Don’t worry, the story isn’t about winter.
He’d died and gone to hell. That must be it. There was no other explanation. The noises too loud, his body too heavy, the light too bright.
But he was cold. That didn’t fit the picture.
He fought, with his eyes closed, against the intrusions on his senses until slowly, after what felt like years, the sensations got less and less.
„Well, Miss, the reversal is a long and difficult process. You’re going to have to be patient.“ Those were not the kind of first words he’d wanted to hear, he thought, and then was dragged slowly into the darkness again.
When he woke next, he wasn’t quite as cold.
„Oh good, you’re awake,“ a woman’s voice said. Too loud. Too shrill. He squeezed his eyes shut despite never having opened them. „Oh come on, old man. Don’t be a wuss.“
He didn’t recognize her. Judging from the tone in her voice, he didn’t want to, either. She sighed heavily, then plopped down in what he presumed was a chair next to his bad.
„The greatest thief of all times,“ she whispered, „afraid of a little reality.“
„Not.“ His voice was barely above a wheeze, his throat burnt. „Afraid.“ He was rattled by a cough. A hand touched his face and someone, the woman probably, pushed a straw into his mouth.
„Drink,“ she said. „I need you able to talk.“
He gulped down the fluids too quickly and coughed again. When he opened his eyes, she was leaning over him, her face a blur.
„Do you know who I am?“ she asked.
He shook his head. Slowly, her face came into focus. Her eyes, her nose, her thin lips. The expression on her face stern, as if about to scold him. It couldn’t be.
This was impossible.
„I’m Alice. Your great-granddaughter.“
Eh. Apparently very possible.
Alice’s eyes reminded him of his mother. The expression, too. She also had his wife’s nose. Carla.
He lifted his arm high enough to reach a strand of her hair. It was soft as it wrapped around his fingers. When he pulled her down, she winced.
„What¬“ his voice was barely above a whisper although he meant to shout. „¬have you done?“
Her mouth twisted into a smile.
The clothes lying in front of him were the ugliest he’d ever seen. There’d been some fashion trends in his lifetime that he hadn’t understood and he had imagined quite a bit about the future, but this was beyond anything his mind could have dreamed up. The pants were a mixture of silver and black, at least two sizes too small. He hadn’t tried putting them on, yet, but they looked like they’d barely fit over his calves. The jacket matched the pants in color and design. They had several tags and symbols embedded in the chest area. At least the undershirt was plain black, but he didn’t recognize the fabric.
Alice didn’t knock when she entered his room.
„What is taking you so long?“
„I’m not wearing these,“ he said. He still stood in his hospital issued underpants. „They look ridiculous.“
Alice sighed. Her expression went from quizzical to annoyed. It was still fascinating to watch her. She was so foreign and yet so familiar. He wondered how many more of his family members he’d see in her face.
He wondered if it would continue to hurt like this whenever he did.
„No,“ she said, „they look like they will protect you from the rays outside. They also look like what everyone else is wearing.“ His eyes left her face for a moment. She did seem to be wearing the same color palette, although it looked a lot less ridiculous on her. He wouldn’t put it past her to pick the worst of the bunch for him to wear. Carla would have done the same. „Put these on,“ Alice said, „or I’m putting you out again.“
When he finally tried them on, the pants fit better than he’d thought. They slid smoothly over his legs, form-fitting without being too restricting. The jacket was too hot, though. Or maybe it was him. His body temperature hadn’t quite adjusted after she’d gotten him back from the dead. When Carla had suggested they freeze their bodies after death on the off chance that sometime in the future they could be revived and live a second lifetime together, he’d just nodded along. He’d never expected that this would be where he’d end up: a hundred years in the future with his great-granddaughter barking orders at him.
Alice carted his wheelchair down the hall into the parking garage. Nobody passed them on the way. The rooms on each side lay in darkness, doors half ajar. Aside from the squeaking of his wheels, there really weren’t a lot of hospital noises.
„Where is everyone?“ he asked.
„Vacation,“ Alice said, her voice twisting easily around the lie.
There was only one car in the parking garage and it was black with silver tinted windows. Of course it was.
So she dragged his dead-for-a-hundred-years frozen body to an apparently abandoned hospital to wake him up. Made sense.
„Are you at some point going to explain yourself?“ he asked.
„Yes,“ she said. He raised an eyebrow at her. She tilted her head to the side. Then, she sighed. She looked so much like Carla when she did that. „I want you to show me where you hid the treasure.“
The house she took him to was a small box with grey walls and a flat root. Same as all the other houses on the street. Same as all the other houses on the past ten streets, actually. A great place to hide.
Or go crazy.
„Times have changed, Gramps,“ Alice said when he stared at the box. She helped him through the front door and down the steps that immediately descended. The lights turned on automatically with each step they took. The floor below, completely underground, provided much more living space than the box above ground would have made him believe.
Alice wasn’t kidding about the radiation.
„I know about the treasure,“ she said as soon as she got him sitting down on a couch. „You got some big hit and hid it right before you got iced. Show me where it is. You do that and I’ll let you go.“
„The car?“ he asked. He still had trouble pronouncing words. Like his limbs, his voice seemed to be waking up slower than his brain. „The house?“
She shrugged. „The neighborhood is just being developed. They won’t look here.“
„Brilliant.“ Who were they anyway?
„What makes you think I’ll help you?“ he asked and laughed. It was more of a wheeze.
Her fist hit the table so hard it jumped.
„You left us with nothing,“ she spat. Her eyes shone in the bright light of the kitchen. „Your daughter was hunted by your enemies for revenge and by your allies for the damn treasure. You know, she died shortly after my mother was born in a car chase. A car chase, of all things. I’ve read all about you. I know how great a thief you were and how well you lived off it. I found your cryo cell ages ago and kept it hidden. You owe me. You realize you can still be tried for your crimes now? The statute of limitations is measured in your lifetime years.“ He hadn’t known that. When had that happened? „So, dear Gramps, you’re going to help me get that treasure. I have no other use for you.“
He should slap her, put her in her place. Who was she to talk to him like that? But his anger was kept in check by his pride. Here was his great-granddaughter, his heir, in all her furious glory. She’d read his journals, she knew of his crimes, and still she’d dragged him to the middle of nowhere and yelled at him like she was in charge.
She’d have made such a great head of his empire.
„If it’s all the same to you,“ he said, slowly rounding out each word, „I’ll propose a deal.“
The fact that Alice agreed to his deal was her second mistake. Her third was to agree to get Carla before they’d unearthed the treasure. He’d showed her the hiding place, a dump that was still there, surprisingly untouched after a hundred years. Maybe that’s because the dump was used for chemical waste.
Her fourth mistake was to trust him and Carla enough to split up for the supplies.
„I feel bad for her,“ Carla said from the passenger seat. Her voice was still quiet, raspy. She had been frozen later than he had, so she had a few years of age on him now. Her face was wrinkled, her hands small and thin. And yet, she was just as beautiful as he remembered.
„Don’t,“ he said. „I had to learn the hard way, too.“
„You were her last hope.“
„No, not her last. Just the most convenient at the time.“ If he was right about her, she’d recover from this setback sooner than they’d like. He had seen it in her eyes back at the house: She had that fury, that anger, that determination to push through. And now he had given her more of that. More of that fuel that would make her follow them to the ends of the Earth to destroy them.
Because Alice’s first mistake had been not to ask about the treasure itself.
He wasn’t sure if early 20th century Bordeaux wine was still as valuable as it had been in his lifetime.
But he sure wasn’t going to stick around to find out.
Original image by Costel Slincu.
If you were woken up a hundred years after you died, what do you think the reason would be? Let me know in the comments!
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