The Caretaker

By D. Aviva Rothschild

Technically they're dead, but they might be alive again some day.

Their bodies are frozen to something like a million degrees below zero.

I don't know how much it is really.

Their black hiber-boxes look like coffins, except there's a tiny glass window in each one.

Well, it's not glass—it's not real clear, and it's shatterproof.

Plexiglas or something, I guess.

The window is so the sleeper's family can come and look at him or her.

I think that's crazy.

I mean, why would you want to look at a guy who's dead.

It could take hundreds of years until they find a cure for whatever he's got.

And even if they do, they may not be able to thaw him out alive.

But a lot of folks come look anyway.

I've seen folks talk to the stiffs like they could answer back.

One lady acted like she heard her husband answer.

I stayed away from her.

Some people spend their whole time draped over the hiber-box, praying and crying.

One family decorated their grandma's box with balloons and streamers and pictures the kids drew.

I told them I'd have to take the stuff off after they left, and they got really mad at me.

But it's regulations, not me.

I am allowed to leave little religious things.

Crosses and Stars of David and all that.

A couple of the hiber-boxes look like the bumper of a car that went to the Vatican.

I don't know what it does for the stiffs, but the families cheer up.

Sometimes the ones who come regularly bring me gifts.

The boxes of candy and fruit are nice, but the best was the subscription to Weekly World News.

Once I read about how space aliens are actually in the hiber-boxes.

They're going to take over the world when they wake up.

People ask me how I can stand to work here, surrounded by frozen bodies.

I tell them it's better than being surrounded by bosses and gossipy secretaries.

And the people who come here are usually real nice.

And the work isn't hard.

Keep the place clean and dust off the hiber-boxes.

(Except sometimes, when it's after hours and I'm sweeping up, I look in a few of the boxes.

I swear some of the stiffs change their positions a little.)

I'm trained to fix the hiber-boxes or the generator if they break down, but they haven't yet.

The salary's okay, too.

Not great, though.

Not enough to buy me a hiber-box if it's the last chance I have.

You have to be rich to be frozen.

You have to deposit a million bucks in the Hiber-Box Corp. account for "continued maintenance."

That really means continued maintenance of the company's owners.

Maintaining them in their mansions, maintaining them in their yachts.

One of them, Mr. Cocozzolli, is maintained in a hiber-box.

He got cancer.

I've got a lump too.

Last week I asked the owners if I could get in a box if I had terminal cancer.

They said no.

"We can't afford to maintain someone who hasn't paid."


This place costs $100,000 a year to run.

There are 250 millionaires frozen and $250 million in the company's bank account.

Not counting interest and investments.

The owners just want to save the space for people who can make them richer.

Yesterday I took my figures to the newspaper.

The story of a dying guy working all day around something that could save his life, but he's too poor to buy it.

I thought it would shame the owners into letting me have a box.

But the reporter wasn't interested.

"Hey, homeless people live like that all the time. Show me they're doing something illegal, and then I'll do a story."

I don't think the owners are crooks.

Just criminally greedy.

Now I'm waiting for the test results on my lump.

If it's benign, great.

If not, and they can't cure me, I'll ask the owners one more time.

If they say no, I won't argue with them.

But I will get even.

I thought about turning off the generator and letting the stiffs thaw, but I decided not to do that.

Too many nice people have frozen relatives, and I'm not mad at them.

No, I figured out something better.

The other guys who work here are going to help me, because they can't afford the boxes either.

One day, late at night, we're going to take Mr. Cocozzolli's body out.

Then we're going to get rid of it.

(It's not like it's murder, since he's already dead.)

Then I'm going to take the pills, and the other guys will put me in Mr. Cocozzolli's box.

(I kind of look like him, and the window distorts your face enough so no one will notice.)

And next morning the other owners will find a note saying I Quit, Goodbye Forever.

I'm sure they'll all end up in hiber-boxes sooner or later.

Won't it be funny when we all get thawed, and they think Mr. Cocozzolli is coming out, but it's me instead?

Copyright 2000, D. Aviva Rothschild

About the Author

See the "About the Editor" page. This is by no means my first non-Beatle story, but it's one of the few I have that I've actually finished....

Tell Aviva Rothschild what you thought of her story!

Return to Current Issue

Return to Rational Magic Home