The Neutral Zone

After ​Star Trek: The Next Generation ​Episode 1×26

by Tyler Koshakow

When they find you, you are dead, frozen solid, floating through space in a strange little pod. They come in a great ship that moves through the darkness as silently as a cloud. They beam you up, break you down to your atoms, send you in a pulse of radiation across the emptiness, reconstitute your body on a table in their sick bay.

Now watch, a great miracle:

You are thawed. Healed. Reborn.

Cryonics, you hear one explain, was a fad in the late 20th century. The rich would have themselves frozen, moments after death, hoping future generations would thaw them out and fix them up.

There are three others that were found alongside you, also thawed, also brought back from death. They represent the worst of the world you left behind. One is a women. She is prettier than you, has wild, fearful eyes. She cries and cries and then the ship’s psychiatrist—also prettier than you—shows her her progeny on a screen, her descendants   mapped out like veins in a leaf. She looks into the eyes of an image of some great great great great grandchild, and is reminded of her dead husband. This somehow comforts her. Now she is fine.

The two other survivors are men. One is an amiable country singer whose personality has been whittled, through drinking and drugging, down to a collection of aphorisms and clichés. The ship’s android has taken an interest in him, keeps him happy like a pet, gives him a martini and a glittered guitar that he has, through some miracle of technology, materialized out of thin air, shimmering and perfect.

The other is a sort of stock aristocrat. Wiry and covetous, serpentine and aged. He is constantly making demands. He needs to see about his estate, his stocks. He demands to see the captain.

Aside from the android—who cocks his head mechanically, his dead eyes collecting your data—the rest of the crew seem annoyed at your very existence; they look down their noses at you, judge you. They act like fearing death is a relic of the past, petty and primitive. They tell you that things have changed, that mankind has abolished war and poverty. Their clothes fit them perfectly. They have no pockets.

They keep you in a lounge, waiting. The musician drinks his martini, strums his guitar. The aristocrat gets angry and storms off. He returns twenty minutes later with news:

There is some sort of conflict with an alien race. He has been to the ship’s bridge and seen the whole thing first hand on their big movie screen. The alien’s face was sharp and severe. The alien threatened the captain, and the captain threatened him back. And then the alien ship, giant and lit up like a skyscraper in the night, disappeared silently in a blink. Your aristocrat tells you this and then punctuates it with his terrible, villainous laugh. Nothing has changed, he says. Nothing at all.

Now the ship’s engines are going full tilt. They hum the sound you hear when your head is underwater. You close your eyes. They tell you the ship is moving, speeding through space. Faster than a bullet, faster than music, faster than sunlight, skirting the laws of physics with some sort of energy field, some sort of bubble of magic. You hold your arms out like wings. You should feel it. The momentum. The speed. The movement. Yes, you should feel it deep in your gut like a leap from a diving board or the big drop on a rollercoaster. But you don’t. They have thought of everything. And they have taken care of that.

 


Tyler Koshakow‘s fiction and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming from Big Lucks, The Rumpus, NANO Fiction, Necessary Fiction, and elsewhere. More at tylerkoshakow.com and on twitter @tylerkoshakow.

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