Today’s the day for The Weekly Fix. Every Thursday, I’ll add a new scene or chapter of a free story, until the whole thing is here on the blog – and then I’ll add it to its own page on the site. It’s a great way for you to test drive my writing, for free!
Here’s part four – the final part – of “Re-Life”. Hope you like it!
They left the hostel, and Jozy summoned transportation. A v-winged taxi like the one that had brought him here from the clinic zoomed down and alighted on the street next to them. The door flipped open, and Eric climbed in after her… him. He was still having a hard time wrapping his mind around the whole gender-change thing. Eric liked this Jozy. Really liked him.
But just a few hours before, he’d met the female version of Jozy, and he hadn’t been attracted to her at all. It made his head spin.
“Alpha zone,” Jozy said, and they settled in together as the taxi took off. “Tell me, what was it like?” he asked Eric.
“Your city. Before you were re-lifed here?” He looked wistful. “It must have been amazing.”
Eric laughed. “Amazing, huh? We didn’t have anything like the world you have here. We were stuck in the gender we were born with, for one thing… well, you could change that, but it took a long time and a lot of surgery, and the results weren’t always perfect.” He’d had some transgender friends, pre- and post-op, back home. It had been difficult, what they had needed to go through just to be themselves.
“People were more noble then.” Jozy stared off into the sky. “You had to work for things. We have it way too easy here, now.”
Eric turned to look at him, reassessing his companion. “You think things here are too easy?”
Jozy smiled. “Don’t get me wrong. I love being able to be whatever I want to be, whenever I want to. But…”
“Sometimes it’s easy to forget who you really are. Or were.”
Eric nodded. “I get that. I just thought I was the only one who was bothered by it.” He was tempted to kiss Jozy again, but they were interrupted by a slight bump, as the taxi set them down at their destination.
Jozy had a mischievous look on his face as he climbed out, grinning back at Eric. “Come on!”
He followed, and found himself in a deserted plaza, next to an old-fashioned chain-link fence. The land on the far side of the fence was filled with trees, bushes and other vegetation. “You’re not gonna mug me, are you?” he said, looking around nervously. They were all alone.
Jozy laughed. “That never happens anymore.” He grabbed Eric’s hand and dragged him toward the fence. “It’s not the same world you left behind. Come on.”
Eric took that in stride. “Where are we going?”
“Here.” He pulled Eric to a gap where the fencing had been pulled back. Jozy ducked through and he followed, snagging his shirt on the rough wire. They climbed a hill as they wound their way through a forest. It was filled with redwoods and ferns and mushrooms – a variety of flora that he hadn’t see in such a long time, at least in the real world.
He took a deep breath. The air smelled fresh and wonderful, full of life.
He forgot to wonder where they were going and just enjoyed the unexpected moment away from the strangeness of this new world. The seconds stretched into minutes as they walked, then into half an hour. Eric was content to walk, to feel the earth beneath his feet, the intermittent rays of the sun on his face.
Out here, it was as if the whole city of Safris didn’t exist. As if the land had been wiped clean of humanity, and it was just the two of them in their own Garden of Eden. He was tempted to take off his clothes and run naked through the forest.
And then the trees ended. They stepped back out into the full sunshine, and he stopped short, stunned.
The city of San Francisco lay revealed before him. Safris…
It was different in some of the details from The City that he remembered from when it had been his home so many years before. There were more skyscrapers, taller towers, though many of them were smashed and broken. But he still recognized that view.
They were on what had once been called Twin Peaks, and the old Grande Dame was spread out in ruin below them. “What happened here?” Eric said at last, staring out at the devastation.
“It was a plague,” Jozy said, his face grim. “In the Great War in the 2040’s. It killed three quarters of the world’s population, but it started here.”
That’s when it finally hit him. Everyone he had ever known, everything he had ever done, every dog and cat and book and iced half-caff sugar free vanilla soy latte he had ever had was gone, irretrievably lost in the dustbin of history. And no one here even remembered them.
He sank down to the ground in shock and began to sob.
The past, his past, had been an abstract thing, a part of his life that he had hermetically sealed beneath this bright, shiny new world. But here it was, right in front of him. And it was irrevocably sealed away five hundred years ago. Separated from him by a gulf so vast that even his thoughts couldn’t bridge it. And everyone he loved was gone.
He grieved for them. For his Father. For himself. But he grieved for David most of all.
Jozy sat down next to Eric and put his hand around his shoulder, holding him for awhile while he cried. When He finally calmed down a little, Jozy whispered “It’s hard to deal with this. Believe me, I know.”
Eric pushed him away. “How could you possibly know? How could you have any idea what it feels like to wake up one day, and know that everyone you ever loved has been dead five hundred years?”
Jozy stood, looking hurt again.
Even as Eric had said it, he’d felt badly about being such an ass to this man, who had been nothing but kind to him. But he couldn’t help it.
He looked up. Jozy was staring at him.
“How can I know?” he asked, his brow furrowed. “Because I’m from old Chicago.”
“What?” Eric asked, confused. “You’re—“
“I’m just like you.” He was quiet for a moment, lost in memory. “I was suspended in 2042,” he said. “I was one of the last from our time, and one of the first re-lifed in this crazy world. I’ve been waiting for someone else who would understand – someone like me, from my time, or close enough.”
Eric stared at Jozy as if he were seeing the man for the first time. “Haven’t there been hundreds of re-lifes?”
Jozy nodded. “Yes, but very few from the 21st. Not many of us survived the collapse. How many people did you know who were going to get frozen?”
Eric thought about it. “A couple dozen?”
“So few. And only a some of the facilities made it through the plague.”
Eric’s jumbled emotions tried to work themselves out. Jozy was like him. Really like him. “I thought you were one of them,” he said at last, standing, feeling a little more certain on his feet.
Jozy laughed. “After you’ve been here a few more years, you’ll act more like them, too.” He gestured toward The City. “That’s why I come out here sometimes. To remind myself. To remember who I was.”
“And who is that?”
“Joseph. Joseph Silver.” He held out a hand.
Eric stared at it for a moment. It was such a familiar gesture, freighted with all kinds of memories. He took it, and pulled Joseph in for a hug, which became a passionate kiss.
At last, they parted. “You really were like me, weren’t you? A gay twenty first century man?”
“A long time ago.”
They stared down at the ruined city for a while, arms around each other, without talking. The sun was descending toward the sea behind them, and the Bay sparkled in the afternoon sunlight.
“This whole thing is going to take some getting used to,” Eric said at last. He looked at his companion. “How long did it take you?”
Jozy… Joseph’s mouth quirked up in a half smile, his eyes dancing. “Seventy years, so far. I’ll let you know when it happens.”
He’s so much like David. Impulsively, Eric pulled the photo of David out of his pocket and showed it to Joseph.
Eric nodded. “In another life.” After a moment’s deliberation, he ripped the photo into small pieces, and blew them out onto the wind to float down into The City. David was at peace, now, where he belonged, in the past, and Eric was here and now.
As the sun started to set behind Twin Peaks, Joseph held out his hand.
Eric grinned. He’d found someone like him. Someone who was a little like David in this unfamiliar future world. Someone to guide him though all its wonders and pitfalls.
He took Joseph’s hand, and they walked back into the woods together, toward Safris and the new world.