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!
We’re starting the second story today – a four-part short story I wrote about a man who wakes up in s strange place. It’s called “Re-Life”. Hope you like it!
The taxi from the Re-Life Clinic dropped out of the sky onto a raised landing pad. It alighted twenty feet above ground level like a giant dragonfly. The door lifted, and Eric looked out uncertainly. “The hostel?” he said.
“Down the ramp, on the left,” the taxi told him.
He clambered out, dragging his carry sack along, trying hard to ignore its ever-changing ripples of color. It epitomized the gaudy nanotech that seemed to be in everything here. He’d just completed his six week orientation and rehab at the Clinic. It had taken four weeks just to get used to this new body they’d grown for him, using his own DNA. It still didn’t feel entirely… his.
Now it was finally time to get out into the world. The long weeks of rehab had chaffed at him – he was itching to explore this strange new city, Safris – to look around and see what had changed since he had died half a millennia earlier. And though he had nothing but a few personal belongings and a credit on his account, he was young and healthy again.
The cancer that had killed him was gone.
It had been utterly strange to open his eyes in the clinic for the first time, after he’d had himself frozen on the off chance that someone, sometime in the future would be able to cure him. It had also been traumatic, processing the loss of everything and everyone he had once held dear. But that’s all behind me now. I hope.
He looked around. There were few people about, most of them standard-form. The buildings were so unlike those back home – they thrust upward at strange opposing angles, and they went up and up and up. Like the carry sack, some of them changed colors as he watched.
He fought down his panic. It was perfectly normal to feel out of place the first time out, his counselor had told him. Maybe so, but it was also painful.
He missed many things: Levis, trolly cars, wild cherry pepsi, and the smell of sandalwood.
But he missed David most of all. He pulled out a photo from his carry sack, bent and worn – the only thing that had come through with him from his old life. David had tried his best not to smile in the picture, but the edge of his mouth quirked up to make a dimple, and his eyes danced above his freckled nose and cheeks. You should be here with me.
David had still had a long life ahead of him when Eric had gotten sick. He hadn’t been ready to give that up, and Eric didn’t want to take it away from him on a slim chance.
He put the photo away.
He squinted, and his AR (Augmented Reality) slipped down over his vision. That was going to take some getting used to. Arrows lit up along his path. He followed them down the curving white ramp down to where his AR insisted the hostel should be. It was a blank white wall.
As he looked around, a small pin-prick hole appeared in the wall in front of him, quickly expanding to form a circular doorway. I guess it’s for me. He stepped inside.
He took a deep breath and looked around. He was in a circular white room – white walls, white ceiling, white floor. There were no apparent features in the room – even the door where he had entered from outside had quickly vanished behind him.
His heart started to race. He was trapped, with no way out. He struggled to remain calm. There was no imminent threat here, he told himself. He’d been trained for this. Then he remembered the advice of his counselor. When in doubt, fall back on your AR.
He narrowed his eyes and a series of lines and notations appeared on the walls around him. One rectangle, glowing a vivid, pleasing blue, was simply entitled “reception”.
He walked up to it and put his palm against the hand-shaped icon next to it. The white wall flowed away, exposing another room and a young woman with a brunette bouffant that would have made Jackie Kennedy proud.
She smiled, showing a row of perfect white teeth. Apparently everyone was a movie star in the future. “Yes, can I help you?” she said.
He nodded. “Please. It’s all a bit overwhelming.”
“You’re a re-life?”
He nodded again. “Is it that obvious?”
She grinned. “Yes, but then, we get a lot of your type here. Please fill out these forms.” She handed him a clipboard and a Ticonderoga number two pencil.
He stared at them. They were unexpected reminders, in this age of wonders and strangeness, of his twenty-first century life.
“It’s to help you adjust,” she said, as if she had read his mind. “My idea. A little familiarity from the past.”
He took them, his hands shaking a little, and muttered. “Thanks.”
“You can fill them out over there.” She pointed across the room, where a white table and bench were rising out the floor, made of the same elastic white material.
“Thank you,” he said again. He extended his hand automatically. “I’m Eric.”
She stared at his hand for a moment until he withdrew it. “I’m Jozy.”
He turned, feeling a little embarrassed at the faux pas… apparently these folks didn’t do the whole handshake thing anymore. Something else that should have been included in his welcome packet.
He took a seat and began to fill out the form.
Name: Eric Smith
Date of Death: July 17th, 2017
Date of Re-life: May 14th, 2542
He had to look that one up with the AR. It was rather long. Finally, he finished the form. He took it back up to Jozy, who had a glazed look on her face – in AR, he assumed. He waited a moment, then cleared his throat.
She shook her head, and then her eyes focused on him. “Oh, sorry about that. Just chatting with my friend, Jinx. Here, let me take a look.” She scanned the form, and then nodded and slipped it into a slot in the white desk. “How long are you staying with us?” she asked, giving him a plastic smile.
He shook his head. “I’m not sure. Until I figure out what I’m going to do.”
“It’s difficult, adjusting,” she said, and this time her smile was warmer. “When was your death year?”
She nodded, as if he had confirmed her suspicions. “I’ve seen a lot of re-lifes come through this place, and some don’t make it.”
“Don’t make it?” That sounds ominous.
She nodded. “It’s just too much for them, all the changes. But not you.” She stared at him speculatively. “I have a good feeling about you. You’ll come through it just fine.”
“Thanks, I think” he said.
He hadn’t expected to awaken in this strange new world, so far removed from his own, when he’d joined the Futurists’ Society. He’d thought maybe he’d wake up, if the whole thing even worked, twenty, thirty, forty years into the future. When they had cars that got 200 miles to the gallon, Canada was a part of the United States, and one of Chelsea Clinton’s kids was running for President.
When they could fix his cancer.
Instead, he might as well have slipped into another world, or another dimension altogether.
He’d decided to make the most of it. After all, how often did you get a new lease on life, however strange?
“Your room code has been loaded into your AR,” she said. “You have a thirty day stay with a meal and clothing stipend. If you haven’t found somewhere else to move on to by the end of that time, you’ll have to find other lodging.”
He took all that in. He accessed his AR, and there it was, a glowing icon shaped like a little house. He looked at it, and it expanded with directions and more information. “Got it,” he said. Thanks… uh… Jozy.”
“It was a flash,” she said. “If you’re free later, I could show you around a little.”
He thought about it. A guide would be nice. “Sure. What time?”
“Tonight at six? I’ll slit your room an invite.”
Flash and slit, he thought, translating them to “blast” and “send”. Sounded like an old-fashioned peep show. He smiled privately.
It looked like he still had a lot of catching up to do.