The clock ticked and time passed by. Time always passes, moving forward or backward, depending on your perspective. Time is perceived differently by different people. Some people count time in days. Others count it in years. Some count them in the cycles it takes their planet to revolve around their sun. Others measure it by the time it takes the planet to rotate in a complete circle. They count it based on random divisions created by people who were in power at just the right time. They calculate it by scientists, by astronomers, by astrologists, and by farmers. Everyone wastes so much time being concerned about time. However time is perceived, it continues on and the clock keeps ticking.
Darian’s hand impulsively tapped his fingers on his thigh to the beat of time, if time were said to have a beat. His day had been particularly unpleasant, starting with the obnoxious commute to this unfortunate location. A woman sat across from him on the other side of an old wooden desk. It looked heavy and beat up. The kind of desk that is nice and sturdy to own, but impossible to get rid of when you’re done with it. It was too heavy to move reliably and too inconvenient for anyone to actually want to own.
The woman was not unattractive, but the never-ceasing half-smile plastered to her face began to grate on his nerves. He couldn’t understand how she could keep such an obnoxiously chipper voice as she asked irrelevant question after irrelevant question. Her long red hair might have framed a potentially pretty face, had it not been tied up into an uncomfortably tight bun that almost seemed to pull at the features of her face in an unpleasant way.
She pulled her thick-framed glasses off of her small nose to wipe them on her blouse, which had an assortment of purple and blue flowers against an oddly pale green background. Darian briefly wondered how she was able to find frames that thick; he was pretty sure the style went out in the 70s. Had she never heard of metal frames?
“Good Mr. Standen, what is the first thing you think about when you wake up?” Darian’s attention went back to the woman asking the question before letting out a drawn sigh.
It seemed an adequate answer as any for the constant barrage of questions she delivered. She raised her eyebrow another centimeter, that small half smile seemingly glued to her face. It never seemed to change and was somehow reminiscent of clowns. He didn’t particularly hate clowns, but it was a little unnerving nonetheless. He quickly shifted his position in his seat. His interviewer continued to look at him. She began tapping her fingers on the table unconsciously, but her facial expressions never changed. Watching her hands tap, he became conscious of his own and quickly dropped them to his side.
“Brushing my teeth, I suppose.”
“Good. Now, what is the last thing you think about before you sleep?”
Good. That is how she has responded to every answer, followed immediately by another question. Her eyes never spent more than a second glancing over the paper before her eyes snapped right back to his face, that half smile never wavering. It didn’t bother him at first. She was quick, to the point. Darian hoped that it would be quick. Desperately, he needed the money, and it seemed like this study would be a sure way to get some fast. However, the questions kept coming, never seeming to come to an end. He was starting to get anxious and began wondering about how long he had been there.
“Well,” He stretched out his ‘L’s, hoping to buy himself a little time before the next “good”, followed by yet another question.
Darian’s eyes performed a quick search of his surroundings, averting away from her tight face and giant framed glasses for a few seconds. It was a small room, not much bigger than a little overpriced studio apartment. The most noticeable thing the room possessed was boxes, stacks, and stacks of boxes. The boxes were neatly closed and taped shut; there was labeling carefully printed on each box, but Darian was unable to decipher what any of it meant. Each box was stacked neatly on large self-assembled metal storage shelves. They seemed more suited for a garage, but their presence still seemed to fit in this tiny room.
The interviewer’s name was Pam, at least that was what the nametag said. However, she had made no attempt to introduce herself to him when he showed up. She continued to tap her fingers at the steady pace as she patiently waited. With her rosy cheeks and light brown hair, Darian might have found himself liking her. However, her methodical questioning and frozen smile steadily tore at his nerves, and while hate might have been a strong word, he at least had a dislike of her by this point.
“Sheep,” He answered, a smile breaking onto his face.
It seemed like an acceptable answer, hoping it might help break the growing tension. Her smile didn’t change. Her eyes quickly darted to the paper, and back to his face. She was not even writing anything down.
“Good. Are you allergic to fish?”
Mr. Standen’s mind began to wonder as he started to answer her allergy question. He didn’t have any allergies that he knew of. However, rather than asking what he was allergic to, Pam began to read down a list of every known allergen he could think of. This allowed his mind to wander off, to contemplate the choices he made that lead him to this point.
There wasn’t always a need for money. At one point, when the student loans were growing and he was learning, there was nothing that could stop him. An unfortunate car accident, however, put him in the hospital for close to a year. His newly earned job “dismissed” him and found a new employee, and his fiancée, unable to deal with the stress of his “disability” decided to leave him. It had been two years since that accident, but it had ruined his life.
The man responsible wasn’t to blame. His insurance had covered some of the hospital bills, but the hospital bills grew faster than the insurance would cover, and Darian never had the heart to sue the man. He had a family and two kids. Although, Darian regretted his decision not to press charges sometimes. The lawyers certainly felt he had a case. He might still have his fiancée had the financial situation been covered better. More importantly, we would never have answered a flier to become a lab rat in an experiment.
He caught himself before he let out another sigh. It was no use antagonizing the only person that might bring him the first paycheck he has had since college. He hoped that this was fruitful. The last time he attempted to sign up for one of these experiments, he was ineligible because of his past injuries; past injuries being the concussion he earned. It was some kind of blood study, and apparently, concussions immediately disqualified him. He wished he had lied when they had asked that question; he might have eaten something other than ramen noodles in the last few months.
“Mr. Standen, how very good it is to see you,” Darian jumped a little. The voice came from behind him. Pam had risen from her desk; she was certainly looking behind him. He quietly cursed himself for letting his mind wander. It was never good to let your mind wander too long. Bad things happen when you do. Her eyes were slightly bigger, and she had a slight look of awe on her face. This was the first change of expression he had seen from her.
A quick look behind him revealed a rather tall Indian man. He had a thick black mustache and short greasy hair. At first glance, he looked to be in his late 40s, early 50s. Darian always tried to measure people’s age with their accomplishments. He liked to see how much could be accomplished in how short a time. He was already 24, and by his reasoning, he should have written one book, won three trophies in various sports, and be on his way towards an excelling career. Of course, his plans had been set off track years ago, but it didn’t mean the ambition to excel didn’t creep into the back of his brain whenever he let it slide.
“Uh, call me Darian,” The Indian man nodded, slightly flourishing his open lab coat.
“I am Dr. Dhillon. Come with me, we have much to discuss.”
The doctor immediately turned and began walking out of the room. His accent was deep, and it took Darian a few seconds to grasp what was said.
Before moving, he took a quick look back at Pam. She was already sitting at her desk, her eyes intent on a piece of paper, erasing something energetically with the end of her pencil. Turning back, Darian left the room at a quick pace. Dr. Dhillon was already far ahead of him, and he had to perform a brisk half jog to catch up before the doctor turned the corner. It seemed that the man had not realized he had left earshot, and was continuing to speak as he walked.
“-was the most difficult part of the entire process. However, what we hope to accomplish is far grander than any simple experiment from any mediocre doctor. We hope to alter the very fabric of the world we know. We hope to change everything. Not an easy thing, you agree?” Darian nodded from habit, not quite caught up.
“Oh, of course, it was not easy,” Dr. Dhillon continued, “Many animals were lost in the attempt to isolate just the right conditions required to bring upon them stasis. However, I am confident that this is the right time to trial, and once you see my findings, I am sure you will agree with me!” His voice began to grow excited as he spoke.
Darian had never been to any real labs. He was an engineer, but fresh out of college. The job he almost had landed would have had him working with transmitters and wavelength frequencies and the like. He had been in a couple of labs in college and high school, but he never felt that they would resemble anything like a real lab. The long hallway they walked down was tiled with green and brown mosaic tiles. The ceiling and walls were a sickly yellow color. The entire building looked old and unclean. Darian was afraid to touch anything; he felt that if he did, he would probably pick up a thick layer of grease. He was pretty sure the walls and floor were clean, but they just looked dirty in a way that no amount of cleaning would ever repair.
They reached some large double doors and Dr. Dhillon quickly slid the card through an adjacent card reader. The doors opened automatically after a brief click. He immediately went back to walking at full speed.
“Funding has always been a difficult part of our research, but after the success of this test, they will have no choice but to accept my research. We will have enough money to complete a final product, and bring the world into a new generation; this is instrumental in the buildup of-”
The new area looked slightly cleaner than the last. They walked through another smaller door, into what Darian imagined a real lab looked like. The walls were finally white, although the floor retained the ugly green brown. In the middle of the room was a medium-sized man length metal table with what appeared to be leather straps on it. A small table full of medical supplies sat at the side of the larger table. This resembled what he imagined a surgery table would look like perhaps 80 years ago. It made him a little nervous. Suddenly a word caught in his ear from what Dr. Dhillon was saying. He froze in his tracks.
“What, Cryogenic Freezing?”
Dr. Dhillion blinked, almost startled to find someone present and listening to what he had been saying.
“Yes, you read the paper? While you were waiting they gave you papers to read?”
“Of course,” Darian lied.
He hadn’t bothered to read it. The only paper he had read was the flier stuck up to a bulletin board of one of the many offices he had attempted to apply to. It read…
Medical Study on temperature and sleep, participants welcome to apply, BIG MONEY!!!!
Up until this point, Darian still was not sure what exactly a participant’s job was. Whatever it was, he hoped the big money was not an exaggeration. The doctor directed him to sit down on the dull silver metal table. He complied.
“Of course, most fiction will tell you that anything can be frozen and then thawed out good as new. Even other learned men will try to believe that the key to freezing a person in stasis is preventing cell death, forcing a long-lived hibernation, like a common Tardigrade…” Dr. Dhillion began to perform an examination.
“But that is stupid. The human body and mind are too complex for anything as primitive as a cell suspension. The true answer lies in the realm of physics. Good, good…” He tapped each of Darian’s knees with the tip of his stethoscope, causing them to kick forward. With a swift gesture, he placed the hearing pieces into his ears and walked around the metal bench. He placed the metal piece of the stethoscope against Darian’s back, listening to a bit, before moving to a new area.
“Breathe in deeply…good… You see, it is theorized that time and space are one and the same. Interconnected. Space is a manipulation of time, no more or less that time manipulates space. To lock a man in time, to freeze his very being, you must also freeze the space to which he takes up. And one last breath… good…” The doctor placed his stethoscope around his neck, then walked over to the small table and began rummaging through it. He finally found a small tongue depressor.
“There we are… say ah… Although that task is easier said than done. I am not simply talking about turning down the thermostat. I mean, placing a man in a state where neither space nor time can affect him. It is not a simple science. But it is time for my years of research to come to being. You, my friend, will be known as the first man to ever be suspended in time,” With that, he threw the tongue depressor into a nearby trashcan.
Darian looked up at the doctor. Dr. Dhillion’s lips broke into a large grin, his thick dark eyelashes twitching excitedly as he eagerly awaited the excited reaction from his patient. Darian managed a weak smile and a nod of reassurance; he was not quite sure what else to say,” What do you intend on doing doctor?”
The doctor blinked, his grin dropping slightly with obvious disappointment, “In essence, to you, it will feel like a shot. After that, you will simply fall to a dreamless sleep, and your body will suspend itself, ceasing to age or grow. A week later, you will be awakened by myself, and after a brief exam, you are free to go.”
“Dreamless? Is it safe?” Darian asked.
The idea of a dreamless sleep certainly appealed to him. He had been suffering from bad dreams lately. If the pay was good, this would be an excellent endeavor… He had so much bad luck in his life, Karma dictated that maybe he needed some good luck as well. Still, he didn’t like the idea of having some concoction placed inside of him. Against his inhibitions, he told the doctor his concern.
“No, no,” Dr. Dhillon quickly reassured him, “The shot doesn’t put you into stasis. It’s just a harmless narcotic to keep you asleep. As I mentioned, the experiment is a matter of physics. I will attempt to place a stasis field over you. Of course, we have all of the items we need here to watch and make sure you remain healthy throughout the week. You will not even realize it and the week will be over, very painless.”
“I don’t know… wouldn’t it be safer in a hospital?”
Dr. Dhillion’s eyes shifted back and forth quickly, peering behind Darian for a brief second before answering, “Yes well, the facility here is well equipped. Hospitals have a great deal of rules and restrictions that simply don’t fit a laboratory protocol. This is really the best place to perform the test.”
Sleep. Getting paid for sleep isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But he could die, couldn’t he? The doctor seemed confident this would not happen. Did he ever trust doctors? He remembered once being sent to the ER for appendicitis, even though he didn’t have it. Though he was not in pain, the surgeon offered to cut out his appendix, simply to justify the stay. No, doctors are not necessarily trustworthy. Darian’s eyes dropped down, staring at his cheap white sneakers. They were falling apart. He supposed that’s what happened when you bought sneakers for $10 at a ValueMart.
Dr. Dhillion began to grow a bit uneasy at his subject’s reluctance. A sigh of relief almost passed his lips as the door opened behind him, allowing a third person to enter the room.
Darian looked up in time to see the door close as a well-dressed man approached the table he now sat on. The man had a deep complexion with dark spots under his eyes. He was much older… in his 60s, maybe. His suit was finely made, although any suit purchased outside of a department store was fine in Darian’s eyes. The man’s dark eyes were almost black and seemed to instantly sum up the subject in one look. Darian was used to that look; he had gotten it many times from his father. He would bet what little money he had in his bank account that this man was a businessman.
“Darian, this is my friend, Mr. Arlington, he is my, well, my investor, of sorts.”
“Good afternoon, Darian,” The suited man stated in a deep polite voice.
Funny, it had been morning when Darian had gotten there. It felt like weeks since he had entered that building. He wouldn’t have been surprised if it was the next morning after. Perhaps he was almost done.
“I am here with paperwork for you,” the man continued.
As Mr. Arlington began to rummage through his briefcase, Darian took another chance to sigh. Then again, this day does seem to keep going on.
“In ordinance with project 5236-B, we will provide full payment upon completion of one week under stasis at Dr. Jagan Dhillion’s discretion. This form is a form of nondisclosure of information…” He began handing Darian one form after another. Each form he signed made him a little more uneasy. He had to sign a form that shed them of responsibility if he died, a form that kept him from talking about what was going on in the lab, and even a next of kin form.
Suddenly, he stopped as he reached the last page, a large number glaring at his face, “What is this, then?”
A large smile broke across the businessman’s face as he recognized what Darian was pointing at, “For one week of stasis experimentation, the total sum to be paid is $10,624.00. This fund is to be paid in full regardless of the success or failure of the experiment.”
Darian nodded numbly. This was big money indeed. Although he briefly wondered who’d exactly be getting the money if “failure” resulted in death. He has so few friends in his life. He supposed that would be his next of kin: his father. Darian quickly shoved all of his doubts into a small box at the corner of his brain; then, for good measure, jumped on the box repeatedly, before throwing it in a trash compactor. This was the break he had been waiting for, he needed this.
“When do we start?”
Relief poured out of Dr. Dhillion in one long breath, “We will give you one day, to put your affairs in order to be away for a week. No one must be aware of where you are for this week. It is imperative that this be kept secret for patents and financial reasoning, which my friend here is better at explaining. You must not eat eight hours before coming in and…”
Darian’s mind started wandering again. Ten thousand dollars. This would wipe out a good portion of his debt. It would give him a fresh start. In one week, the world would be a very different place. He’d have food, and time to find a better job. He could buy a nice suit, put together a better resume. Maybe he could actually get a girlfriend and afford to take her out once or twice. Finally, things would start going his way.
When his fiancée had left him, he had really lost all hope of succeeding in life. His parents had told him there was always more to life, and his father almost seemed glad that his son might start “trying other flavors”, as he put it, before finally settling down, an act that seemed close to death by his father’s opinion. His father had always had the opinion that he settled down a bit too quickly when he proposed. However, Darian never really could reenter the dating scene after.
It seemed more difficult to him. Talking to women was easy, but they always seemed interested in others, and never displayed more interest in him than he was willing to show back, which was never much to begin with.
Some of it might have been related to the financial problems he suffered, and his unwillingness to drag someone else down with him. Today was a day that he wished he had more friends, so he actually would have someone to celebrate with. Nevertheless, his mind worked as he began to make plans again. His withered ambition returned in full force as he imagined all of the potentials that this money would bring.
The light of sunset was dwindling by the time Darian had left the lab. He had a file full of papers in his left hand and the keys to his car on the right. The car was old, but unfortunately not old enough to be a classic. It was just old. Rust scarred the sides of his vehicle, made more drastic by the hues of orange and red reflected by the descending sun. He examined the vehicle up and down before getting in. This vehicle was a testament to his old life, rusted and broken as it was. In one short week, everything would change.