Cryonics

By John McNeil

Summary

Cryonics offers the hope that people can be frozen and then brought back to life at some time in the future. But what might be the result when the first cryogenically preserved person is revived?  

Characters

Dr Stein
Dr Frost
Assistant
Rev. Paul  

Script

(Dr Stein enters, rehearsing a speech he intends shortly to give to the news media, who are waiting in the board room of his hospital/laboratory. He jots down ideas as they occur to him.)

Stein: "Without doubt, this event is comparable to other milestones in medicine. The discovery of penicillin... the first heart transplant... biological cloning..."  No, that's too banal. Let's see. (Beat) "History has been made this day." Mmm, better, but only just. "Medicine has finally unlocked the secret of eternal life!" Might be just a bit over the top. (Beat) Oh, stop being so pretentious, and just say it like it is.

"Ladies and gentlemen, it has taken 50 years, but cryonics has finally fulfilled its promise. When scientists a half century ago proposed freezing human beings so they could be revived in the future, it was considered a mad dream. Medicine at that time had no means of reliably preserving a body, and there was certainly no way to revive the person again. That did not stop wealthy men and women with incurable diseases asking to be cryogenically preserved, in the double hope that one day not only could a cure be found for the disease, but that they could be brought back to life  and successfully given that treatment.

"As you well know, since then we've won some battles and seem to be as far away as ever from winning others. We have not yet found a cure for either cancer or the common cold...but the breakthroughs in neurological science have been profound. Very soon diseases such as muscular dystrophy and Parkinson's Disease will no longer trap able minds in wasted bodies.

"The advances in knowledge of the nervous system were vital for the success of cryonics also. Thanks to these discoveries, we have been able to perfect a technique for bringing back to life a frozen person. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to introduce you to the first man ....."

(Stein is interrupted by an assistant dashing in)

Assistant: (Breathless) Dr Stein, Dr Stein, come quickly.

Stein: What's the matter?

Assistant: Dr Frost wants you urgently.

Stein: Why? What's wrong?

Assistant: Please...just come!! (drags Stein by his sleeve).

(Both exit at the rush. There is a pause, then the Assistant rushes back in.  He/she goes to a telephone and dials.)

Assistant: Reception? This is Dr Stein's assistant. Can you page the chaplain. He's wanted urgently at the observation room.  Thanks. (Dashes out again.)

Voice: Reverend Paul, can you please go to the observation room  immediately. Reverend Paul to the observation room, please.

(Pause, then Stein and Frost enter.)

Stein: What's going on, James? I've got a boardroom full of journalists waiting for the announcement of the century.

Frost: Send them away. Cancel the press conference.

Stein: Are you out of your mind? We're about to announce the medical event of the century. This will make us...probably a Nobel prize.

Frost: Not yet it won't.

Stein: What do you mean?

Frost: Frank, I tried to tell you we were pushing too fast. Too many unknowns....

Stein: We've done all the tests.

Frost: Too many things that could go wrong....

Stein: The preparation stages have all gone perfectly.

Frost: But you wouldn't listen.

Stein: What are you trying to tell me? He's revived, hasn't he. (A statement)

Frost: Yes....

Stein: (Also a statement) He's healthy,

Frost: In body, yes. But .... here's the observation window, look for yourself.

Stein: (Stares out across audience.) Why is he naked?

Frost: He's torn off every scrap of clothing we tried to place on him.

(The two doctors are joined by the chaplain, Rev. Paul.)

Paul: Gentlemen! You asked for me?

Frost: (Nods towards the observation window.)

Paul: (Pause) That is your subject?

Frost: Yes.

Paul: Why is he in chains?

Frost: That's the only thing that would restrain him. As you can see, he's completely wrecked the recovery room. We'll probably need a tranquiliser gun to properly quieten him down. I've called a vet friend of mine.

Stein: I don't understand. Everything's gone perfectly up to now. (Grasping at a straw) Perhaps he's just suffering from future shock.

Frost: (Drily) Does that behaviour look like future shock to you, Reverend?

Paul: I don't think you would have called me just for that. What are you suggesting?

Frost: Personally, I think we've left the domain of medicine. I hate to admit it, but maybe you were right when we argued this out last week.

Stein: Argued what?

Paul: When a man dies, his soul...spirit...call it what you will...leaves his body. Where does it go?  Well, that's in God's keeping. But whoever said it would return to the body just because science finds a way to revive the shell 50 years on? (Pause) Gentlemen, I think you've created a monster.

Stein: My God! What do we do with him?

Paul: And the others lying in your vaults.

Frost: Shall I cancel the press conference?

(Fade to black)

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© John McNeil 2002, all rights reserved
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged. In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed. He may be contacted at soulcommunication@paradise.net.nz