You were a seventy-year-old doctor who harvested a man’s corpse (you called them patients) from a field of stainless steel tanks, holding bodies and heads in suspended animation. The family of the patient had signed a contract granting you permission to reanimate him. With the help of your personal-assistant-droid and your colleague, Dr. Evelyn Kachi, you wheeled him to the operating room where you began the reanimation process. You’d just devised a serum that would reverse the cause of his death, but you needed to test it out on an actual person. The family was excited about it, the patient had been frozen for twenty years already. He was a former lecturer in the University of Nigeria, a philanthropist, and a father of five. They would give anything to have him alive again. You began the process by letting him thaw out and then you replaced the cryopreservants in his veins with blood. You pumped in oxygen to his brain and body, and when it had circulated, you brought out a defibrillator to jump-start his heart.
“Clear,” you said as you pressed the electrical device on his bare chest and watched him jolt. He didn’t wake. The electrocardiograph didn’t beep. You tried again and there was still no improvement. On the third attempt, his heart started beating. You exchanged a pleased look with Dr. Kachi as you listened to the beeping sound of the electrocardiograph. The next step was to reverse the cause of death.
“Droid-44, I need the patient’s profile,” you said.
The droid scanned the patient.
“Dr. Tiamiyu Fabode. Died at age fifty-nine from ruptured lungs after drowning in a lagoon in an attempt to commit suicide.”
You nodded, taking a mental note of the cause of his demise. Then you took out a vial with a green liquid, thumped the needle, and injected it into the patient’s wrist. Before long, his heart rate doubled, and he convulsed. You observed the patient and raised a hand to stop Dr. Kachi from stabilizing him. You wanted to confirm the side effects of your newly devised serum so you could modify it for a re-use. Within five minutes, the patient had calmed down and was sleeping.
“For the next 48 hours, we are to monitor his vitals,” you said. “If he responds well to the treatment, we will let him see his family.”
Dr. Fabode woke up twelve hours later and you were present to ask him questions. You noticed Dr. Fabode didn’t respond to your questions. His face was a contortion of confusion and distress, because although you had uploaded his memories to his brain, he needed more time to adjust. The good news was Dr. Fabode no longer had the ruptured lungs. You penned this improvement on your clipboard and administered a sedative so the patient would sleep some more.
Dr. Fabode stirred awake eight hours later. With widened eyes, he talked about his experience in the afterlife, how he saw the spirits of those he loved and lost, how people were better off dead than alive. You stroked your beard and wrote these facts down. You noticed the patient’s eyes were turning red, the veins on his bald head bulging so much that it looked like the roots of a tree. You noticed the patient’s nails were growing sharper. You noticed he couldn’t talk for ten minutes straight without panting or gasping for air.
You let Dr. Kachi feed the patient with fruits, vegetables, and a bit of carbohydrates. Dr. Kachi gave a report shortly after that the patient possessed sharp teeth and nearly chewed away the plastic spoon. You thanked her for the information and wrote it down. At forty-eight hours, the patient was still alive. He smiled now, his teeth a glossy yellowish white. Dr. Fabode was more in-tune with his surroundings, more receptive to the questions you asked him. He said he was fine, that he felt stronger, but he battled migraines. Your face brightened in delight. It seemed you finally cracked the reanimation code, and it only took you thirty long years of research.
You sent Dr. Kachi to call his family, to tell them of the good news. His wife and children had been anticipating the call, and after receiving it, they piled into their car and headed to the clinic. The car stopped with a screech in the parking lot. They then met with the receptionist bot downstairs, which directed them to the room where Dr. Fabode lay.
But before they would visit their loved one, they would have to see you.
“Dr. Williams, thank you so much,” the first-born son said, shaking your hand tightly. He was several inches taller and reeked of celestial perfume. You patted his back and led him to the room where you found Dr. Fabode’s lifeless body. You wished his family hadn’t seen the grotesque sight of his swollen forehead, of blood gushing out of his eyes, nose, and ears. You didn’t need a droid to confirm his death. You’d seen several cases before. The patient had died from an intracranial hemorrhage. You quickly pushed the distressed family out of the room, and later explained to them how the experiment had failed. You showed them images of the reanimated Dr. Fabode when he was alive and smiling. You apologized, reassured them that in another two decades, you’d try again. You’d give him a new head, new eyes, and you’d take care of the bills. You squeezed the first-born’s shoulder and watched in pity as he mourned.
You spent a month modifying the serum before trying it on another patient. Dr. Kachi suggested you try it on a young child’s corpse. “No!” you snapped. You didn’t want to test it on children, at least not yet. Dr. Kachi raised her hands in surrender. Under concave spectacles, her eyes bulged in astonishment. You had always been a man in control of his emotions. Why did the idea of reviving children suddenly upset you? Dr. Kachi wasn’t one to pry, so she apologized and prepared another patient.
Chukwuemeka Madu, a businessman who died at the age of forty-eight from cardiac arrest after discovering his wife was cheating on him. You transferred the body to the operating room to begin the process. Once the heart was beating, you administered the serum and watched the body jerk. Before long, he’d be awake.
Mr. Madu opened his eyes after twelve hours. As soon as he saw you, he gasped. “Is that you, Messiah?” he asked in a raspy voice. You heaved a sigh of disappointment and, for a second, wondered what people truly saw when they passed on. You put him to sleep again, and after a day, he was more than convinced you were no messiah. You let Dr. Kachi speak to him in his vernacular. You had her explain he was in a cryogenic sleep for fifteen years after he was pronounced clinically dead. Mr. Madu wept when Dr. Kachi reminded him of his wife. You couldn’t relate to her infidelity, but you could imagine the harrowing pain of having a spouse betray you. “Where is she now?” Mr. Madu asked in a voice laced with desperation.
“She remarried,” Dr. Kachi said. “I’m so sorry.”
Dr. Kachi didn’t eat after that day. He died a week later from high blood pressure and malnutrition.
This time you went for a woman, Fiona Dumebi, a former slay queen who lost her life at twenty-six because she aborted her four-month pregnancy and bled to death. Dr. Kachi was present as usual, and the droid helped with video documentation. The third experiment went smoother than the second. You followed the same procedures, allowing blood and oxygen to flow to parts of the body. Then, you went forward to jump-start the heart. Before administering the serum, Dr. Kachi shot you a worrisome look. The message in her eyes was lucid. What if something went wrong? You assured her everything would be fine. After the injection, the body convulsed, then a few moments later, the patient fell into a deep slumber. You hoped that when she woke, she would be alright.
Fiona’s eyes fluttered open within six hours. She gazed around with sable eyes and flinched when she saw you and the droid.
“Stay calm,” you said. “I’m Dr. Tobias Williams. You’ve just woken up from a cryogenic sleep and are in the process of recovery. Don’t worry about the droid. He’s a friend. He won’t bite.”
Fiona looked at you and the droid and fainted.
Within twenty-four hours, Fiona had begun eating. Color slowly returned to her caramel skin. You asked if she could remember anything. She nodded. She recalled having a mother and a late sister, but seemed to know nothing about the anonymous millionaire who funded her cryogenic sleep. A quick scan on her vitals proved she was fine. She would require therapy to learn to walk again, but she would be up on her feet in a few weeks.
You phoned her foster mother, who scoffed and called you a liar when you said Fiona was alive. But once Fiona spoke to her, she started to believe.
Fiona’s mother came around three days after her daughter’s reanimation. She edged into the room, half-afraid, holding onto your coat as she walked in. Fiona’s mother was a wrinkled, bent woman of eighty years, who moved about with a walking stick. She trembled with emotion at the sight of her daughter. She approached the bed cautiously, eyes glued to the child she thought she’d lost forever. Fiona’s mother cupped Fiona’s face, and asked a thousand times if she was real. Then she embraced her, holding her so tight you thought her bones would crack. Tears poured from their eyes in torrents. They cried so hard you had to prescribe some paracetamol tablets. It warmed your heart to see mother and daughter together again. You sniffled as a teardrop fell from your eye.
One week passed, and Fiona was discharged. Within a month, Fiona could stand for seconds without leaning on anything. In six months, her health was at an optimal level. And after a year, she’d flown overseas where she got married and started a new life.
You went to the field of stainless steel tanks on the night of Christmas eve. Dr. Kachi wasn’t with you, and you weren’t in your usual white laboratory coat. You weren’t Dr. Tobias Williams, the billionaire scientist; this was you, in your vulnerable, unfiltered state. You walked to one of the tanks where there was a picture of a thirteen-year-old girl in braids. She bore a stark resemblance to you, with her aquiline nose and wide lips. You placed a hand on the tank, lips quivering as you stared at the image. It was another holiday season without her silvery voice, without her bright smile, and without the midnight gossip the two of you enjoyed. You spoke to the tank, told it about your year, about how life was empty without your little girl. You were getting close now, closer to your dream of reanimating your daughter. All of your friends had retired at seventy, but you spent the last thirty years studying, experimenting, and researching, and you weren’t going to stop now. You couldn’t save your wife. Her entire body was burned in the accident, and cryogenic sleep doesn’t work if the brain and the body are destroyed, so you watched in excruciating pain as her remains were placed in a coffin and buried six feet deep.
Fiona Dumebi was your first successful experiment. She was the glimmer of hope you so desperately desired. You kissed your daughter’s picture and returned to the lab to continue your research.
This would be your last experiment and then you’d retire and leave the clinic in Dr. Kachi’s capable hands. You were much too emotional to handle the reanimation of your daughter, so Dr. Kachi took over. She wheeled the body into the operating room and asked that you stay calm. You promised to try your best.
You cried when you saw that your daughter’s body had shrunk. Her skin, which was once a radiant bronze, had become white and bland.
As soon as the operation began, your nerves kicked in and you became restless. You paced around the room, checked and rechecked to make sure everything was perfect. Dr. Kachi glared at you and forced you to “Sit down!” You obeyed instantly, took a deep breath, and pulled yourself together. If you kept this up, your blood pressure would rise to dangerous levels. You didn’t want to lose yourself in the process of reviving your daughter.
The next few hours were silent as you watched Dr. Kachi supply your daughter’s body with blood. Soon enough, you heard the beeping sound of the electrocardiograph. You knew what came next and it made you shudder. Dr. Kachi administered the serum, and your daughter’s body shook violently. Everything would be fine, you told yourself. Your daughter would be awake in a few hours. You envisioned the moment when she opens her eyes and calls your name. She would touch your face and ask why your wrinkles had deepened, why your hair was white and your eyes hollow. You anticipated the moments you would spend together after the procedure, moments that would make up for the lost time and emptiness you felt over the years. You anticipated her fruity laugh, her constant scrutiny of your ‘outdated’ outfits and the use of slang you could never comprehend. You anticipated the warm hugs, forehead kisses, pinky swears, and the affectionate shoulder pats that strengthened your father-daughter bond. These thoughts calmed your throbbing pulse and filled your heart with hope and joy. At long last, you’d have your precious daughter back.
Just then, your phone buzzed. You swiped to answer. On the other end was Fiona’s mother. She choked back tears while informing you of the terrible tragedy that had befallen her. Two days prior, her daughter had suddenly collapsed and died. Your fingers trembled as the phone slipped from your grasp, landing on the floor with a loud clatter. You clutched your pounding chest. The serum had run its course.
Copyright © 2023 Naomi Eselojor