January 12

Bedford Day

 

January 12, 1967 is sometimes listed as the date of death for Dr. James Bedford.  Some believe that date should be replaced with a question mark.

In his seventies, Bedford’s kidney cancer had spread into his lungs.  With no treatment available, he accepted an offer from the Life Extension Society to have his body frozen with liquid nitrogen.  The idea was that he might be revived at a time when medical science had developed better treatments for his condition.

Cryogenic suspension, then, was still in its infancy.  Whatever Dr. Bedford’s chances might be for a distant future, you hoped your own chances would be better.

You remember your preservation process as if it was yesterday.  The technicians were kind.  The compartment had a glass cover that made it feel less like a coffin.  The injection felt similar to an anesthetic before routine surgery.

A bit colder, perhaps.

You feel groggy now, just as you did when you awoke from your appendectomy.

Your eyes open to darkness.  There’s a horrible smell in this enclosed space.  You’re afraid it is the rank odor of your own decay.

The sheet beneath you is shredded.  A ragged cloth falls off your arm as you touch the side of the compartment, then reach to feel the glass lid above your face.

Warm glass.  Why isn’t it cold?  Why aren’t you cold?

Nothing but darkness on the other side of the clear pane.  You have an awful thought: someone has given up on you.  Your body has been removed from the cryonic facility, and you were buried in the ground.

Buried alive.

Lower down, your fingertips locate a sharp edge.  A hole in the lid, with cracks radiating outward.   You manage to fit your finger through the hole.

There’s air above you, not dirt.  You pull the finger back inside, and the movement disturbs the horrible smell wafting up off your body, or into the compartment from outside.

The technicians had demonstrated the equipment before your suspension.  You know the procedure for opening the compartment — the latch that untwists from inside.  But what awaits on the outside?  Someone should be here to ease you gently awake, lift you from years (decades? centuries?) of frozen sleep, then lead you directly into advanced medical treatment and an extended future of previously unimaginable health.

You turn the latch, begin to raise the lid.  The awful odor of decay intensifies.