The Arrhenius Cask

You know me. I’ve always been able to take a slight on the chin. I dealt with Felicity’s constant abuses and badgering for years, but after that insult…well even a saint can only take so much. So I had to resolve this in a way that both satisfied my need for resolution but also didn’t risk my name. To be clear, Felicity had no idea I was angry with her back then. That whole month leading up to my plan, I was kinder than I had ever been before. 

But Felicity had two weaknesses. Despite being quite charming, and rather manipulative, she was as much convinced of her genius as she was, in truth, an idiot. She considered herself an absolute expert on the whole freezing process, but hadn’t made a single breakthrough under her own merits. To be fair, she could recite the effects of any chemical, ingested or injected. In that sense we were similarly well-read. 

So, on that day, Mardi Gras, I met with her. I knew she was going to be drinking. She can’t turn down an opportunity. After I was sure she had a few drinks, I invited her back to the icebox, a day after she last clocked out. When she arrived she hugged me deeply. “Thana! It’s so good to see you!” she said, warm and genuine. “You look amazing.”

“Felicity!” I matched her tone. “I wasn’t sure if you would come. I know today is really important to you. I’m sorry for interrupting your fun!”

“How could I ever turn down a friend, especially one who wants to talk Casks. Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t offer to share, would you like a drink?” She raised an empty bottle of some sort of sherry she used to enjoy.

I brushed her offer aside and began my proposal. “I think I found a way to speed up the numbing process, but I wanted to check with you before talking with Lucas. You’re so much better with numbers than me.”

She laughed, “Smart choice coming to me. Lucas doesn’t know the first thing about cryosis.”

“However, I really don’t want to impose. I’m sure your friends already miss you.” I must say, my acting was perfect. I creased my brow with just the right amount of worry and sympathy.

Felicity responded, “Thana, don’t worry so much. I told them I was going home, it’s fine. I have nothing for the rest of the evening.” It was just as expected. She didn’t want anyone to know where she was either, not again.

Opening the door to the icebox, my breath was visible. “Still, I don’t want you to get sick from the cold; the computer I was testing on is in the back, and you aren’t even wearing a jacket.”

“A cough won’t kill me!” She slapped my back and walked inside. “Besides, I better check your math since Lucas can’t tell the difference between the Arrhenius and the van’t Hoff equations.”

“Well, if you insist, let me at least get you a drink. Still chilled.” I took an open bottle from the top of a metal box and handed it to her. “Your night shouldn’t end on my account, and besides, it should help warm you up.” She drank it swiftly and we moved in deeper.

After Felicity finished the bottle, she said, “Watch this.” Then she threw it into the air, shoved her fist through a hole made with her other hand, and then caught the bottle. After completing her obscene gesture, she began to laugh.

Confused, I said, “I don’t, sorry, I don’t get the joke.” 

“Oh yeah, I guess you wouldn’t. It’s something of an in-joke with management. I’m sorry. I really thought they were going to promote you by now. I swear, I told them your contributions.”

“Don’t worry about it. I have the credentials I need for my research.” I dangled a USB drive I swiped from her desk the day before, and then quickly shoved it back in my pocket.

The icebox was empty that day. No one was supposed to be there at all. Officially the day, and the one after, were off because the boss wanted everyone to have fun and to recover from the celebrations, but she was actually religious herself. All she had to do was offer two days of paid vacation, and everyone took it.

Deep in the back of the room was an indent just large enough for a Cask, or pod as they’ve become known. It was easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it. And just in front, it was obscured by a host of improperly hung wires.

Next to the pod was a little desk I made for myself with a laptop, sitting on a few metal boxes and wired into the machine, which stood tall and had a white plastic shell and a glass door.

I turned to Felicity, who was having a little difficulty standing and said, “Please, have another drink while I set things up.” I handed her a bottle of Dead Guy Ale, knowing it was her favorite. As she drank deeply I turned on the computer and let it boot up my “research.” Felicity leaned over the makeshift desk to stare at the computer, trying to parse what it was saying.

I opened the pod, the Cask, and turned back to her. She swayed a little and stabilized herself on the pile of boxes, almost knocking over the laptop. “Felicity, you look awfully sick. Maybe some difficulty standing? Why don’t you sit down here. I can get Lucas to take you home.”

“He isss an idiot,” she slurred out. She stumbled to her seat inside the Cask. I strapped her down and plugged the proper needles into her neck, but nowhere else. Her head would survive, even if the rest of her withered.

After preparing her Cask I stood up and asked her one more time, “Are you sure the room’s not too cold? It seems you didn’t even feel that. Maybe this drink is much too strong.” I pulled out my vial and showed it to her.

She opened her mouth but only “Thana” left her lips.

“Ah, so you remember this. I found it doesn’t work quite right if ingested. It numbs the body, sure, but the mind, the mind still stays sharp. I think sharper, even. But you are quite aware of that right now, aren’t you.”

I prepped the code for her body, making sure it took into consideration her mass, with my own unique contributions, of course. But before I could even finish modifying the effects of her metabolism, she actually willed herself to speak.

She mumbled, “funny.”

“I didn’t quite hear that.”

“…not funny.”

“Hmm, I have to disagree.” Our exchange done, I continued making the final adjustments. As I was finishing the code, she feebly struggled against her bonds. I stood up to close the door. She said one last thing, “love of God.”

“Yes!” I said. “For the love of God.”

I closed the door and set it to open in 100 years, though I’m not so certain she’ll be the same. Watching, fully aware, unable to move, it might change her. But I knocked. “Felicity! Felicity!” She did not have the courtesy to respond.

When I left, I felt sick, but it surely must have been just the cold, so I left quickly.  50 years later, even after my promotion, the change in owners, and the new construction, her eyes still stare blankly out the door. May she rest in peace.

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