Scuffed blue gloves had been cast aside and wrinkled brown fingers held intricate tools, twisting and pulling at the wiring. It was hot inside the back panel of the machine, but Gloria couldn’t stop now. She almost had it. Desperation pressed her forward as she finished capping the wire and slid out, replacing the panel with her drill and standing to stretch; her body had not been young for a long time. As she passed one of the machine’s two, huge windows, Gloria saw a limp body suspended in a yellow liquid by more wires, tubes, and a harness. The figure was blurry through the thick, syrupy substance that was keeping her alive. Gloria’s hand brushed against the window softly before she took a deep breath and walked to the main console. She was ready to try again.
A red light came on above the main switch after she flicked it upward, and pipes around it hissed furious clouds of white liquid as the machine began to wake up. The sounds of the inner workings, the grinding of metal and whirring of meters grew until it was cacophonous, and Gloria could do nothing but stand and watch in helpless agony as electricity sparked and the tank of the machine began to rumble and move, the thick liquid inside it sliding around and slapping the glass. She held her tired, wrinkled, over worked hands against her chest and hoped. Gloria had no god to pray to.
Inside, she could see the naked, suspended body convulsing and shaking as the hissing, sparking, grinding, and clanking sounds began to crescendo. Gloria feared the whole thing would explode, but she stood fast in her place before the machine; if Mari died, Gloria had no intention of living. A final, resounding slam of metal rang in her ears, and she looked up, watching nervously as the yellow liquid began to drain from the center cavity of the machine, the tubes and wires releasing themselves from the naked body within. She rushed over, waiting to hear the mechanical click of the base door unlocking. With a metallic clack, the door hissed and opened, and the liquid from within poured out, bringing with it a naked female body covered in the remains of the yellow liquid.
“Mari,” Gloria said in a harsh, choked voice. “Oh, Mari, my love.”
Days later, the woman blinked open her eyes and coughed. She had been cleaned, dressed in a hospital gown, and was in a bed in a room she had never seen before. Someone was touching her hand.
“Mari,” the voice called. She turned her head slowly, the world blurry and her mind sluggish. “Gloria,” she wheezed. “How did you get so old?”
The other woman laughed softly, her eyes full of tears. “It took me a long time to make you well, Mari. But you are. And not a day older.”
Mari looked past Gloria to a mirror hanging on the wall. She was sallow looking and thin, but Gloria was right. Mari hadn’t aged a day. And she was miraculously alive. “How is this possible?” Mari asked.
Gloria looked away. “Your… your father’s machine. I fixed it.”
Mari tried to sit up, but her body was frail and she had no muscle strength. “Gloria,” she whispered, horrified. “How could you?”
Gloria looked at Mari. “I would have fixed a thousand machines to save you, my love.” She ran a wrinkled finger down Mari’s smooth, perfect cheek. “Even ones that might collapse reality as we know it.”