When Harold awoke, he realized he was still asleep. His head throbbed, and when he forced his mind to think past his headache, he realized that his whole body ached. Strangely, he'd never felt pain in a dream before. Why must this be a dream?
Memories tore through his mind. The pack of Zeros stalked him like a stray sheep when he was cut off from his wing--and despite the Lightning's superior speed it just wasn't maneuverable enough to shake the well organized Zeros. He could not gain altitude fast enough to evade them, and their rain of lead chewed away his tail section and wings. Mercifully, the cockpit had not been penetrated--cabin pressure was still normal. That gauge generally heralded the beginning of the end, so he watched it closely. Suddenly, it ceased to matter. The engine sputtered and coughed like a tuberculin old man for about ten seconds, then failed outright. The Lightning became a falling rock. His uncontrollable stick beat against his leg like an angry child as the ailerons it controlled gyrated wildly. He pulled against it, but the plane just went down. Nothing he did mattered.
Harold sucked deep breaths of air to prepare for the water. It didn't occur to him that the impact alone would probably kill him--he simply did the only thing his panicked mind could comprehend. He knew he'd need air if the canopy collapsed. The impossibility of gauging distance from the calm and unchanging water made him nervous--he wouldn't know exactly when the end would come.
Fortunately, he couldn't remember it. His last thoughts were of the wide expanse of water below. That's why this must be a dream. Either that or hell.
"Son, if you can hear me, try to open your eyes." Came a mid-western sounding voice. Harold blinked, but the light was too bright to keep his eyes open. They watered at the attempt.
"Don't try to speak--there's a respiration tube down your throat. As the doctor said that, Harold suddenly became aware of the gagging presence of the tube. He tried to cough, but the constriction of his throat muscles around the tube made his head shake. The tube tore at his larynx.
"Please--don't think about it. Just lie still for a moment. You are safe. My name is Doctor Leibowitz. Just get some rest now. I'll be back in later." With that, the voice walked away.
Time came and went with consciousness periodically. The tube was removed sometime during this period. Restfully, the aching slowly crept away, until, sleep felt more like sleep and less like reprieve from torture.
Harold opened his eyes and took a conscious look around for the first time after being at the Johns Hopkins medical center for six months.
He looked around. The hospital seemed extremely clean--cleaner than he'd ever seen before. The room was painted an odd rose color, not the white he would have expected. An odd machine sat next to him, with colored lights and controls galore. It looked very futuristic.
Just then, a doctor walked in. "I'm Doctor Leibowitz. How are you feeling?"
"Fine, I guess." Whispered Harold. "Where am I?"
"You are at John Hopkins Medical Research Center. You've had quite a accident."
"Accident hell." Whispered Harold.
"I'd like to confirm your identity--You were wearing tags that Identify you as Harold Parkinson, born May twenty second 1917 in Madison, Wisconsin. Is that correct?"
"Yes." Whispered Harold.
"Remarkable, truly remarkable. Please don't think me impatient--I've been waiting for months for you to regain consciousness. I have just a few questions for you. If you are too tired to talk, just say so or wave me off."
"It's okay. I've slept enough." Whispered Harold.
"What is the last date you clearly remember?"
"Let's see, It must have been June 18th when they shot me down."
"What? 1943 of course. Holy cow, how long have I been out?"
"Well, Harold, I don't want to shock you, but it's been a little while."
"The current date is November 1st, 2022."
"Oh please. Did Jackie put you up to this? He's a stitch."
"It's no joke, Mr. Parkinson. You've been dead for nearly 80 years."
"Dead? You're crazy."
"No, I'm quite serious. Your plane was shot down in the north pacific June 18 1943 during the Aleutian Island hopping campaigns against the Japanese in the pacific war. That was seventy seven years ago. Your P-38 impacted the water nose first, and immediately sank to a depth of 120 meters where it lodged in an undersea crevice. The pressurized cockpit of your aircraft withstood the four atmospheres of pressure at that depth, and the water temperature quickly cooled your body to four degrees Celsius, where it remained for 77 years."
"Four degrees celcius, how much is that in real temperature?"
"Oh, Ferenheit--let's see, that would be about 36 degrees. I think. Anyway, A dive tourist who was exploring WWII wreckage in the area found you. When he came across the remains of your aircraft, he was surprised to find that he could clearly see you inside the cockpit, and that you appeared not to have decayed. The cockpit remained airtight all these years. The Navy salvaged the aircraft, and took special precaution to keep you refrigerated during your transit here for analysis."
"You see, originally, we simply wanted to study the decomposition effects of your unique circumstance. That's when we found that you literally hadn't decomposed at all. Apparently, your body cooled so quickly while you were unconscious that you didn't even suffer from asphyxia."
"That's when we decided to attempt revival. We warmed you with microwave heaters, and put you on life support. Shortly thereafter, your heart spontaneously began to beat, and we registered a very solid coma on the electroencephalograph. We were ecstatic, to say the least. Then, when you actually came out of it, we were--are overjoyed."
"There has been some serious damage though. Quite a bit of blood settled in your legs, rupturing some arterial and venous material in your lower extremeties. You will probably be confined to a wheel chair for some time. Also, we've been very worried about vascular damage in the brain that might cause a stroke--but we haven't seen any evidence of stroke, so we remain cautiously optimistic about the possibility of a complete recovery."
"I know this is quite shocking to you--I can't begin to comprehend what must be going through your mind right now, but take comfort. You've proven that people can be stored indefinitely under the right environmental conditions--and, more importantly, that cold storage is a viable method for emergency transportation. You've also managed to survive a very traumatic experience. You're a hero. But--I don't want to hog the stage. Do you have any questions for me?"
Harold absorbed the doctor's comments. This hospital room is certainly different than any hospital he'd ever seen. "Did we win?"
"Win? Win what? Oh--the war. Yes, as a matter of fact we did. Germany surrendered in the spring of 1945 and Japan in the summer."
"What about my wife?"
"Well, I did a bit of research into your family for you. Your wife married again in 1946 to a man named Bill Thompson. He raised your son, Alex, and they had three more children. Marie died at the age of 67. Your son died just five years ago."
Harold considered all this. Marie was dead. What a strange feeling. He hadn't wanted to marry, but when she got pregnant, there was nothing else to do. The war intervened, keeping the problem of what to do about his new family at bay. Now the whole issue is moot. His son lived an entire life while he was away for the war. He never met him.
"Alex had two daughters, June and Alice, and a Son, Terry. June is here now with one of her children, Stacey, and Stacey's son Bowie and his wife and child, Jenny and Harry. Harry was born a month after your discovery, and he was named after you. He is your first great-great-great-grandson. I took the liberty of inviting them here. Oddly, you and Bowie are physiologically about the same age."
"What do they want from me?"
"What do they want from me?"
"Well, to meet you. Very few people have the opportunity to meet a bona-fide ancestor." Dr. Leibowitz looked deeply at Harold.
"Harold, You're life has changed completely. Everything is different now. Any plans you had about your future must change. Everyone you knew is dead. Now, I'm going to arrange some counseling for you, but frankly, I don't know of a psychiatrist prepared to deal with this sort of cultural shock. For the time being, I think it would be best for you to simply roll with the punches and take your new life as it comes."
"I ain't crazy doc. I don't need a head-shrinker."
"No one suggests you're crazy--but you do need some help whether it seems like it or not. Now, I'm in charge of your case, and that's my serious recommendation."
"When can I get out of here?"
"Where will you go?"
"I don't know. The YMCA I guess."
"You'd be hard pressed to find one. Look, I know you aren't here by your own choice, but there are a lot of people who want to help you. You should let them. No one wants anything from you in return."
"Alright doc. But I'm out of here at the first sign of any kind of monkey business."
"Deal. Now, are you up to meeting your family?"
"I guess. They better not expect me to act like some kind of grandpa or anything."