Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
The fan on the ceiling turns slowly, another kitsch feature of this fake colonial era hospital. I do not know when hospitals started to compete for trade, but the ‘healing ambience’ vogue has been out of control – and good taste – for a while. A symptom of a diseased society: choosing to be treated in a replica of a Field Hospital from the Crimea or the whitewashed walls of a Rehab Centre in Da Nang, or any one of thirty or so other styles. Offering appearances, not authenticity, in every case. No-one wants anything less than the very latest in medical care during their treatment.
“Good morning, Mister Clarke.”
The nurse is cheerful. That stoic happiness you wear like armour, when there is no other option but to put on a brave face to cope with an unwelcome task. Not that I have ever had to do that, but my recent experiences have given me a certain insight. Which means I recognise the sideways glances, the abruptness in her practiced moves. I am an interloper in an otherwise genteel establishment.
“How are we feeling this morning?”
“I am comfortably numb, thank you. Yourself?”
She pauses, flicks me a smile that has a hint of being genuine, then carries on as if I had not asked anything. Her bluff manner continues for the few minutes it takes her to check me over. It is a courtesy, more than a necessity. The monitoring suite can see everything and administer anything bar actual surgery or sexual relief, and I am not convinced it could not be programmed for the latter. I would enquire, but I think it could be a query too far for a nurse clearly holding herself together by willpower alone.
“The doctor should be with you before lunch, Mister Clarke.”
She nods and retreats, reaching for the name badge she hid in her pocket before entering. A pointless attempt at anonymity, as the detention drone that squats on the ceiling in the corner will have identified her via facial recognition before she took three steps into the room. If she were unauthorised, she would have been incapacitated before taking a fourth step.
It amuses me, the care with which they are holding me. A rare artefact, to be handled with kid gloves and kept in padded storage while a determination as to its real worth is made. More correctly, an evaluation of the public condemnation likely to occur should it be lost. Less amusing is the knowledge that, even in my advanced state of healing, I could still die ‘from my injuries’.
The media are calling me a hypocrite. I disagree, but it will not change anyone’s opinion. I am the last one standing, and there’s no victory or support in that.
We fought for a fairer society. Son of money, I found myself drawn to a cause that would decrease my father’s income by a few percentage points while helping so many.
Whether the radical elements evolved or were induced, I will never know. The violence was pointless and self-defeating, which makes me believe it was manufactured. The truth got lost in high definition video of shouting combatants. It saves on special effects budget when the blood on the walls is real.
In the end, we died for our cause. They fought to the last. I fell off a roof. I remember looking at the stanchion impaling my chest and trying to laugh.
A mobile trauma team saved me. My father’s health insurance paid for them, and a new heart.
Cold irony echoes with every beat.