‘We’ve found a cure.’ Gideon stammered with excitement on the phone. He had been striving towards this moment all his life, well, since nursery at least. ‘I haven’t told Mother yet.’
‘Good, don’t get her hopes up, I mean when could it happen?’ I felt a strange detachment, but tried to keep my voice bright. It was the least I could do; he was the only one who stood any chance of fulfilling our mother’s wishes.
‘I don’t know, I’ve been in touch with some of the experts.’
‘Come round tonight for dinner and we can talk. I bet you haven’t been eating properly.’
‘Oh no,’ John said to me when he came home from work. ‘I thought we were going to start watching that Scandi drama tonight when the kids are in bed.’
‘Doesn’t my family supply enough drama for you? Anyway, the least I can do is feed him and try and find out if he’s been taking his medication.’
‘I know, love, but I had a rotten day at work and the last thing I need is your nutty brother and all his scientific gobbledygook.’
‘Don’t talk like that in front of the children. Just because he’s highly intelligent and sensitive and a bit bi-polar, just be thankful Moreton hasn’t shown up lately.’
Moreton was the black sheep of the family and we had no idea where he was most of the time. His twin Melissa was the opposite, so spiritual we never knew whether she was up in the clouds or away with the fairies. We had all grown up so differently; whether that was due to our strange heritage or just a thing that happened in families was hard to tell.
I was the only child of Geoffrey and Susan Saunders conceived naturally and the only ordinary one. Despite the pressure on all of us to become brilliant scientists, I had only ever wanted to work in a shop and come home and watch television; then get married and have babies, put them to bed and curl up with a nice ordinary husband and watch television. My dreams had come true. John worked for the council and was not a dustman, as my mother called him, but a public health cleansing operative.
In short, my father would not have been proud of his eldest child and would not be proud of me if we ever met again. I did not remember him; I was born in 1979 and he died early in 1981; but he was still a vivid, forceful presence in our lives as we grew up.
The only thing I had done to please my mother was to have children. For the plan to work, our family had to go forth and multiply far into the future, so there would always be relatives around to greet him and financial security to pay for Stage Two.
John and I sat in a daze. I had missed half the conversation putting the children to bed and then putting the older two back to bed; they did not want to miss anything, a visit from Uncle Gideon was always exciting to them. The feeling was mutual, he was much more animated in their company, convinced they had inherited their grandfather’s intelligence; a consolation for the fact that he had not yet met a woman who wanted to bear his children.
My husband was looking, not so surreptitiously, at his watch. ‘So Gideon, let’s just cut to the main point; this cure you have will be wonderful for people now in the NHS, but it’s not going to help your father. The technology hasn’t developed far enough to thaw him out.’
‘Reanimate him,’ corrected my brother. ‘Yes and no; we’re getting nearer that point every day.’
Clever though he was, my brother could not be an expert in two vastly different fields and had opted to specialise in cancer research, which at least would help lots of people, rather than Cryonics.
‘I’m in touch with the best experts in the field.’
John was not afraid to argue with Gideon. ‘I don’t need to be an expert to know that nobody has been reanimated yet, otherwise the whole world would know about it. How many cures have been found since 1967, there must be some of the frozen dead who could have been cured by now?’
My brother cringed at the word dead, a word forbidden in our house when we were children. ‘There are actually some deanimated patients in cryonic suspension whose cases are being reviewed right now.’
I don’t know what made me say it; perhaps I had had enough of this business hanging over our heads. ‘Tell Mother, let’s do it, publicise; there must be someone out there who can bring Father back to life, in North Korea, China…’
‘No, it must be the best team we can find, Mother would be devastated if it went wrong.’
‘If it didn’t work I think I would be glad, we could lay Dad to rest and Mum would give up the idea of having herself frozen. If she lives to a ripe old age our poor children will end up forking out a million to have their Gran preserved.’
My brother was shocked at such words. ‘But we’ve come this far, we can’t give up now, we’re part of something much bigger.’
I had never wanted to be a part of anything; it had overshadowed all our lives. When I was young I thought Mum meant Dad was going to get better and come back as a real Daddy, a better Daddy than everyone else had. He had taken on saintly virtues, even more so than if he had been really dead. Geoffrey Saunders was a brilliant scientist who died at thirty one years old, younger than Gideon was now. A rare form of cancer had left him and Mum just enough time to come up with their grand idea. His sperm was frozen – too valuable to waste – that part of the plan had worked; Gideon and the twins would have been enough for most heartbroken widows. It broke Mum emotionally and financially; they had picked the most expensive Cryonics company in the USA, in the hope that it would be the best. The initial outlay was followed by an annual fee that crept up each year. By the time Gideon finished paying back his student loan Mum would be retired and he would have Dad’s fees hanging over him. John said our own family must come first and we could not afford to contribute.
‘Go ahead and do it,’ said John, ‘while the children are too young to understand. To them it will be like having another uncle, not a Grandfather.’
‘If it works,’ said Gideon, ‘Father is going to need the support from all of us.’
A few days later we were all summoned round to Mum’s tiny flat. There was no sign of Moreton, but Melissa had been persuaded away from her latest retreat and she was in a highly emotional state. In her lifelong quest to find her real father, not the body suspended upside down in a tank, she had dipped into every religion and had many spiritualist friends. But she had never managed to contact him; perhaps he had ascended long ago to a higher level; she feared his progress on the other side was being impeded by his Cryostasis.
Nobody outside the family knew about father. There had been publicity when mother gave birth to children conceived by a dead man, but that was long forgotten. Now she was due to appear on Victoria Derbyshire in the morning, the first of many media appearances. It was her decision and Gideon was happy to have his research publicised. I reassured John nobody would be interested in us; the press might dig Moreton up, then at least we would know where he was. Melissa would attract lots of New Age types.
And so the publicity machine swung into action, but how could we have guessed that Donald Trump would get involved? He had already announced that money allocated to combat global warming should be channelled to a new space programme. In a clever manoeuvre he declared that as Cryonics companies claimed their patients were not dead but merely deanimated, it followed that those patients not born in the USA must be illegal immigrants. Clemency would be granted, they would officially be taken into custody, but a bright future awaited them. They were in an ideal state to be the first humans sent to Mars, all that was needed were enough animated experts to accompany them, reanimate them on Mars and cure their ills so they were ready to start a new colony.
Waking up on Mars had never been part of my Father’s plan, even if Gideon became an astronaut in time to help him.
© 2016 Janet Gogerty
Janet loves writing novels, short stories and blogging. Her favourite theme is how ordinary people cope when strange things happen to them.