The room was small, holding only a hospital bed and a chair beside it, a single bare bulb hung from the ceiling giving a weak and watery kind of light. Dana sat on the chair, the old man lay in the bed, she didn’t know his name, she didn’t bother learning them any more. He wore a thin hospital gown and was shivering with fever, his forehead was damp with perspiration and sweat stains were steadily growing under his arms. Dana didn’t speak, there were no offered words or reassurance, she just watched and waited. Every now and then she glanced at her watch to see how much time had passed, you could never tell in the room which was devoid of clocks and windows. The mans breathing was shallow and it rattled with each inhale and exhale, occasionally he would frown or groan, but beyond that he was silent. Dana reached out and gently took one of his wrists in her hand, she found his pulse, weak but steady, and gently lowered his hand to the bed. She wiped at the the sheets discretely, trying to get rid of the strange wet, greasy feel left on her hands. She wasn’t sure when he had last bathed, she couldn’t remember.
Dana’s stomach grumbled sullenly, she was hungry now, thirsty too. She had nothing to eat since breakfast and stupidly forget to grab snacks before coming in. She wasn’t allowed leave the room at all once her shift began, not until someone came to relieve her. She looked at her watch, another three hours to go.
An hour later and the old man gave one final coughing rasp before his chest lay still. Dana picked up his wrist again, ignoring the feeling of revulsion as her fingers slid along his skin. There was no heartbeat. The old man opened his eyes and breathed deeply, his plemmhy lungs rumbled then he started to cough, he spat up three globs of mucous onto the floor. When he stopped coughing he breathed deeply again and smiled. “Much better. I’m feeling a little hungry.”
Dana nodded, “We’ll get you some broth. You need to take it easy, build your strength.”
The old man shook his head, “I’ve spent far too long taking it easy. I’ve been given a second shot and I don’t intend to waste it!” Dana caught herself just before she rolled her eyes. She knew in a day or two he’d be talking about how God spared him, as if God had anything to do with it. Sometimes she wondered if he was pissed when they pulled someone from him, snatched what was rightfully his. There was also the other guy, assuming both existed, neither would be entirely pleased with what they were doing.
“I think I’ll need a bath too, I feel filthy, perhaps a sponge bath?” He grinned up at her, she left her face blank, showing none of the revulsion she felt. It wouldn’t have been the first time she’d given him one, but every other time he’d been unconscious or embarrassed and quiet. Now though he leered up at her, almost drooling. “I’ll get one someone in as soon as possible.”
his smiled dropped a little, “Oh. When’s the food getting here?”
Dana stood from the chair, “I’ll go check.”
She left the small room and entered a long, curving white corridor, she could leave now that the danger had passed. Windows lined the walls letting the sun stream in, it was almost painfully bright after the dimness of the room. Tony was doing his rounds, she stopped him and told him that 86 was recovering, he nodded and went to set things in motion. Dana slipped back into the room, “We should have food for you soon.”
“How should we amuse ourselves in the mean time?”
Dana bit her tongue, “You should rest, maybe try nap.”
He scowled at her then rolled over in the bed, his back towards her. Dana took a slow deep breath and counted to ten. This was her life now, an eternity with pervy, horny old men. There were other jobs out there, one’s she’d enjoy much more, but none offered the perk of immortality. There was something in the ground, she wasn’t high up enough to know what it was or even how it worked, she just knew that it would prevent the dead from dying. Over the course of two weeks you’d go from a skeletal husk to a happy, healthy twenty year old. Those who had enough money were more than welcome to take advantage. Dana on the other hand was killed every ten years to keep her young and beautiful, though she was nearing one hundred and ten years old she had yet to see what she would look like when she hit thirty five. She was snapped out of her thoughts as someone knocked on the door, a young woman entered carrying a tray with a bowl of broth and a glass of water. She placed the tray across the old mans lap after Dana helped him sit up. At least he could feel himself now, thank God for small mercies. The woman ducked out of the room quickly, Dana couldn’t remember her name, she was new, hadn’t been killed yet. She watched the man eat for a moment and happy that he would manage she sat down and waited for her shift to end.