Warning: This chapter doesn’t match up perfectly with the prologue. I had rewritten the prologue to skip all this straight to chapter 4 based on some people’s complaints, but I decided to give you the whole shebang to push the other world aspect of this story, which is less apparant if you start from chapter 4… so let me know if you guys like these three chapters, or would prefer the time jump yourselves.
Darian woke up with the light beating down on his face from a nearby open window. Despite his midnight awakening, he felt more refreshed than he had been in a long time. Something big was coming. He could feel it. It was almost a premonition of sorts. His life was going to change forever, and that was going to start today.
The dream he had had the previous night was long gone. He never remembered the dreams. He knew they were always bad dreams, but the general feeling was all he could remember. At this point, he only had the vaguest memory he had gotten up in the middle of the night at all. It usually took him an hour or two before he was actually awake anyway.
Darian dived out of bed, jumping over the piles of laundry before leaving his room. He quickly ate a bowl of cereal and then threw on a pair of pants. He quickly tossed his shirt aside before donning a new one. He took one last glance over his apartment.
It wasn’t a particularly large apartment, being an affordable one bedroom. He kept it fairly clean. After knowing he would be gone for a week he had made sure every dish in the sink was clean the night before. He had taken out the trash, vacuumed parts of the floor free of laundry, and cleaned the toilet.
Despite this, the place always seemed to look cluttered. The table always contained more things than a table should necessarily have. The countertops were full of display after display of things that had seemed cool at the time. Most of the stuff had a use for one thing or another. None of it was what he would consider garbage. Simply put, he had more stuff than he had room for in his apartment. He had become used to having access to all of these things during the time he had lived with his girlfriend in a substantially bigger apartment. He had never gotten over the change.
Once he had a job, perhaps he would be able to afford a larger apartment. It was always possible. The lights were off, the water was off, and the toilet was not running. He ran through the mental list in his head, checking off each item as it came. After a quick nod to himself, Darian shut the door, locked it and turned away.
It was a good thing he never kept any animals; it would make things easier for him. He did not hate animals; he just never felt the desire to take care of them. Maybe he would get a cat when he got the money. He could use the companionship. He’d get one as long as it was declawed and neutered. And probably a short haired cat. Or hairless. Did cats come hairless? He remembered seeing hairless cats on TV but never in real life. The ones on the TV were pretty ugly, weren’t they?
He shook his head and continued to leave his apartment. He entered the car and turned the key. The car didn’t start. The engine clearly turned over, making a gasping revving sound. He could hear subtle clicks in the background as well. He rolled his eyes and sighed. He knew nothing about car mechanics. Well, that was where the first bit of his money would go.
Outside was sunny, and it seemed like a nice day for a walk. How far was it to the laboratory? He thought it was about two miles. That was no problem. Once his feet started moving down the nearby sidewalk he relished that it was actually a pretty nice day. The sun was out and shining. The weather wasn’t humid and the sun felt pretty good on his back and shoulders. He knew his way, as long as he kept near the streets, but he had never been out and about.
He lived in an area of town that was not dangerous. However, it was not too safe either. It never seemed worth the risk exposing himself to danger by walking. Ever since the accident, he typically avoided walking. Should he get struck by another car, he’d prefer the protection of 2 tons of vehicle designed to keep him safe.
He passed several intersections, walking across each one, looking both ways over and over again before continuing onward. He never ran across an intersection anymore. He noticed as he passed a couple more intersections that the quality of town was degrading. He knew the laboratory was in a worst area of town than he lived. He seemed to live right on the border between what was considered the good area of town and the bad area. It is what helped him afford his rent.
There were a few people out and about, although none of them seemed to be paying any attention to his passage. On his right he saw a beggar. The woman wore torn clothing that hanged so loosely that it resembled robes. She looked washed, although her clothing did not. Her hair had the greasy reminder of someone who had little to no access to shampoo. She wore sunglasses and held a cane, strongly suggesting to Darian that she was blind. He didn’t know for certain, of course, that could always just be a gimmick. Nevertheless, she held a cup in her hand, neither rattling it nor acknowledging his passage. She simply held it steady and stared ahead.
He dug out a handful of change from his pocket. His pockets always contained tons of change. He dropped it into her cup. Her expression didn’t alter a hair. Startled by the lack of a thank you or even a nod, Darian stopped cold.
The beggar jumped as if she had been goosed.
“Could you please donate?” She asked starring off. She must have been blind.
“I already gave you some change ma’am…” Darian sighed, a little bewildered and quickly regretting having said anything.
Her head suddenly snapped, turning directly towards him. Although he couldn’t see her eyes behind the sunglasses, he knew they were directly focused on his. He attempted to back off a step.
Her hand leaped out and grabbed his arm. The grip was tight, and had he been a younger or smaller person it might have hurt him.
“Excuse me, let go please,” He said, trying to back up again.
Her step followed his, her eyes never moving and her hand tightening a little more on his arm.
“You…you I don’t see. You aren’t meant to be seen.”
He had decided to confront a crazy woman. This day did seem to be a miserable day after all.
“You are not supposed to be here… you are supposed to be there. Why aren’t you there?”
“Um… I am trying to get … there, let me go and I will go over there right now,” He was starting to become desperate, eager for her to let go. He had no fear of beggars, but he feared that trying to get her to leave him alone would look like he was badgering her. All he needed was to get handcuffed and thrown in the back of a police car for assaulting a poor blind woman.
“No… no… you lie. You aren’t trying to get there…. But I see… I see now. You don’t see but I see. You are heading there right now and you don’t even know. So go… go seal your fate. Go meet your destiny,” She let go of his arm and took a step back, suddenly looking placid again.
He turned and took several quick steps before moving down the street at a fast pace.
“Leave this world, and meet your fate!” He could suddenly hear her screaming behind him.
A couple of people nearby glanced around, looking to see where the screaming was coming from. Darian did not look back as he continued to move as fast as he could, a blush on his cheeks from the embarrassment of it all.
Darian continued his fast paced walk until the building that contained the laboratory was in sight. Wanting to get out of the street as quickly as possible, he stormed through the front door and stopped just short of running over Pam. She tsk’d a sound of dissatisfaction after almost being knocked to the ground.
However, Darian immediately forgot about the beggar when he laid his eyes on Pam. Her hair was let down. It flowed down the back of her neck. It was wavy and sleek, easily transforming her face from the stretch out look she had before into downright beautiful. She wore a black shirt which he could only assume was from some heavy metal band complete with a pair of worn jeans complete with knee holes. They looked like designer jeans, the holes placed intentionally as opposed to through wear and tear. Instead of the thick glasses she wore contacts. He assumed they were contacts. The odd half smile that was plastered falsely on her face was replaced with a genuine bored frown. The whole combination turned her from an assistant secretary into an attractive young woman of about his age.
“Wow, you look, different,” he said before he could stop himself.
She glanced up at him, before rolling her eyes.
“It’s Saturday. My temp job ended Friday. I wouldn’t even be here if Dr. Dhillon didn’t beg to have me here one more day.”
“Well, you look really beau… eehhh…um… good,” Darian quickly said, trying to prevent a blush from appearing on his cheeks.
“Heh, my mom would disagree,” She snorted, a small mischievous smile appearing on her face, “but thank you.”
Darian nodded, another blush starting to come.
“So, where to?” He asked, trying to sound casual.
“Well, Dr. Dhillon is late, so I suppose we will just have to wait until he sees fit to show up,” Pam shook her head in irritation.
“So have you been a temp long?” Darian inquired to fill the silence.
“Long enough… it would have been nice had someone told you that a college degree is useless without experience.”
Darian let out a chuckle, “I know exactly what you mean. I suppose secretary temp is a smarter move than laboratory rat.”
She joined him with a laugh, “Well in retrospect, I think you have me beat.”
She had a very beautiful smile. Now that he saw her in a less formal environment, he wondered how she had ever grated on his nerves before.
“So, what are you doing in a week?”
She snorted a laugh before glancing him over. Her hand touched her hip as she bent back, examining him in a seductive way. In a flash, he became incredibly aware of her body and form. He wasn’t exactly sure what she did to turn her body from a woman standing there to an attractive woman seductively appraising a man, but she was doing it.
A sly smile came onto her lips, but just as she opened them to speak the door opened and Dr. Dhillon walked in.
“Yes… good to see you both. Pam, have you done the paperwork?” Dr. Dhillon’s eyes were on his papers, having only briefly looked up upon entering.
The subtle changes to how Pam held herself had already changed back to normal from their previously more memorable arrangement. However, Darian had already noticed her body and was having a harder time not seeing what Pam’s jeans and shirt were hiding.
“No sir, we were waiting on you. I wasn’t sure if you had any more papers for me,” a blush settled on Pam’s cheeks as she looked awkward and little out of place, as if she had been caught with her hands in a cookie jar.
“No, I do not, please get them finished so we can begin,” Dr. Dhillon said as he walked out of the room.
“Come with me, I will have to…. process you,” She smiled sheepishly as she walked by him, her waist wiggling slightly more than was necessary as he followed her.
A giant smirk came on his face. She hadn’t said yes yet, but he wasn’t that stupid, nor was she that subtle. They entered the same office she had interviewed him in the day before.
“This won’t be as torturous as the day before,” she said, a genuine smile on her face, “but I need to put your information in, so I will need your driver’s license and crap like that and then you get the check.”
He handed over his driver’s license and she put in the information. While she typed in information, she occasionally gave him a glance, followed by a smirk and then a blush. Suddenly, she frowned.
“That’s odd…” She mumbled to herself.
“What?” Darian asked, wishing to see her smile again.
“The internet is out. It doesn’t really matter; I just can’t sync the information online.” Pam shook her head again.
Finally she printed something out. After a few quick stamps and a staple, she handed him the papers to sign.
While he was signing at each of the stamps she pulled out another piece of paper, printed on it, before she turned it over and wrote some things on the back. When he had finished signing the papers he handed them to her. She handed him the single paper. As he grabbed it she held on.
“This is your check. You will be able to cash it in one week, “She said, a smile returning on her face, “Since I know you’re rich, you’re paying. I like Italian.”
She let go of the paper. He looked at it. On the back of the paper was written “Pam 551-7573” He grinned.
“You get going; I will see you in a week. I am out of here!” She stood up and put out her hand.
Not knowing what to do, he shook it. She suddenly blushed, realizing the silliness of shaking his hand after agreeing to go on a date.
“Call me, one week,” She said, putting up a finger before backing up a step, a blush still on her face.
He nodded, giving her a grin, “I will.”
After Pam had left the office Darian reread what she wrote again before tucking it into his pocket. Knowing his luck, he would probably forget to write the number down somewhere before cashing it. However, that check in his pocket was probably one of the luckiest things he would ever experience. So far, it seemed like his predictions for a better future were coming true.
He left the office, traveling down the sickly yellow hall he had traveled down once before. When he approached the double doors he found them open and walked into the lab. Dr. Dhillon was there, typing in commands at a nearby terminal. After a few more seconds of typing, Dr. Dhillon looked up.
“Ah, good. I suppose we are ready. You must take off all of your clothes to start. You may wear one of our gowns over there,” Dr. Dhillon nodded to a bench at the side of the room.
Darian took off his shirt as he walked over to the bench. He saw a blue disposable gown with one size fits all sitting on the bench. He put the gown on, tying it in the back, and then pulled off his pants and underwear, leaving them on the bench. He was a little relieved that Pam had left for this part. Being naked and unconscious does not make a great impression on a potentially new girlfriend. Darian also possessed the nagging suspicion that if she was still here, or worse, worked here over the course of the week, she would sneak a peek at some point and time. She seemed like the curious type.
Darian blushed as he thought of the implications of being naked and subsequently unconscious for the next week, before shaking his head from the odd thoughts.
“Please lie on the table, thank you,” Dr. Dhillon said as Darian performed the inquired task.
Dr. Dhillon seemed much quieter today than he had been the previous day. He had a kind of quiet intensity when he was working that Darian found a little unsettling. He began applying a strange substance over Darian’s arms and legs before asking Darian to put it on every part of his body he can reach. Dhillon explained it was an antibacterial substance to help preserve the skin.
Once the substance was all over his skin, Dr. Dhillon pulled out a needle. After tapping it and measuring the amount, Dr. Dhillon glanced down at Darian.
“This is it. I will see you in a week,” Dr. Dhillon nodded, “Good luck.”
Darian barely noticed the needle prick as everything began to go dark. The last thought in his head were thoughts of a better tomorrow.
Dr. Dhillon finished putting the young Darian to sleep before putting in the IV line. He felt it was always easier to have the subject unconscious when the work was conducted. It was more comfortable for both parties involved. He attached the IV bag and waited as the substance began to enter Darian’s system.
Dr. Dhillon waited for some time, making sure that the patient was asleep and the narcotic was effective. He was glad he had the dose right. What he had purchased here wasn’t technically through legal means and he feared the potency might be compromised. Dr. Dhillon sighed. The next time he will be relieved is when Darian awakes a week later.
It wasn’t easy finding a patient to use for this experiment. You would need someone both with a ridiculous amount of free time in order to be able to afford a week off of work, and be both drug-free and healthy with no ailments. Possessing both those features seemed to be harder than Dr. Dhillon had originally thought.
Thankfully, Darian had come along. Dr. Dhillon had had to slide the whole concussion thing under the rug for the continuity of the experiment, but it shouldn’t have any effect on the young man anyway. If this experiment worked, more grant money would become available. Dr. Dhillon had been shocked when all of his work and funding had been cut due to the lack of “viable product” from cryogenic stasis. Of course “cryogenic” was a completely false word, since temperature had no play on the stasis Dr. Dhillon created. However, people seemed to more easily understand what putting someone into stasis means if you simply add the false line cryogenic.
Dr. Dhillon had lied however. Proper stasis required a little bit more than external control. Darian still faced an internal stasis, his body wouldn’t last. He would continue to age, as if he was in a coma, until he inevitably died. He might age slower than a normal human being, but his body would face the wear and tear of daily abuses of the environment. In order to prevent that from happening, Darian had to be sealed.
Dr. Dhillon unlocked the wheels on the gurney, pushing his patient to the elevator. One of the reasons Dhillon had chosen this building was because of a bomb shelter that had been built underground. He had cleaned it up himself. He liked doing things himself. It actually made a splendid airtight clean room.
When the elevator hit the bottom floor, he cleaned himself up, scrubbing with antibacterial lotion. He pushed his patient up to the door and opened the bomb shelter door. The door was about 12 inches thick. The room wasn’t a clean room in the sense of being bacteria free, but it was cleaner than anything else he had to work with.
A coffin-like metal box sat in the middle of the room. This was the last step. With some difficulty, he managed to transfer Darian into the box, before closing it on him. Using a welder, he sealed the edges of the box.
He then attached tubing to a nearby pressure gauge. He turned the vacuum on and watched as a vacuum began to form in the box. Once the vacuum finished, he disconnected and closed the valve. He turned to a nearby computer, entering in the commands he had practiced hundreds of times in his head. A nearby generator kicked on and began humming loudly. The stasis field should be up and running now.
“Sleep tight, young Darian, sleep tight,” the doctor spoke to the silent box.
Sighing, he watched for a minute before nodding. In one week, his life would be different. He would have the grant money, and his research would revolutionize the world. On the way out he sealed the bomb shelter. There was no reason for it. No one even knew it was down here, but it seemed like the right thing to do.
Nas’Dera watched as Dr. Dhillon walked out of the laboratory. He had regained consciousness sometime before. The shaking had seemed to settle out. For that he was thankful. Several more of the stars above had disappeared, seeming to push the darkness heavier on his shoulders.
Dr. Dhillon wasn’t an evil man. Unethical perhaps, certainly a law breaker, but he wasn’t evil. The doctor was walking towards his car, his keys in his hand. Nas ‘Dera watched as a man came out from the dark, pulling a gun on Dr. Dhillon. His hands went straight up as he saw the man, his keys falling to the ground in the process. Nas ‘Dera couldn’t hear anything, but the man’s gestures strongly suggested he wanted money.
Nas ‘Dera paused the scene. He adjusted the angles so that he looked almost as if he was looking through the mugger’s eyes. He could see into Dr. Dhillon’s terrified eyes. He had never killed a man before, never. He was old. So very old. He had lived an eternity. He had loved women, and men. He had had and lost children. He had hurt people, abused people, hated people. He had never killed anyone though. Never directly. He reached into the image, grabbing the gun and pulling the trigger. It had to be this way.
The terrified and confused mugger watched as Dr. Dhillon dropped to the ground in a pool of his own blood. The man ran before collecting the money he had intended to steal. It probably felt like something akin to a ghost passing through the body, what Nas ‘Dera had done.
He wept silently for several minutes. He did not relish what he had done. Even though it was a single life, amongst trillions, it still hurt him to be the cause of that death. He wiped the tears from his eyes, he was not done yet. He moved the fragile artifact cautiously, refocusing his view on Darian, asleep in a box. He began to carefully select several keys, constructing a field over the entire room.
The doctor’s research was an amateur. It would have worked, to an extent, and may very well have made the man rich, but its’ capacity to put someone into any real stasis was limited. Now, Darian was ready to wait. There was a future to look forward to now. The darkness came, and the champion needed to be there to meet it, whatever the cost.
Nas ‘Dera looked up, the darkness continuing to roil in the sky above as another star winked out.