Young Again

Sophie Heathers - a withered, ninety year old woman - is placed in the body of Brooke Braigly, a young woman barely out of her teens. She has three months of youth to herself. But when scientists come to collect her, she doesn't want to give the body up.

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1. Awake & Alive

 

Awake.

I’m awake and alive.

I can think straight – the one thing I haven’t been able to do in decades.

Then there’s that awful, clean-cut sterile stench stinging my nostrils, the stench that’s only found in a clinic or hospital.

Above my face a single solid silhouette suddenly appears, blocking out the blinding light that greets me as I open my bleary eyes. Then it shifts aside, and I’m squinting against the whiteness again.

“Miss Heathers? Sophie Heathers?”

 My name. No, wait, its name. That empty husk of a body’s name.

“Good morning, Miss Heathers!” comes the voice again, the owner evidently the former silhouette. What an annoying voice he has! Slimy, sickly sweet, unhealthy. A voice fit for a snake.

“You’re awake now, Miss Heathers. You’re in your new body. You might feel a little uncomfortable, but you’ll be fine.”

A little uncomfortable. Only now I realise how painful my muscles are to move, how much my joints are aching – but I’m young again, I have what I want. This is much better than being that old, wrinkly sack of bones. At least the discomfort is only temporary.

I grunt and open my eyes again, sitting up and blinking rapidly. I rub at my brow with hands that aren’t my own. Young hands, smooth hands. But they’re my hands now.

“Where am I?” I ask, taking in my surroundings. Everything is white, pure. Too pure – innocent walls aren’t built to hide innocent acts. The walls built around hospital wards hide blood and gore. These walls could be hiding secrets too.

I am greeted by a wide, rich smile from a pale man whose dark, greasy hair is slicked back from his thin face. He is wearing a white laboratory coat.

“You’re in the O.T.Y. facility, Miss Heathers,” he explains, his beam seemingly frozen in place on his features. “You’re in your new body.”

“I gathered,” I murmur. “So, who am I? Who are you?”

“I’m Doctor Lightfoot, and you are –” he pauses to examine a clipboard he’s holding “– Brooke Braigly, unemployed young adult with a flat here in London, Chiswick. Twenty-one years old, suicidal and currently in mourning.”

“Mourning  who?”

“Her father. He recently died in a car crash.”

“Nice body you’ve gotten me, here.”

If it’s even possible, his grin spreads wider. “Well, she’s in your body, so you haven’t got it all bad.”

Now I’m confused. “She’s in my body?”

“Yes, Miss Heathers –”

“Oh, stop calling me that. It’s Sophie.”

“– this is an experiment, and it worked. The receptors in your eyes matched up almost perfectly to hers. Only the age difference was a problem and, well...” He gestures to my new, vital and healthy body. “It evidently wasn’t a major one.”

That seems to remind him of something. “I’m sure you want to see how you look, Miss Heathers?”

Sophie. And... yes, that would be nice.”

He reaches beneath my sparkling, sanitary bed and pulls out a mirror, hands it to me and awaits my reaction. I obviously don’t disappoint him, because his bottomless black eyes glimmer with what seems like amusement.

I let out a small, inaudible gasp. For the first time in decades, I can think straight and I can be beautiful. My hair is black, but I can see near the roots that it’s naturally brown. I have tight ringlets that cascade around my shoulders, framing my freckled face perfectly. Ah, yes, freckles – they are spread across the bridge of my nose and on my cheekbones.

Then I see those eyes. Eyes exactly like mine, but more youthful and vibrant than I have ever seen my own. But they are my eyes now. Mine – I am young Brooke Braigly physically, and old, ninety-year-old Sophie Heathers mentally.

“This body... it’s...”

“Perfect, I know,” Doctor Lightfoot butts in, ready to move on to the next stage of the experiment, like any other scientist would be. “I’m glad to see the body is to your liking, Miss Heathers. Anyway, if you can, could you please begin to stand and see if the nerve endings are still working properly?”

I oblige. “Happy?”

“Definitely. You’re making some good progress. Now...”

The small checkups and tiny tests go on for about an hour. Eventually, an olive-skinned, burly man escorts me from the bed to a long room filled with plastic red chairs, stark against the cream carpet and washed-out walls.

“Wait here,” he tells me in his deep, booming voice, “and the information you need about Brooke Braigly will arrive.” He then promptly exits the hall. I tentatively perch myself on one of the chairs. It creaks, and I feel uneasy. There are no windows, and the only source of light is a too bright bulb blaring away at my eyes.

Soon, I can hear heels clicking and echoing down a corridor, and a warmly dressed woman with ostrich red high heels, cropped blonde hair and rimmed glasses trots into the hall. “Hello, darling,” she says, and props herself up on the red chair next to me. I realise that she has a variety of folders tucked beneath her arm.

“Here is all you need to know about Brooke Braigly,” she chatters on, pulling out the documents with a flourish and flicking through them. I get a brief glimpse of school pictures, parties, exams and other official files. She passes the folder to me and I hug it to my chest.

“Thank you.”

“No problem, sweet heart,” she says. “So, how old are you really? I’ll bet you’re older than you look, eh?”

“Ninety.” I hope to maybe shock her into quieting down a little, maybe stop her pointless conversation. Instead, however, she acknowledges this titbit of information quite casually and smiles at me with amplified friendliness.

“Well, looks like we’re about the same age really, then,” she notes, and my plan completely fails. I feel my eyes widen in surprise.

“The same age...?”

“Yes, I was their first experiment,” she goes on amiably. “I was ninety-two. I’ve been in this body for five years now, so I guess I’m technically ninety-seven.” Then she winks. “I got to keep the body after my host died in my old body. Sheer luck – well, not for my host, obviously.”

“How did your host die?”

Her expression clouds over in thought. “I’m not sure,” she finally replies, “they never told me the details.” Then she returns to her seemingly usual, happy self. “Anyway, my name’s Rochelle Brinson, and my body is forty years old. I’ll be your friend for the next three months, whilst you’re in Brooke’s body!”

In all honesty, I find her cheeriness irritating, but I shake the hand she extends to me. She’s nice enough, and I need a friend as Brooke Braigly I guess.

But I won’t be Brooke Braigly forever, only for the next three months. I remember what I signed up for, and that was for temporary youth.

I’m going to miss being Brooke.

 

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