Cryonics – Steve Gergley

Larry and his roommate Bart were driving to work in Larry’s Toyota when they got to talking about death and reincarnation and things of that nature.

“If you died right now and had the chance to be reincarnated as anything in the entire world, what would it be?” Larry said, gripping the steering wheel loosely.

“Hmmm,” Bart said. He scratched his wiry beard and looked out the passenger-side window. Crags of crusty snow sawed past on the side of the road while bony branches of leafless oaks shivered in the gray December morning. “If I had to come back as something, I’d probably want to be a 14/2 NM-B cable.”

Both Larry and Bart were engineers: civil for Larry, electrical for Bart. Their respective offices stood less than five minutes away from each other, so they carpooled to work each morning to save gas.

“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” Larry said with a scoff. “Of all the things you could come back as, why would you pick a copper wiring power cable or whatever that is?”

Bart grinned at Larry.

“Because then I’d be a light in the darkness for everyone in the entire world,” Bart said. His grin grew wider for a moment, and then he looked up at the ceiling of the car and shook his head. “Actually, that’s not true. I’m pretty sure they use different wire gauges in Europe and Asia. So in that case, I’d only be a light in the darkness for everyone in North America. But still. If I had to make a snap decision on the spot, I’d probably want to come back as that.”

“That’s such a stupid answer,” Larry said, “but at least you have some logic behind it.”

Bart laughed and fluttered his fingers in front of the dashboard heating vents.

Bart had been friends with Larry ever since they’d been lab partners in their freshman-year physics class at Topine Community College more than seven years ago. That semester, Bart and Larry had bonded over a shared love for psychedelics, retro video games, and philosophical thought experiments: Bart’s three favorite ways to escape the brain-rotting mundanity of everyday life.

“Well, it’s kind of hard to ponder the ultimate fate of my existence at eight thirty-six in the morning,” Bart said, looking down at the glowing green digits of the dashboard clock. “But what about you?”

Larry lifted his right hand from the steering wheel and showed Bart a metal bracelet looped around his wrist.

“I’ll be coming back as myself,” Larry said. “I’m going to have my brain cryogenically frozen immediately after death so my consciousness can be uploaded into a computer in the distant future.”

Bart craned his head to the side and looked at Larry’s bracelet. Etched into the metal tag was a phone number, the name of a laboratory in New York City, and a short set of directions for medical personnel to follow in the event of Larry’s death.

“Huh. A guy in my outfit wants to do the same thing, but everyone thinks he’s a nutjob,” Bart said, glancing out the window. He watched a red Honda sedan slip past in the right lane. “They all say it’s bullshit. And expensive as hell.”

“It’s not bullshit,” Larry said, grabbing his phone off the center column and unlocking it. The wallpaper on Larry’s phone was a picture of him and his mother standing outside their church the day before his high school graduation. Eight months after that picture was taken, Larry’s mother died of a sudden stroke. These days Larry still visits his mother’s grave every week. At the end of each visit, he starts crying: first, over the heartbreaking loss of his mother, and then, over the terrifying loss of his own life that will occur sometime in the future.

Larry opened the internet browser on his phone and brought up the homepage of his cryonics lab. Just then a deer scampered into the road.

“Yo, look out for the—” Bart yelled.

Before Larry could react, Bart grabbed the steering wheel and wrenched it to the right. Larry slammed on the brakes. The tires screamed on the pavement. Startled by this sound, the deer stopped in the middle of the road and looked at them. As Larry fumbled for a grip on the steering wheel, his phone squirted out of his hand and clattered across the dashboard. Then the car slid into the right lane and screeched to a lurching stop less than a foot from the deer’s body. The deer stared at Larry and Bart for a long moment and clopped away across the pavement.

“Holy shit,” Larry said.

“Wow,” Bart said.

“You alright?”

“Yeah,” Bart said. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “You?”

“Yeah,” Larry said, nodding. “Now you see why I want to upload my consciousness into a computer.”

“Yeah, seriously,” Bart said. “No deer inside a computer.”

“I was actually talking about the randomness and fragility of an organic life existing within an indifferent universe, but sure. I guess that works too.”

“Oh,” Bart said. “But what about computer viruses?”

Larry scoffed and started turning the steering wheel.

“Fuck you,” Larry said, with a good-natured laugh.

“Hey, I’m just trying to help you achieve your grand dream of living until the heat death of—” Bart said, but then a black Range Rover came up from behind and blasted its horn for six long seconds.

Both men turned around and looked at the Range Rover.

“Alright, alright, just go around, Jesus,” Larry said. Icy air rushed into the car as Larry stuck his hand out the window and waved the Range Rover on. Once it was gone, he grabbed his phone off the dashboard, turned up the heater, and pressed his foot to the gas.