Art by Melissa Mead
His Brother was an Only Child
by Ronald D Ferguson
I clenched my eyelids, and my memories trickled in.
John Ashley. Twenty-three years old. Terminal cancer. Crying parents. Cryogenic storage. The first cold moment. The last brief hope: they would awaken me when they had the cure.
I tensed and shivered. "How long?"
An old man touched my neck, and relaxation seeped from the touch. I mumbled, barely able to understand myself. "Who are you?"
"I'm your brother, Larry."
That was good. Peace surrounded me. A sketchy doubt arose as I drifted.
I had no brother.
I do not know how long I struggled with groggy consciousness, but finally I reached a point where I managed to stay alert through the day. That night, I slept extremely well, and awoke refreshed the following morning.
The nurse entered my room loaded with a sponge and a container of soapy water. Often, I had seen her dour face during by bouts with consciousness. For some reason today, she looked younger and crisper.
"Something special for me?" I asked, happy to be able to talk. As usual, she did not speak.
Instead, she smiled, that thin, tolerant smile that shows no teeth, that reeks of efficiency. She set the water and sponge on the bedside table and pulled the top sheet from my bed.
She leaned over me to straighten my pillow. This was new, no tightly buttoned uniform today. Rather, the open neck revealed her creamy cleavage for too short a moment.
She crumpled the sheet and tossed it to the floor as laundry. Then she took hold of my hospital gown and stripped me bare. My gown joined the sheet on the floor.
I was surprised. When I had been a pre-med student--before the cancer, before the long sleep--the curriculum drummed privacy and modesty issues into us. I guessed that people now were not as worried about nudity.
Just as well. I expected the chill of the cool room to descend. Instead, my face flushed and heat rose to my cheeks when she thoroughly inspected me. She picked up the sponge and dipped it into the water.
A few strokes of the warm sponge along my underarms, neck, and chest, and the tension melted from me. I relaxed. While her left hand patted my chest, she ran the sponge across my ribs and onto my stomach. Her left hand glided to my throat. Immediately, I felt drowsy.
The warm, friendly sponge moved down my stomach, over my thighs, and toward my perineum. I wanted to stay awake, but I couldn't. As I faded, I thought I heard her whisper, but I never saw her lips move.
"Good boy. Clever boy. Thank you for cooperating."