Joe Dankmyer sat in the park, taking deep, calming breaths. He could feel the panic, clawing at the edges of his thoughts, looking for purchase. They had told him this might happen, after releasing him from the hospital, but he hadn’t thought it would happen. There was a bottle of pills, tucked into the medicine cabinet back at his place, that would have helped. Despite his protests, the doctor had pressed them on him.
"Take them, Joe," the man had said. "Just in case."
Joe wished he had the pills right now.
It was the building across the street that had set off the panic attack. The building did not look as if it had been built, but rather exploded into being. It resembled an asymmetric pile of frozen concrete, painted with a crystalline sheen. There were windows, scattered at random throughout the structure. Some were big enough to give a glimpse of brightly lit, pastel interiors.
Aesthetically, the building wasn’t unattractive but its design, its construction, was so odd to Joe that it tipped him over the edge. He scrambled for control of his emotions, gripping the faux wooden park bench so hard his knuckles went white. Shutting his eyes, he took deep breaths and wished he had brought his little bottle of pills with him.
"Are you all right?"
The voice was feminine, concerned. Joe opened his eyes and saw a matronly woman in an orange pantsuit standing in front of him. She had red hair piled on top of her head and a small white poodle on a leash.
Joe managed to grunt out, "I’m fine."
The woman’s eyes narrowed. They darted over his face, to his hands, and recognition dawned in her face. She sat next to him, the poodle straining at its leash.
The question caught Joe by surprise and seemed to short circuit the panic attack.
"How did you. . . ."
Chuckling, the woman touched her red beehive, patting it into place.
Her gaze settled on the building across the street.
"Is that what set it off?"
"Yeah," admitted Joe.
"Looks like the Fortress of Solitude from those old Superman movies," remarked the woman. "The good ones, with Christopher Reeve."
"I liked the Henry Cavill ones," Joe managed to say. "You’re a freezer?"
She nodded, stuck out her hand. "Lucille Jones-Fitzgibbons. Put on ice back in ‘31."
Joe introduced himself. "I went under in ‘28."
"Cancer?" asked Lucille.
She nodded. "Yep. I have to admit though that I didn’t think getting frozen would really work."
"Why’d you do it?"
Lucille shrugged. "Why not? I took a chance and it payed off."
"Do you ever . . . ." Joe let his sentence fade, waved vaguely at himself.
"Freak out?" asked Lucille. She chuckled. "I used to, all the time. Then it sorted itself out." She smiled at him. "It’ll happen with you too."
"I know," said Lucille.
"Do you ever miss the old world?" he asked, quietly.
"No, not really. I like living in the future." She made air quotes when she said the last. "Although I do miss junk food."
Joe grinned. "Yeah. We went to sleep and the health Nazis won."
"The bastards," said Lucille, in mock indignation. "What about you? What do you miss, Joe?"
"My friends," said Joe. He sighed. "They’re all gone."
She patted his hand. "Yeah. That sucks. You ever go to the support meetings?"
"I tried, but it got on my nerves, everybody sitting around and whining about shit."
"Not your thing?"
"No," said Joe, firmly.
"Good. I hate hanging out with crybabies."
He laughed and it occurred to Joe that this was the first time that he had laughed since they thawed him out of cryo.
"You want to go get a coffee or something?" asked Joe.
Lucille batted her big, brown eyes at him. "Why, Mr. Dankmyer, I thought you’d never ask."
He grinned and stood. On impulse, Joe offered Lucille his arm and she took it. Like that, arm in arm, they walked into the future, a little white poodle darting around their ankles.