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Science Fiction Drama Sad

The ice surrounding Dr. Raynovic had begun to thin and melt. The man could feel the water beginning to accumulate on his skin and the frozen cocoon around him opening. With tremendous difficulty, he stretched his hands and feet, attempting to wake them and remind his body how to operate. His limbs slowly began to twitch, then shift, and finally move within his confined space. A loud beeping became deafening to the ears of Dr. Raynovic, and he grimaced in frustration.

When the annoyance finally abated, the doctor opened his eyes. The same expression appeared on his face as his muscles awakened, and the brightness from the room became overwhelming. With his eyes sealed again and his mind racing, he heard from outside his entrapment,

“Doctor! Doctor! Are you alright? I’ll activate the warming beacons and melt the rest of this ice. Hold still!” The footsteps retreated quickly and became almost non-existent. A warm, pleasant breeze washed over every inch of the doctor’s body and a red glow shone through his closed eyelids. The heat was welcome as it soothed his muscles and allowed him to relax. In a matter of minutes, Dr. Raynovic was completely free and, with his eyes only slightly open, began the slow and tiresome task of activating every joint and in his being. With the help of his assistant, Professor Flynn, he was sitting up with his eyes open and his head spinning within 15 minutes.

“How long has it been? Was the freezing a success?” The doctor asked in a whisper.

“Sir, the experiment wasn’t a success. I don’t think we should go over this right now. You need rest, real nutrition. Get your strength back and we can talk about it tomorrow.” The look on the assistant’s face was unmistakable. Something was terribly wrong. There’s no way Dr. Raynovic could get his strength back with darkness looming in the eyes of his partner.

After a deep breath to steady his nerves, the doctor said in a strong and firm voice, “tell me everything. Hold nothing back. Be straight with me Flynn.”

A nervous exhalation came from the professor before he started his explanation. “You’ve obviously survived, which is more than any of us thought…” Dread filled the chest of Dr. Raynovic. “We followed your orders and kept the trial going until the 5-year mark, but a massive storm had come through and wiped our power supply 3 years in. Everything was shut down for 2 weeks. All the monitors tracking your vitals were offline, and the backup generator was badly damaged. The electronics keeping you frozen were deactivated and the pressure in the cocoon was lost. We sealed the room to keep your pod as cold as possible but, I’ll be honest with you doctor, we figured the change in temperature over those two weeks was going to be enough to kill you. We thought it possible that you’d awaken early inside the pod but be trapped in the capsule. With no power and no backup generator, we couldn’t even activate the warming beacons to thaw you out properly; we also wanted to honor your wish of continuing the experiment at all costs.”

“Well, that’s not the worst news you could have given me Professor. Relax, the experiment was a success and I survived. Imagine what this means for humanity! We’ve shown that it’s possible to slow the human body to such a point as to preserve life and minimize nutritional needs for up to 5 years!” The doctor felt relieved as he watched his fingers opening and closing, his toes wiggling, his vision beginning to steady. The rush of warm blood moving to his outer extremities was exhilarating. It was as though this feeling of bliss was ripped from his insides as he met Flynn’s eyes and saw an even deeper terror than what had been there 5 minutes before. “Oh no. What…” he asked.

The anxious swallow was visible through the neck of his assistant and after a momentary pause, the professor began, “I’m afraid it gets much worse than that. I’m so sorry doctor. With all the commotion after the storm, the uncertainty, we reached out to your family to let them know what had happened.”

“You WHAT?! Professor! Why would you do that?! I specifically told you not to tell anyone of failure until absolutely certain!” Fury filled the eyes of the doctor, which were fully open now.

“We thought the experiment WAS a failure. We thought that it was over. We thought YOU were over! We waited a week for the power to return and it never did! We kept the room closed to insulate the pod, but we could see through the glass that a puddle was forming below the station! We thought it highly likely you were going to thaw and either starve or suffocate as your body required more oxygen and more nutrition. We kept looking through the glass and didn’t even see movement when we were sure your pod had passed the critical threshold. I’m sorry doctor.” Terror turned quickly to despair in the face of the professor.

“Well after the two weeks did you tell my family I was okay?! Did word get out about our experiment going awry?” In a fit of panic, confusion, and anger, Doctor Raynovic attempted to stand and make his way to the phone on the desk but the strength in his legs was gone and he fell to the hard tiled floor.  

“Doctor! What are you doing!? You need rehabilitation! You’re not ready to walk yet!” The assistant rushed to the doctor’s side to keep him immobile on the floor.

The room spun around Dr. Raynovic; he felt like he was rolling in a fighter jet. He closed his eyes to halt the nausea and was overcome with exhaustion. He awoke several hours later in the laboratory bed; his wife, his 2 children, his assistant, and a strange man he’d never seen before were standing and staring at him. The looks varied from face to face as he scanned the small group encircling him. His children had tears in their eyes; looks of happiness, relief, and longing were obvious. Professor Flynn wore a look of guilt and fear, and he was standing well behind the family and away from the bed. The strange man had a look of indifference on his face, possibly anger and annoyance. The doctor didn’t think much of this but wondered who the hell this was. Finally, he looked at his wife who was crying, her face in her hands and her eyes completely covered. After several moments of silence, Dr. Raynovic’s oldest son made his way slowly and hesitantly to his father’s side and gave him a tender hug.

“It’s ok buddy, I’m feeling better now. Give me a real hug.” At this, the doctor’s other son rushed to his side and joined his brother in the hug. Raynovic’s wife stayed motionless, her sobbing audible and her face buried deep in her hands. “Marie, come over here, what’s wrong? I’m okay! The experiment was a success! The power must have returned to my pod just in time to freeze me back to a safe temperature and keep me under! It’s all okay.” The doctor hung an outstretched hand in the direction of his wife, inviting her to join the family hug.

What happened next sent chills through the doctor; a turning in his stomach made him search the room for a receptacle he could puke into. In a slow but deliberate gesture, the strange man at his bedside put his arm around Marie and pulled her close. The same cold and irritated expression on the man’s face more pronounced than before. Raynovic was speechless.

Professor Flynn stepped forward from his corner of the room and took a seat next to the doctor’s bed. “Dr. Raynovic, the machines used to track your vitals never returned to power after we came back online. The freezers became operational, but your monitors were fried, and the circuits connected to your body were trapped through the ice. They all shorted out.” The professor hung his head and the loudest silence the doctor had ever experienced filled the room. Even Marie’s crying became silent. The assistant continued, “we told Marie there was a 99% chance you had died, and the 1% was unsure at that, as we had no way to track your vitals. We returned the pod to operating temperature and followed your request to keep the experiment going, but with no idea of your body’s condition. Your nutritional supply seemed to be working fine but that didn’t renew our hope. We told your family we were likely keeping a corpse frozen for the remainder of the trial. We were all but certain.” When Flynn looked up, he too had streams of tears running down his face.

Marie finally emerged from behind her hands and said in a quiet voice, “I’m so sorry, we all thought you had passed after the storm. We were destroyed. We came to visit your pod every day for a year, but it became too hard.” Dr. Raynovic shifted his glance from Marie to the man holding her. Marie continued, “This is Gene. We met about a year after we thought you were gone. It was never easy.” Her eyes returned to her hands and with Gene’s arm around her shoulder, the couple left the room. Tears filled the eyes of the doctor as he squeezed his sons, who were now crying and holding their father tightly. Raynovic looked over at his assistant and once again saw a look of foreboding dread on his face. The doctor didn’t have the strength to ask what Flynn needed to say; he only stared into his eyes and awaited what was next to come.

Professor Flynn began, “word of the experiment and of the accident got out to the media. We’re not sure how but it didn’t take long for you to become a worldwide news topic. The scientific community went crazy, our phone was ringing constantly, professionals from all over the world were sending mail and some of the locals were even showing up outside the laboratory. Everyone wanted to know more about the experiment, about the cause of your death; people were asking if there was any chance you could be alive… and we told them no.” The emotions on the face of the professor seemed to convey utter exhaustion. The ordeal had to be taxing for the assistant and having to tell the doctor all of this in one day, in front of his family, was likely even more tiring. He continued, “Doctor, our laboratory has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for your efforts. I’m not sure what happens now that you’re alive, but you’re a household name. The whole experiment is a household name.”

Dr. Raynovic felt a flurry of emotions. He was confused beyond belief at how he survived through two weeks of no refrigeration and minimal nutrition, even in the state his body was in. He was devastated that his wife had moved on after only a year of uncertainty. He was elated to see his children and to see how they’d grown, and that they were healthy and happy to see him. The newest emotion to flood his mind was that of interest and curiosity. This was the whole reason he did the experiment, to show the scientific community what’s possible in the field of human preservation. Despite the fact they all thought he had passed after 3 years, they knew the trial was a success up to that point, and it only failed because of a massive storm! The doctor was attempting to comprehend that the world thought he was dead, that his company and laboratory had received the Nobel Peace Price because of his death. “Thank you, Professor Flynn. You did everything as I would have. I wish to be alone to sleep, this is overwhelming. Thank you for coming to visit boys. I’ll call you when I wake up and I hope to be home soon.” With that, the three remaining individuals left the doctor alone and exited the room.

Dr. Raynovic slept through the night and awoke early the next morning feeling energized, alert, and much healthier than he had the day before. He pondered over the news he’d received from his assistant 12 hours earlier, and a deep feeling of dread filled his heart. He was proud to have impacted the community to which he’d dedicated his entire life and career, but none of it seemed to matter with his family having been torn apart. He didn’t hold it against Marie for leaving, he would have wanted her to move on, but it didn’t lessen the pain. He had so many questions left unanswered, so many fears and anxieties. One of his sons must have come back to his room after he’d fallen asleep and had left a care package on the bedside table. Inside the box were snacks, beverages, a few of his favorite books, and his tablet from home. Curiosity got the best of Raynovic as he reached for a bottle of water and his tablet. With a long, deep breath, the doctor powered up the tablet and navigated to the internet browser. He made his way to the news tab set to his home screen and typed “Dr. Raynovic.” His heart skipped a beat when the page returned 20,000 articles as well as links to scientific documents and research papers, all covering his company, his experiment, and his contribution to science. A satisfied smile spread across the face of the doctor, and tears of sadness filled his eyes. The smile faded as the first tears fell down his cheeks and soaked into his bedspread. The image of Marie and Gene walking out of the room together was burned into the forefront of his mind. The thought of his family being torn apart was too much to bear. He’d trade his Nobel Prize, his fame, his “success” to have them back as one unit. Dr. Raynovic turned off the tablet, flipped the cover closed, and returned it to the bedside table. His dreams had been fulfilled, his family had been torn apart, and surely his health was all but crippled by the experiment. The world thought he was dead. He had died a national hero and arisen to despair. Doctor Raynovic felt his strength deplete, the room began to spin once more, and he laid his head softly against his pillow. He slipped into blackness, into a sleep which he’d never awake from. The harshness of the experiment, the tremendous grief he’d been slammed with, and the sudden excitement of his accomplishments were too much for the doctor’s heart. He died a legend. 

September 16, 2021 00:46

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2 comments

Kate Winchester
02:39 Sep 23, 2021

This was well written! I could feel the tension of not knowing at first and the despair that Dr. Raynovic felt when he realized he lost his family. I agree with Delia that suspended animation is very interesting and I liked your take on it!

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Delia Strange
11:15 Sep 20, 2021

I've always found suspended animation to be an interesting premise, and also the idea that a person can think themselves dead (or think themselves well again). You've explored both of these concepts in one story! I liked the pacing of the tale and the description of the ice thawing at the start. Other than the first line, I would take out the other 'began/to' phrases to give the actions more impact and remove the repetitiveness. I felt Dr Raynovic's trepidation as he asked about the experiment and didn't get a straight answer beyond a sing...

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