In the Thin Blue Light

The headaches were the worst part. Samantha felt the tightness around her head like a belt being ratcheted to the smallest hole. She knew she was going to feel like this for the better part of the month, even with all the meds they pumped into her. They should start de-aestivation sooner to give us time to get back to normal, she thought. But no, it’s all calculated down to the day. Who the hell came up with these goddamned rules? She sighed and opened her eyes to the thin blue light of the room.

“You’re awake,” a man’s voice said from behind her.

Samantha moaned. “Ya, barely.” She propped herself up onto her elbows and rubbed her forehead.

“Oh, slow down ma’am. It’s going to take some time to adjust,” the man said as he walked into Samantha’s view. He was young, maybe late twenties. Foppish blonde hair askew in a thousand directions, stethoscope draped around his neck, and the easy smile of someone fresh out of school.

“No shit, blondie. I’ve done this a few times,” Samantha said, swinging her legs off the table.

“I’m sure I’m not the only one. You ever been under, sunshine?”

“No, not yet. Next year.”

“Maybe I can be there for your first time up, eh? See how pleasant you are.”

Blondie smiled and took the stethoscope off around his neck. He placed the resonator on Samantha’s chest. “Can you take a deep breath, please?” Samantha looked at him out of the corner of her eyes, was about to say something, and instead just took a deep breath. Poor kid doesn’t deserve my shit, she thought. She looked out the window into the corridor. Grey stood on the other side, arms folded across his chest and that damned grin plastered on his face. Samantha stuck her tongue out.

“Things look normal,” the kid said. He handed her a prescription bottle. “Take one every four hours for the next seven—”

Samantha stuck her forefinger up against his lips. “I got it kid,” she said and walked out of the room into the corridor.

“Making friends?” Grey asked.

“Little puke talking to me like I’ve never done this before.”

“Well, maybe he hasn’t done this before,” Grey said, pulling Samantha in close to his barrel chest. She loved the smell of him, the way her cheek fit in between his chest muscles, the way his hug allowed her to forget everything else. “I missed you.”

Samantha looked up at Grey. She smiled and winked. “Of course you did. You know, for such a big guy, you sure are a sap, aren’t you?” She pushed away from Grey, jabbed his chest and turned to walk down the corridor. “I missed you too,” she said, turning toward the exit door.

The two of them walked out into the main waiting area. Here, the light was a paler blue. Samantha could see the day’s sun creeping in around the blinds. A few dozen people milled about in the center of the room. Families talking quickly and quietly, older men sitting around the outskirts of the room playing cards and the older women catching up on gossip.

Samantha saw one woman sitting alone in the farthest corner, her head in her hands. Her shoulders rose and fell quickly from sobbing. A doctor and his team stood around her, clipboards in hand. Samantha felt bile rising up in her throat; she had an inkling of what had happened. Grey spotted their work crew and walked quickly over to them, pulling Samantha along.

“What happened?” Grey asked as the group widened their circle to accomodate the two of them.

“Hubbie died during dee-est,” one of the twins said.

“He was young, too. Thirty-three, I think I heard them say,” the other twin said. “Sixth one this go-around.”

“Shit,” Grey said, looking at Samantha. “That seems abnormally high. We got lucky, eh lady?”

“There’s nothing lucky about it,” Samantha said. “That’s Digger’s wife. Remember he made a huge stink about the rations a few weeks before we all went into hibernation. I guarantee you there was no accident during dee-est.”

“You and your conspiracy theories,” the first twin said.

“They aren’t theories and you know it.”

“We should go talk to her,” Grey said. Grey strode toward the woman as the doctor and his team walked toward the central nurse’s station. Grey stopped the doctor and asked what had happened.

“Heart attack during reanimation. There was nothing we could do. It was so quick; I’ve never seen anything like it,” the doctor said, looking down at his clipboard.

Grey, Samantha, and the two twins sat down around the sobbing woman.