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The ancient queen stood before the mirror in her dressing gown. She looked with loathing at her pearl-white hair, bent shoulders, and deeply lined skin. A motion with her finger towards a light blue outfit started a flurry of activity among her staff.


Almost time, she thought with a thin-lipped smile. Soon enough, I won't have to look at this decaying body anymore. Her servants gave way to her beautician, who attempted to hide her advanced age.


The servants fussed over the bored sovereign. Seventy years on the throne had not cured her vanity. Even as the years devoured her beauty, she fought against the tide of time with every tool at her considerable disposal.


My empire demands a young and beautiful queen, and I will give them one again. Topping her off with a matching hat, her staff stepped back into place and awaited further orders. She waved them away, dismissing them without a word.


Perfectly at home within the palace walls, the Queen shuffled down a long corridor. Fifty years... Fifty years of research. Decades of false starts. Horrific failures. But her vision had remained steadfast. What good was all her wealth and power if she would grow old and die like everyone else?


The queen arrived at a door that opened when she placed her finger on a concealed sensor. She stepped into the elevator and pressed the button for the medical suite.


The last twenty years had shown real promise. Advances in imaging, computers, and most of all, genetics, had opened new vistas for her research team. They had begun to understand aging and started to look for ways to reverse it.


The elevator opened into a medical suite. A dozen doctors raced around the room in scrubs and masks. A hospital bed dominated the middle of the room. Nurses came forward with a hospital gown prepared for this occasion.


As she changed and lay down in the bed, a wry smile crossed her face. Finally, two years ago, her team had found it: the key to reversing the devastation that the years had wreaked on her body. Two years of feverish experimentation had perfected it. Then her beloved husband, the prince consort, had gallantly offered to be the final test subject. When she had held him, two months after the injections, looking like he did on their wedding day more than seventy years ago, her joy nearly had lifted her into the air.


She expected him to be here for this momentous occasion, but his absence didn’t bother her. He had been so enjoying his youthful vigor that he probably forgot.


She motioned to the doctor. They were going to give her a series of shots that would put her into a deep coma for two months. During that time, she would be given the miracle drug that would restore to her flesh the strength, firmness, and beauty of her youth. She would awaken like a twenty-year-old from a long nightmare of age and decay. Her genetic structure would be changed to be able to resist the effects of aging indefinitely. Eternal youth!


Her nurse swabbed the crook of her left arm with antiseptic and deftly inserted the IV needle. A piece of clear adhesive held it in place so it wouldn't work loose. The head doctor wasted no time in starting the machine that administered sedatives and rejuvenatives. The queen began to feel drowsy and closed her eyes.


She opened her eyes again. The room was shrouded in darkness. A soft beeping on her left broke the hum of the air conditioner. Faint light shone from computer screens, but the edges of the room were indistinct.


She reached up to touch her head and was surprised to find short fuzz. Then she remembered. She had told them to shave off her white locks and save them for her, a memento of her aged body. She rubbed her hands together and felt something that she hadn't in decades, so long ago that she'd forgotten what it was like: smooth, taut skin. Unwrinkled and firm. Her hands began to explore the rest of her body and found it made new. Joy flooded her. She wanted to leap from the bed and shout and dance.


A door opened and light from the hallway blinded her. A heavyset, middle-aged nurse walked in with a clipboard.

The queen sat up. "Fetch my son. He said he would come to me when I awoke."


The nurse gave a little scream and dropped the tablet in her hand. "Mercy! You startled me, miss. I didn't think you'd be awake. Let me go get the doctor." She bent over to get her tablet.


"I said, 'get my son.' The prince said he would be waiting for me. And turn the lights on. I want to see myself."


Light illuminated a very different room from the one in which she had fallen asleep. Non-descript impressionist art decorated drab gray walls. A window with blackout drapes showed sunlight at the seams. The queen sucked in her breath. "This is not my hospital suite... Where am I?!"


"Bethlem Royal Hospital, miss. Coma ward. I'll get your doctor." The nurse hurried to the door and closed it behind her.

Dread filled the queen. Seeing a television on the wall, she searched until she found the remote. She turned it on to the national news.


A feed from a helicopter displayed an immense crowd surrounding her palace. The headline marching across the top of the screen made her blood run cold. ‘Royal Family Mourns Their Matriarch’.


The screen changed to a close-up shot of the Royal family. Her family. All dressed in formal mourning, with somber faces. There in the middle was her oldest son, now king, looking stern and sorrowful. As the camera zoomed in on him, she could see the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes that only a mother might recognize as the faint hint of a smile.

Copyright 2023 - SFS Publishing LLC

The Price of Eternity

An unexpected curse

Nathan Krupa





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