Six Weeks to Eternity (Ice-Cold Remix)


Though she knew beforehand what to expect, nothing could prepare Helena to see living art in the flesh.

“So, what do you think?” asked the exhibit’s curator with a smile.

“Wow,” she replied. It was an unimpressive response, but it was all Helena could manage. Her brain was too busy processing what she saw.

Twelve vertical glass cylinders were arranged in a semi-circle in the center of the room. Each was three meters tall, three meters in diameter, and filled with a transparent gel. Ordinarily, that would have been interesting on its own, but what captivated Helena were the cylinders’ contents. Eleven held a living person, naked and suspended in the gel as though in utero. The twelfth was empty.

“Breathtaking, aren’t they?”

“Yes, they certainly are.” Helena tried to regain her composure and act like this was an everyday sight.

Looking more closely at the cylinders, she noticed that each stood on a chrome base about thirty centimeters high.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“The base holds life support and stasis control,” the curator responded. “The gel is continually oxygenated and suffused with nutrients to sustain the occupants. And the stasis control system keeps the subjects in a state of suspended animation.”

“Is it safe?”

The curator nodded. “Oh, yes. While I’m the exhibit’s curator, I’m also the scientist who developed this technology. I’ve tested it thoroughly on dozens of subjects, so I can assure you it’s safe.”

“That’s good to hear. How long will they be in there?”

“That depends. This exhibit is a fundraising vehicle for the museum and quite a successful one. The duration of stasis depends on how much money is raised. Of course, our patrons don’t have infinite wealth, so it varies from one to six weeks.”

“How much money are we talking about?” asked Helena.

“$50,000 per week. The subjects receive a 10% cut of the money raised.”

“Hmm,” thought Helena out loud. “So that’s $5,000 a week. Not bad for just hanging around.” She paused a moment. “Would there be other opportunities to spend more time in stasis?”

The curator shrugged. “That remains to be seen. I have rather ambitious goals for my research if I can secure the necessary funding. How much time do you have in mind?”

Helena blushed. “Honestly? As long as possible! I’ve always wanted to become a work of art.”

The curator raised an eyebrow. “A work of art? In what sense of the word?”

“Well, in the same sense as a painting or a statue. I want to join a collection as another object to be admired and treasured. I believe it could be my life’s work.”

“Ah, such an excellent desire,” replied the curator with a smile. “And what a beautiful work of art you would be. Let’s talk again after the fundraiser.”

Helena nodded and then looked at the empty cylinder. A rolling set of stairs sat next to it. “I assume that one is mine?”

“Yes, it’s yours if you want it.”

Helena took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “Let’s do this.”

The curator smiled. “There’s a room in the back where you can disrobe. Just place your clothing and other items in the bin provided and meet me back here. I’ll prepare your cylinder.”

Helena nodded and tried to walk casually to the back room. Her heart was pounding, and she was starting to sweat. This opportunity was about to get very real. Backing out was not an option. The money was just too good to pass up. If the donors pledged enough to keep her in stasis for six weeks, she’d walk away with $30,000. Enough to pay off her student loans and finally be free.

And what of her desire to become art? Helena had assumed that sort of freedom would remain forever beyond her grasp. Could the curator truly grant such a wish? She intended to find out.

She entered the back room and disrobed without a second thought. Helena figured the less time she had to think about it, the better. She dropped her purse and clothing in the bin, opened the door, and walked toward her cylinder.

The marble floor was cold, and the A/C blew cool air on her bare skin. She felt especially naked as she reached the cylinder. The curator looked up and gasped as Helena approached, clamping his mouth shut to keep his jaw from dropping. She was Aphrodite in the flesh—a true goddess among mere mortals.

He managed to regain his composure and smiled. “That was fast.”

“Why wait?”

The curator nodded. “Good question. Well, let’s proceed then, shall we?” He gestured up the stairs. “After you, my dear.”

Helena gulped, forced a smile, and ascended the steps to a small platform at the top. The curator soon joined her.

“The first part is straightforward,” he began. “Just sit down on the platform and ease yourself into the gel. Hang onto the edge, and I’ll let you know what’s next.”

“All right,” said Helena.

She sat down and dipped her feet and lower legs into the gel. It was comfortably warm. With her heart still pounding, she gripped the edge and lowered herself into the gel up to her neck.

“Very good, dear,” he said. “Now comes the hard part. This is unpleasant for some, but it’s necessary to be ready for stasis. I need you to let go of the edge, fully submerge yourself, and breathe in the gel. It’s oxygenated and designed to maintain cellular respiration, so you’ll reach equilibrium within about ten seconds.”

Helena gulped and started to sweat. “So, umm, I’m not going to drown?”

“Certainly not.” He gestured to the eleven occupied cylinders. “They’re all quite comfortable. You just need to trust me. Can you do that?”

“Yes,” Helena lied. She wanted to clamber out of the giant test tube and run away from this science experiment but maintained her composure. “And what happens after that?”

“Oh, you’ll still be conscious in the gel. I won’t be able to talk to you, but you’ll see me through the glass. The next step will be to activate the stasis control system. I’ll add enough sedative to keep you in stasis until tomorrow’s auction. After that, it’ll be up to the donors.”

“A few weeks, right?” Helena asked. “That’s what I should expect?”

“More than likely, yes.” He paused and furrowed his brow. “Though if someone with bottomless pockets takes a liking to you, then….”

Helena’s eyes lit up. “Then what?”

“Oh, nothing. We have a hard limit of six weeks, so that’s the maximum time you’ll be in here. After that, of course, we’ll discuss a longer arrangement.” He flashed another smile. “Perhaps much longer.”

Helena nodded, masking her obvious disappointment, and took a few deep breaths to psyche herself up for her imminent non-drowning. This whole thing was insane, but the money would be transformative. More important to her, she could be essentially an object. Nowhere near as long as she yearned to be, but Helena had to start somewhere. She made up her mind. “Well, it’s time to become art,” she said with a grin and let go of the edge.

She drifted downward until her body was submerged. As she neared the center of the tank, she reached neutral buoyancy and stopped. Helena felt weightless. It was an incredible sensation, or would have been if she wasn’t terrified. Just breathe in the gel, he had said. It sounded simple enough, but doing it was something else entirely. Helena opened her eyes and looked through the glass at the other subjects. They all seemed so tranquil. She could do this.

She opened her mouth and let the gel inside. Immediately, she started coughing and gagging as it filled her lungs. Helena tried to swim to the surface, but her limbs were too sluggish in the viscous fluid. She looked frantically for the curator. He was standing just outside, facing her and smiling. He waved.

She wanted to scream, but the gel had already filled her lungs. After a few more seconds, she realized she was still conscious. Helena calmed down and stopped struggling. The gel coursed through her body, providing life-giving oxygen. She looked at the curator again. His wave had changed to a thumbs-up sign. She raised her hand and returned the gesture. Once Helena had fully relaxed, it was quite pleasant. Like a womb. Warm and peaceful.

The curator tapped a few times on his tablet, and Helena felt a brief chill as a colder blue liquid entered the cylinder and mixed with the gel. Ten seconds later, her eyes closed, and she joined the others in stasis. The curator took the opportunity to walk around the cylinder, admiring his Aphrodite from every vantage point. She was indeed a work of art.

The following evening, the room was full of the museum’s wealthiest benefactors. They circulated among the cylinders, sipping champagne and examining the figures floating peacefully inside—living art and breathtaking at that.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the curator announced from a podium next to Helena’s cylinder. “If you’ll join me in the front of the room, we’ll start tonight’s bidding.”

The well-heeled crowd converged in front of the curator.

“Thank you very much. We’ll start the proceedings with subject one at the far end. A lovely young blonde, so peaceful and beautiful. She looks comfortable, doesn’t she? Like she wants to stay in there a while.”

“Two weeks,” said an older man.

“I have two weeks. Who wants to add to that?”

“One week,” said a woman toward the back.

“Thank you so much,” said the curator. “That’s three weeks so far. Who wants to add more time?”

“One week,” said a young woman in the front. “She does look peaceful.”

The curator smiled. “Indeed she does. That’s four weeks. Going once… going twice… done! Four weeks for subject one.”

He tapped on his tablet, and a small stream of blue liquid entered the woman’s cylinder from the base and dissipated in the gel, extending her stasis for the appointed time.

“Next up is subject two. A strapping young man, if I may say so myself. Who wants to start?”

The bidding continued down the line of subjects. The patrons felt generous, and the stasis duration ranged from two to four weeks. Finally, they reached Helena’s cylinder.

“Our final specimen of the evening is subject twelve: the raven-haired Aphrodite. It would be a shame to disturb her, don’t you think? Who wants to—”

“Six weeks,” said a voice from the back.

Everyone turned and stared at the older woman who had just spoken. She casually sipped champagne and waited for the curator to respond.

“Uhh, wow,” he began. “Six weeks, eh? You’re certain about that?”

“Most definitely,” she replied.

“Then six weeks it is.”

The curator tapped on his tablet, and a streak of blue liquid mingled with the gel around Helena.

“Thank you all so much for joining us this evening. If our donors would be so good as to join me at the podium, I wish the rest of you a pleasant evening.”

The crowd dispersed as the donors came forward. Many large transactions ensued, and the museum received nearly two million dollars in donations. The donors left one by one until the curator was alone with the woman who had bid on Helena.

“Thank you so much for your generous donation,” he said. “That’s $50,000 per week for six weeks… a total of $300,000.”

The older woman didn’t respond and strolled around Helena, viewing the suspended woman from every angle. She drained her champagne, set the glass on the podium, and smiled at the curator.

“I have a proposition for you,” she announced.

The curator raised an eyebrow. “A proposition? I’m not sure I follow.”

“Like most people here this evening, I’m an art collector. I’ve acquired dozens of pieces over the years from around the world: paintings, sculptures, and original drawings by da Vinci, to name a few items. It’s a wonderful collection, but I realized this evening it’s incomplete.”

“Incomplete? And what are you missing?”

The woman gestured toward Helena. “Her.”

The curator swallowed audibly. “Well, I’m sorry, but the subjects will stay here at the museum for their appointed terms, and then they’ll awaken. They’re not for sale, nor do I feel comfortable even discussing the—”

“Twenty-five million dollars.”

The curator choked and started coughing. “Oh, my goodness! You can’t be serious.”

“Oh, I’m quite serious. Here’s how this is going to work. The museum will receive the $300,000 I’ve pledged for six weeks of stasis. The rest of the twenty-five million will be wired to an offshore account to fund your ongoing research. Yes, I know your project is a bit light on funds. I’ll take possession of the piece tonight. A truck is already waiting outside.”

The curator stopped coughing and furrowed his brow. “If I agree to this unorthodox transaction—and I’m not saying I am—how will I explain her absence? People will expect her to be here for the full six weeks.”

“Family emergency,” the woman replied. “You had to revive her immediately, and she rushed off to deal with the situation. Simple as that.”

The curator turned and looked at Helena, floating peacefully in the gel. He wondered how he could even consider this. It was lunacy! A woman’s freedom was at stake. Then, he thought of the opportunity to continue his research.

“And how long do you wish for her to remain in stasis?” he asked.

“Indefinitely, if possible.”

“And why this specific subject? You didn’t even bid on the others.”

“Isn’t it obvious just from looking at her? She is the epitome of art in human form. She is—and I don’t say this lightly—Aphrodite incarnate. Physical perfection.”

“I see,” the curator replied. “I’ll admit I had a similar reaction upon seeing her.” He shrugged. “Well, it gives me no pleasure to disappoint you, but the sedative merely induces temporary stasis. Sure, the effect can be prolonged by several weeks and perhaps as much as a year, but not beyond that with the current formulation. I’m sorry, madam, but I’m afraid what you desire is impossible.”

The woman frowned. “And you’re certain of this? You have no way of extending her stasis beyond a year?”

The curator hesitated as he glanced at Helena, who remained blissfully unaware of the high-stakes discussion outside her tank. What the curator had in mind was sheer madness and wildly unethical without the subject’s consent. Helena expected to wake up in six weeks. She hadn’t agreed to anything more—at least not yet. She had expressed a strong interest, though.

“Sir?” asked the woman. “What is your answer? Is one year the limit?”

“No, one year is not the limit. Yes, it’s the limit of the sedative, but there is another option.”

The woman’s eyes lit up. “Oh? Do tell!”

“Well, the other option is not to be taken lightly. We could flash freeze this subject in such a way as to halt all metabolic processes and render her effectively ageless—frozen in time. Such rapid cooling would make the gel as hard as ice, thus protecting her from harm.” He took a deep breath. “The intent of this process is to preserve terminal patients until their condition is curable. It was never intended to be used on a healthy subject.”

“Interesting, but she could be revived later, right?”

“Not exactly. The flash freezing is reversible, but we won’t have the technology to reverse it for at least ten years at our current pace of innovation.”

The woman furrowed her brow. “But you could theoretically wake her once the technology is ready?”

“Theoretically, yes.”

“I see. It would be highly unusual to awaken a work of art and disturb such perfection.” She paused before continuing. “Do you have a more permanent option for preserving this exquisite piece?”

“Madam, I’m afraid I have already said too much. I am certainly not comfortable discussing my newly discovered….” He trailed off after realizing his slip.

The woman flashed a smile. “Discussing your newly discovered what?”

The curator glanced at the door and then took a deep breath. “Madam, what I am about to tell you is to be kept in strict confidence.”

“Yes, of course.”

“While simulating the flash-freezing process, I stumbled upon something interesting. Flash freezing a subject lowers their temperature to -150 degrees Celsius, rendering the gel as hard as ice. I wondered what would happen below that temperature, so I extended the simulation to -273 degrees Celsius. This is known as absolute zero—the coldest possible temperature.”

“And what happened?” the woman asked.

“The outermost portion of the gel formed a shell as hard as diamond twenty centimeters thick. In addition to being unbreakable, the solid shell was a perfect insulator and kept the interior temperature at -273 degrees. The simulated subject was still alive but in perpetual cryosleep. The deep freezing process was completely irreversible and permanent. Even raising the hardened gel to room temperature had no effect due to its insulating properties.” He shrugged. “Of course, this was merely a computer simulation to satisfy the curiosity of an overly inquisitive scientist, though I did build the capability into one of the cylinders.”

“Oh? And which one would that be?”

The curator pointed at Helena’s cylinder. “This one. What are the odds, right? I even loaded the required chemical compound, which is extremely difficult and time-consuming to produce. Honestly, I just wanted to prove that it was scientifically possible. I would never dream of deep freezing a real—”

“Two hundred million dollars,” interrupted the woman. “And I’ll increase that to 250 million as I’m also buying the formula from you, so it never goes into industrial production. Do it now before I change my mind.”

The curator’s jaw dropped. “Oh, my! You’re serious about this.”

“Yes, I am. Once I decide what I want, I always get it.” She smiled. “Just imagine what you could discover with that level of funding for your project. Think of the millions of people who would benefit. I’m simply asking for one woman in return. That seems like an excellent deal to me.”

The curator furrowed his brow. “Madam, this is not a trivial decision. It is, as I just explained, permanent. I need to make certain that you—”

“I’m losing my patience,” the woman interrupted. “Do it now, or my offer is void.”

The curator looked at Helena. She had agreed to six weeks of stasis. Extending that to a year would be unethical. And flash-freezing her for at least ten years until he could develop the technology to reverse it was madness. Was he seriously considering something permanent?

Then, the curator recalled their earlier conversation. Helena had told him she wanted to become art—that it could be her life’s work. That was not a desire to be shared freely, least of all with a scientist who may have the power to grant such a wish. And perhaps that’s what he’d be doing—making her deepest, darkest fantasy a reality. She even said she wanted to join a collection as an object—like a statue.

“What are you waiting for?” asked the woman. “Make her into art!”

The curator looked again at Helena and then back to the buyer before nodding. He tapped on his tablet to override the failsafe he implemented to avoid doing this accidentally. When he reached the final screen, he tapped a green button. Then he looked at Helena, who began to stir.

“Since this process is permanent, we should capture her in a pleasing pose,” he explained. “I’m temporarily raising the gel’s temperature to induce this.”

Helena unfurled her body from the fetal position, extending to her full height with her left leg bent while vertically suspended in the gel. Then she spread her arms like angel wings and smiled, looking down as though descending from heaven.

At that moment, the curator tapped a blue button. An icy blue liquid erupted from the base and mixed with the gel. Helena’s small movements slowed and ceased. Her hair stopped drifting and became fixed in one position above her shoulders as the gel solidified around and within her body. The gel temperature on the curator’s tablet read -150.

Taking a deep breath, he pressed a red button. The temperature dropped over the next few minutes until the tablet display read -273. The humming emanating from the base of Helena’s cylinder grew quieter and stopped altogether. Only the lights illuminating her remained on.

The curator turned to the buyer and smiled. “It is finished. And no technology shall ever be developed to reverse this deep freezing process. She is now yours forever, as is the formula. By the way, her name is—”

“Aphrodite,” the woman interrupted. “She is Aphrodite to me. She shall remain ageless and flawless for all time, her beauty unmarred for eternity and her sexual energy destined never to awaken. From this point forward, she is merely a work of art—and always has been. Don’t you agree?”

“Yes, an exquisite work of art. Congratulations on your latest acquisition.”

The woman pulled out her phone, pressed a button, and raised it to her ear. “You can retrieve her now.” She hung up and smiled. “Wonderful doing business with you.”

“Oh, most definitely. And may I assume she’ll never be traced back to me?”

“You certainly may. She will always remain in my private collection, away from the public’s prying eyes. Nobody else will know her true origin.”

The curator nodded, and they both turned and admired the newly minted work of art. Helena looked stunning, her black hair frozen in waves, a serene smile, and the lights illuminating her skin like an angel. The curator decided it would have been a shame to disturb such perfection. He was confident Helena would agree if he could ask her.

Copyright 2023 Olivia Quinn

Photo by inna mykytas

Story notes

This ice-cold remix of “Six Weeks to Eternity” is a collaboration with my good friend Daniella. She loved the original story but wanted a more solid ending for Helena. We hope you enjoy it!

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Olivia Zoe Quinn lives in Ohio with her dog and two cats, who mostly get along. She is pursuing her BA in Creative Writing while working part-time in a lingerie shop. She may be found after hours standing motionless among the mannequins. Olivia is the Editor-in-Chief of Stone Cold Stories and an Associate Editor at Rock Hard Press and GAZMYK Magazine. Olivia is the author of the upcoming sci-fi erotica novel, StoneSport Chronicles: Volume 1, due out in the fall of 2024.

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