I’m awake now. Naked and on this cot. They say I’ll fall asleep any second.
I can tell I love these drugs already. Eyes open, all crystal crisp detail and not a hint of groggy or foggy. Every waking moment seems sped up, my thinking, my speech. The best is my memory. I remember every detail, every emotion. Take a deep breath and time flies by like nothing. I’m in love.
Before now, I mean in the beginning, I was a wreck. Ever have someone close die? Die suddenly? It knocked me down when she died. We did everything together. We had the same dreams, same science junkie twist. Her body must go to science she’d say. It did. Damn, I’m crying again just thinking.
She mentioned the stars first, then we said it at the same time, “let’s travel to the stars!” We were flat on a blanket gazing straight up surrounded by smells of pine and roots and mint. “Just my breath mints,” she whispered through moist lips. We would get totally cozy and tangled up in each other and just talk about going to the stars. Together.
Of course, we were crazy. Nobody can travel to the stars and back. Every high school physics kid knows the stars are too far. We are talking mega light-years to the nearest Goldilocks planet – not too hot, not too cold. Cosmic radiation, mass-to-energy ratios, relativity, all say “no way.” But she wanted to go. Me too, with her. Then she died. I can’t talk about it, even on drugs. I just crumple into a deep ache. No more dreams for me.
Travel to the stars is impossible, so I thought, until I read the advertisement. A real teaser: “We Can Take You to Other Planets!” The small print said, “Or we may kill you trying.”
Not totally reassuring, but I’m thinking this was ‘our dream’ and maybe I should do it for her sake. I could fantasize about us going to the stars, get my mind occupied and feel better. That was really it: to feel better.
I called the number, had the meeting. They were weird, wealthy, nerdy med types and totally into it. I was honest and told them about her. They were sad for me and figured I was ready to get off this planet. They would take me on as their volunteer. First they said going to the stars was theoretically impossible... for now. This was their little secret: the “now” part simply had to get shifted. They had an angle, all I had to do was take some drugs to put me to sleep and then wake up in the future. We do it every night, right? Go to sleep and, bam, it is eight hours later!
The trick is figuring how far into the future do I wake up, to get to the point of star travel. They wanted me to tell them! They “didn’t want the responsibility!” They could inject the drugs all set to a certain date, but couldn’t change anything once the time period was pumped into me.
And they had a trust-fund to take care of my body perpetually. Any questions?
I’m awake now! 500! Should have been a five hundred year nap.
At first I sense a faint smell, medicinal. Ether alcohol? My eyes open. I’m in a white room, small table next to my cot. On the table is an envelope. We had worked this out five hundred years ago. They figured I’d freak when I woke up, so they wanted to keep it simple and would write to explain how it went.
The bottom line is no space travel yet! Bummer! I can walk through the door and be re-introduced to earth: about the same, a little dirtier, more crowded, a few wars going on - nothing serious they say (or the trust-fund says). It hits me that they are dead, long dead, and some descendant nerdy med types must be beyond the door.
They give me the “still theoretically impossible” line. My line is: I came all this way and still nothing? They give me an option: go back to sleep and keep waiting. How long? I write I’m going for the long ball.
I’m awake now. 5,000! Should have been a five thousand year nap.
That ought to do it! I get the same faint alcohol smell. I’m in a white room. White? My eyes are open, but I don’t register. There’s the table and the envelope. A fat one this time! Numero uno: no space travel!
The earth is a little different they write: very peaceful, more islands and lots of beaches. We all get along and no one gets hurt playing football. Nice place!
I’ve got three options. Walk through the door and be re-introduced. I’m actually famous! I’m in a special historical museum and I’m the most popular exhibit. Everybody wants to know what I’m like and what I’ll do next.
Or, if it’s all too much, I can choose to just end this – no hard feelings – they have a memorial for my ashes all prepared.
Or I can go back to sleep and keep waiting. How long do I want to wait?
I’ve got tears in my eyes. This is bad. A sick feeling comes over me. I’m nauseous, knotted. I miss her more than ever. Five thousand years and I feel like she was here just yesterday. We were on a blanket staring straight up, the hairs on my arm barely brushing her arm, pure electricity to me. My memory floods with those smells of pine and mint. There’s a gentle breeze. I breathe deep.
But now, this is not how it was supposed to be. I’ve got a big decision to make. I’m crying hard. I feel like it’s time to just roll over and die. This is how it ends?
I’m awake now. 50,000. Fifty thousand years! I’m in a white somewhere. No smells, but the envelope is on the table, a “two pager” this time.
Page one. Space travel! Welcome to the stars! There are several earth-like planets from which to choose. All of humanity welcomes me and wishes me a bright future.
I burst into tears. I know the truth. All this time and I don’t want to go to the stars. I want to die.
Page two. Additional information: the original trust-fund had requested, when possible, something else. There was a second project maintained. She has recently been “molecularly re-bonded” – original DNA, neural pathways, memories and is waiting for me. She says she would like to be my travel companion. Would I like to join her?
I get up off my cot, and walk toward the door. I can smell mint.