I awoke with the biggest hangover of my life and for a change I hadn’t been drinking. I opened my eyes but the harsh white glare forced me to snap them shut again. As I came round more, I could feel that I was lying in some cold viscous liquid. I was getting colder so I sat up, or should I say, I tried too. As I sat up I struck my head on something. Steeling myself for the stab of pain, I gingerly opened my eyes. I was in a white ‘coffin’ with a Perspex lid, half immersed in a colourless slime. Pressing both hands hard against the lid I struggled to open it. I strained but to no avail, having to give up as breathing became difficult. Panic was almost setting in when something must have sensed the change in the air, as there was a click and a hiss as the lid swung open. I sat up, having to steady myself as my head swum. Once the spinning sensation slowed, I swung my legs over the side, letting the ooze run off and onto the floor.
Squinting against the harsh glare of overhead fluorescent lights, I looked around the room. Arranged in rows around me were other coffins, each containing a naked body. Feeling nauseous and more than a little confused, I staggered along the row. I assumed that they were like I was, rather than dead. Now my vision had improved, I could see some kind of control station in the centre of the room. Hoping to find some kind of answer to how I had got here, I lurched to the middle of the room. Once I made it there I sank gratefully into one of the typists chairs. The exertion had exhausted me and despite being naked I was running with sweat. Dizziness broke over me like a wave, making me retch in long dry heaves.
I must have passed out as I woke up on the floor. I don’t know how long I had been lying there but my head had cleared and there was a slight growth of stubble on my chin. Using the desk, I pulled myself upright and looked at one of the computer screens. It appeared to show the status of all of the chambers in the room. All of them were green except one, which was yellow. I assumed that this one was mine as the legend read Emergency Revival Procedure Initiated. At the top of the screen was a title Project Lethe. Suddenly, like light flooding into a room that had been shut for too long, realisation dawned. Lethe was a project to test the viability of cryogenic suspended animation for use in space exploration. I had volunteered to spend up to three months asleep to see how well it worked. I had reported to the research lab at Lancaster University, had a medical, been anaesthetised and that was the last I remember until I woke up. One thing was bothering me. Where were the staff monitoring the experiment? I looked around on the desk for anything that might help. Taped to the phone was a list of numbers, including one for university security. Thinking that this was my best chance of finding someone, I dialled the number. The phone at the other end rang twice and was picked up.
“Hello” I said. “I’m in the…”
Before I could finish, a voice at the other end answered. “You have reached university security. We are unable to respond at the moment. Please leave a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible.” Dumbstruck, I hung up the phone.
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed some movement on the computer screen. In the top corner was a clock display. If it was right, it was just after ten p.m. on the fourth of November. I was furious. We had been told that we would be asleep for a maximum of three months. This meant that it was nearer six. Then something that had been niggling away at the back of my mind finally fought its way through my anger. I looked again at the year on the date display and what it said hit me like a hammer blow. If it was correct, I had been asleep for just over one hundred and twenty years. Stunned, I flopped back into the chair, really unable to comprehend what I had seen. Profound disorientation overwhelmed me and I just sat there.