The first noise I heard in one hundred years was a gentle hiss. I felt dizzy and realised that I was lying on cool marble table wearing only shorts. There was a mask over my mouth, feeding me oxygen. I turned my head gently to the side and noticed that the mask was connected to a tube, which fed down into a small glass dome. Inside the dome was what appeared to be a bonsai rainforest.
What I presumed to be a clock was on the wall just above it, although it was hard to tell. It had no hands but instead four circles of various sizes were in place beneath the numbers, one of them ticking with what I presumed were seconds. One was moving too fast to be properly seen.
The hissing continued, very faintly. I wanted to sit up but I quickly realised that my wrists and ankles were fastened to the table, although I could feel no fastening at all. It was almost like I'd been magnetised and stuck to the fridge.
I heard a door open and someone entered the room, and at the same time, the oxygen mask left my face and I began breathing the slightly less pure air of the white room.
"Good morning, Mr Ritchie," it said. It was a woman's voice, a pleasing, floating sound. It felt like it was the first voice I'd heard in five minutes and five hundred years simultaneously. "Sorry for having to hold you down there, but some people wake up and have an epic panic attack." She paused and I could tell she was smiling as she said, "How did you sleep?"
"It feels weird," I said, the first words I'd spoken in a long time. "I can remember exactly what happened before I was frozen. It was just minutes ago. Can I sit up?"
"Well, you seem to be coping incredibly well," said the voice. I heard her tapping at a keyboard, followed by her saying, "There." I felt my arms and legs loosen and I managed to haul myself up into a sitting position.
The woman in the room wore a long white coat and an all-in-one navy blue bodysuit. She was pretty in an obvious way and had her long auburn hair tied into a ponytail, which rested on her shoulder and dropped down onto her chest.
"I'm Doctor Freda Quinlan-Google," she said. "It's nice to meet you at last."
"So has this all worked?" I said. "Is this the future, or is there something wrong? Has it actually only been five minutes?" Freda laughed.
"It has worked but it isn't the future, it's the present," she smiled. "The time is 11.40. Today's date is August 1st, 2117. It is a Sunday, the weather is warm but cloudy and it is Remembrance Day."
"No, Remembrance Day is on November 11th," I corrected. "I can still remember everything, don't muck around." Freda looked blankly at me.
"What happened on November 11th?" she said. "Remembrance Day is on the first Sunday in August, every year."
"What war are you talking about?" I asked, puzzled. "I'm talking about the First World War. Don't you know? Battle of the Somme, all that stuff?" Freda looked sympathetic.
"You've been out cold for one hundred years," she said. "A lot has happened in that time. There were two world wars, were there not? Both of them ancient history now, no one remembers them. I'm talking about the Chinese-American War of '84 to '86. Millions of lives were lost – over thirty million just on one day with the New York Bombing. That's what bought the war to an end."
"New York was bombed?" I said, my mouth hanging open.
"Sorry, I'm getting far too ahead of myself," Freda bowed her head slightly and I could tell she was blushing behind her hair. She turned her attention to a small handheld device, tapping at the screen with her stylus. "I must say though, you're probably the most coherent person we've unfrozen so far. We'll have to keep you in for observation for a week, of course, I hope you understand?"
"Virus and bugs, I assume?"
"Yes, many illnesses from your time have been eradicated now, and we don't want them coming back," she said, moving nearer to me. She smelt of lemon air freshener. "And you won't be inoculated against any of the new germs either. Don't worry, I'm harmless right now, I was decontaminated before entering, and decontamination is the last stage you go through before being resurrected. Everything should be fine, but you never know." I nodded, trying to take it in, wondering why I didn't find it all as weird as I thought I might.
Things seemed too normal, maybe that was it. I wasn't wearing a virtual reality headset, I wasn't being cared for by a robot and Freda didn't have three eyes and was human.
"Would you care to see London?" she said.
"Am I still in the Tower of London?" I asked. "I remember them saying that was the best place to keep us because it was already cold, there were defences in place and the castle would last centuries more." Freda shook her head.
"Two years ago, we had to remove all the frozen people from the Tower after it collapsed," she explained. "The final raven left in 2115 and the whole thing just seemed to crumble down, it made no sense. There was an old prophecy…"
"The tower would only stand while there were ravens," I nodded. "That was true?"
"Apparently so," shrugged Freda. "I think it was just coincidence though. Superstition is nonsense. Anyway, the bodies were moved into an underground storage facility beneath what I believe you knew as the O2? When it's time to be thawed out, the bodies are taken to this room, or any of the others up here at the very top of New Tower Bridge. That's where you are. Care to see?"
I nodded and Freda pressed a button. The wall behind me warped and shifted subtly, and it was suddenly a window. I stood up and, ignoring the weakness in my legs, moved towards it, pressing my nose and hands onto the glass.
I assumed I was looking out over London but it was hard to say exactly. In the distance, I could just make out the face of Big Ben, although the clock tower seemed to be surrounded in scaffolding. More bridges than I could ever remember crossed the river, some for pedestrians, others for fancy looking cars and what appeared to be triple-decker buses, and still more for slim-line bullet trains, the kind of which I'd only ever seen in Japan.
The river looked cleaner than I'd ever known it, with ferries and yachts sailing up and down it. London clearly had never stopped moving. Skyscrapers I didn't recognise filled the skyline and I could just make out familiar buildings amongst them – St. Paul's Cathedral, the Gherkin. Two helicopters flew close in front of the window, making me jump.
"It's beautiful," I breathed.
"Is it like you remember it?" asked Freda.
"No," I said. "But a the same time, yes. It's London just busier. And it was busy enough to begin with. What's the population?"
"Just over nine million people," she said, tapping at the handheld. "Most of them European, a large smattering of Asians and Americans, no Australians of course but I haven't the energy to go into that, and several thousand Africans."
"No aliens?" I said, half-jokingly.
"No," said Freda, before adding, "Well, not in London anyway." I couldn't tell if she was being serious or not.
"Right then," she said, suddenly businesslike. "We need to take you off for health tests and the rest of it, so we'd better crack on. Also, there's someone here that is absolutely dying to meet you."