Welcome to the Future!

By Stuart Sherman

Everyone you know is dead. All of their children and their children’s children are also dead. All the people you thought were famous have been forgotten. All the art you loved is no longer considered important. Most the values you held dear are now considered aberrant. And by the standards of today you are hideous.

Stu Sherman is an artist, writer and health policy wonk living in Brooklyn. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2003, and received a degree in law and public health from Boston University. He paid for 50% of law school with game show winnings. With his wife, Elisabeth Donnelly, he wrote a YA series called The Misshapes, under the pseudonym Alex Flynn, about teenage superheroes with mediocre powers. He is currently the director of a bioethics Task Force for New York State, called the Task Force on Life and the Law, which explores cutting edge issues in medicine, law and ethics.

It says here that you’re name is Richard V. Winkler and you were born in the, oh. Oh feces! I’m so sorry about this. Richard Winkler, born in the 20th century and put on stasis in the middle of the 21st. I’m sorry, I should have checked this sooner. My introduction to your awakening is much more appropriate for the direct address that became popular in the middle of the 22nd century. We haven’t had many awakenings from the 21st so I’m a bit corrosive with my script. Please excuse my rudeness and let me start again. I’m so very sorry.

Good morning, Mr. Winkler, you’ve been asleep for a very long time. We at Cryocorp, a subsidiary of Cryoenterprises, which purchased, Freezacorp, which was the parent of Frozaco, which—well, to get to the chase—we’d like to welcome you back to life. You may notice some stiffness in your joints and slight muscle atrophy. We have done everything we can to ensure your body is in the exact same shape as we left it, but given the archaic technology they used initially, the awakening will be a little rougher than more modern customers. You’ll also notice you won’t be able to speak for about twenty minutes, and I can see from the fear in your eyes that this is unsettling. I invite you to relax and take everything in and I’ll let you ask anything you want once your Broca’s region has sufficiently thawed and been repaired by our nanosurgeons. Yes, there are tiny robots in your body fixing damage. Isn’t that neato. Don’t worry, they have a perfect blueprint of the original.

Now the first question everyone asks is always “What year is it?” or “How long was I asleep for?” It’s 2453 and you’ve been asleep for just over four hundred years. Four hundred and seven to be exact. To put that in perspective, the year you went to sleep was as near to the year 1653 and it was to today. So radical bro! In 1653 the country formally known as America was still a colony of the country formerly known as England, kings ruled most of the world, and people didn’t have electricity or hyperators.

Sorry, I shouldn’t have mentioned hyperators.

Now you’re probably wondering what’s been going on for the past four hundred years. And while I’d love to tell you, there’s a bit of a catch, which I’ll get to in a moment. First, I’m legally obligated to update you on certain matters. You may find some of these troubling so I ask you to prepare yourself the best you can. I’ll give you a moment.

Great. Okay, everyone you know, have known, may have known, or could have known has since passed away. Babies born the day you went into stasis have since become skeletons, if they choose burial, as have their babies and their babies. And so on. I know this may come as a shock, even though it is logically consistent given the time of your stasis and the average lifespan at that point. I’ll give you a minute to process this information.

Yes, I know some people you were close to also chose stasis, a Mrs. Winkler…Oh, I’m so sorry. Yes, your wife. And a brother, Robert Winkler. Some unfortunate news on both ends. Your wife, after your stasis, lived another twenty-five years, remarried a man named William Greenly, and rescinded her intent to be put in stasis shortly after the marriage. She died in 2082 a few months after William and had a very lovely funeral, attended by your grown children and her grown stepchildren and many grandchildren. She was interred in a plot of land next to Mr. Greenly, which was supposedly relocated 145 years ago for the construction of a now defunct fast food vegan chain and is now the site of a 155-story condo. The current whereabouts of her remains are unknown.

Your brother did successfully enter stasis after a massive stroke, and was kept there until the 24th century. However, because of an incident under CorpCorp, died during a reanimation sequence, he was not successfully brought back to life, and his body degraded to an unrecoverable point. As a result of a settlement in the 2343, Cryocorp has no liability for the actions of CorpCorp. In addition, you have a number of genetic relatives, though a recent survey found that most of them are unaware of the names or lives of any of their ancestors that lived earlier than 2360. There is one family historian who would probably love to meet you, although he only knows about very famous relatives going back to 2212. Your living relatives are as genetically similar to you as a 6th cousin would be to you.

On the subject of the famous, in addition to your own family being long dead and forgotten, culturally speaking, very little is known about the time in which you lived. People have a vague sense of a period during which there was a transition to a technological information age, but the names of people you consider important such as politicians, musicians, writers, painters, inventors, businessman, are, by and large, unknown to the modern men and women of the roaring 24-50s. According to our statistics, a data drag of popular individuals from the years of your life, when surveyed today, finds only .02% crossover. of people not known by all but the most erudite historians or specialities.

The only movies watched from your era are the political works of Michael Bay. Film scholars will have seen any other films that you watched during your lifetime, though it is popularly known for the beginning of many major franchises and fictional universes which, though greatly transformed, persist to this day. None of the—what are they called—VideoVision programs, wait sorry, wrong century, television shows, that’s it, tel-a-vision shows are known today. Of the many writers you may have read the only two that are still read by many student are JK Rowling and EL James. Literary students are familiar Bobby Wentworth, whose books were discovered and championed 100 years after your death by a group of iconoclastic critics. During your life they were self-published and read by less than two hundred people. Politically, some arcane scholars of Middle Eastern history have heard of the Bush dynasty and Barak Obama is known for being the first non-Anglo-Saxon president.

I’m sorry to have to share all this with you and I can see you find it troubling. If it’s any consolation, were I to be transported to the year three 2800 I would be encountering a similar fate. Which leads me to the next issue we need to discuss.

I am obliged to inform you that we have had the ability to awaken you for 85 years, but the Cryocorp ethics board has been debating your case for some time. You are the oldest surviving stasis customer and they thought it would be cruel to awaken you in a world so different. Many on the board thought that we should let you die. They argue that, while your intent was to live, that decision was made under circumstances that are no longer relevant. Others argued that your explicit decision to undergo stasis should trump everything, and to let you die would be to violate your contract. So they debated whether your intent would change or not given these changes, and whether that would even matter, but made little progress. Finally the board devised a solution. However, they insisted that I apologize on their behalf for the length of their deliberation, a delay that made the world even more foreign to you.

Now, the ethical board of Cryocorp for the Peoples United Republic of the Amalgamated States of the Americas has decided, based upon your case, that for all people awakening over two hundred years after their intended death time, unless they are of historical importance or needed for an emergency, shall be given the option of proceeding with their death.

At this point, while you are awake, in the eyes of the law, until you leave this facility, you are not technically alive. So, you have a choice. Based on your savings, and four hundred and seventy-two years of compound interest, you have enough money to live comfortably without having to work. Though modern work would likely neither be recognizable to you or even possible for your to complete. As the result of the costs of maintaining stasis and several recessions, you wouldn’t be rich, but you wouldn’t want for much in our world. Given your physically age, after a round of immunizations and boosters, you would be able to live another 65 years in our world.

You’ll notice to the left of your bed is a small metal box with a grey button. The button, as you may be able to see if you can turn your head, is attached to your IV bag. You can either press this button and proceed with the death that would have befallen you in the 21st century, or exit this room and see those sixty-five years. I’ll give you as much time as you need to consider your options.

Although, unfortunately, the ethics board also decided that it would be inappropriate for me to give you any materials on the current world before you have made your decision. They feel that it would inappropriately influence your decision based on information not relevant to your choice. I have given you as much information as I’m permitted to provide. I can see now that your mouth is twitching, which is the earliest sign of the return of speech. So, if you are capable of doing so, please ask me any questions you may have which are permitted and, when you feel ready, let me know if you would like any assistance pressing the button or walking out the door.