from doing so.
He wanted to scream, to call out for help, but his lips would not obey his mind’s command. He found that he could not move in the darkness, either. It was as if he’d been paralyzed.
What the hell has happened to me? He wondered.
A bitter cold surrounded him, but he could not even shudder from it. His body was completely and utterly immobilized.
He looked at the display again. Its red digital light was the only illumination in the darkness. 9:00 it read. He wondered if it was 9:00 A.M. or P.M. Or was he on military time?
He stared at the display a few moments, then his eyes slowly drifted off into the darkness. What little light the display gave off only masked his surroundings in a soft redness. The contours were smooth.
Where am I? He thought again.
He felt panic start to grip him as his memory began to drift through the fog bank. He had been here before. Many times, he realized. Awaking in the bitter cold darkness. Always at 9 o’clock. He wondered what the significance of 9 o’clock was. If, perhaps, this was his own personal hell developed by….
….He drew a blank. The fog had not lifted completely yet. He could feel the answer lurking at the back of his mind. But, the panic was increasing with each moment. The liquid that covered his body also covered his ears, and he could heard the steady beat, beat, beat of his heart. It echoed like a distance bass drum. But, it was so slow….shouldn’t a frightened man’s heart be pounding faster?
That only scared him more.
The fog lifted a little more and he remembered a woman. An older woman, but pretty in her own right. She had a kindness in her eyes. It was a worldly kindness that told him volumes that no conversation could. She was hurting for something, someone.
He saw her standing above him, in a white lab coat, looking down at him like he was on a bed or something.
She said something.
He tried to remember what it was, but the fog would not let him.
Then, she bent forward and kissed him.
He returned the kiss with passion. This was a woman he loved.
Yes, he loved her. That much, he knew with certainty.
Then, the words came to him.
He remembered what she said.
“I’ll see you when we get there,” she said.
“Promise?” he had said.
She smiled. “I promise,” she told him. Then: “I love you.”
He remembered the concern, the compassion, as she stood back and slowly, ever so slowly, the darkness enveloped him.
Only redness filled that darkness.
It was the display.
It read 9:00.
He turned to the display. It silently clicked over to 9:01 and then he remembered nothing.
Somewhere in the vast colonization ship, a computer registered the malfunction the in cryotank. It had registered the malfunction many times before, of course, but the drones were too busy repairing the damage from the asteroid strike to the main hull to be bothered with such a minor anomaly. In time, when the repairs to the hull were finished, they would address the cryotank. There was no threat to life….just a momentary thawing and refreezing. A simple matter to repair, and the cold, calculating computer had no understanding whatsoever of consciousness, so it did not understand the horror.
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