“Mama, when will we get to meet Granny?” Benny sat a little higher in his booster seat in the back of the car. At eight, he could barely see her reflection in the rearview mirror.
Susan bit her lip and concentrated on the traffic. “As soon as the UWG—the United World Government—finishes building the colony, sweetie.” She struggled to swallow.
“What d’ya mean, Benny?” Six-year-old Lydia gave her brother a scowl. “We’re going to meet Granny right now.”
“Nah. I don’t mean our visits, silly. I mean, when will we really truly get to meet her, like when she’s in a human body and all?”
Susan sighed. There was so much her children needed to learn about the world around them. “For now our visits will have to be enough, Benny.”
“When do you go into hibernation, Mama? Is it this year?” Lydia’s voice squeaked with the last word.
“No.” Susan’s throat closed. She tried to hide the emotion in her voice. “I don’t turn forty for another thirteen months. I’ll be around a little while longer.”
“Why do they make you go at forty again, Mama? Is it because you’re so old?”
Benny smacked his sister across the leg. “She isn’t old, ding-bat. She doesn’t have a choice, remember? The UWG said all adults gotta go into hibernation when they turn forty. ‘Cause of the overpopulation. Don’t you gotta brain?”
Tears swam in Lydia’s eyes. “I don’t want you to go, Mama. I’m gonna miss you.”
Heat flooded Susan’s chest and she gripped the steering wheel tighter. When she’d gotten married ten years prior, it had seemed that America would have its colony up and running by now. She hadn’t prepared herself for having to leave her kids so soon. “Don’t you worry, baby. You’ll get to come visit me, and daddy, as much as you want. Granny, too. Aunt Sharon is going to take care of you. She’ll bring you to the Center as much as you want.”
“I guess,” Lydia said. But Susan could tell she wasn’t convinced.
The rest of the car ride was in silence. When they got to the Center, they passed through security and found an empty room. The three remained quiet, the only sound the drone of the automated announcement that played on repeat in every visitation room.
“…the wave of the future. With Hibernation Technology, the overpopulation problem of the world has been solved. Working together, the countries of the UWG developed this unique system of hibernation that will keep your loved ones safe until their relocation to the new Mars colony. Each individual will be reassembled before departure for their new home in space….”
“How much longer, Mama?” Benny whined. “I’m tired of waiting.”
Before Susan could respond, the glass panel on the far wall slid open. A high-pitched beep told her that the parcel had been delivered. She crossed the room and retrieved the wooden box from inside the panel. Her heart pounded as she returned to her seat and settled in, her children beside her. She lifted off the top of the box, hands shaking. Susan and her children stared at the ashes inside.
“How’re they gonna put all those pieces back together again to make Granny?” Benny asked.
Susan’s stomach clenched. She knew the truth but couldn’t bear to share it with her children. “I don’t know, sweetie. I don’t know.”
©Laura L. Zimmerman 2018