Become a Fan
The Next Life
By Carter Burke
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
A freighter captain comes out of hypersleep to find his world has changed.
Corin was acutely aware of the dull aching in his eyes as they eased open only to slam shut reflexively, offended by the harsh artificial light. A grunt of discomfort escaped his lips. The noise immediately summoned a distinctly female form to his side. Her hands were on his face and her warm breath invaded his nostrils. A lightly scented perfume sweetened her aroma.
“Jesus Christ, Doc. Get me off this table. I’m okay,” he mumbled, not fully coherent. He tried to get up, but his limbs wouldn’t move. They were secured to the examining couch with sturdy medical fasteners.
“Shhh … easy,” the voice was disembodied, but emanated a tone of sincerity and concern. “…coming out of a prolonged hypersleep.” Corin missed the first part of what she said. “Concentrate on my voice. Do you understand me? Your vision will clear momentarily. I’m going to flood them with a rinse that will ease the discomfort.”
Gentle thumbs lifted his eyelids to squirt a warm liquid over his pained orbs. Eventually, his eyes eased fully open with little discomfort.
“Are we back on Earth?” Corin asked. It was always his first question, funny how he cared so much for the place where he spent so little of his time. As his vision cleared he noticed how attractive his attendant actually was. Her face was pleasing and strangely comforting, but everyone he had known would have been long gone by now. The woman was in her mid-twenties dressed in a smart business suit that hugged the curves of her body—not something that a doctor or nurse would be wearing. Still, the hint of freckles on her nose, the wavy auburn hair and the slightly rounded aspect of her cheeks were so familiar.
Fifty years in hypersleep was a long time. As a freighter pilot, he had missed generations of life on Earth to ferry supplies between galaxies. His acquaintances never lasted long. They were taken away by time and old age, while Corin remained in his prime with the outward appearance of a man in his late twenties.
“No, we’re actually on our way to New Earth.” The figure moved closer, clasping his hand and kissing him on the cheek. “I’ve missed you for so long.” Tears rolled from her cheeks and dampened Corin’s face. He squirmed uncomfortably.
“As much as I appreciate the sentiment, who are you?” He tried to sit up but was held fast by the restraints. “Could you get these off of me?” He motioned with his head.
The woman collected herself to undo the belts holding him down and Corin sat up swinging his legs over the side of the table. He adjusted the hospital garment mindful to retain his dignity.
“Careful,” the woman said. “You’re motor responses will be unsteady for another thirty minutes.” Her voice was soft and soothing. She looked deeply into his eyes. “Are you sure you don’t remember me … father?”
The last word stopped Corin cold and he turned to focus his attention on her. “Jillian?” It couldn’t be. She should have been an old woman by now in her early fifties. “It’s not possible.”
“It is and I am. You’ve only been gone for fifteen years.” She stared at him expectantly.
Corin looked into her eyes and knew it was her. “My baby. What happened?”
“Your ship was lost on the way to New Earth.” Her gaze dropped to the floor tiles. “They said there was no hope that we should give you up for lost. I cried so hard that day, Daddy.”
“I’m so sorry, baby.” Corin reached out and pulled her to him. The feeling was odd. The last time he held her, she was eight and a wispy little girl. Now, she was a grown woman. “You know that I did it all for you. It was the only way to give you a decent life. I’m so sorry.” Tears began to moisten his eyes and he kissed her forehead. “I did it for you.”
“I know,” Jillian said, her voice was muffled against his chest. “And I did this for you. I took the money they gave us from the insurance. I went to school and formed this company. We build ships and hyperdrives. The trip to New Earth only takes a few months now—no need for hypersleep.” She backed away so that he could see her face and the look of pride. “For the last two years, we’ve been looking for you and now we’ve finally found you. I knew we would.” She began sobbing again, tears of uncontained joy.
“It’s okay, baby girl. Everything’s okay.” He pulled her to him once more and kissed her cheek. His breath was warm against her skin. “I love you and I promise I won’t leave again.”
“I love you too, Daddy.”
“Jillian, I’m so proud.
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