The waking up part was the worst. Robert remembered the feeling of the first couple of times where he expected to just open his eyes as if waking up from a dream, feeling well rested and ready for the world. He remembered how he had been unable to connect his mind to his body and the panic that it had resulted in. Your mind was always the first to emerge from the darkness and you would start to feel aware of the world around you. Thoughts would flow through your head as if they had been lurking just beneath your conscience waiting to be set free. You would start asking questions in the darkness, such as, “What’s going on?”, “Am I awake?”, “Am I dead?”, “Why can’t I move my legs?”. Then a tingle in your toes and fingers would start as the cryogenic fluids began to recede from your body through the tubes attached to your extremities, and spine. Your body still wouldn’t move, but you could start to feel warmth spread through your legs and arms and at some point in that process, your mind would snap and you were completely aware of where you were, who your were and what was happening to you. At this point the pain set in. It started as pins and needles working their way from somewhere around your bellybutton towards your feet and your head. They would slowly intensify while the rest of the cryogenic fluids leaked from your body, eventually culminating in all your nerve endings screaming. After a lifetime of that, which in reality probably only amounted to about a minute, the pain would stop and the body relax.
At this point, Robert had gone under so many times that the pain had receded to a dull numbness. Sometimes it even felt like the pain was the only reminder that he was actually still alive, and at that point he almost felt disappointment at the realisation. But he promised Elsa. Promised her to stay alive, and keep up hope. Hope had been a tough deal, but he could at least honour the first part of the agreement.
Robert opened his eyes and felt himself slowly gaining control over his arms. He flexed his fingers and toes, feeling the joints cracking. He was getting a bit old for the process. The body could only withstand so much. He pushed the button on the inside of the cryochamber lid, and watched the glass pane slide to the side making a soft pop, as the pressure equalised. His back cracked when he tried so sit up. He was definitely getting too old for it. The room he was in was dark, and the only sound was the buzzing of the air filtering system. Good, it still worked.
“Lights on”, he said with a raspy voice, while unplugging the tubes from the implant in his spine, wrists, and ankles.
A soft light came on along the edges of the ceiling and a familiar voice said, “Good morning dear.”
Robert’s breath caught in his throat, and he felt ice running down his back. A million thoughts and questions ran through his head in a split second, and he searched his brain for answers. His mind was clouded from the neglect of use.
“Elsa?”, he whispered.
“Yes, dear. Did you have a good sleep?”
“But how…?”. This was not possible. Robert rubbed his face and shook his head violently. Was he going crazy? He could be. He was in the right situation for going crazy. He was alone, underground, and had been for a very long time. At least since his wife…. “You’re not real”, he said to himself.
“Your heart rate is rather high, dear. Are you all right?”
Robert looked at the cryochamber next to his. The lid was closed and the power was off. Now that the lights were on he could see the room more clearly. There was no one there but him.
“Would you like me to give you something for the muscle pain?”, the voice continued, and Robert realised that the voice of his wife was coming from the speakers mounted on the ceiling.
“Isaac!”, Robert roared furiously as the memory came back to him. “Reset! Reset now!”. A short pause, and then a different, voice sounded from the speakers. “I did warn you, you know.”
“Yes, yes I know”, Robert sighed.
“I told you it was a bad idea, but you insisted.”
“Yes, I know I did”, Robert lifted his legs over the edge of the plastic shell of the chamber and with an effort lowered himself slowly into the wheelchair standing next to the chamber.
“Do you want something for the muscle pain?”, the A.I. prompted yet again.
“No, no I’m fine. I just need to relax a little.”
“You’ve been relaxing for ten years. Do you want to know the date?”
“No, thank you”, Robert quickly responded. “Just make me some coffee, will you?”
“Your coffee will be delivered in the kitchen. Should I make you some breakfast? The bread disintegrated some years ago, but the powdered eggs are still good.”
“Is that your peculiar sense of humour, Isaac? In that case, it is not funny”, Robert said to the A.I. while turning the chair. With a last glance at the second cryochamber, he wheeled the chair out of the room towards the kitchen.