By R.G. Summers
Photo by Dawn Vogel
Finding out that my mother had been cryogenically frozen for the past seventeen years put a damper on the whole weekend. Uncle Bruce repeatedly offered to take me out–go see the new Star Trek movie, have dinner at the Space Needle, hike DiscoveryPark, etcetera–but I wasn’t in the mood to spend time with anyone, even him. Bruce respected this, and we spent the weekend ordering a lot of Chinese food and pizza to compensate for our mutual lack of cooking skills. Bruce cloistered himself away in his office to make work phone calls, and I shut myself up in my bedroom to listen to angsty indie rock that failed to provide an appropriate soundtrack for my current situation.
It was almost as if my mother was still alive, but not quite. It was a soap opera twist gone horribly wrong. I had spent my whole life without a mother. It was only when Dad was apprehended by the Trongodian government police that I realized how much was missing from my life. By the time I turned thirteen, I was acutely aware of how badly my life sucked.
You get used to life sucking though. You adapt. You move past teenage depression and antisocial behavior and go on with your life. I had found a nice little rut where I went to boarding school, buried myself in science projects, and ate mango frozen yogurt with gummy bears on the weekend. As painful as it had been to adapt to that, it was just as jarring and alarming to think that maybe there was something more, something I had given up hoping for.
I paused my music and stopped Bright Eyes in the middle of a chorus. It was a pleasant, grey Sunday outside, but I took a moment to curl up on the bed, clutching a pillow to myself defensively. This wasn’t exactly my room–it was only the spare bedroom of Uncle Bruce’s condo, decorated with a few girlish themes he’d mistakenly thought I’d enjoy. I lived at school, and hadn’t had a home since my father had been taken away. This was an accepted fact of life.
But it didn’t have to be.
While Bruce finished his phone calls, I listened to his deep voice through the walls. I couldn’t hear much of what he was saying, but from his demonstrative tone, it was very important. I stared at the ceiling and puzzled over what time it would be in Cairo if it were four p.m. here. It couldn’t have been a very good hour for his business partners.
I couldn’t believe how much time Bruce devoted to business, even while at home. Whenever he got a call, he immediately shut himself off in his office to be alone with his work. There was no pattern or schedule to calls, but it surprised me that so little of his conversation was conducted in actual Arabic. I tried to make small talk with him, trying to show a polite interest in his work, but he always answered my questions as vaguely and quickly as possible. He acted as though his work was very boring, which only made me suspect it was actually very interesting.
When I got bored of trying to overhear him through the walls, I left the spare bedroom and went to the kitchen. Raiding the pantry, I found jarred tomato sauce and spaghetti. While Bruce finished with his work call, I industriously overcooked pasta and splattered the microwave with tomato paste. Bruce emerged from his office right as I was finishing, and he seemed inordinately grateful for my little burst of culinary initiative.
“Turning into a regular chef, eh, Lindy?” he asked, ruffling my hair.
“Just trying to prevent us from starving,” I answered. “That seemed like a long call. Who were you on the phone with?”
“Just a business partner.”
“What’s going on?”
He looked at me strangely, as if I was asking him a cryptic question rather than just making small talk. “Nothing’s going on.”
“You weren’t just negotiating titanium prices or inquiring about their galvanizing process or something?”
“Oh, well of course. It was just the usual business. Nothing interesting.” It always raised my suspicions when people told me something wasn’t interesting. It was as if he was actively trying to turn me off from the subject. Before I could press the issue, he escaped it entirely by asking me about my schoolwork. I had to admit that I hadn’t put much effort into my homework this weekend. We sat down to dinner, and the conversation drifted, taking sharp turns as we each brought up one subject after another that the other did not want to talk about. Finally, we found a subject that neither one of us wanted to talk about.
“Why is she frozen?” I asked. I had cultivated a dozen different questions this weekend that I wanted to ask Bruce about my mother, but all the hows and whats paled in contrast to that one why.
Bruce sighed and put an increasing amount of attention on his food. He focused intently on his over cooked spaghetti, allowing him to avoid eye contact with me. Explaining it as if it were an accepted tragedy, Uncle Bruce spoke passionlessly. “Your father thought that if he could cryogenically freeze her, that there would be a way to bring her out of the freeze and revive her entirely,” Uncle Bruce explained. “Her plane went down in a rural area outside of Tacoma before it could reach Seattle. There was no way to get her back to Trongodia in her condition, so Howard flew out here and began working in the States. When the doctors said nothing could be done for her and recommended cutting off her life support, he refused to accept that Melinda was really gone. He took matters into his own hands, and transported her to his private lab.”
I shook my head, disbelievingly. “What was his plan? To keep her frozen until medical technology advanced?”
“He intended to resurrect her himself, Lindy,” Uncle Bruce answered sadly. “After twelve years of fruitless attempts, he became convinced that the only way to revive her would be to use the triconadapters he had helped develop for the Trongodians.”
“How was he planning on using them to help Mom?”
“I don’t know, Lindy,” Uncle Bruce sounded exasperated, but I finally prompted him to look me in the eyes. “Your father tried, on multiple occasions, to enlist my help with this project, but it was a hopeless enterprise. Your mother was gone. Howard just couldn’t let go. More than a decade of research did nothing to help bring her back.”
“But that was before he had developed and procured the triconadapters,” I interjected. I had researched the science behind the triconadapters long ago in an attempt to understand why they had been so important to my father. The devices emitted ultraviolet waves on three different frequencies in order to reduce crystallization in biological systems. The problem with cryogenically freezing people was that there was no viable way to recover them afterwards. The triconadapters had made international news once they were developed by my father’s research team in Trongodia. When he stole them and the blueprints used to make them, he had robbed the world of the scientific advancements his genius had produced. “What happened with Mom after he got the triconadapters?”
“Your father was arrested before he could implement a solution involving the triconadapters, but, Lindy, those devices never yielded a successful human trial. Even if Howard hadn’t been arrested, that doesn’t mean he would have been able to revive your mother with them.”
“Dad wouldn’t have taken them if he didn’t think he needed them,” I defended. “Dad could have made them work. Dad invented them. They were his devices.”
“They were the Republic of Trongodia’s devices.” Uncle Bruce’s voice was stern as he reminded me of that. “And your father wasn’t entirely … well, after so long and no positive results … Howard wasn’t very … coherent.”
“What are you saying, Uncle Bruce?”
“It’s just that he was getting desperate. His ability to pragmatically and logically solve problems disintegrated when he became obsessed with solving a problem that had no solution.”
“But all problems have solutions,” I objected. “There’s a mathematical explanation for everything, there’s a technological solution for every scientific problem …”
“Lindy,” Bruce interrupted. “No.” My face fell flat and I stopped trying to defend the idea. I was not used to Uncle Bruce outright denying me. “I’ll grant that it might have been possible when Howard was still working on the project. He was a brilliant scientist, but if he couldn’t find a means to revive her, there’s no one who will be able to now that he’s in a Trongodian prison. He’s not coming back, and we need to decide what to do with Melinda.”
“You mean my mother,” I said. “And what do you mean ‘what to do with her?'”
The conversation became even more painful as Uncle Bruce attempted to delicately explain exactly what he meant by that. He repeatedly told me that there was no need to make a decision right away, and stressed that nothing had to happen right now, but his perception of the situation horrified me. Bruce seemed to want to bury everything. I nodded along inexpressively, screaming inside, as he went over the issue from a practical standpoint. He kept repeating that word. Practical. Because there was no practical reason to keep my mother cryogenically frozen in a secret industrial basement on the south end of town. He wanted to pull the plug on her. Uncle Bruce never said it, but that was his solution.
I couldn’t stand the thought of it, but I didn’t know how to structure an argument against it. Did I really think that there was any hope of reviving her with stolen Trongodian technology?
Of course I did. I had grown up in a household where anything was possible, in a world where physics and chemistry gave us everything we needed to find answers and solve problems. If my father had believed it was possible, I knew that it was. I couldn’t be asked to abandon that. Along with everything in the laboratory, I had inherited my father’s hope. After dinner, cuddled down in the spare room, I realized what I had to do. It was hard to sleep that night.
Bruce left early Monday morning, long before my alarm even went off at six a.m. He left me ample money for cab fare, and a pleasant note explaining that he’d had to catch an early flight back to Cairo. With the condo to myself, I promptly began scouring the place for the keys to my father’s laboratory.
I assumed that they would be somewhere in Bruce’s office, but quickly discovered that he kept his office door locked. I was the only other person ever here, and I was shocked and slightly hurt by this lack of trust. Fortunately, I never went anywhere without a few paper clips in my purse. Locks within residential or academic buildings were never that hard to crack, and it didn’t take me more than ten minutes to break into Bruce’s office.
I tied my hair back and began very carefully poking around his workroom. The keys were not well hidden, and I recognized them as soon as I found them in the top drawer of his desk. I tried not to disturb his paperwork or any of the blueprints for his elaborate manufacturing projects. If I hadn’t had so much else on my mind, I might have taken a moment to study them and figure out what sort of projects Uncle Bruce was contracted for in Egypt.
In all reality, I didn’t know what Uncle Bruce did. His job title was always changing since he was an independent agent, but generally he helped determine raw goods requirements for manufacturers and then negotiate industrial sales deals. I suppose it was the sort of thing my father might have done if he’d been a little less ambitious and a little more law-abiding.
I packed a bag with a few clean clothes, grabbed a toothbrush, and made a call to my school. Deepening my voice and affecting a masculine tone, I passed myself off as Bruce Derosa with a terrible cold. He was every bit as sick as his niece was, and the both of us were going to stay home this week. It was bronchial. Definitely bronchial. I convinced the secretary; it wasn’t my first time impersonating Bruce for my own agenda.
I caught a taxi outside of the condo and had the driver take me down to south Seattle. We arrived just as the sun was starting to rise. I paid the cab driver and pocketed the rest of the money Bruce had left me.
Finding the shipping container was the hard part. It had been dark and rainy when we showed up Friday night, and I hadn’t had the sense to pay attention to where we were going at the time. I had a clear mental picture of the red and rusty container though. After some wandering, I recognized it on sight.
I was paranoid that someone from the ports would notice me, or someone somehow would be following me. Once I was in, however, my apprehension vanished. Sinking down through the darkness into my father’s laboratory, I felt right at home.
I threw the light switches up and watched the lights spring on, row by row. I took in a deep breath and smiled. It still smelled like lab equipment and concrete. It was abandoned, it was sterile, and it was mine now.
I shrugged off my backpack onto my father’s cot, pulled out my spiral ring notebook, and set to work.
At first, I just copied everything off of the whiteboard, line for line, trying to understand the equations and biochemical logic of my father’s mad scribblings. Dusty volumes of reference materials were stacked at the foot of the lab table. There were textbooks, academic journals, the occasional doctoral thesis–all out of date and thicker than over-malted milkshakes. I began pulling apart his desk, separating the blueprints for the existing cryogenic chamber from the incomplete plans for reviving the subject. I read through it all though. Every scrap of paper that had my father’s chicken-scratch handwriting on it captivated me. I took notes of my own in my notebook, jotting down every question I had about the materials I was coming across.
I didn’t break for lunch until I felt the fatigue of hunger making me lightheaded. At that point, I made myself at home, opening a can of my father’s chili and eating it straight from the can, crosslegged on his cot. Taped up on the wall was a picture of my family–all three of us–in front of a massive bamboo plant outside of our old house.
I took out my ponytail and rubbed my head; it already ached from trying to fathom all the information I’d encountered. While I ate my chili, I poked around the vicinity of the cot. There was a table beside the little bed, and it was even more cluttered and disorganized than his desk. Newspaper clippings, all about my mother or the Trongodian Department of Intelligence, were spread out alongside articles of old jewelry. My father’s favorite flat cap was collecting dust, so I picked it up, blew it off, and put it on. Underneath it there was a package of photos.
It had been a long time since I had stumbled across photos from a film camera, but a smile leapt across my face as soon as I realized that was what they were. In a hurry, I pulled them out, shuffling through them so quickly I hardly had time to process them the first time through. I found photos of some long-ago Christmas, and a New Year’s celebration where I was diaper-clad and covered in confetti. For the first time in years, I saw pictures of my now deceased grandparents. How fantastic it must have been for Grandma and Grandpa Derosa to have us in America for the holidays! I had no memory of this first–and last–Christmas before my mom died.
I looked for Uncle Bruce, but he wasn’t in any of the Christmas pictures. The only photo of him was one at a grey Seattle beach with my father. He was almost twenty years younger, his flaming red hair whipping around in the wind as he towered beside my father.
My father: the scruffy little man who had always been a giant in my eyes. His buggy eyes stared at the camera and his smile seemed forced. I preferred the candid Christmas pictures where it was obvious how genuinely happy he was.
I dropped one of the photos as I went to shuffle them back into their drugstore package. When I picked it up, I noticed the journal on the floor beside the cot. In a heart-stopping hurry, I picked it up and immediately began paging through my father’s diary.
I briefly considered the ethical conundrum before me, but I was too hungry with curiosity to set his private writings aside.
I began reading entries from August 2007, a month before he was taken. My high spirits sunk as I began deciphering his handwriting and decoding the desperation subtly embedded in his journal. I read through and watched his mind as he slowly came to the decision to steal the triconadapters.
His attitude remained hopeful throughout though. He was so positive, so certain that once he had the technology he had helped develop for the Trongodians he would be able to revive my mother. It was hard to read his handwriting, and his entries were confusing. I didn’t recognize any of the names. Rick Bhurman was mentioned constantly, but I didn’t know who that was any more than I knew who “Mr. Charlie” might have been.
However, the content of the diary was as much equations and theories as anything, and suddenly I had the most accurate, condensed version of his work already in my hands. Forget the wayward scribbles on the whiteboards–this was the end result. My father’s handwriting became clearer as he penned the key formulas and essential facts, making it painfully clear how close he had been to having the answer.
I pushed the journal away as I began crying, not having the heart to continue reading as he began describing Mom and how, if nothing else, his baby girl deserved to have a mother.
My tears turned to outright weeping, wishing I could tell the man who wrote those words that it wasn’t worth it. I didn’t need a mother, and I didn’t need him to risk his freedom in an attempt to resurrect a mother for me. I needed him. I had always needed him, and now he was locked away across the Pacific Ocean.
It wasn’t just that. Going over the finalized version of his notes, I realized how radically beyond me the math was. He referenced concepts I was totally unfamiliar with, and had written out his expressions using Greek letters I’d never seen before in the context of equations. The terminology was so specialized, it was obvious that I would not be able to comprehend this–let alone build on this–without a graduate degree in biology.
I collapsed on the cot and clutched a dusty, limp pillow close to me. Even still, I felt infinitely more at home here in my father’s laboratory than I had in the spare bedroom of Uncle Bruce’s condo.
I pulled myself together and finished eating my chili, making an immense effort not to think about anything at all. Once I’d had a cigarette and built my emotional stamina back up, I started thinking logically again.
The math was beyond me. What were my options then? There was no guarantee I would ever be able to finish my father’s work, even if I did spend years studying cryogenics. I couldn’t enlist anyone else’s help, not when there was stolen military technology involved. The reality of it was that no one but my father could salvage this project and save my mother. I breathed deeply and stood up so that I could pace the laboratory. Crossing my arms and rehashing the facts, I knew I could not afford to dig myself into a dark mood. The school administration wouldn’t expect me back until next week, and Bruce would be in Egypt for at least a few more days. I had time to come up with a plan.
I approached my mother’s cryogenic case and wondered what kind of plan I could possibly dream up. I approached the glowing chrome of the cryogenic freezer, and saw my reflection.
Pensively, I pulled my hair back and tried to imitate my mother’s bob cut. I watched my reflection and knew that I looked just as she had at my age.
Three cardboard boxes were stacked up in the corner near to the freezer. I had spent all morning dealing with the theoretical, I was now dying to know what physical technology my father had left behind. On a whim, I rummaged through them.
Expecting to find vast quantities of tangled wires and old computer hardware, I was duly surprised to discover that the first box was packed with women’s clothes. As I sifted through eighties sweater dresses and modish blouses, I recognized the cardigan Mom had been wearing in most of our Christmas photos. I threw it on in an attempt to bundle myself up in moth-eaten security. It wasn’t a perfect fit, but my mother must have been only marginally bigger than I was.
Throwing open the second box, I found her summer wardrobe, and in the third box was a collection of jackets and coats. Everything smelled stale and like rotting cotton, but I shuffled through it for want of anything better to do.
At that point, I was not expecting to find anything besides old clothing. In the bottom of that final cardboard box however, I found a manila envelope that my father had labeled very simply, Melinda.
Intrigued, I sat down on the floor and pulled out the miscellaneous documents within. I brushed my hair out of my face and excitedly jittered in my mother’s cardigan sweater as I handled her personal documents.
Birth certificate, social security card, driver’s license, passport–all of her Trongodian identification information was sealed in this manila envelope as simply as she was sealed in her cryogenic case. I found her little black address book, her health insurance information, and an application for dual citizenship that was only partially filled out. There were letters too, all written in Trongodian.
My heart began racing. There were not words for how desperately I wanted to revive this woman. My father had known it was possible, and he had come so close to the dream of reuniting us as a family. There was no way I could walk away from this, but the ever present question haunted my hopes: what could I possibly do? No matter what I found or thought or discovered, my father was in a foreign prison and I was still just an eighteen-year-old Trongodian-born American.
But what if I wasn’t?
What if I was a nearly forty-year-old Trongodian spy? What if, instead of a boarding school student, I was one of the most well-connected intelligence agents of Trongodia to still be missing in action?
I began paging through my mother’s address book, looking at all the names and addresses within. Cholendo Gortu. Karen Lee. Rick Bhurman. I read the ones written in characters as easily as I read the Romanized alphabet. I could make calls. I could get answers.
I dashed back to my father’s journal, and began cross-referencing everything in his diary with everything in my mother’s address book and personal letters. I kept waiting for something to jump out at me, some obvious detail that would explain why it was utterly irrational to think that I could impersonate my mother for the purpose of arguing for my father’s freedom. My mother was deeply embedded in the Trongodian Department of Intelligence; I didn’t doubt that she would know who to talk to about pardoning my father.
Going through my father’s journals, it became apparent that only a few people knew my mother had been cryogenically frozen, but everyone suspected it. Surely people had put the pieces together when the cryogenicist husband of a comatose spy was arrested for his personal research.
I was making myself lightheaded just thinking about the magnitude of the adventure I was setting myself up for. It was impossible, and yet I knew it was within my power.
I gathered my mother’s papers back into the manila envelope, and stuffed it into my backpack. I took my father’s journal and our family photos as well, my fingertips electrified with excitement as I tucked them away. Having discovered this boon, I itched to know what else might be hidden away down here.
I began tearing apart the laboratory, seeking more stimulation for my already over-excited mind. I dug through desk drawers and unpacked old computer boxes. I mostly found the electrical supplies and technology I had originally been expecting, but tucked away in various places I stumbled onto the equivalent of fifteen hundred U.S. dollars in Trongodian currency. I carefully packed the money away in the manila envelope with all of my mother’s identification.
After gathering all these artifacts from my father’s laboratory, I took a moment to gather my wits before I killed the lights and headed back up to ground level in the shipping container’s secret elevator.
It was a beautifully cloudy afternoon, and I decided to walk back to Bruce’s condo on the other side of town in the hope that the exercise would clear my mind and calm my nerves. I scuffed my sneakers against the asphalt and made my way home along the downtown waterfront. I clutched the straps of my backpack; it had never contained such a valuable load. I would have to email my teachers for schoolwork. Especially Ms. Ripley, before she took the initiative to send another email to Bruce about my poor academic performance in English class.
I had spent most of my hooky days in the city, but today was radically different. I had no interest in stopping by SeattleCenter or mucking around Pike Place Market. I usually didn’t do so much walking, either. It took me nearly two hours to get back to Uncle Bruce’s condo in the Magnolia neighborhood, but the trek helped burn off my excess energy.
I dwindled the evening away eating bagged popcorn and mac n’ cheese while at my computer. After spending my day in a shipping container, I was happy to be back in range of a wi-fi network. I googled everyone in my mother’s address book and took notes. I assumed that after nearly twenty years, most of the contact information was out of date. I was able to find emails, photos, and phone numbers for most of her old contacts, but not all of them.
My mother’s little black book was meticulously kept with full details for each entry, except for one. One whole page in her book’s C section was dedicated to a single phone number labeled in affectionate cursive, Charlie. It was a Trongodian number, but that was all I knew. There had been a few, short personal letters from him, but I wondered if my mother’s Charlie could be the same “travel agent” my father referred to as Mr. Charlie within his journal.
As strange as this was, it couldn’t compete with the mystery of Richard Bhurman. I vaguely remembered my father speaking about best friend in America, but his journal seemed to suggest that they had worked together since graduate school. There were more letters from him than anyone else, and they were so friendly, so familiar, that I wondered how I had never met him.
I opened the bedroom window and lit up a cigarette as I fruitlessly searched for him online. Nothing came up. There were no news articles, no associations he belonged to, no companies that boasted about employing him. I couldn’t so much as get an image of him or find a personal account on any of the usual social network sites. I kept digging, and eventually found scraps of information. A few academic journals referenced Bhurman’s work, which I tracked back to a PDF of his doctoral thesis. He had studied electrical engineering and apparently earned his Ph.D. after writing extensively about wiring medical equipment for prolonged and continued use. I read the paper’s abstract, but his research would tell me nothing about who he was.
There were some news articles and academic records, but they were all as out of date as my father’s records. In fact, Richard Bhurman seemed to have vanished off of the face of the Earth at the same moment that my father was incarcerated.
I burned the hours away puzzling over how I could piece my mother together using all these people I had never met. The thrill of the day took its toll on me though, and I fell asleep in Uncle Bruce’s spare bedroom quickly that night. Still in my clothes, I snuggled down under the covers to dream of mysterious strangers and relationships frozen in time.
I knew that I would, inevitably, run into trouble given the bent I was on. I just didn’t expect trouble to find me so quickly.
The following morning I went down the street to the bank and had a conversation with one of the bankers about removing Bruce from my account. Now that I was eighteen, I was legally able to have a checking account in my name and my name alone. I didn’t know how I would explain this to Bruce when he got the notification that he’d been barred from access to my finances, but anything would be preferable to allowing him to track where and what I was spending.
I took my time walking back to the condo. I had only just sat down on the guest room desk when I heard someone at the door. It was not an intruder, and I knew it had to be Bruce.
I immediately closed the spare bedroom door to buy myself time. What was he doing back so early? Who flies to Egypt for a day?
In a quiet rush, I packed up all of my clothes and notes, throwing them in the closet. I booted down the computer and then tucked myself into the closet as well. I didn’t know if Bruce would come into the spare room or not; I wasn’t going to take any chances.
The closet was virtually empty, and it wasn’t an uncomfortable hiding place. I could see only a little through the slats of the wooden doors, but I settled down on a stack of folded blankets. There was nothing to do but wait and anxiously pray that even if Bruce did come into the bedroom he wouldn’t have any reason to open the closet.
It was only a few minutes before he did open up the door to the spare room. My heart was in my throat, but I kept quiet and watched him motionlessly through the closet doors. Bruce came in and shut the window. He paused briefly and sniffed the air, undoubtedly detecting the residual stink from the cigarette I’d had last night. I held my breath as he then saw the scattered mess of blankets and sheets I’d left on the bed. Bruce sighed, and began to strip the bed.
I realized that, crouched in the closet, I was sitting on top of the change of sheets. My mind, still in a state of panic, stopped worrying about whether or not he would find me and began trying to fabricate a diplomatic excuse for why I had decided to play hooky these past two days.
Bruce piled the bedding into his arms and carried it out to the laundry basket in the hallway. I thought about coming out of the closet and confronting him with some semblance of honesty, but I didn’t work up the guts to step out before he came back. As soon as he was back in sight, though, his phone began buzzing urgently. He answered it in a hurry, standing in the spare bedroom and making me privy to half the conversation.
“Hello, yes … no I haven’t heard, I just got in … really? I thought they were dropping the investigation … Interpol, really? … No, this is serious … do they know who the supplier is? … I’ll make arrangements to be on the next flight. I’ll be in New York by midnight. Send me whatever information you have and I’ll review it on the plane.”
Bruce hung up and groaned. He did not seem panicked by the fact that Interpol was getting involved in one of his affairs, but rather irritated that he would have to get back on another plane. He paced out of the room, completely forgetting about changing the sheets in the guest room. My heart rate eased back down, amazed at this stroke of luck and baffled by what few details I had.
Uncle Bruce shuffled around the condo for a few minutes, but left soon after, dragging his suitcase and slamming the door behind him. I crept out of the closet and peeked out the window to watch as Uncle Bruce’s Lexus pulled out of the building’s parking garage a few minutes later. He was gone, and I breathed easy.
As inexplicable as Bruce’s phone call had been, I didn’t want to question a blessing. Whatever was happening had taken him back out of the condo for another twenty-four hours at least, meaning that I had free reign of the place for a while longer. This was important, because I needed to know I would be able to make some phone calls in private.
In my journal, I carefully listed out all of my mother’s contacts in the order that I would call them. There were a few who I couldn’t find updated contact information for online, and I decided that it would be best to try them first and make sure they were the dead-ends I expected them to be. It didn’t surprise me that I couldn’t get through to any of them, but it did disappoint me that Rick Bhurman’s number was no longer in service.
The last of these old entries I tried was Charlie. To my amazement, the phone started ringing and was answered. A woman spoke to me in Trongodian with a heavy, native accent that I comprehended perfectly. “Poichi Technologies, industry and development sector, how may I direct your call?”
“Hello,” I responded, employing my Trongodian with ease. “I’m calling for Charlie.”
“Do you have a surname for that associate?”
Embarrassed, I tried to keep my voice cool and relaxed. “I don’t think you understand–I’m calling for Mr. Charlie.”
I bit my lip and held my breath, wondering if that name would mean anything to her.
“Oh. Oh,” she answered. “Mr. Charlezu, you mean, why yes … but he no longer works in this department … is he expecting a call from you?”
“Tell him it’s Melinda.”
She didn’t question me. “I’ll forward your call to him in the transportation department–please hold.”
I took a seat on the bed and waited to be connected to Charlezu. The Trongodian woman had disappeared, but it was a nerve-wracking few seconds as I waited for Charlezu to pick up.
“Charlezu,” I greeted him, “is that you?”
“May I ask who is calling?”
“It’s Melinda, Charlezu. Melinda Derosa.”
He paused briefly. “Melinda Derosa is dead. Who are you?”
“Dead?” I laughed the word. “That has been the rumor hasn’t it?”
“I don’t know why you’re calling but …”
“I’m calling because I just woke up and I wanted to talk to you, Mr. Charlie.”
His irritated voice went dead. I left the silence alone, waiting for him to respond. “My God, it is you.”
“It’s been a long time, Charlezu.”
“Impossibly. An impossibly long time. The rumors were true … but how did you …? Never mind. Where are you, Melinda?
“I’m in Seattle.”
“What are you …? Nevermind. We can’t talk about this now. I know why you’re calling, but I really can’t have this conversation over the company phone line, you understand?”
“Of course,” I answered, not understanding at all. I started to ask what number I could reach him at, but he cut me off before I could utter a word.
“I’ll send a jet right away. Once you’re back in Trongodia tomorrow, we can talk about everything.”
R.G. Summers writes primarily science-fiction, but has published stories and poetry of all natures. Summers lives in Seattle, more or less, and has great hopes for the future, including being able to pay the rent by writing, and someday owning a crock-pot. She’s also training to be a circus performer, just in case this whole “writing” thing doesn’t work out. You can find her little corner of the internet at https://sites.google.com/site/herpuckishness/
Dawn Vogel has been published as a short fiction author and an editor of both fiction and non-fiction. Although art is not her strongest suit, she’s happy to contribute occasional art to Mad Scientist Journal. By day, she edits reports for and manages an office of historians and archaeologists. In her alleged spare time, she runs a craft business and tries to find time for writing. She lives in Seattle with her awesome husband (and fellow author), Jeremy Zimmerman, and their herd of cats. For more of Dawn’s work visit http://historythatneverwas.com/Follow us online: