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Dr. Nicole Isbel volunteers to be a part of an elite research group searching for the key to life. She and fifty other scientists are put into cryosleep to be awakened after one hundred years. When they wake up, something has gone terribly wrong. Earth is no longer the home they remember… and they aren’t alone. Not only is Earth irrevocably changed, but aliens have taken up primary residence. How does she reconcile the end of humankind under the watchful eye of an Alien commander that makes her feel things that she absolutely shouldn't?

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Chapter 1

“These dedicated scientists and researchers will usher mankind into a new era. It is with the highest respect and appreciation that we send them forward into the future. Your sacrifices are not lost on anyone here…” The head of LevenCorp speaks. Her words are translated into English through a large, clunky headset but I’m still having trouble focusing.

This is my last day awake for the next hundred years. I know that we have to attend all of the celebrations and ceremonies but I’m antsy to get out of here.

Everyone around me stands and I jump up, just half a beat behind.

“Dr. Abdul Sayyid, Afghanistan - Cytologist, Dr. Alma Perez, Argentina - Geneticist…” She reads through the list, each doctor walking across the stage to thunderous applause. This was cool the first time we did it, the ninth time? Not as much.

“Dr. Nicole Isbel, United States - Anatomist,” she reads my name and I walk the length of the circular platform and down the main aisle toward the door. Passing the cameras that are broadcasting this ceremony around the world, I beg silently to the universe, “please, don’t let me trip.”

“I wish we could drink tonight, I could use one,” I overhear a group talking on my way toward the back door.

I’ve overheard many similar conversations over the last six months. The extensive process for preparing ourselves to be frozen included a year of no drinking, drugs of any kind, and a very particular alkaline diet.

Most of us would kill for a cheeseburger and fries before we deep freeze.

As I slip through the crowd, I try to keep my head down. I have one last task to complete before tomorrow.

Just as I reach the door I hear my name.

“Dr. Isbel?”

Turning, I’m met with a microphone shoved in my face by a perky reporter.

“Veronica Salter, channel four,” she holds her hand out, “would you mind speaking to me for a moment?”

Plastering on a fake smile, I nod, “of course.”

Damn, I was so close to freedom.

“I’m here with Dr. Nicole Isbel, one of the fifty scientists being frozen tomorrow in LevenCorps groundbreaking research experiment aimed at learning more about the preservation of life.” She smiles into the camera. “Dr. Isbel, what made you decide to volunteer for this unprecedented project?”

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Science, research, and the human body, that is my life. LevenCorp is giving me the chance to be a part of something bigger than myself, something that will change so many lives for the better.”

“Are you nervous? Being put into cryosleep for one hundred years has to be frightening, plunging into the unknown like that…” she probes.

I get the feeling she’s hoping that I break down crying to boost her ratings.

“Of course I’m nervous. I turned twenty-seven this year. I only graduated last year, so I’m stopping my life before I’ve even started it. We’re prepared for this, though. The trial groups of one year, three years, and seven years had all positive outcomes. We’re learning from those experiences and doing more each time. There always has to be a first group for everything. We’re honored to be that group.”

“Your parents both passed away. Did that factor into your decision to volunteer for this? Do you think that played a part in why you were chosen?” She smiles like she didn’t just ask that.

Weeks of media training and script memorization have equipped me for these potentially awkward moments. Reporters keep trying to throw us off, to make us emotional. They’ve been digging around in our pasts to uncover any skeletons that might be hiding out in closets. Internationally, this is the biggest news story of the year. We’re being almost hunted by eager reporters hoping to have something new to break.

“Well, Veronica,” I hope my fake smile is convincing, “The criteria for eligibility to participate was extensive. Physical, psychological, and genetic factors as well as credentials and health were all factored into the approval process. There were over seventy-five thousand applicants. LevenCorp was very selective in their process for accepting applicants.”

I smile, blatantly ignoring her other, deeply personal questions.

Quickly wrapping up the interview I all but run to my car before someone else can stop me. Sliding into my backseat I quickly change from my professional television-appropriate clothes to jeans and a t-shirt.

Letting the top down on my ’76 Trans Am, I dart out of the parking lot and onto the open road. Blasting music for the three-hour drive makes me feel relaxed. I set my sights on the palm trees swaying in the breeze.

Leaving Lake City, I can breathe a bit easier. Passing the state line into Georgia, the weight in my chest dissolves. As I drive into tiny Spain, Georgia’s city limits, the comfortable familiarity of home washes over me.

Pulling off the quiet two-lane highway, I park in the tree-lined gravel lot.

My body moves on its own, muscle memory leading me to my little spot.

“Hey mom and dad,” sitting cross-legged on the grass, I stare at the etched headstones for a moment.

“This is it. Tomorrow is the day so I won’t be around for a while. I promise I’ll come to visit as soon as I’m able after they wake me. I’m nervous,” I rub my hands over my dark jeans. “I wish you were here, I could really use some of that Jim and Nancy Isbel positivity right now.”

Picking at the tiny clovers that grow in patches in the grass, I just sit in silence until the sun goes down.

“I love you and I miss you both,” I blink a tear from my eye. “Next time I see you, I’ll be one hundred and twenty-seven years old, technically.” I chuckle. Staring at the headstones for an extra minute before I leave. I commit every crack in the stone to memory.

“See you on the other side,” I press a quick kiss to my hand before touching each of their names.

Settling back into my car, I drive. Letting myself follow the road, I just wander, no destination in mind, letting the wind blow through my hair.

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