Stephen walked slowly, supported on one side so he wouldn’t fall. Together he and his assistant shuffled down the hall.
“I want it to be quick. Easy. I don’t want any mistakes.”
“Don’t worry sir there won’t be.”
“Good. There better not. I don’t want to wake up half drowned in some hospital somewhere.”
“I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen.”
“If everything goes smoothly, you’ll be well rewarded. You are aware of that right?”
“Yes sir, it was quite clearly laid out.”
“Incentive is always good. I’m old now. I don’t like it. All wrinkles and forgetting stuff. Simple stuff too. Like names and dates. I used to be sharp with those. Could have told you the name of anyone I’ve ever met. Now I’m lucky if I remember it for more than a few seconds. I don’t like being this old. It’s unpleasant.”
They continued to walk in silence. The house was large and at the rate that Stephen was walking, the assistant knew it would take them at least another five minutes to reach the pool. It didn’t bother the assistant too much though, he was well paid for his services. Stephen was fabulously wealthy, everyone knew that. Still the head of an extremely successful multinational corporation. Though there were talks of bringing in someone to replace him, word was he was planning to retire soon. Stephen didn’t quite understand all that, but then it wasn’t really any of his concern. Stephens accounts were vast, he wasn’t going to run out of money any time soon.
When they reached the pool, the assistant carefully removed Stephens robe, he had already changed into a pair of swim trunks, declaring that doing it poolside would be too risky, all that damned water about. His body was thin and frail, a complicated map of wrinkles. The assistant quickly stripped down, revealing his own pair of swimming trunks and together, they moved carefully down the steps and into the pool. The water was heated and the room was well lit, spot lights in both the ceiling and pool ensured nothing was in shadows.
“You know what to do, right?”
“Yes sir, I read the instructions several times.”
“I just don’t want you to bottle it. Ok?”
“I won’t sir.”
Stephen lay back into the water, allowing himself to float, with the help of the assistant, his head bobbed just above the water as it lapped at his face. Stephen closed his eyes and took a deep breath, slowly counting to ten. When he reached nine, the hands shifted from beneath him to his chest. He had time for one final breath before the hands pushed him down, he struggled weakly against the water, but the hands were too strong. Panic set in, he tried to restrain himself, but his limbs involuntarily began to jerk. He opened his mouth and breathed in as much water as he could, his chest screaming in pain. Everything began to get hazy, relaxing. His body stopped shaking, he opened his eyes, looking up at the waters surface, at the rough outline of his assistant. There was a small smile on his lips, then darkness fell.
The assistant waited until Stephen stopped struggling, then he counted slowly to fifty. He had to be sure. His own heart was hammering in his chest, still unsure how this was all supposed to work. All he knew was, if it didn’t go as planned, then there had been a terrible accident. That seemed like the easiest excuse. After reaching fifty, the assistant dragged Stephens corpse to the stairs, he picked up the body and moved it onto the tile. The tile was heated. He hadn’t noticed that before. He laid the body down gently on its side, facing away from the pool. Then he sat back and waited. He was to wait fifteen minutes. No more. If it didn’t happen then, it wasn’t going to happen. As he waited, the assistant dried off, feeling the chill. He wanted to dry the body, but he couldn’t think of a reasonable excuse to do so.
Stephens body started to jerk, back and forth, the assistant moved back, just as he was told to do. A spray of water was ejected from Stephens mouth, followed by another. The body began to cough and splutter, after a moment, the coughing stopped and the body began to breath normally. All through this Stephens eyes had been dead and lifeless. Now, he blinked and sat up.
“How long have I been out?”
“You’re body started seizing at ten minutes, you have regained speech at eleven minutes and twenty three seconds.”
“Not bad. Not bad at all.”
The assistant went to Stephen and began to help him up, once Stephen was standing, the assistant grabbed a dry towel and gently dried him.
They left the pool room and walked through the corridors, back towards Stephens bedroom, once they arrived, they went through to the shower, the assistant set the controls while Stephen stripped.
“The water is at the requested temperature.”
“Thank you. You may wait outside.”
“Yes sir, if you need anything, let me know.”
Stephen stepped into the warm water and began to bathe, doing so slowly to ensure he cleaned everywhere. When he was done, he stepped from the shower, not bothering to turn it off. He dried himself, already starting to feel stronger. It wouldn’t be long now, soon the wrinkles would begin to fade from his skin, it would tighten and he would become young again. Stephen knew the assistant was probably in shock, he had done this countless times and he had yet to meet one who fully believed him before they witnessed it. He didn’t blame them really. It was pretty out there. He stretched, feeling an ache deep in his bones as they repaired what ever damaged they’d endured this time. The aches would pass in a day or so. Stephen dressed in pyjamas, he learned long ago that he needed a few days to gather himself before business. They’d have to sort out all this promotion and heir business. He had made sure there could be no legal challenges there at least. The new name had been chosen decades ago, and for the last six months, everyone who knew, or who he could trust, had called him by that name, allowing himself to get used to it. Things would be passed off smoothly.
Stephen emerged from the bathroom and went straight to his bed, already the assistant was placing a tray on the hospital table, it would slide over his bed. The assistant slid the table over and removed the plates covering. As the smell of food filled the room, Stephens stomach grumbled, he was looking forward to this. He picked up a remote and turned on the large TV, he might as well enjoy this mini-vacation while it lasted. It would be another few months before he had much free time. Smiling, he picked up his knife and fork and began to eat.