Frozen

Frozen soap bubble, illustration for fantasy/science fiction story Frozen

A Science Fantasy Story

Years later, he still thought about her every day. Not about the conversations they had, or the feel of her skin, or even the afternoon in the library, alone and reading poetry. One moment overwhelmed all the others. One instant, one image, as still and as permanent as a mountain. Winter, late at night. He was leaving the cafeteria, walking back to his dorm room, and he noticed her standing across the street. She was wearing a fuzzy, white jacket and earrings like ornaments from a tiny Christmas tree. She was standing under the streetlight, smiling up at the falling snow. The memory stayed with him, long after he had forgotten everything else. The conversations, how they met, even her name was lost to time and decay. But the image of her, laughing under that streetlight, dancing in the falling snow, was engraved in his memory forever.

First day of college, first nervous steps into adulthood. His car pulled slowly into the lot, one of many grownup children. He opened the trunk and was still, suddenly afraid, realizing that he was really on his own.

A voice from behind him. “Hi, I’m _____. My sorority is helping all the freshmen move in today!” She was pale, anemic-looking almost. Dark hair falling to her chin, and lipstick the color of blood.

“Nice to meet you,” he said. “I could definitely use some help here. What year are you?”

“I’ve been here for a year,” she said, “but that was only part-time. We might have some classes together.”

“Please,” he prayed silently, “God, please, let us have class together. I can’t imagine her ever finding a reason to talk to me if we don’t.”

But they did talk, many times. They even dated, once. She was in a bad mood the entire night. He blamed himself for her depression. He was too anxious and self-obsessed to even consider that she might be upset about something other than her current company.

Driving back to the dorms, he kept glancing at her in the rearview mirror. “I’m not the right one for you,” he thought. “I’m not the man you deserve. But eventually, I know I can become someone you’ll love. I’ll go away, work on myself, become someone new. You’ll love me eventually.”

He would never get the chance.

Later that semester, they were in the cafeteria. He sat across from her, trying desperately to hide his emotions.

“W-what are you saying?” he asked.

“It’s cancer,” she said. “A brain tumor. The doctor said he can’t remove it without making me a vegetable.”

“Are you going to die?”

“Eventually. Soon, probably. So… I’m going to be cryogenically persevered.”

“What?” A little too loudly. Rude looks from other tables.

“They said they’ll find a cure… someday.”

“When are you… leaving?”

“Monday. I know it sounds soon, but they said it was best to keep it from progressing any further. If I don’t stop it now, I’ll be too messed up to ever be fixed.”

After she was gone, school became a much darker place. His friends suggested a dozen girls, some pretty, some not. After her, they all seemed lifeless and ordinary. She was the only real girl; the others were figures carved in wax.

His life become one infinitely long, gray, February afternoon. Endless days at meaningless jobs, weekends spent at the grocery store buying beer and canned soup. He became a gloomy, tired, miserable man. He wrinkled and withered like an old piece of fruit. The nurses in the rest home moved the television in front of his bed. One morning in winter, he greeted death with a kiss on the mouth.

There are many theories about what happens when we die, but the truth is this: regret is the only hell. Heaven is second chances.

Two hundred years later, a doctor invented a new form of brain surgery. A list was consulted, and hospitals were notified. In cryonic storage, the frozen stood under endless, falling snow. An orderly threw a switch, and the dead awoke in their frozen tombs.

Two hundred and nineteen years old, but still the same girl she ever was. Groggy from her centuries of sleep, they rolled her into an operating room. She stared at the blue-tiled ceiling, and heard a soft click as the doctor turned on the laser. Healing came with a flash of light. They wheeled her into the recovery room. A hospital orderly looked down at her and, touching her shoulder gently, woke her.

“You don’t recognize me.”

“No,” she said, puzzled. “Should I?”

“No. I would be surprised if you did. Do you believe in reincarnation?”

“I… I think I read about it in class.”

“I remember watching you smile, as the falling snow danced around you like tiny stars. And then you went to sleep, and my heart died. I’ve dreamed about you every night for two hundred years.”

The girl sat up in bed, mouth open in amazement. “Oh my god. It’s you!”

Crying now. “I’ve missed you so much.”

They embraced, holding each other like old friends. Finally, she spoke. “I was frozen, asleep, and you kept living life after life… And now, you’re this new person. I don’t even know what your name is now.”

The hospital orderly looked down at her and smiled. “These days,” the orderly said, “my name is Rachel.”

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