Chloe hates working the late shift.
‘The residents seem so much older at night,’ she says. ‘Really, Lucas, all this doesn’t scare you.’
She waves to indicate the whole of Spring Vale Rest Home, the very idea of old age.
I smile and say, ‘It used to. Then I spoke to Mrs Holden.’
I walk her to the old lady’s room.
‘Go sit with her,’ I say
She reaches the bed and I gesture for her to sit in the chair beside it. Mrs Holden opens her eyes as Chloe sits and for a moment our friendship nearly has me scream a warning.
‘Oh, a visitor. Hello dear. Just let me get my teeth in.’
The old woman reaches into the glass on the bedside table and pops her dentures in with a wet sucking sound. A shiver of disgust washes over Chloe.
‘And what is it you want?’
She pats Chloe on the knee and smiles. I step forward.
‘Ah, Lucas, you brought her did you? Good boy.’
Mrs Holden eases her feet over the side of the bed and slips them into her fluffy slippers.
‘Well stand up girl, let’s have a look at you.’
There’s an authority in Mrs Holden’s voice that forces Chloe from the chair. Mrs Holden stands facing her, puts her hands on Chloe’s shoulders.
‘Oh yes, you will do very well.’
Chloe looks at me in confusion and Mrs Holden is on her, placing her shriveled lips over Chloe’s. She tries to pull away but already she is weak and her scream is swallowed whole by the mouth holding her in place. Two frail claws grip the back of her head as the old woman sucks.
A white foam leaks from their joined lips. I step forward, lift a little from the corner of their mouths with my finger, dab the foam on my tongue. It tastes of fat and salt and youth.
Chloe’s veins and arteries pulse and darken as blood floods to her head. Her cheeks sink, her hair thins and whitens, her skin grows pale and wrinkled, while the years slip from Mrs Holden. Her skin grows smooth, her hair dark and lustrous, as Chloe dries and shrivels.
Finished, the youthful Mrs Holden lays the elderly Chloe upon the bed and walks out the room, stroking my chin as she passes.
‘Good boy, Lucas. Bring me her clothes when you’re finished.’
My mistress is young again. I am in favour. Later she will show her appreciation. Now there is work to do. Chloe’s frail body is still, all except her eyes which rage and scream her fear. She manages to raise a wrinkled hand in front of her face and the screaming of her eyes grows wider.
I take her hand, her skin like paper.
‘Old age certainly does scare me,’ I say. ‘But she has promised to help me avoid all that.’
I undress her, as her eyes scream, young and helpless in an old woman’s face.