had he become thawed?
found himself lying in the street of place he could only describe
as Anytown. It had the same familiar look of his boyhood Michigan
Main Street with its collection of hardware stores, post-office,
bakeries and butcher shops.
memories were starting to come back, albeit very, very slowly and
in a haphazard order. He remembered landing in Volgograd, his ten-year-old
son looking fearfully out the window, staring at that gray, gray
city as he was beginning to understand the finality of their situation.
remembered dragging his family out of the house with only the clothes
on their backs and passports and all of his cash taped to his body.
Jeremy remembered leaving the dog behind over his son's crying protests
and he felt like a mean father.
needed the dog as a decoy; he had illegally removed the Omnistar
tracking device from his Albanian-made Rover Aerocar and attached
it to the dog's collar.
anyone were to try and find Jeremy, they would only find a mutt
of dubious origin sniffing around someone's trash.
remembered the nighttime drive out of Michigan and into Canada and
over the North Pole, keeping the car as low to the ground as possible
while buzzing through Michigan, and as high as possible over Canada
and the arctic region.
Russia? He tried to remember as he stood up and started walking
down the street. There was a noise in the air, like the babble of
a brook or the rustling of the leaves. But it wasn't possible, there
was no breeze and the trees along this Main Street were bare and
nearly identical in a surreal sort of way. And there was no sign
of water anywhere, the town, and the world that held the town seemed
very, very dry and bleak, as if a cloud of dust was about to come
tumbling down the street. And though it was daylight, the sun was
blocked somehow and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.
was almost like a murmur, that noise in the air, as if several people
were whispering collectively.
he remembered why Russia, why the nighttime exodus out of Michigan,
why he removed the Omnistar tracking device at risk of his own death
if caught without it.
too many people were dying, that's why he went to Russia, too many
people were dying from a virus that had many names: The Monkey Pox,
the NM971, and the Bengali Bug, just to name a few. People were
dying, the death spreading across the planet like a slow moving
fire and people were dying in countries that had always been healthy:
Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, Australia. America was safe, so far,
but that could and would change and soldiers were scurrying across
the land, setting up treatment centers with sterilization showers
and digging trenches in the countryside to bury the expected dead.
So many of Jeremy's neighbors kept saying they could see a pale
horse streaking across the sky.
didn't believe in pale horses. He believed in life and death, he
believed in preservation, he believed in preserving his own life
and that of his wife and their ten-year old son.
knew the world would be a ruin after this flu had run its course,
and the really aggravating thing was that it appeared to be on purpose,
as if some men in business suits somewhere decided that the world
needed to be cleansed.
recently, Jeremy was a leading microbiologist at the University
of Michigan. He often consulted for the CDC and the National Institute
of Health, especially early in his career, back in the first days
of the century, when the president of the United States pretended
to be serious about combating the spread of AIDS.
had nothing on the Bengali Bug. The Bengali Bug was an airborne
virus, one only had to breathe contaminated air and it was goodnight.
so, when the virus first started spreading in India, Jeremy volunteered
his services to the United Nations, the World Health Organization,
the CDC and the NIH.
vainly assumed his services would be welcomed as he had proven himself
innovative in the war on AIDS; a war that ended abruptly when the
government slashed its funding.
no, he was told no thanks by all the organizations he contacted.
And there was never a mention of a vaccine in the press, it was
as if someone decided the best course of action would be to batten-down-the-hatches
and clean up the mess when the virus died with its last fatality.
decided, when he was told his help wasn't wanted that it was time
to get the hell out of dodge.
why he went to Russia. It was and is illegal to be put into a state
of cryonic suspension while still alive in the United States, but
not in Russia. In Russia it was either legal or the law wasn't enforced.
And the Russians had also been kicking the crap out of the United
States in the Space Race, but it wasn't the Russian government who
was responsible. It was Russian billionaires, oil and pharmaceutical
magnates whose corporations ruled the country with an authoritative
grasp around most of its currency.
a Russian businessman/scientist/visionary had something to offer
Jeremy. Jeremy found the man on the Internet. Jeremy had to cash
in on all his retirement accounts and re-mortgage his house to the
hilt. He gathered about a hundred thousand dollars in cash. The
rest of the million-dollar fee was wired to a bank in the Cayman
too, would be dangerous to travel through, as the virus had already
attacked the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, but it was a risk
worth taking, Michigan and America would soon be a wasteland.
had taken a virtual tour of the Russian's facility, and he did some
research on the man, Andreyev something-or-another, a long Russian
name with too many consonants that he found impossible to pronounce.
The man was well-educated, multiple degrees from British and Russian
universities, and he was financed by one of Russia's leading businessmen,
an untouchable with dubious connections to Russia's omnipresent
short, Andreyev was protected; no one messed with him or his cryonic
program, his cryonic program with a twist.
not only put one in cryonic suspension, but he put one in cryonic
suspension inside an automated rocket ship, one that would orbit
the earth for a two-hundred years, coming back when Society had
eradicated disease and any Armageddon-like conflict had been resolved.
was thrilled with that aspect of the journey, even if it was slightly
unbelievable; but the alternative, death in Michigan, was very believable.
Jeremy was a man of science, and the opportunity to travel painlessly
to the future and see the wonders of human advancement was thrilling.
this street he now walked down looked nothing like the future, in
fact it looked like the very distant past, the past of his childhood.
were his wife and son? Where were the other fifteen passengers on
the rocket whom he now remembered? Each one of them were placed
in an individualized chamber that allowed their bodies to be nitrogen
cooled, chambers that allowed for reawakening once the rocket re-entered
the earth's atmosphere.
walked down the street slowly, as if he was afraid something would
jump out and grab him from behind one of the empty storefronts.
remembered last seeing his wife, it seemed only like moments ago.
He winked at her from across the floor of the rocket, inside his
glass chamber, as their bodies started to shut down. She smiled
a frightened smile. But his son, oh how he wished he could have
comforted his son, was screaming and crying from inside his chamber.
Jeremy was glad he couldn't hear him but he so badly wanted to hold
him and tell him he was just going to sleep and how lucky he was
to go on a rocket ship ride.
murmur swirled around him, as if it was a physical force like the
wind. He timidly looked inside on of the windows of what looked
like a barbershop, an old-fashioned barbershop with the swirling
colored pole affixed to the frame of the door. Inside, the shop
was nearly empty, and piles of dust coated the ancient-looking chairs
and the floor.
murmur grew in its intensity and he could swear he could hear hints
words "Jeremy" and "Daddy" seemed to float through
the air and sail around his ears.
walked down the street and he could now see it end abruptly in a
dry and desert-like landscape, no sign of trees or water anywhere.
the murmur grew louder still, as he stepped off the Main Street
and into this land of nothing.
could see smoke rising from the distant horizon, a billowing cloud
of white smoke streaked with gray and it rose into straight into
the air into the cloudless and gray sky.
walked towards the smoke, confused and frightened and longing for
his wife and desperately concerned for his son.
realized as he began to walk faster and faster and more briskly
that his body was quite sore, as if he had been hit by a car or
had been tackled, or as if he had fallen from a tree. All the muscles
and bones on the right side of his fairly thin and fortyish body
seemed bruised and very, very tender.
still he walked with purpose towards the smoke, as if the smoke
held answers. Where was he? It wasn't Russia, and it looked kind
of like America, but there was no terrain in America that he knew
of, that looked quite like this.
walked and glints of silver and red shined through the smoke and
he could see mounds of debris scattered on the ground.
murmur was now deafening.
clouds of smoke looked like they were several miles away, but the
curve of this land was confusing, he actually walked what seemed
like half a mile before he found more questions than he already
remains of several rocket ships were scattered on the ground, still
smoldering even though Jeremy couldn't feel the heat. And on the
ground were countless cryonic chambers with blackened glass and
the bodies inside seemingly mummified and still and very, very dead.
He knew his wife and son were inside one of those chambers, but
he was shaking too much to even try and look.
he was disoriented. The murmur was now deafening, as if he was in
the front of a large orchestra playing a cacophonous tune. He stood
for a moment, adding his own scream to the overwhelming discord.
And finally, finally he heard through the murmur a voice clear and
concise and familiar.
I think the rocket ship ride is over."