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A bit of silliness at first glance. It is an essay in story form on the difficulties that cryogenic sleep may bring in long space voyages.
hadn’t been the problem; Mark knew that was coming, knew what to expect.
He had lain down in
the cryo-chamber and felt the base fluid start to fill in around him.
After twenty-five centimeters of the 1.8 density fluid had settled, he
was floating comfortably on top. The
spray was next, a fine mist that settled over his exposed flesh and the top of
the base fluid. It hardened slightly
but kept its flexibility. Then the
lighter 0.7 fluid covered him. There
was a slight bit of panic at first, but with a deep breath through the nasal
tubes, he relaxed. He felt the
temperature slowly begin to drop from his normal 37 degrees in slow steps toward
the final temperature of –20. He
felt the air changing in the tubes to the sweet smell of the trank.
Somewhere around 34 degrees, he felt a tight bracelet of fire at his
wrist where the intravenous needle had been inserted.
He felt the bracelet slowly move up his arm, and before it touched his
shoulder, he lapsed into nothingness only to awake again and, after minutes of
disorientation, he watched the lid of the chamber lower and seal.
realization hit Mark; he was in the .02% of the population that could have a
real out-of-the-body experience.
century ago researchers established that among the many who claimed to have had
out-of-the-body experiences, only a few actually did.
It was a curious point for religious and psychological debates but of no
greater significance until the advent of cryo-sleep for long space voyages.
In the initial steps of preparing a person for cryo, they actually die,
and those who have an OBE are stuck for the duration of the trip to wander as
a disembodied spirit, alone and without external interaction.
Most did not survive at all, failing to rejoin their revived body,
leaving an empty and mindless husk to die. The
few that did live, were usually quite insane.
it was only two out of ten thousand, several decades passed before the nature of
the problem was fully recognized. Even
after that, there was nothing that could be done about it since after even a
short time in cryo, the body took several months to recuperate, and the
percentage of deaths due to the cryo itself was .05%.
So pre-testing for OBE tendency was more dangerous than just doing it.
experiments had tried to select the OBE’s out by medically inducing death and
then initiating resuscitation, but the death rate of that was even higher.
They declared OBE just another risk factor for space travelers.
went through all of that many times in his non-corporeal mind, but it didn’t
make sense. It wasn’t .02% to him;
it was 100% and something had to be done.
tried desperately to make his body move; maybe someone will notice.
It was no use; his body was deep under now.
It would take 12 hours to resurrect a sleeper, and even then, his body
would be weak, too weak to move. Mark,
or what he thought of as Mark, kept moving along the interior of the ship,
watching, trying to communicate with the Med Techs as they checked out the
sleepers and moved the individual chambers into storage.
His body was now buried deep in the hold.
He couldn’t see it, go to it, or feel it in his mind.
All he could do was watch, helplessly.
days later, the MT’s left and sealed the hold.
Mark watched it all, trying every second to make someone, anyone
notice him. He tried to work the
comm systems, but that effort failed. He
computers! Mark willed his way to
the central computer core and moved his thoughts over the consoles.
There was no way he could interface.
Nothing he tried worked.
was there for a long time, alone in his thoughts.
But, time did not really mean anything.
Was it an hour? A day?
didn’t exactly hear; it was more like he felt the roar of the thrusters.
He braced for the gravity, but there was no way to brace, no way to save
himself from being crushed!
he felt nothing but his own panic.
didn’t know how long he was caught in the self sustaining spiral of dying.
Suddenly, he saw floating in the core, a small slip of paper someone had
left. There had been no thrust for
he started to panic; there would be no life support!
The ship was completely automated for the 83.7 year flight.
This time he caught himself before he started down that endless spiral;
he didn’t need life support. He
was dead, lying somewhere in a stack of twelve hundred and fifty-nine other dead
husks. Were there any more like him?
first, Mark spent his time in the core, trying not to think.
That didn’t work.
he tried to reason out how to pass the time.
The ones that lived were insane because the years of loneliness had worn
tried to figure a way not to be alone, to keep his mind working.
Finally, it came to him; he would relive his life over again, and again.
Three times would do it. Mark
checked the seconds since lift off on the counter, seventeen million and some
change: a little over half a year had passed.
was born, at least in his mind he was. He
tried to remember every day, every word spoken by him, to him, every thought he
had graduated high school, had lived the great summer of Molly, had walked the
halls of pre-med, had drunk every drink, had every hangover.
Med school was still scary, instructors like gods, or god-like
instructors. Was there a difference?
counted the number of bullets he removed from soldiers in the third revolt in
restarted his specialty in space medicine. He
said good-bye to his parents, friends and lovers.
than forty million seconds, fifteen months out, nine months to relive his life,
he had skipped too much. He would do
better the next time.
near 250 million seconds out, over 8 years, Mark was deep into a lecture in med
school on anesthetics, when a sudden memory jolted him, his appendectomy.
He relived vividly how the ring of fire had passed through his shoulder
before he had gone under for the surgery. The
religious and psychological arguments were all wrong; OBE was nothing but
fear-flight. Mark had left his body
before he died, in fear of dying.
In cryo the
anesthesia only puts you under; then your blood is replaced with a fluid that
keeps the cell walls pliable at minus 20 degrees.
Death doesn’t actually happen until two or three minutes after the
in the cryo development, brain wave functions had been recorded only to show
that the activity had stopped. There
had been no correlation in the timing of the anesthesia and the time of death . A
simple single track recorder could confirm activity until the moment of actual
death. If there was no activity for
any period prior to death, indicating a fear-flight reaction of the conscious
mind, the sleeper could be resurrected before mental damage.
reviewed every aspect, every angle. He
knew he was right. He could fill the
remaining time bt writing a doctoral thesis. He
could imagine the sensation he would make, writing a paper while in cryo-sleep
that would save lives.
sixty years to go.
* * *
* * *
three minutes, the Physician in charge arrived.
He leaned down on the console and peered through the window.
Mark lay there.
Doctor asked, “Dead?”
alive.” The Post-Res didn’t try
to hide her disappointment. “That’s
one wasted space trip. They could at
least die so we wouldn’t have to take care of them.
We don’t have that much extra of anything to waste on useless
makes three in the last 10,000 sent out. Just
slightly over average. Who was
Jones, a surgeon.”
we could have used him. Send all the
stats back. Maybe some day they can
figure a way to stop it.”
Let’s see: Mediterranean background, Italian actually, 39 years, 16%
body fat, blood gases...”
Doctor tapped on the window, “What’s he saying?
He seems to be repeating the same thing.”
is. Listen.” The Post-Res flipped
voice said softly, “I died too soon...I died too soon...”
June, 2004, Fred (Woody) Hendrick
June, 2004, Fred (Woody) Hendrick
I always thought that using cryogenic sleep in science fiction was approached a little too easily.
Let me know what you think and don't worry, I have a thick hide. Woody