It was a death sentence, despite his billions.
When he received the diagnosis, he invested everything–time, money, energy–into finding a cure. Supposedly there was none, but wealth can uncover secrets kept from the masses.
Top doctors in the field proved useless. They provided him with articles from medical journals, bolstering their claim that the disease was necessarily terminal, and suggested he investigate hospice care.
He met with researchers, demanding whatever experimental therapies they were pursuing. Some obliged. He was given a series of shots that clinical trials had demonstrated to be 0% effective. He was radiated, first with waves on the low-end of the spectrum, then with waves on the high. Those that provided these treatments did so knowing that they would not be sued. The patient would soon be dead, of that they were certain.
As he grew frail, he looked to the fringes of science. A faith healer in India extracted handful of viscera from his abdomen and declared him cured; the following morning he was again coughing blood, and the Swami was nowhere to be found. A tailor in Japan wove him a suit made entirely from magnets and Spandex; he wore it every day for a month. He paid 1,000 people to pray for him, eight hours a day, seven days a week.
In his final days he gave up hope. No cure exists, thought he. Not yet.
Only then did he contact Cryonics Incorporated. Founded by the world’s most accomplished cryopreservationalist, C.I. would freeze its clientèle until such time as their ailments could be cured. Law forbid C.I. from preserving a client before death, but the man offered them such sums of money that they had no choice but to comply.
A week before he was projected to expire, the man settled into a sleek, silver pod. The technicians busied themselves with various tasks; the man’s lawyer stood nearby, finalizing the terms of estate. Without heir, the man was investing his fortune into an interest-earning trust, half of which would be given to whomever revived him in the future, half of which he would reclaim upon awakening.
The lawyer took his leave. The technicians finished their preparations. The glass lid of the pod slid over the man, sealing him in.
He felt a slight chill before the sedative kicked in. Then, nothing.
* * *
He was conscious before he could open his eyes. Like waking from a restful sleep he could remember nothing of his slumber, but knew intuitively how long he had been out. Though, in this case, the duration measured decades rather than hours.
He was bitterly cold, but growing warmer by the moment.
When at last he mustered sufficient willpower to raise his eyelids, he wondered why he had bothered. All was dark, both the panels within his coffin and the room without. The pod insulated him from all external noise, though he would occasionally feel a tremor.
Isolated, he pondered his situation, eventually concluding that he had been thawed not by saviors, but by a power outage. He waited for his strength to return; he drifted off to sleep.
Several hours later, when the pod’s glass lid exploded inward, his eyes sprang open and his body twitched in alarm–his full range of motion, given the circumstances. An intense light blinded him. After a moment, the beam left his face and traveled the length of his body. A flashlight, the man thought.
“Look at this,” said a voice, garbled as though someone were speaking around a mouthful of water. The man, still dazzled from the light, could barely make out a silhouette, looming over his ruined pod.
Seconds passed. A second shape lurched into view. A wave of putrescence rolled into the pod like fog into a valley. The man instinctively held his breath; in the ensuing silence, it occurred to him that he heard no sounds of respiration at all.
As his eyes acclimated to the dim illumination provided by the flashlight, the appearance of his visitors slid into focus.
The Speaker was covered in grime and gore. What remained of its clothing hung in tatters, revealing a series of bullet holes across its chest. Its left hand held the flashlight; the right, a crowbar.
The Shambler lacked an arm and a third of its head; much of the rest of its body was in the throes of decomposition. The lower half of its torso had rotted away completely, with only the spinal column tethering chest to pelvis.
“Uht ah ey?” grunted the Shambler, lacking a jawbone to articulate.
The man heard the faint and distant sound of explosions, followed again by silence.
The Speaker returned the beam of the flashlight to the man’s face and chuckled. “Frozen dinners,” it said.