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John Corey Whaley

“Welcome back, Travis Coates.”



When Dr. Lloyd Saranson from the Saranson Center for Life Preservation showed up at my house, I was puking in the guest bathroom with my dad sitting on the edge of the tub and patting my back. By that point I’d been sick for almost a year, seen every cancer specialist in the tri-state area, and given up all hope of survival.

Then this guy walks in and insists on pulling me out of my deathbed long enough to pitch us the craziest shit in history. And we listened because that’s what desperate people do. They listen to anything you have to say to them.

“Travis,” he said. “I want to save your life.”

“Back of the line, buddy. No cutting.” I looked to my parents with a grin, but they were either too tired or too sad to laugh.

“And how do you plan to do this?” Dad asked.

“Are you familiar with cryogenics?” Dr. Saranson asked with a serious tone.

“All right. Thanks for stopping by,” Mom said, standing up and signaling for the door.

“Mrs. Coates, I wish you’d just hear me out for a few minutes. Please.”

“Doctor, we’ve really been through a lot and—”

“Mom,” I interrupted her. “Please don’t take this away from me.”

“Fine, go on,” she said, sitting back down.

“Travis,” he said. “Your body is done on this earth. We all know that. It’s a sad state of affairs, but there’s just no way we can change that.”

“Try harder, doc. You’re losing us here,” I said.

“Right. That’s to say, with what I’m proposing to you, that all doesn’t matter anymore.”

“Why’s that?” I asked, looking to my parents, who were on the verge of launching from their seats and attacking him.

“Well, because in the future there’ll be different ways for you to . . . exist.”

“The future,” I said. This wasn’t something I’d given too much thought lately.

“Exactly. The future. Imagine, Travis, that you could simply fall asleep in this life and wake up in a new one someday.”

“How far into the future?” I asked. In my mind I was seeing my spaceship folding down into a suitcase like George Jetson’s.

“With our latest breakthroughs we’re hoping to develop the means to reanimate our first patients within a decade or two.”

“You’re serious, aren’t you?” Dad asked.

“Quite serious, Mr. Coates.”

“Has anyone else volunteered for this?” I asked.

“You’d be our seventeenth patient.”

“So cryogenics,” Dad said. “You want to freeze Travis with the hope of bringing him back someday?”

“Not exactly,” he said. “As I was saying, Travis’s body is done on this earth.”

“Oh my God,” Mom said quietly, this look of terror and disgust washing over her face.

“My head?” I pointed to it when I spoke, like the surgeon needed that. “You want to freeze just my head?”

“It’s the only part of you not riddled with cancer cells.”

This guy, he talked like he’d been there with us the whole time—with this familiarity and casualness that most strangers never used around “the dying kid.” I liked it a lot, actually.

“So you knock me out and freeze my head, and I’m supposed to wake up in the future without a body and just roll with it?”

“Actually, there are several options for your hypothetical future recovery scenario, should we proceed any further.”

Options for My Hypothetical Future Recovery Scenario (Abridged)

1) Full-body regeneration through stem cell implantation into controlled fluid environment

2) Transplantation of full cranial structure onto robotic apparatus

3) Transplantation of full cranial structure onto donor body

4) Neuro-uploading into donor body and brain

Personal Reactions to Options for My Hypothetical Future Recovery Scenario (Abridged)

1) Gross


3) Well, that’s not happening

4) Say whaaaat?

After Dr. Saranson left that day, Mom and Dad started laughing, which would’ve been really nice for a change had I not secretly decided that I was going to volunteer whether they liked it or not. I was tired of dying, and I figured since this was the best idea I’d heard in months, and didn’t involve radiation or weeks of vomiting, then I may as well go for it. I saw it like this: I was going to die either way. Why shouldn’t I be able to just fall asleep with this slight (okay—completely impossible but still slight) possibility of my return instead of continuing on this never-ending torture fest of having everyone I love watch me slowly fade away? Maybe I’d never really get to come back, but damn it, once that idea got into my skull, there was no letting it go.

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