A searing light invaded his consciousness, from everywhere at once, so bright he wanted to turn away. As he tried to move, every bone, tendon, ligament, fiber and nerve screamed in an excruciating chorus of pain. The pain was instantaneous, as if by a switch, so intense his consciousness recoiled back.
Consciousness returned, the light, less bright, the pain, dulled. He heard air, moving slowly, punctuated by high chirps and low murmurs, swirling, a cacophony. As he tried to separate them he suddenly smelled heavy, medicinal, antiseptic odors, layer upon layer, unidentifiable as the sounds were indecipherable. Consciousness, overwhelmed, retreated again.
Sounds built, pulling consciousness out. He heard soft, rhythmic peeps. An electrocardiograph? An imperceptible low rumble, maybe, he thought, from an air handler. Swishing sounds, approaching and receding. People coming and going, their clothing rubbing together? Murmurs, he thought, some lower, some higher, in counterpoint, must be voices. Consciousness receded again.
“Can you hear me?”
Someone was calling in his dream. He was making an obscenely lucrative business deal with a stranger in his penthouse office. Ekaterina, his comely assistant, at his side. He sensed the stranger was a vanquished competitor, there to accept surrender terms.
“If you can hear me, just squeeze my hand.”
Ekaterina wouldn’t say that, he thought, as the dream evaporated. He was on his back, head slightly elevated and supported by a hard pillow. A coarse sheet and blanket covered his body. He opened his eyes and saw stainless rails beyond where he laid, the room so dimly lit he couldn’t see walls.
“You’ve opened your eyes, now just squeeze my hand.”
The voice was deep, male, on his right. He moved his gaze and saw a stranger in a plain grey shirt seated at the stainless rail. Behind him was a woman looking over the stranger’s shoulder. The stranger’s hand supported his hand, so that any movement could be felt. His fingers tightened on the stranger’s hand.
“Good! Welcome back. I’m sure you have questions, but don’t try to talk. Listen and I’ll give you the essentials before we sedate you again.”
Sedate me again, I need to get back to work, he tried to tell the stranger, but he could only make a dry crackling. The stranger and the woman both jumped into action, admonishing him for trying to speak. She reached somewhere above his head, and he heard a chirp before his vision was reduced to a pinpoint and consciousness receded again.
“I hate thawing these early 21st Century cryos.” the woman said.
“Yeah, me too” the stranger said, “they weren’t good at it. It was so expensive only the uber-wealthy could pay. We get to thaw out the 21st Century’s sociopaths. I’m glad we eventually decided to freeze worthy people, instead of just wealthy people. Why waste good technology on bad meat, right? Wait till he finds out his money’s no good! What was his name again?”
The woman glanced at the chart on the clipboard she carried. “Yeah, that’s always a hoot when they find out they can’t be richer than everyone else anymore. Let’s see, Trump. Donald Trump. Never heard of him, he can’t be that big of a deal, probably some celeb or something. Let’s go get a coffee.”