In this creepy short story, Peter Neville creates a psychologically thrilling tale of imprisonment, and the hunger to be free.
How cool would it be to change the future? Like, I mean if your decisions and choices actually meant something, or had an impact. Maybe you could even make a difference somehow, or be too terrified to live your life. Nobody knows.
Right now, I'd sure like a shot. The doctors have given me two weeks to live, and I can feel my body failing. Under my skin, in what remains of my organs, there is malfunction and decay. My strength is all but sapped, and I've lost the fight.
You know the feeling of excitement that greets the New Year's countdown? My life is like that constantly, minus the cheering. Any of these ten second intervals, punctuated by wheezy breathing, could be my last. This is my life now - these hospital days.
But I don't mind. Not really. It's been good. I'm going out more with a whimper than a bang. Fading out. Gently, easy, just like falling asleep. And this room is quite comfortable, even though it doesn't have windows...
I don't know how long I've been here. It feels like years, just sitting in the dark...
There's a loud knock on the reinforced door that is the only gateway to life outside. I hear a jangling of keys, a muttering of words, and the crunch of the lock opening. A nurse enters. I can smell her without looking. She is the mean one who hurts me. She smells like death. Maybe she is.
Slowly, I turn my face to greet her, but I don't smile. My eyes recoil suddenly as the room is flooded with artificial light.
The nurse is young and pale. In her hands, cupped delicately between her fingers, is a needle.
"I'm going to need a sample."
Her voice is deep, and uncaring. Her words don't betray her. It is easier to give in, and let her do what she needs to do. I hold out my skinny, bruised arm towards her, but she doesn't react. As it lingers in the air, I can't help but to notice the scabby holes that riddle the skin, leaving it infected and sore. When I die, my arms will remain as scarred as those of a heroin addict.
She examines my arm thoroughly, turning it over in her hands. She is looking for a vein, but can't seem to find one.
"No use. Show me your thigh."
I hesitate, staring at her but not meeting her cold gaze.
She doesn't raise her voice, but I still shudder. Inch by inch, I wriggle in the bed like a dying fish, and pull my trousers down. My inner thigh also bears scars. She moves towards me, smiling darkly.
I bite hard on my tongue to avoid screaming as she pierces the skin. With her focus entirely on me, she fills the vial quickly. When she's done, she dabs the newly formed hole with tissue, and instructs me to get dressed again.
"Not much left," she says to herself as if making a mental note. "The doctor will come see you tomorrow."
"It is okay," I whisper. "I think I'm ready to die peacefully."
"That is for us to decide."
Without another word, she walks across the room, knocks on the heavy door, and turns the light out. From the other side, it opens and I can hear her footsteps fading away. I listen to the familiar sound of the door crunching shut, and then allow myself to sleep.
I awake to find that I'm not alone. Draped in a dirty, lab coat, sitting on the edge of my bed and examining a clipboard, is the doctor. He is a kind looking man- slightly chubby, balding grey, with tobacco brown teeth and discolored grey skin. As I groan and sit upright, he continues to observe me without offering help.
"Good morning, doctor."
"It is afternoon, A-positive."
"Sorry," I say instinctively. "Good afternoon."
"It is okay, A-positive. You weren't to know. It is very dark in here."
We look at each other in the eyes. He looks almost guilty.
"The nurse told me I needed to come. Show me your arms."
I do what he says.
"They have taken too much," he tuts. "Have they drawn from elsewhere?"
He rises from the bed, with his head still lowered.
"There was a time when I was a real doctor. I could help people. Now I'm just as much a prisoner as you," he sighs deeply. "I'm afraid there's nothing I can do for you."
"I understand, doctor. Maybe you could help me rest. I don't want to give any more blood."
He nods to himself, before extracting a handkerchief from his pocket. Gently, he unwraps the crumpled handkerchief like a Christmas or birthday present, to reveal a white pill. He drops it into my outstretched palm.
"Take this with water."
"What is it?"
"Does it matter? It will help you sleep."
I reach out for the glass of brownish water on the floor, and, with a deep breath to steady myself, I drink it in one gulp.
"Lie down, A-positive, and be at rest."
"My name is Hans."
"Breathe free, Hans. You are getting out of this place soon."
"Thank you, doctor. I hope you find a way out too."
"Sadly," he whispers to me, as he goes toward the exit. "History will never forgive me, and I dare not forgive myself either. Even if I do, somehow, find a way out, this place will never allow me to forget. Rest, Hans. You did well."
"Thank you, doctor."
He nods, before knocking on the door.
When he is gone, I feel my breathing slow. Suddenly, the bed feels much more comfortable, the darkness doesn't bother me. For once I feel like I can change the future. I can taste freedom and peace. Far from the hospital, and the pain.
And it feels amaz-