“Officer Pardo, reporting on Patrol duty. Do you read me?”
“Reading you loud and clear, Officer Pardo. Is Officer Metz with you?”
“Yes, she’s right here.”
“We got a call at 39200 West Jenkin Street. Emergency response needed.”
“Oh God. Is that the –“
“It’s an industrial chemical lab. Currently closed but they have twenty-four hour security and they should let you in.”
Officer Pardo swallowed. “Um, I actually think I’m seeing a robbery in progress right now, so I don’t think –“
Officer Metz grabbed the handset. “We’ll be right there.” She disconnected and hung up the speaker, sighing with exasperation. “Dammit, Mike.”
“39200 West Jenkin. You know how I feel about that place.”
“Doesn’t matter. It’s our job. We can’t pick and choose what calls to respond to.”
“Easy for you to say Audrey, both your parents are still alive.”
“Don’t. Just don’t play that card.”
They drove in silence the rest of the ride to the outskirts of town, where they made a series of turns onto increasingly dark and vacant streets before finding the large facility that stood behind an unfriendly wire fence and empty parking lot. Though Pardo was driving, he wished every second that he could not see what was in front of him. His throat became bone dry and tears welled in his eyes.
“Turn left here. Get us to the security entrance.”
Pardo did as his partner instructed, pulling the steering wheel almost too hard as the car swung toward the checkpoint. The lone guard saw the police cruiser and uttered no word or gesture of protest as he raised the gate. The car pulled past the security kiosk and continued down a short road until it reached a ramp leading up to a platform with a single door. Pardo and Metz shut off the car, jumped out and ran up the stairs to the door, bypassing the security measures to open it quickly.
Immediately upon opening the door, they could hear screaming. It soon took on the character of wailing, with audible sobbing and sniffling.
“Police!” Metz called out. “We’re here to help! Where are you?”
“I’m in Lab Room 8! Down the hall!”
“Are you alright?”
“Yes, I always call the cops when I’m alright! Morons!”
The two cops turned the corner and ran down the hallway while making note of the numbers on the doors. Pardo gulped as the single-digit numbers got bigger. The chemical smell that permeated the hallway drove him close to the point of vomiting, and not because of its foul odor.
“You guys gotta hurry! I think I broke my girlfriend!”
Pardo’s eyes shot wide open, while Metz gave her partner a puzzled yet worried look. Soon they came upon the door to Lab Room 7, and the crying was now very loud. They looked across the hall and the open door leading to Lab Room 8 was right in front of them.
Metz dashed into the lab, while Pardo hurried in but at a more halting pace. They scurried around the lab tables that stood near the entrance and made their way to the open center of the room, where a young man stood sobbing in front of a large tub from which a smoky substance was billowing out. He turned around and his eyes widened.
“I broke her! I did this! It’s all my fault!”
The two cops moved closer to the scene. The young man was surrounded by a large mess on the floor, consisting of hundreds of pieces of human clothing and flesh, surrounded by puddles of dark-red blood.
Metz held her hand over her mouth for a moment, but otherwise maintained her composure. Pardo staggered at the sight, his eyes welling up and his throat struggling to choke back the regurgitation that was being sent back up from his stomach. The emotionally-wrecked state of the young man didn’t help his own mental condition.
“What’s your name sir?” Metz asked firmly.
“I’m – I’m Ryan Dempsey.”
“And what happened here?”
“First, I just want to say – it was HER idea to come here! She dragged me along! It was all her!”
“What. Happened. Here?”
Pardo looked at the smoke cloud coming out of the bucket next to them. “This substance that’s in here – is this liquid nitrogen?”
“Yes!” Ryan screamed, then burst into louder and heavier sobbing.
“Oh dear.” Metz shook her head. “I think I can guess what happened.”
“I told you, I broke her! But it wasn’t my fault! I didn’t make her do it!”
“Let’s just try to calm down for a second.” Metz approached the young man and put a hand on his shoulder. “Start from the beginning.”
“Okay,” Ryan said in between sniffles. “Kira was really unhappy. She was constantly talking about how bad everything was. How we didn’t have any money, our neighborhood was a hellhole, there were always people trying to rob us, our jobs sucked, everybody was suddenly getting weirdly interested in necrophilia, etc. She wanted to see the future, without living through any more of the present. I tried to convince her that the future would be just as bad, what with climate change and A.I. enslaving all of humanity, but she wouldn’t listen! She was such a beautiful little dreamer!”
“So, she wanted to freeze herself in liquid nitrogen?” Metz asked quizzically.
“It is a perfectly normal thing for a person to want to do,” Pardo snapped.
“She heard a lot about it,” Ryan continued, “She kept saying that cryogenics was the promise of the future and that if it was good enough for Bill Gates it was good enough for her. I tried to tell her that Bill Gates is still alive and that she was probably thinking of Walt Disney, but that just made her even more determined to do it because she loves Disney movies. She said that she was coming to this lab whether I came with her or not, so I just went along, thinking maybe I could still talk her out of it.”
He swallowed deeply. “But, I couldn’t. She knew how to sneak inside the lab after hours, and she knew her way around very well because her dad used to work here up until he started suffering from erectile dysfunction. I don’t really understand why that was an impediment to him working in this lab, but whatever. Kira found this room with the liquid nitrogen and wouldn’t listen to me when I pleaded with her not to freeze herself. I screamed, I cried, I would’ve gotten down on my knees if the floor didn’t look so cold and gross. But she dumped a whole tank of the stuff right onto her, and before I knew it, my girlfriend was nothing more than a glass statue!” He burst into more tears.
Pardo shuddered at the utterance of the words “glass statue,” and walked over to try to comfort the young man, being careful not to step onto the young woman’s remains.
Metz continued to show little outward emotion. “So, how did she end up like this?”
“I was staring at Kira, and my God, she looked so, so beautiful. Her skin was so glistening, her hair bright like polished glass, her eyes shined like diamonds. I was in love all over again. And I thought, why not touch her just once? To see what she felt like? So, I put my hand on her shoulder, like I would do all the time when she was alive. And I thought, ‘this actually isn’t so bad. Maybe she will wake up one day to a better future, one that she deserves and that I can’t give her because of my lack of job skills and my chronic pyromania.’”
“I wanted to give her one last dance, before I left. I gently rocked her back and forth on her feet. But then all of a sudden, one of her heels slipped forward. Her whole body swung up in the air and I couldn’t catch it in time. The whole thing just fell to the floor and crashed into a zillion pieces! And that’s when my life as I knew it ended!”
Both cops stood in silence, looking at the girl’s remains as well as the young man she left behind. Metz took out her handset and began calling for backup.
“We’re at the laboratory at 39200 West Jenkin. There’s been a young woman’s death here and we’re going to need to take a survey of the scene. We have one witness here who says it was self-inflicted.”
“It wasn’t self-inflicted!” Ryan protested. “I killed her! If it weren’t for me and my clumsy dancing, she might still have had a chance of being brought back in the future someday!”
“Sir, your girlfriend was deceased the moment she became frozen. All you did was make a big mess here.” Metz’ assurance was of little comfort to Ryan. He continued sobbing as Pardo placed another hand on his shoulder.
“This sort of thing does happen sometimes,” he told the grief-stricken young man. “Liquid nitrogen is – believe me, it’s not something you want to mess with. But trust me, it gets easier the further you get away from this. Kira may not have a future ahead of her, but you still do.”
“Mr. Dempsey,” Metz continued, “You are not a suspect in a crime, but we are going to have to ask you to come downtown with us to answer some more questions.”
Ryan held his head in his hands and continued weeping louder. “I wish I could just burn this whole place down to the ground! No one else should ever have to suffer like this! What the hell does anybody need liquid nitrogen for anyway, if you can’t even use it to preserve yourself for the future?!”
Pardo gazed around the lab, his eyebrows furrowing. He then turned to his partner. “Audrey, why don’t you go back out to the car and get some tape? We’ll need it to start putting up a perimeter.”
Metz looked at Pardo with a side-eyed glance, but turned to the door without protest. “All right. I’ll go do that. You can take him outside when he’s collected himself a bit.”
“We’ll both be right behind you,” Pardo called as she departed into the hallway. He then motioned for Ryan to move closer to him.
“You didn’t hear this from me,” he whispered, “But there’s a butane torch on that shelf over there, and all the chemicals in that corner – they’re all flammable. Make it look like you knocked them over accidentally, just like you did your girl.” He then walked out of the room and left the bereaved young man alone with what remained of his love.