“Oh no, not this again,” I hear Dr. Alfred say when I stomp into the room with Alexandria tagging along behind me holding my hand tightly just in case I decide to wig out and do something incredibly idiotic which isn’t beyond me in my current emotionally fragile state.
He goes behind the desk and slowly pulls something white from his lab coat pocket; undoubtedly one of those painful photon tasers in case he needs to defend himself.
“Relax Doc, I’m not here to fight,” I say. “I need some information.” He slowly puts his taser back in his pocket and cautiously comes out from behind the desk just in case I’m lying just to draw him out.
“Okay, that’s good,” he sits down on the chair just before me and crosses his legs. “So what’s bugging you?”
“Well,” I take a seat by him with Alex by me and continue, “I was with Alex and I began stroking my finger and I suddenly realised that something very valuable to me is missing. I was just wondering if you might have have happened to see it or anything?”
“What is this item?”
“It’s my ring, my wedding ring. It is gold with a few precious stones and an engraving-”
“What makes you think that I might have it?” He cuts me off before I can finish describing it.
“I said what makes you think that I have your ring?”
“Ummm, Alexandria said you might have taken it off me before freezing me.”
“Interesting,” he starts stroking his chin and staring at my hand. “But unfortunately, I don’t have it and neither have I seen it.”
“Oh no, how come?”
“You are asking me how come?”
“Yeah, how come you don’t have it?” I raise my voice a bit almost panicking again and I feel Alex squeeze my hand signalling me to me calm down.
“I don’t know but honestly, I don’t have it.” My head drops in disappointment. “But,” my head rises again.
“But?” I say hopefully.
“If you think it was taken off you before your cryogenic freezing, then I cannot help you there,” I feel my hopes dying again. “I am only in charge of the technical side of the freezing, as in the actual process involved when the person is already partially frozen. Those who prepare the people for the freezing would be your best bet to find your ring.”
“Really?” I say and he nods his head slowly. “Then where and who are these people?”
“Ask her,” he points at Alexandria, “She knows.”
“Yeah?” She lets go of my hand and sits with her hands on her knees.
“Do you know where the people who prepare a person for freezing are?”
“Oh yeah, they’re the people in the cryogenics department, somewhere below the basement. We go way, way back.”
“Let me get this straight,” I turn fully to face her. “You knew where the cryogenics lab was all this time?”
“And you let us come to Dr. Alfred for directions to that exact lab which you knew the way to all this time?”
“Do you see my problem here?”
“Nope, what’s the problem?” I pause for a bit to contemplate what to do and decide to let her incompetence slide.
“You know what? Thanks for all your help Dr. Alfred,” I say as I get to my feet and drag Alex by her arm to let her get up too. “We’ll be going now.” He waves us out as we head out to the elevator.
We walk down the hallway with Alex’s arm still in my possession and we eventually reach the elevator door on which I do that annoying swirling thing and it slides open.
“So on which level is the cryogenics lab?”
“It’s the level just below the basement, but wait you need a...” I don’t allow her to finish her sentence and press the button as the doors slide close and the elevator starts to drop. “I was trying to tell you that you need one of these to get past the security system,” she wrestles her arm away from me and rubs her wrists in pain.
She removes a plastic card from her lab coat and hands it to me. It has the words, ‘security pass’ written in bold black letters on it and a bar code by those letters. I hand it back to her.
“What is this now?”
“It’s a security pass, just in case you can’t read.”
“You need a pass? Why didn’t you tell me about it before we left?”
If looks could kill, I’d be six feet under because the look she just gave me was definitely a death stare. I know she tried but, it’s her fault, I think. She should have been more forceful when trying to tell me about the security pass.
“Do you have another pass on you?” She refuses to answer me but instead just pulls the laminated card on a rope out of her lab coat.
“I only have one.”
“Okay, that’s okay, I have a plan. We can work our way around this.”
“Good luck with that.”
The elevator slows down gradually then eventually whirrs to a stop. The doors whoosh open and we step out into a dark empty room. The doors close behind us and the elevator returns to its station.
“What do we do now?” she says. I see a door across the room with a small green panel to the right of it and I signal to her as we walk toward it.
“What would you have normally done to get in?” I say when we arrive before the door.
“Normally, I would just have scanned my ID on that green panel over there and the doors would open without setting off the alarms or motion-sensors, but in our current predicament I’m just not sure what to do.”
“I do. Just follow my lead.”
I wave her towards the door and keep very close behind her, being very careful to mirror her every movement. I think she has caught onto my plan because she is walking quite slowly to ensure that we are walking in perfect harmony. When we arrive right before the door, I feel a knot in my stomach as fear begins to set in but I quickly dismiss it just in case it causes me to mess up my brilliant plan. This is certainly not the time for human inhibition to hold me back. I’m going to have to mirror her movements perfectly if we’re going to make it past the motion-sensors. She holds the ID up to the scanner and a green light emanates from it and scans the ID card.
“Welcome, Knoster, Alexandria,” a computerised voice says and the door slowly slides open.
We both take deep breaths to calm ourselves down and begin to walk forward. I copy her stride for stride as we slowly make our way down the hallway leading to the cryogenics lab. The first motion sensor in the long, empty hallway approaches when we are about halfway through. It looks like a small camera but it’s certainly a motion camera because the thing follows us like an eyeball as we walk slowly down the hallway. I feel the knot in my tummy return but this time I can’t seem to dismiss it. Instead, I try suppressing it and I keep tight to Alexandria as we walk and when we pass by the motion sensor, a huge wave of relief washes over my body. I quickly clean the beads of sweat that have glistened my forehead as the second one approaches.
Whoo! Whoo! Whoo!
I hear a loud siren all around us and the lights all dim to an emergency throbbing red as I begin to panic.
“Why? What, what’s that?” I yell over the sirens.
“It’s the alarm! Dr. Blay, your arm!”
I stare right ahead of me and low and behold, my arm which moved instinctively to clean the sweat off my forehead must have set off the motion sensors!
“Oh no! What do we do now?” I say as I dislodge from behind her since it’s of no use now.
“We must go back before the security lasers activate!” She begins to run in the opposite direction but I grab her arm.
“Wait! The lab is also an equal distance that way! We can make it!” The loud sirens make it that we need to shout in order to hear each other.
“Are you crazy?”
“We can make it Alex, let’s hurry!” I can see that she wants to argue but she knows we don’t have much time to be indecisive.
We begin to sprint toward the lab but when we pass the third motion sensor, we pause as we hear a faint whirring sound all around us. We wait but nothing seems to be happening, that is until bright red lasers shoot out of the walls and permeate every square inch of the hallway.
I was expecting them to burn much worse and leave me an aching wretch on the ground but disappointingly, they only feel a bit warm and that’s about it. I am quite unaffected and underwhelmed by these weak lasers and I look to Alexandria, hoping to get a giggle out of her for the dud lasers which might not even be hot enough to warm a bowl of rice. I look all around for her but she is nowhere to be found. Maybe she has already reached the other side. I begin to run but when I reach the door, I realise that she isn’t here either. I look back where I came from to see in case she got scared and turned back.
Under the lasers, I spot a figure lying on the ground just below the lasers and I feel myself beginning to panic again.
“Alexandria!” I scream toward her but no response. Oh gosh, this is bad.
I run back to where she is strewn across the floor and roll her over. She is limp and her eyes are shut. There is a burn hole in her lab coat, around the chest area and it’s bleeding profusely. I feel her wrist for a pulse and her nose for breathing and thankfully even though they are there, they are incredibly faint. I begin to panic even more not knowing what to do because time is of the essence right now but I’m wasting much of it just panicking and hyperventilating as I stand over her limp and almost lifeless body.
Just as it seems all hope is lost, something suddenly clicks in my brain and I remember that a number of brilliant scientists and doctors exist beyond that door we were trying to reach which got us into this mess in the first place and what for? A ring? It is the last thing I have to remember Martina by. Even though it isn’t worth someone dying, it sure means a hell of a lot to me. I hoist her into my arms, making sure that my body shields her from all the lasers around us and run toward the door and begin pounding on it.
“Open up, I have an injured person here!” I yell. “This is an emergency! Open the door already!” I knock frantically on the door but unfortunately, no answer. “The ID card!” I think out loud to myself.
I balance her on one arm and as one laser burns her hair, I reposition her and put my other hand into her coat, being extremely careful not to touch anything unholy and finally find the card. I pull it out, rebalance her limp body in my arms again and show the card to the panel then it scans it. The door slides open not quickly enough for my liking and I run into the room with a limp and hopefully not lifeless body in my arms frantically hoping to see a person, any person, in a lab coat.
“Help, help, I need help! Dying person here!” I yell but no answer.
“Hey, there’s an intruder in here, and he’s got Alexandria!” I hear a voice from behind me.
I turn around to see a dark-haired man in a lab coat and wearing glasses walk toward me.
“Someone call security!” I hear another voice from behind me. I turn to see two more gentlemen approaching me, one in a lab coat and one in an orange hazmat suit.
“Please, I mean no harm!” I say. “I need your help!” I can even hear the desperation in my voice as one of the men slowly takes out his phone. “She’s dying, please help her, don’t let her die!” the man slowly lowers the phone he was undoubtedly using to call security. “We got caught in the security lasers because I stupidly forgot to carry a security pass. I didn’t get hurt for some reason but she did, please help her. She’s dying, please help her. Don’t let her die, please.”
They all stare at me in a weird way as if trying to tell if I’m sincere or not then eventually one of them says something relieving. “Okay, right this way.”
He leads me down the tiled hallway and into a room which is creamy white and kind of looks like a hospital ward because of the many beds in here. “Place her on one of the beds.”
I do just so, very carefully of course and he bends over her to examine her with a stethoscope he picked out of a drawer by the bed. After checking her, he calls to the other men to get him some medicinal stuff which he begins administering to her when they are brought to him. I don’t understand most of what is going on since I’m a PHD doctor and not a medical doctor but for now I’m just glad that Alex is being attended to.
It’s been almost three hours since the doctor put Alexandria under for a nap, so I’m beginning to get bored of staring at her sleep even though her peaceful face is a beautiful sight, despite the occasional run of drool which I get up and wipe with a tissue. He told me that she is going to be okay and that actually she is very very lucky because the lasers which I thought were supposed to be heated lasers were actually supercharged radiation beams. The beam fortunately missed Alexandria’s heart, which would have been fatal and only hit her left lung. The doctor had to do a little repair work by stitching the injured area but the good news is that she is going to be alright. I was so relieved when the doctor with the dark-hair told me this because I know that this is partly my fault.
“Partly?” I hallucinate her saying sarcastically as she most likely would have done had she been awake and not the unfortunate victim of my stupidity.
“Fine, completely,” I whisper to her as she sleeps and then look into the ceiling reflectively thinking of how to tell this news to Dr. Alfred. I’m certainly not looking forward to that.
I see a man in a lab coat pass by the door and I immediately spring to my feet as I remember the reason we came here in the first place.
“Excuse me, sir,” I call out of the doorway and he stops in his tracks and turns to me.
“Yes, how may I help you?” He has very low light brown hair and stubble. I immediately recognise him from somewhere but I just can’t place my finger on it. As I try to remember where and if I know him, another strange headache takes effect as he walks toward me.
“Are you okay?” he says when he reaches me.
“I’m fine,” I say. “Just a bit of a headache. It must be the stress, you know?”
“Yeah, I guess so,” he says. “So did you need something?”
“Ummm, yes actually. I need some clarification.”
“Clarification? On what exactly?”
“I need to know how a person is prepared before being cryogenically frozen, like what items are taken off them and the like. Do you work here in the cryogenics lab?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Great so can you help me?”
“Oh, okay, well that is actually quite a complicated process.”
“Do you want to see how it happens in real life?”
“Yes please,” I say almost bouncing with excitement.
“Okay, right this way,” he leads me down another hallway.
“I’m Dr. Ignatius Blay by the way,” I say to him as we walk down the hallway.
“Okay, nice to meet you,,” he says. “I’m Dr. James Whitford, head of the cryogenics department of this hospital.” I nod my head to acknowledge what he just said. I could swear that that name just rang loud bells in my head but I am forced to dismiss it as another migraine takes effect. These random headaches are too strange. I need to have it looked at by a doctor.
“After you,” he mannerly waves me into a new room at the end of the U-shaped hallway and a pretty dark one at that.
I step in and see nothing but have to shield my eyes when I hear a clicking sound and some bright white lights beam down from the ceiling to permeate the darkness that enveloped the room some moments ago. After my vision returns, the sight that greets me is one of unspeakable horror.
There are hundreds of beds in this large room, each lined with bodies, presumably dead bodies. My heart skips a beat when I catch sight of this. I begin to turn to take to my heels as my fear of the dead takes effect. This looks like some sick organ harvesting centre.
“Relax Dr. Blay,” I feel his hand on my back. “They aren’t dead; watch this.”
He walks over to one of the beds, pinches the nose of a man and after a few seconds, the man starts wiggling all around gasping for air. He doesn’t come to but instead just relaxes and goes right back to sleep.
“What’s wrong with them?” I say while feeling a bit more at ease that they aren’t dead. This is still very weird though.
“They are in pre-suspended animation, to prepare them for the full cryogenic freezing procedure.”
“Ah okay, I get it now.”
“Okay, good, watch this,” he says as two men walk in.
Two men in orange hazmat suits walk into the room, walk to one of the tables and stand over the person. One of them takes a syringe out of his medical box and spanks it. The bluish liquid in it jiggles around happily.
“That is the X-17 embalming fluid,” he cuts me off and answers the question I was just about to ask. “It coats the heart and other vital organs of the body so that they don’t die during the cryogenic freezing process.”
“It is isn’t it?”
After the two men finish injecting the blue liquid into the man, they wait for a while, probably waiting for the solution to take effect then they begin to undress him. Thank heavens it was a male and not the opposite.
“What do they do with the clothes after taking them off the person about to be frozen?” I say while hoping to find an answer to the obvious question still burning inside me.
“They are kept in a storage room for safe-keeping until the person is unfrozen,” he says. “They are washed periodically so that they have some of their old clothes to wear when they wake up.”
“Oh, okay.” I have the information I need now. All I need to do is find out where they store the clothes.
The two men carry the man off the table and carefully place him in one of the giant red cryogenic freezers. They take off their gloves and wipe their hands clean then before leaving, set the dial to fifty-eight years and close the door, locking it in the process.
“Down with the Severance!” one of the men says to Dr. Whitford as they walk by us. I reply the same and they glare at me like I just said one of the seven forbidden swears. Weird.
“Nice work boys.”
“Thanks boss,” they say as they exit the room.
“That’s precisely it Dr. Blay.” He walks over to the freezer, looks in through the glass panel and turns back to me.
“Do you have anymore questions about cryogenics?”
“Well, yes but about this specific freezing,” I say. “Why fifty-eight years? Isn’t that a bit much?”
“Oh well you see, this man has an incurable disease and was dying very quickly so he requested we freeze him until a cure has been found.”
“Okay, that makes sense.”
“Good; so is that all?” he asks as he comes to rejoin me by the entrance.
“Well, there is another thing that has been on my mind,” I say.
“In fact, it’s the main reason we came down here in the first place,” I say as he stares curiously at me. “You see, I used to wear my wedding ring 24-7, even to the bathroom. When I was frozen and then unfrozen, I realised after sometime that my ring was gone. Is there by any chance that it’s here? Please tell me yes because that ring means a lot to me.”
He rubs his chin as he thinks then finally says something. “You know what, come with me,” he begins walking out of the door and I do my best to keep up with him.
“Hey, where are we off to?” I say once I finally catch up to him. “You kind of run of on me there.”
“Sorry, I was just in a hurry.”
“A hurry? Where to?”
“You’ll see.” It appears this fellow isn’t going to reveal our destination so I just follow him as we transcend many halls, rooms and hallways, hopefully in the end, leading to my ring.
“How much further?” I can hear the childish tone in my voice but I really don’t care since we’ve been walking for close to ten minutes.
I feel like we’ve been walking in circles because I can almost swear I’ve seen the same door with ‘Dr. Randy Gold’ written on it three times now.
“Not much, just past that door,” he points to a small door at the end of the hall.
“Whoo,” I let out an audible sigh of relief.
I double over just in front of the door to catch my breath after the fast-paced walking we just did for the past ten minutes. He flashes his ID to the door and it slides open.
“After you,” he waves me into the dark room.
I’m a bit apprehensive but decide to step inside anyways since he doesn’t look strong enough to be a threat to me anyways. A light from above comes on immediately to reveal a tiny, stuffy room full of papers and documents.
Usually, rooms which have a large amount of paper and limited ventilation smell of dust and mildew but surprisingly this one has no such odours. In fact, it smells quite clean, and the papers and files are all meticulously arranged.
“What is this place?” I say as my eyes scan the room looking for anything of interest.
“These are the official archives of the Underworld,” he says. “Every important document even remotely connected with the Underworld can be found here, including this,” he pulls out a red folder from the shelf and sets it on the desk before me.
“The answer to your problem Dr. Blay.” He flips open the file to reveal a bunch of neatly arranged papers, neatly assorted into dates. “When were you frozen?”
I’m not really sure.” He stops searching through the papers and then pauses and stares at me.
“That’s unfortunate,” he says then continues searching.
“Well, yes, but I think I was frozen around the time of the accident so check the year 2016.”
“Hmmm, wait, I remember something,” I say. “I think I was frozen about the time Alexandria was. You know her right?”
He begins to shake his head while smiling and says, “Alexandria Knoster, such a kind, wild and free spirit.” He pulls out another file and looks through it. “Yes, here hers is, and here yours is.” He sets them on the desk before me.
Even though he has just set the document before me which may be the key to finding my ring, I can’t focus on it due to what he just said.
“How do you know about her free spirit, and the exact day she was frozen?” I ask suspiciously. He stops looking through the files and rubs his neck as if this room suddenly got very hot for him.
“Okay, well, to tell you the truth, I have been the best friend of her brother since well, forever and also, I’m the head of the cryogenics lab so this is the type of thing I’m supposed to know,” he says and pauses. He then looks me straight in the eye which must be a bit difficult for him since I’m taller than him. “A third reason, and I’m just throwing this one in for free, Alexandria and I used to be engaged.”
“What?” He and Alexandria used to be engaged? I know I really shouldn’t care that Alexandria and this man were an item, about to be married, but, for some reason I just can’t let it go.
What does this even mean? Does this mean I have some feelings for Alexandria that I’ve been suppressing all this while? No. This cannot be. I still love Martina, the mother of my kids, wherever, and whatever she may be and besides, Alexandria looks only about nineteen or twenty; she’s way too young for me. I walk over to one of the table and lean on it to collect my thoughts.
“Did I offend you Dr. Blay?” he says totally out of the blue.
“Offend me?” I turn back towards him. “Why would I be offended?”
“Sorry, I thought you and Alexandria were, you know,” he crosses his fingers.
“An item.” I make a face of both shock and awe at his ridiculous statement.
“What? Me and her? Her and me? Naah. She has a huge crush on me that’s all,” I say while almost laughing in his face.
“Oh, then it’s okay, I guess.”
“Yeah,” I say. “But wait.”
“Is it because you thought she and I are an item the reason why you threw in that thing about the two of you being, engaged?” That word sticks a bit in my throat.
“I’m so sorry. I never should have said that.”
I feel that feeling of many choice angry words bubbling in my throat that may hurt him back but that might ruin my chances of finding my ring so I manage to keep them down and say this instead.
“No problem. So why didn’t Alexandria and you get, married anyways?” I think I’m going to throw up.
“Well, that is a long and complicated story Dr. Blay.”
I cross my legs and arms and sit in the chair by the table. “I’ve got time.” He looks into my face for a split-second looking for any signs of apprehension but after seeing none, he decides to go on.
“Okay,” he takes a seat on the desk. “Well, it was about a week before the explosion and I had just proposed to Alexandria and she accepted. We were to be married at the Chapel in Sector 22 on the Sunday at the end of the week. On that day, I woke up with hopes of a bright future in a new world with her on my arm. We were supposed to be married just before the explosion happened.
On the way to the chapel, I got a message from Dr. Alfred to meet him at the hospital. When I got there, happily walking in thinking he was going to give me some words of advice or something, I saw him pacing up and down in the room and immediately I knew something was wrong. He told me that Alexandria had ran away to look for, you. I always knew she had a little crush on you but this was bordering on insanity to leave a safe zone when a deadly explosion was about to occur.
When we found her, she was badly injured so I offered to Dr. Alfred freeze her so that her wounds can heal naturally. He agreed and as a result, I ended up waiting over 60 years, 45 of which I spent in suspended animation, waiting for her to recover fully so that we can finally get married.
On the day she was to be unfrozen, I stood outside her freezer with a bouquet in hand ready to reclaim the love of my life. She steps out of the freezer and accepts my flowers. When she got reacquainted with reality barely a week later, she stomped on my heart and called off the wedding! She told me that she can’t marry me anymore but she refused to state the reason. I knew it deep down even though I tried asking her who the man was but she still refused to say. I knew it was you. I wasted over 60 years of my life on a girl who it turns out never loved me as much as I loved her. I was devastated.”
I place an arm on his shoulder to comfort him as he places his head in his arms. I fully understand him now. I think I also now know why Dr. Alfred hates me so much. It’s all justified. I have got to make this right, somehow.