Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Friday Story Bazaar ~ Tale Nineteen


Cold Hope

by
Alexander M Zoltai

~~~~~~~~~

Where Does the Mind Go When the Body Is Frozen?

Some of John Dillard’s cohorts balked at the title of his proposed article for Medical Reflections—asking where the mind goes was better ignored; but, the mind in question belonged to John’s daughter, Sue.

He knew the methods of cryopreservation had advanced enough to permit around 600,000 live births from frozen embryos.

Still, this was his only child—just turned 18—a daughter who’d contracted a disease even his years of medical practice had never encountered or imagined.

That she would die if not frozen was as certain as the opinions of the 843 other doctors John had consulted with.

He’d just yesterday gotten Sue’s agreement to the procedure, to be started as soon as possible…

Before her agreement, she’d closely questioned her father.

These were her final few questions:

“So, Dad, I understand that it’ll take quite awhile to completely freeze my body… Do ya think my dreams will change while that’s going on?”

“I don’t know, Sue.”

“O.K., so, you said I could be frozen for at least a hundred years before a cure is found, right?”

“That’s a lot of people’s best guess, dear.”

“O.K., you’ve answered all but one question…”

“Alright, hit me with it.”

“How can you be sure the hospital foundation will stay uncorrupted—what if, oh, 50 years down the road, they decide to thaw me out and experiment on my body?”

“Well, Sue, I’d put that question in the huge hopper with ‘Will a car hit me tomorrow?’ or ‘When will an asteroid slam into the Earth?’.

“Hmmm… Fair enough… I suppose…  And, you won’t forget to write me a letter every year until you die or get frozen yourself?”

“I will not forget…”

It took her exactly one month from that conversation to make her final decision.

~~~~~~~~~

The eighth anniversary of Sue’s “departure” was approaching.

John was visibly nervous—there had been a new study involving cryopreservation and the results threw some suspicion on the way Sue’s body had been frozen.

Thawing her out to check on her condition was beyond being out of the question—it would be an insane action that could endanger Sue—there was no telling how her disease would react if reactivated; and, medicine was still far from any form of treatment for it.

John began a probing correspondence with a set of doctors known for their solid training and creative medical intuition—it continued for six years.

~~~~~~~~~

Fifteen years she’d been “gone”…

John was facing a crushing decision process—did he begin a risky treatment for the cancer discovered in his bones or did he face certain death in a few years?

There was no option now for his freezing since there were still arcane technical issues about how exactly to change the procedure.

At least (the experts said...), since Sue’s body was stabilized already, she should be fine right up to her thaw…

He’d founded his own institution for the watchful care of cryopreserved patients—Sue being the first to be placed in the underground Dillard Retentive Facility—there were now 342 people waiting with her…

John had never written his proposed article—Where Does the Mind Go When the Body Is Frozen?—but he’d thought about it almost obsessively.

Was her mind “watching” him now?

He’d tried a few times to “talk” to her…

Was her mind in communication with her mother—gone through sudden death five years before Sue made her “departure”?

He looked up (where else to look for an absent mind…?) and said:

“Sue, should I risk a quick death from an unproven cure for my cancer or just stay as comfortable as I can for a few years as it eats me alive?”

John always felt guilty and a little silly when he spoke out loud to his daughter’s supposed hovering mind…

Things were getting a bit too much to bear.

He finally decided to just let his diseased body die when it wanted to.

He made special arrangements for the sixteen letters he’d written to Sue—one final one where he said he hoped she’d understand why he stopped writing them before he died and why he hadn’t been frozen.

~~~~~~~~~

Seventy-five years had passed since Sue’s “departure”.

Medicine had made many remarkable advances—one being a clear and powerful cure for Sue’s disease.

The directors of the Dillard Retentive Facility made arrangements with a local teaching hospital for the treatments after Sue’s body was fully thawed.

There was an underground betting pool on whether the young girl’s body would still be alive.

There were also bets based on whether, even if her body were alive, her mind would be sane…

~~~~~~~~~

Bill Everton sat in his living room watching the ‘NetCast of Sue’s “Awakening”.

No cameras were allowed in the recovery room of the Dillard Retentive Facility; but, the teaching hospital had made arrangements for teams of reporters to keep up their endless speculations (along with the parade of “experts” they’d hired) in the executive quarters of the facility.

Bill had his own ideas about Sue.

They had to do with his religion.

He “knew” that there would be no “Sue” when the thaw was complete—her soul had long ago gone to its eternal realm.

He had no idea when her soul had “left”; but, if he had to make a bet, he’d say within 10 years or so after they’d shut down her body.

He turned to the broadcast screen and said:

“Ain’t no soul gonna hang around a body it probably knows will be dead. And, ain’t a body already dead after the soul leaves?”

~~~~~~~~~

The show at the hospital made a ton of money for the media companies.

The disappointment of the medical teams was profound—they realized the fully thawed body was swiftly “dying” in front of them—the cryopreservation industry was dealt a fatal blow.

The question her father had struggled with, Where Does the Mind Go When the Body Is Frozen?, had been answered…

John, his wife, and Sue were soaring together in illimitable vistas of eternal bliss………

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