“Is everything good to go?”
Silence. I kept adjusting my bow tie in the mirror.
“Well?” I repeated, “Is everything good to go?”
“Yes, as best as we can tell,” Daniel said from behind me.
I turned to face him. He wasn’t good at confrontation, especially not with a celebrity.
“As best as you can tell?”
“Look, John, you were the one who told us you wanted to put this event on live television, not the other way around,” Ryan interjected. “We don’t know what might happen.”
“Well, I suppose you ought to start worrying about that now, right?” I asked, turning to go onstage. We were live in 5 seconds. The countdown finished and I waited for my name to be announced for my entrance. This was going to be a historic moment. And there was no way my name wouldn’t be associated with it. The announcer began:
“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome… Joooooooooooohn Stockmaaaaaaaaan!”
The crowd went nuts, as always. I came out smiling and waving like this was just another ordinary day, and approached the mike.
“Hello, hello, everyone, please take your seats. Folks, we have one heck of an event for you tonight. It’s just incredible, it really is. Behind this curtain,” I motioned backwards, “is something truly world-changing. And I could not be more thrilled to show it to you. But first, allow me to introduce the two men who have made all this possible, Dr. Ryan Seaborg and Dr. Dan Johnson!”
Both of them reluctantly came out from backstage, waving slightly and looking around nervously. Neither one was used to this many people staring at them. I guess it’s a good thing neither one wanted to acknowledge that there were probably hundreds of millions of people watching live around the world.
Ryan approached the mike. We discussed who would talk a week ago, and he was sticking to his guns that he’d be the one who spoke.
I shook their hands, trying to forget their comments from before the show.
“Ryan, Dan, great to have you here. Folks, you will not believe what we have in store for you tonight. And before we show you, I’ll have Dr. Seaborg here preface it. Ryan?”
He stepped up to the mike and cleared his throat. He seemed to relax at the sound of applause.
“Recently, a few archaeologists were digging in an old Detroit building that had been abandoned for 100 years and found something astounding. They found…”
He turned to look at the curtain, and saw them open to show a small pod, two meters tall, like something out of an Alien movie. The crowd went wild.
“They found a cryonic pod,” he continued, as the crowd cheered.
After they calmed down, I continued.
“Now, Ryan, let me ask you,” I began, with a microphone I had been handed from offstage, “Is there someone inside?”
“Yes, and he is still alive after all this time.”
“Do you know who he is?”
“Unfortunately, no. We’re not even sure when he was put in this pod. There are no dates anywhere on it, and we have no idea if it stores any information on it. It seems that he was frozen in a solution of…”
“Whoa there, Doc,” I said with a smile, turning back to the audience, “There’s no need for all that science-talk. We’ll let someone else figure all that out. What we’re here to do is crack that pod open!”
Dan still seemed unsteady. Then again, he never seemed very sure of what he was doing. Who knows, maybe he knew something he didn’t want to share. Maybe he had a gut feeling about what was going to happen next.
Dan and Ryan both moved to take care of the pod. They had a team of about fifteen people there, all trying to make sure that whoever was inside stayed alive when he was pulled out. There was a loud hiss as the pod’s glass door came ajar, then opened upwards at a ninety-degree angle. From the pod, a table, similar to a surgical table, rose up, holding the man inside on it. Monitors were attached to the man immediately to make sure his heart rate and other vitals were fine. We had a camera up above him to show his face to the world. Everyone was absolutely amazed that everything had worked so far. The man’s eyes slowly opened, and he seemed to come to. The EEG reacted accordingly. He was somewhat groggy, though I imagine that was because he had been asleep for a hundred years. He turned to Ryan, on his left, and smiled. We had a microphone pointed at him that he couldn’t see, so whatever he said was amplified to the world.
“Hello,” the man said with a smile, “who are you?”
“Sir, I’m Dr. Ryan Seaborg. It’s great to have you here. Who are you?”
I moved towards the pod to talk to the man. Everything he said was being broadcast on Jumbotrons throughout the arena. Ryan looked up and motioned for me to stop. I think he was worried that the poor guy would get stage fright. But, I kept my distance for the time being.
“What year is it?” The man asked.
“It’s 2146,” Ryan answered. “Now, may I have your name?”
“Have you healed me?”
Ryan’s face turned to confusion, and the man’s face turned to anger.
“You woke me up without healing me?!”
That’s when time seemed to slow down.
His body started failing, every organ at once. They tried to re-immerse him, but it was already too late: they woke him up just as he was dying. The live director cut, but all the people in the audience couldn’t stop watching.
“Don’t worry, folks, I’m sure he’ll be alright. They’re gonna take him backstage to see if they can take care of him. I’ll be right back out here to give you an update.”
As he disappeared behind the curtain, I walked offstage calmly, trying to keep a level head.
“Ryan, you better tell me what the fuck just happened out there,” I said, approaching him rapidly.
One of the nurses gave the man a sedative so he’d pass out. Soon after, his heart failed.
“I should have known,” Ryan said, “I should have known, but I didn’t even think of it at the time…”
I sighed angrily and turned to Dan. “Alright, since Ryan’s apparently gone, would you mind telling me what I and half of the world’s population just fucking saw out there?”
“He was cryonically frozen for medical purposes,” Dan said matter-of-factly.
“What the fuck does that mean?” I said. I could feel the temperature in my forehead rising rapidly.
“It means he was frozen so someone could heal him later on. He was in the late stages of pancreatic cancer. It had metastasized to most of his other organs. He was frozen a few moments before his death, just in case someone could heal him and help him survive in the future. And we just opened forced him to die in front of half the world’s population.”
For the first time in years, I was speechless. It took me a moment, but I finally asked:
“Could you have known about that?”
Ryan had had enough. He exploded.
“If we had had any amount of time to study the pod, we could have figured out its fucking purpose and he wouldn’t be dead right now!! Of fucking course we could have known that! But you had to put this on TV so everyone could see your smug fucking face showing off a scientific miracle instead of letting the scientists do their fucking job!”
He stormed out. Dan followed suit, giving me a look of pity on his way out. They were done with me.
And in all of that, I never even felt sorry for the man, the unnamed man whose death I had orchestrated. As I stood there, alone in public, I couldn’t even hear anything, not really. His flatlining EKG and the roars of the curious crowd melted into one. That sound, the sound of death, didn’t even feel like it belonged to him. It belonged to both of us. Because I wouldn’t be remembered as the man who showed the world a wondrous, living marvel of the past; I’d be remembered as the man who pulled a sickly patient out of his only chance of survival and put him in the spotlight to further his own career. A career that was now as dead as the man in the pod.
I didn’t go back onstage. Someone else had to tell the crowd what happened. I left the auditorium.
I was done.
Drew Schackmann is a contributing writer for Gutai-Pravda Assembly. You can contact him on Twitter.
© 2015; David “Drew” Schackmann, Jr.