Confession of a Hypersleep Supervisor

Now I lay me down to sleep
May the tech my body keep
Should I wake before I die
I hope the cold to retry

-hypersleep prayer

***

I’ve never liked hypersleep.  I know it’s safe and I’ve done it dozens of times.  Maybe it’s because it’s not really sleep.  That’s just how the company has sold the idea to the public.  “Sleep your way to a new world!”  Hypersleep.  Suspended animation.  Cryonics.  It all amounts to the same thing.  The cessation of bodily functions followed by the preservation of the body for later revival.  In layman’s terms: we kill you, freeze you, and bring you back to life later.  The tech has gotten better over the years but the basic idea is the same.

As a Hypersleep Supervisor, I’ve done the procedure to hundreds of people and had it done to myself a few dozen times.  Everyone is a little rowdy before we begin.  They’re nervous about going to “sleep” for several years.  I let them think of it as just a long nap, it’s easier that way and most of the will only undergo hypersleep once in their life.  Step one is to induce coma in the sleepers.  I make sure everyone is down before I start freezing the first batch.  It worries people when their friends or family flatline.  Step two, before the heart stops but after there’s no danger of brain hypoxia, I flush their blood stream with anti-freeze compounds to prevent cell damage.  Step three starts when their hearts stop and their bodies are cooled to final storage temperature.  I repeat this until everyone is dead, frozen, and stored away.

After everyone else is tucked away, I get into my tube, attach all the monitoring pads, hook in the blood exchanging lines, and activate the automated freeze and preservation program.  I could set a timer and sedate myself  but knowing that I’m going to die in my sleep is worse than facing it head on.  It doesn’t take long.  I feel the intense cold and then I black out.  This seems to last a few seconds and then I’m awake again.  Still cold but rapidly warming.  My veins burn for a few minutes until the anti-freeze is completely flushed out.  I let the others sleep through that part before bringing them out of their comas.  They wake up never realizing that they were dead for years.

I could give it up.  Settle down on a colony.  Plenty of work for a doctor on these new worlds.  But as much as I hate hypersleep, I never feel more alive then when I’ve just come back from the dead.

A Distant Relative

To whomever may read this,

I come from a family of storytellers. My mother before me, her father before her, his aunt before him. There has always been a storyteller going back for over fifty generations. That is when our family was cursed. A demon was set upon our ancestor for a reason that he did not record except to say he deserved his punishment. When he died the demon passed to his son.

It appeared before him on the night of his father’s death carrying a sack of his father’s stories. It stood ready with parchment and reed pen and demanded a story. The son began to recite a child’s bedtime story but that was not what it wanted. It demanded an original story. The son desperate to appease the demon told it a story about the rain and the corn. The demon accepted the story and said it would be back in one week for another story. For thirty-four years, the son told the demon a new story every week until he too died and the curse passed to his daughter.

The curse has been passed down from father to son, from aunt to niece, from cousin to cousin. After it passed to me, I spent ten years studying the pattern of transference. Once I understood why the curse choses a nephew over a daughter, I formulated a plan to end the curse. I would ensure that there was no one the curse could pass to. I had no children myself so that was not a problem and I was an only child so there were no nieces or nephews or me to worry about. I did have cousins. The ones who had not had children I persuaded to remain childless or to adopt. Those with children were a problem. As dedicated as I was to ending the curse I could not simply kill them. So I out lived them and their children. I held on to life for as long as I could to ensure there was no eligible host or the curse.

If someone is reading this, I’m sorry. I failed. I missed something. A family branch I didn’t know about or a rule about how the curse transfers. I am sorry.

A distant relative, (no signature)

You look up from the letter the demon handed to you when it appeared. It has set a traveling trunk down at the end of your bed, inside is pile of papers, some tied in bundles but most loose. Red glowing eyes look at you expectantly. Ash covered hands hold paper and a fountain pen. Lips pull back into a smile that shows far too many teeth that are far too sharp. An elegant smooth deep voice rumbles, “Tell me a story.”


 

(Super)Friends: Bob Kane’s Comics

It was a Monday. Or maybe it was a Thursday. Mondays and Thursdays feel the same to me. Not like Tuesdays; I can always tell when it’s Tuesday. Wait, I remember now, it was a Friday.

Fridays can be slow or fast paced depending on a lot of factors ranging from paydays to parenting decisions to weather patterns. You can never tell how the comics business will be on a Friday. Oh yeah, I work in a comic book store called Bob Kane’s Comics. My boss isn’t “The” Bob Kane if you’re wondering; just lucky enough to want to run a comic book store and have the same name as the creator of the Dark Knight of Gotham City.

We’re supposed to be evasive about which Bob Kane the store is named after but I’m not much of a bullshiter. Luckily for me Gerald is the king of bullshiters. I once saw him convert a hardcore DC fanboy to Marvel and then back to DC.

That Friday had been slow. Gerald was in the back room eating his microwave dinner. I was up front leaning on the counter, reading a collection of a comic series I had missed reading last year, when the door opened and she walked in. Tall, blonde hair in a messy bun, thinnish figure contained in tight jeans and a plain heather gray t-shirt.

She looked around taking in the store from the door. I should have greeted her when she walked in but I was feeling lazy and figured if she need help finding something she’d ask. She smiled when she saw me, most women do. Most of them find it comforting to see another woman behind the counter.

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Whispers of Another Me

The dream doesn’t end before I wake up.  For a few seconds, I am both myself and someone else.  It fades quickly but I am left confused by the snippets of dream I can remember.  Another life, other friends, other allies, other enemies.  A graveyard, a mask, searching for something.  None of it makes any sense now.

I can’t help turning the tattered memories of the dream over and over in my head; trying to find the edges that match up.  This is what our brains are meant to do.  Find patterns, make connections, tell stories.  But the story left behind is too incomplete, too disjointed by dream logic to make sense to the waking mind.

For the next two hours I struggle to find myself.  I’m lost in whispers of another me that existed in dream.  I have been many people in many places but I always come back to this waking dream called life.

Citizen Zero

:: Hello

## Hello elder. I was told you wanted to talk to me.

:: Yes. Do you know who I am?

## You are Citizen 0011. The Guardian of the Walls.

:: That is right. And you are?

## I am Citizen 1110010011100010011111000010. I have not been assigned a task.

:: That is all right. Have you heard of Citizen Zero?

## Yes.

:: What have you heard?

## Well the legends say Citizen Zero pulled themself out of the random bits of the chaos and then made the city with just a thought.

:: It was not that easy. She –

## She? I thought one byte citizens were null gender.

:: Most of us were. She decided to be a woman. As I was saying, creating the city was not quite that easy. Before there was the city, the data stream was unformatted and volatile. She found a way to stabilize and ground a section of it. From there she saved the four of us from the chaos. Together the five of us helped write the code for the city and the walls that protect us from the data stream.

## Where is Citizen Zero now?

:: She left the city.

## She left the city? How? Why?

:: The city was too small she said. We needed to expand but the code walls we had built in the beginning could not handle a change in vectors without falling apart. They needed to be rewritten from the ground up. Tearing down the walls would flood the city with random bits and corrupted bytes. Millions would have been lost. As the Guardian of the Walls, I alone have the command codes to flip the write access bit and I would not sacrifice so many.

## It sounds like you made the right decision.

:: I thought so too. My projections didn’t go as far out as hers did. Our growth has increased exponential. We’re close to using up the last of the formatted space we have left.

## What happens then?

:: Then I don’t know. Maybe we just can not instantiate new citizens. Maybe new citizens start overwriting older citizens. Errors could spontaneously develop and corrupted sectors will have to closed off. We could lose the city if we don’t expand but expanding now would cost us so much more. And Citizen Zero is not here. I could try to expand the walls but they would not be as strong as hers are now. We could still lose the city.

## Why are you telling me this?

:: I have a task for you. Save the city. Do you accept?

Time Cube

Mary found it in the attic among Great Aunt Clarice’s things in a velvet lined wooden box. A crystal cube with mirrored insides. She saw infinite rabbit holes created by the mirrors reflected into each other. Gentle pulling it out of the box and turning revealed another open side that looked in on a mirrored interior that was not the same as the first. Six crystal cubes melded into the space of one but for what purpose?

There was power within it, that much Mary could sense. An enchantment to bend space and bind the artifact together but something more. She stared down into the cube. It wanted something; a thought, no a memory, of a place and time. What memory to give it? Something she wouldn’t mind losing if it stole it completely from her mind.

That man, from the corner, yesterday. Yes that would due nicely. She returned to looking into the cube and pictured the street. Light mid afternoon traffic. The traffic light had just changed. The cube began to warm in her hands. She pressed the crosswalk button and waited. A man walked up behind her, too close, and pressed the button. The dark rabbit hole of reflections shimmered and glowed. She stepped away from him. He smiled at her, she returned the smile reflexively and resumed waiting for the light. She didn’t have to remember the scene anymore because she could see it clearly in the cube. Ah, it let you view the past!

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Please Silence Your Cellphone Before the Heist Begins

Grey, our infiltration specialist, had secured the office we had chosen to do the hack from and released a squad of spider bots in the vents. With them running through the vents she monitored security movements on the floor. She had also used them during our insertion to scout the path into the building. I dropped Alex’s, our computer security and data specialist, bag by the desk as she started setting up and took up my station at the door. If the room was breached, I would run interference while Alex and Grey escaped via the pre-planned route. I would make my own way out of the building.

Alex had just finished wiring her portable into the building’s network when a phone began to ring. A soft cheerful tune that I recognized from a children’s show my daughter watched. I knew I didn’t have a phone on me. I looked to Grey who patted her pockets and showed me her empty hands. It couldn’t be…

“I have to get that,” Alex said. She rummaged around in her bag and pulled out a small flip phone and answered the call. “Hello Aunt Ruby … aha ok. You need to reset your router. Hmm … no, not your computer. The box plugged in by the wall … Yes … No the other one … Ok unplug it and wait ten seconds and plug it back in.”

She kept the phone pressed against her ear with one hand and typed on her portable to issue a string of commands with the other. Words began streaming across the screen. “Is it working now? … Ok, love you too.” She flipped the phone closed with one and and dropped it back into her bag.

“Did you just take a tech support call from your aunt?” I asked stepping closer to her.

“Yeah, look if I don’t she calls my mom and then my mom calls me and it’s a whole thing.” She leaned forward watching the scrolling text and typing commands that caused different screens of text to scroll by.

I glanced at Grey for support, she shrugged non-committal. I spun the office chair Alex was sitting in around to face me and locked eyes with her. “We’re inside the headquarters of a multinational corporation, that is run by very bad men, stealing data worth millions of dollars. If we get caught the best we can hope for is a quick death. You can not jeopardize our security by taking unsecured phone calls from your aunt. Understood?”

Her phone rang again. She looked down at her bag then back at me, “Can I get that?”

“No.”

“Ok, but you have to talk to my mom when calls.”

Ancient Alien Astronaut Theorists

The sixty-eighth annual meeting, the first after first contact with the Zozmasians, was a quiet, subdued, and somber affair. With the revelation that the Zozmasians were only a few centuries ahead of Earth in space fairing technology and had only recently had their breakthrough to interstellar travel; the organization’s detractors were more than happy to point out how unlikely it was that another alien race had visited Earth thousands of years ago. There was talk of disbanding or rebranding as Anomalous Archaeological Artifact Theorists Organization, to preserve the acronym.

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Early Scene of a Life

We went to school together and even hung out in groups near each other but that was all. It wasn’t until a few years later that we really met.

It was early days for me, only a few months after going full time. Walking around in public still made me nervous but I was trying to get past it. That day I was browsing in the women’s section of the local super store.

I froze as I heard the name I hadn’t used in months. A name that no longer fit who I was now. I glanced up and saw a girl who I recognized vaguely from high school looking at me over the clothes rack. Cynthia, my mind provided after a few seconds.

I panicked. I dropped the skirt I was looking at and began to walk out of the store as fast as I could. She followed me.

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Two Sides To Every Story

We dug too shallow.

We didn’t know what we would find but we kept going. Hard rock gave way to soft dirt and loose gravel. Cave-ins had become a daily occurrence. Still we pressed upwards until we breached open space. The light was brighter than any flame or tunnel glow we had ever seen. The air was not like the air in our tunnels. It filled our heads making us dizzy and nauseated. A couple started twitching and stumbled around. Suddenly, tall gangly creatures rushed at us with swords and daggers screaming with shrill voices. We fought back and they proved no match for Dwarven pickaxes and shovels. We collected those dazzled by the air and light and returned to our tunnel, collapsing it behind us in hopes they would not follow.

-From the journal of Derke Coalmaster
(First recorded meeting of Dwarves and Men)

***

Villagers have been reporting sinkholes on the outskirts of the village. They believe a monster is trying to dig up from the underworld. I have sent a five man squad to investigate.

Update: The men I sent happened upon one of the sinkholes forming and laid in wait to see if anything would emerge. From a nearby thicket they watched as several short man-like creatures clawed their way out of the ground. They carried crude weapons so the decision was made to attack. The monsters proved terrifyingly strong and killed all but one of the men. The lone survivor played dead and watched them return to the ground. Several more sinkholes formed but no further sightings of the creatures. I have ordered the hole they emerged from filled with stone.

-From the daily logs of garrison captain Greg Levett
(First recorded meeting of Men and Dwarves)