No Patients

I got a bit sick a little while ago, and had to go to hospital. This is my recollection of the time spent in the emergency ward, written shortly afterward. Not all that interesting and pretty short, but I thought I’d post it anyway.

My sheets weren’t clean. I probably would have complained if I had been able to breathe properly. I didn’t know how often the sheets were changed in the emergency department of a hospital, and it was probably best that way. Two nurses hovered around my bed, their faces flit unflatteringly by the humming fluorescent lights above. I always hated those lights. They drained the colour and life from everything they touched, but were suitably pragmatic, to be fair. Mood lighting would no doubt interfere with the smooth operation of an emergency department, no matter how cosy it may be. The nurses talked about their boyfriends as they attached electrodes to my chest, to monitor my vital signs. Each cord led to a different piece of equipment, each beeping like an old Atari game and displaying numbers I didn’t understand in neon green. I strained to sit up. My breathing was ragged, gasping. As I struggled to move air out of my lungs, they cracked and popped like a bowl of fresh cereal. To distract myself, I focused on the conversation around me. The nurses were still talking about their respective partners. To be honest, they both sounded about as interesting as the conspicuous brown stain on the floor beside me. Although, that was a little interesting, I supposed. Permanently staining the linoleum on a hospital floor certainly would take some effort. The only thing I could imagine leaving a ghastly stain of that magnitude was some sort of alien autopsy – it didn’t seem possible that it had come out of a person.

As more electrodes went on, I began to feel like a VCR. The biting scent of antiseptic wafted up to my face as a nurse swabbed my arm. There was a sharp pinch as the needle pierced my skin. I asked weakly if they had just plugged the speakers in, but no one laughed. Not comedy types, I guess. The boyfriend talk continued. All of this made me feel a little depressed, as not only could I not breathe, I was also single. A cool rush spread up my arm as the IV began to flow, pushing salty fingers of saline and cortisol into my veins.

‘We’re going to inject you with magnesium,’ the doctor said.

To be honest I had forgotten he was there. He was handsome, tall, and younger than me. He was also obviously more adept at life, as not only was he more successful than I was, he was breathing just fine. In other circumstances I would have felt a little inadequate, but for now I would have to grudgingly let him stop me from dying. There was a clatter as a gurney rushed down the hallway outside, its wheels stuttering wildly like a broken shopping trolley.

‘The magnesium will help unseize your lungs,’ the doctor said, writing in sharp blue slashes on my chart.

I peered over the top of my face mask through a spiralling haze of Ventolin and oxygen vapour. I couldn’t remember anyone using the phrase ‘unseize my lungs’ before. Since when were my lungs the engine of an old Lada? It did present an opportunity to show off my Year 11 chemistry knowledge by mentioning that magnesium burns at temperatures up to 2200 degrees, but I decided to remain quiet. I failed chemistry, anyway.

‘You’re stabilising now,’ the doctor said. ‘We’ll let your rest for a bit before sending you up to a ward.’

With that, he turned and walked briskly from the room. The nurses soon followed him, leaving me alone. A moan sounded from somewhere down the hall. The machines surrounding me beeped softly. I stared up at the panelled ceiling. It was going to be a long night.

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More potting.

Yet another stupid poem. Wrote it as it came, so it probably doesn’t make sense, but since when that did that matter.

Green-foamed fingers slither down lungs

no voices heard, no songs to be sung

down in watery chambers, the places I hide

there I found no truth, it is there that I died

Tied and bound by opal ropes of sea

sunken, rotted, wrecked beneath the quay

eyes of salt and dripping brine

watch breakers bleed upon the shore line

Red silted mouth and skull taut skin

a scattered scream against the din

torrents of tide a monument to show

under silver waves I lie, into the water I flow

More puppetry.

I mean poetry. Silly me. Here’s another stupid little poem. 

Licking your tongue into corners of the night

lovingly curled about my neck

lingering in pools puddled out of sight

with lights dimmed low in sobbing regret

I’ve seen them all, yet I’m now done

for you see, I never was the one

a master of all, and a master of none

A carcass spread out in due time

I show my throat, a surrender sublime

awash in anesthesia and wine

You’re no fun, she said

and smiled

Breathe for me, dusty lungs

and show me you’re alive

An insect pinned onto the day

my helpless scuttle across the tile

needle-stuck, cut and flayed

quartered apart and waiting for trial

Iustitia Omnibus

Another short story.

I only gave people what they wanted. That was the truth of the matter. As I weighed the bags out in my kitchen, I reflected on the nature of the public service I provided. I should add the caveat that it wasn’t necessarily a service that was entirely legal, but one soon learned that legality does not impact demand – a quick glance at history will tell you that. I scooped another pile of powder into a bag. Five bags were lined up on the counter, meticulously weighed and sorted. Each had a specific destination, but more importantly, each had a specific purpose. It was 8pm, and nearly time for my rounds. The fluorescent lighting flickered, and my reflection stared at me in the window, observing quietly. I looked into its eyes and held their gaze. As I stared, I knew that an observer upon this scene would question just exactly why I appeared to be so content, and that would be a fair question. My house was nothing spectacular; merely another suburban pile of brick and asbestos slowly succumbing to decay. There wasn’t a sports car in my driveway, nor was I particularly handsome, clever, or even well-liked. I possessed none of the qualities deemed necessary to succeed in the world – I was destined to fail, and in the eyes of most I had done exactly that. The electronic scales beeped, telling me that one bag was over-weight. I was the walking C grade, and nothing I ever did would ever be of any consequence. Except, of course, for my work. I stood up from the counter and pushed the bags of into my pocket.

Stars had begun to emerge as I neared the drop-off point, beginning their nightly viewing of the world with sets of cold, indifferent eyes. Yellow light from the city leaked into the sky, staining the clouds amber as I moved with the traffic that rushed along asphalt veins. It was going to be a good night. I pulled my car into an alley, the transmission crunching in protest. The streetlights shone onto the road in flickering halos, casting slithering shadows amongst the abandoned houses and windowless factories. I shoved my car into park and wrenched up the handbrake. Waiting was the worst part. The anticipation spiked my heartrate and shook my hands, forcing drops of acidic sweat through my skin. I savoured it, felt its weight, drank it in. It would be time soon enough. I ran a hand through my hair and checked my clothes. Appearances still mean something, after all. I cranked the window and let the night breathe onto my face with its breath of petrol and gravel. Every night had a distinct scent, an energy separate to others. I was one of the few that could feel it. The rush of the traffic, the organised chaos of the street, intermingling ant lines of people scurrying between their sources of pleasure. A black Mercedes turned into the alley, its headlights cutting through the dark in blinding swipes. A rat scurried along the gutter and disappeared up a drain. I felt for the bag in my pocket, tracing my fingers along its outline. The black car slid up behind mine and stopped. It sat for a moment, its engine growling like an animal caged in steel. I don’t know why they persisted with the façade. We both knew why they were here: I have something they want. I pulled a clear plastic bag out of my pocket and held it up against the light. The white powder shone like crushed diamond. I grinned. You can deal with the devil, but the odds are always stacked.

I swung my car door open and approached the Mercedes. As I neared, a window slid down. A middle-aged man sat in the driver’s seat, his hands clenching the wheel in white-knuckled tension. He looked up at me. His hair was dyed black, far too black. His nose was creased from where he had taken his glasses off. Wrinkles had begun to spread from his eyes like spider webs. Despite our efforts, we are all creatures of decay. I glanced over his car. Powerful or not, universal truth is uncaring.

‘Good evening’ he said.

‘Hello, sir,’ I said. I liked to keep things formal. We both knew our roles, and we would play them.

‘Nice night tonight,’ he said, drumming his fingers on the wheel.

‘Yes, it is. Very warm. A good night for a walk,’ I said.

He darted his eyes to mine.

‘Do you have it?’ he said.

I pulled the bag from my pocket and held it up. His breath quickened at the sight.

‘300 right?’

‘That’s right.’

He held a wad of notes out through the window. I reached for them, and touched the knuckles of his hand. He recoiled.

‘Hey, relax,’ I said. ‘I’m not going to bite. You’re one of my best customers, after all.’ I smiled, like rotten fruit.

‘I know, I know,’ he said. ‘I’m just a bit jumpy.’

‘Aren’t we all,’ I said. I placed the bag in his hand and took the money. He snatched his arm back inside the car and put it into gear.

‘You have a good night, Councillor.’

The man froze.  No doubt electric bolts of panic were now shooting through his head, as the realisation dawned that I knew who he was. He was a powerful man, the chair of the city council. He was wealthy, in possession of vast governmental contacts, and was confident that he had secured his place at the top. For a man like him, venal lies were his native tongue, and he was exceedingly good at what he did. Yet, he had merely done what he needed to. A dedicated family man, he dearly loved his wife, and his children. One solitary vice could never bring him down.

‘Don’t worry. Your secret is safe with me, ‘ I whispered with a wink.

He sped away in a screech of burning rubber and gravel. I watched as he disappeared into the dark. His hubcaps cost more than my car, so perhaps this was fair. After all, for some things, everyone pays the same price.

That morning, I tied a robe around my waist as I walked to the footpath to collect the paper. I had slept well, a black and dreamless void that was the closest thing on earth to heaven that I could imagine. The yard was overgrown with weeds, snaking over every surface and burying them beneath a tangle of thorny vines. They pierced the flaking weatherboards and buried their way through windows, but I would not remove them. I admired their blind desire to survive, forcing their way through whatever obstacle they may encounter, free from compassion or mercy in pursuit of a singular goal. Fence palings lay on the ground, rotten with age. The gate swung closed behind me, gouging the concrete. I rubbed my eyes as I sat down at the kitchen table. A plunger of coffee steamed on the counter. I flipped open the paper, and scanned the front page. ‘Counciller Ryan Found Dead’ the headline stated in bold black. Now that was interesting. ‘Prominent local businessman and chair of the city council Peter Ryan has been found dead,’ the article continued. ‘Ryan’s body was found inside his car by his wife this morning. No cause of death has been identified thus far. Tributes have begun to flow for the tragic loss of one of our most prominent local figures. He was 46.’ I placed the paper down and poured a cup of coffee. It hadn’t taken much. Just a few milligrams more, and this was the result. The sun began to break through the kitchen blinds in shafts of golden light. It had taken me a while to find the right additives to ensure the desired result, but eventually I had perfected it. Councillor Peter Ryan was just the latest in a long list of those brought low by a deviance of only a few milligrams, and he would not be the last. I killed them all, and my conscience was clear. I only gave them what they wanted. I lined up the bags on the counter. Tonight would be another busy night.

Best Laid Plans: Ep. 2

So I wrote another one for fun. It’s pretty similar to the first one, but oh well. Maybe I should try to make these someday. Also, I don’t have anything against cats, they just seem suited to comedy.

  1. INT. APARTMENT. NIGHT

 

MARCUS, MATT and RYAN are seated around the kitchen table from the previous episode. They are all in thought.

 RYAN

Public litigation is interesting.

 MARCUS

What about it?

 RYAN

You’re always hearing about huge payouts just because some burke tripped on a drain.

 MARCUS

  And?

 RYAN

It’d be easy to trip on a pipe, roll around and scream for a bit, and then bam – ‘Hello, I’m Ryan and I live in Moneytown’. I’d just threaten to sue if they didn’t pay me.

 MATT

 That’s extortion.

 RYAN

I can’t be charged with something I don’t know how to spell. It doesn’t even sound like a real word.

 MARCUS

You’ll spend too much time in court, and lawyers cost a fortune. Unless you represent yourself, in which case you could make friends with the bailiffs when they arrest you. Also, Moneytown isn’t a real place.

 RYAN

Sure it is. You never watched Duck Tales?

 MATT

Scrooge McDuck frightened me as a child. I would have a recurring nightmare where he would appear at the end of my bed and recite a list of my sins as his head slowly rotated.

MARCUS and RYAN stare at MATT.

 MARCUS

I think it’s best if we just ignore you said that.

  RYAN

Anyway, there’s a construction site out the front. I saw a pipe or something in there earlier. I’m going to pretend to fall over it, pretend like I’ve hurt myself, and then not-pretend sue the council. They must have deep pockets – I mean, how else could they afford all those bins?

Ryan leaves the room. 

 MATT

Does he know its nighttime?

 MARCUS

I don’t think so. Anyway, I have an idea too. Pet cleaning.

 MATT

Pet cleaning?

 MARCUS

Yeah. I found this high-powered dish washer in the paper. I think it’s from an aircraft carrier or something. With a couple of modifications, I think it could be used to wash pets in a fraction of the time other services take. Sounds like an opportunity to me.

 MATT

   Is that safe?

 MARCUS

  Sure.

 MATT

       For the pets, I mean?

 MARCUS

Oh. Yeah, why not? It’s just water and soap. Propelled by a tractor engine.

 MATT

Well, I suppose I could have a look it at …

 MARCUS

You do that. Also, I’ll lead when we go door knocking, as usual.

 MATT

I was thinking I could try to lead this time?

 MARCUS

But you’re terrible at sales. And talking.

 MATT

(quietly) I wouldn’t say that, I did drama at University.

 MARCUS

Yes, I remember that. The new version of Romeo and Juliet where Romeo vomits on Juliet and faints. It didn’t help the feuding very much. Anyway, let’s get to work.

A loud crash is heard from outside, and Ryan shouts in pain. Marcus and Matt look up, but both return to their work.

 

  1. EXT. SUBURBAN HOUSE. DAY 

 

Marcus and Matt wheel a large metal box up to a house. It has two large water tanks attached to it.

 MARCUS

Ok, let me do the talking.

 They knock on the door. A woman answers.

 MARCUS

Hello, ma’am. Tell me, do you have a cat or dog?

 WOMAN

Yes, I do. A cat.

 MARCUS

A cat, great. Does it frequently get dirty?

 WOMAN

No, not really? See, he’s right here.

 A cat has appeared around her feet. It is clean, as far as cats go.

 MARCUS

Hm. Oh dear, is that your kitchen inexplicably on fire?

 WOMAN

What?

 The woman turns to look. Marcus swiftly dumps a load of dirt on the cat. The woman turns back with a puzzled look on her face.

 MARCUS

My mistake. See, your cat is filthy!

 WOMAN

Oh, I could have sworn he was …

 MARCUS

But never fear, for one low fee you can use our patented cleaning system, and your cat will be looking great in no time!

 Marcus picks the cat up, and places it inside the metal box. He turns it on, and it makes a gentle swishing noise.

MARCUS

See, no danger to the cat at all.

 Then, a loud metal crunch comes from the box, and the swishing noise becomes louder and faster. It begins shaking violently. The cat screeches in alarm.

 WOMAN

Oh god, Mr. Sprinkles!

 MATT

Ohhh no.

 

  1. INT. APARTMENT. NIGHT

MATT

Was she upset?

 MARCUS

Well she kept screaming ‘die’, so I think so.

 MATT

I’m just glad the cat was alright.

 MARCUS

You think she still could have paid us. The thing was clean when it eventually came out.

A cry of pain comes from outside.

 MARCUS

Have you seen Ryan?

 MATT

I think he’s …

 RYAN

(From outside) Oh god, my leg! I’ve been laying here for 16 hours! I’ve really broken it! For god’s sake help me!

 MARCUS

He’ll give up soon enough. I’m going to bed.

 Marcus leaves the room.

RYAN

(from outside) You’re not going to bed, are you? For the love of god you’ve got to help me!

Matt looks worriedly towards the front door.

 

END

 

 

Best Laid Plans: Ep. 1

I like to write little screenplays sometimes, just for fun. I suppose this could be a webisode sort of thing, but I don’t know anything about making films. This is basically about three idiots being stupid. Riveting stuff, I know. But it does give me an opportunity to try being funny, even though I usually fail. Also, the formatting is all wrong, but WordPress really doesn’t like importing things.

 

  1. INT. APARTMENT. DAY

Three young men sit around a table in a cramped apartment. The table is littered with scraps of paper.

 MARCUS

So, any ideas?

 RYAN

We could become hitmen; they get paid well.

 Marcus sighs.

MARCUS

Sorry, I should have clarified. Any sane ideas?

 MATT

Perhaps through careful manipulation of the stock market and an analysis of future trends, over time we could …

 RYAN

Boring. And takes too long. We’re trying to get rich quick. Not get rich at some vague point before we die.

Matt looks down at the table, chided.

 MARCUS

I think the best way to do this is to open a business. Identify a product or service that people need, but doesn’t exist yet. Sounds simple enough to me.

They think for a moment.

 RYAN

Personally, I think you dismissed my hitman idea too quickly. It’d be easy. You ring somebody’s doorbell, hit them with a golf club, and job done.

 MARCUS

It’s a stupid idea. Having someone killed isn’t like having your gutters cleaned. People aren’t going to want to hire some idiot with an orange bag on their head to knock off their boss.

 RYAN

You’re just mad you didn’t think of it.

 MARCUS

Matt and myself will try to think of something useful. Matt, you have a background in engineering, don’t you?

 MATT

Yes, I completed my masters in applied …

 MARCUS

Good, great. Now, what if we combined these two products?

 Marcus begins writing on a sheet of paper.

 MATT

I’m not sure if that’s feasible, it would take months of …

 MARCUS

Great! Let’s get started.

 RYAN

I bet I’ll be sitting on a huge pile of cash by the end of the week. I’ve already come up with my ad!

Ryan holds up a piece up paper. On it is written:

 I KILL PEOPLE (YOU KNOW, FOR MONEY, NOT RANDOMLY)

0411-111-111

 

 

  1. EXT. OUTSIDE HOUSE. DAY 

 Marcus and Matt are standing outside a suburban house. Marcus is holding a rather shoddy-looking vacuum cleaner.

 MATT

I don’t think this is ready. Nothing can be ready when it’s been built overnight. I’m pretty sure that’s a rule.

 MARCUS

Don’t worry about that, that’ll come later. We’re raising capital, you see. We’ll generate interest and take orders, thereby creating the revenue we’ll use to create the product.

 MATT

  That sounds an awful lot like fraud.

 MARCUS

It’s not fraud. It’s only being a teeny tiny bit deceptive in order to achieve financial gain.

 MATT

      That actually is the definition of fraud.  Only without ‘teeny tiny’.

 MARCUS

My point is, it’s only a little bit of fraud. Everyone lies these days anyway. The media, the government, the guy who said I took a shit on the hood of his car.

 MATT

He had a photo of you doing that. You were waving.

 MARCUS

Like I said in court, that could have been anyone taking a shit. It could have been the Loch Ness Monster for all they could prove. Anyway, let’s hear your pitch.

 Matt stammers nervously, before speaking in an oddly robotic tone of voice.

 MATT

‘Hello sir and or madam. This is … this is, uh, a vacuum cleaner with an old iPod soldered onto it.’

 MARCUS

No, no, no. It’s all in the tone. You just have to know how to be a salesman.

 Marcus straightens up, and adopts a ‘professional’ tone of voice.

  MARCUS

‘This a revolutionary cleaning device slash internet entertainment center!’

 Satisfied, he turns to Matt.

 MATT

So cheerful lying?

 MARCUS

    Pretty much.

 MATT

I don’t think I had enough time to do this. Normally this would take months, even years, of research and development.

 MARCUS

We don’t have the time to go through a whole drawn out process, we need money now. When they have to make the film about the beginnings, they’ll just have to make stuff up. Ok, here we go.

They knock on the door.

 MARCUS

Hello ma’am! We’re here today with an exciting new product for you. Do you suffer from the pain of having a vacuum cleaner that settles for merely doing the job it was designed for?

 WOMAN

We already have a vacuum cleaner, and we’re very happy with it, thank you.

 MARCUS

Wait, wait! I’m sure you don’t have one like this. Matt, show her.

 Matt puts down the vacuum cleaner and turns it on. It makes a loud crunching sound and begins moving forward. It is very loud.

 MARCUS

Whisper quiet according to some, it ‘cleans’ your house, and may or may not stream movies and music straight to your television!

Matt looks worried. The vacuum cleaner begins moving forward erratically. It is leaving large black marks on the carpet and shooting sparks. A nearby cat hisses at it and runs away.

 MARCUS

With just many low payments, this amazing new product can be yours!

 A loud bang is heard. The vacuum cleaner has stopped. Smoke is pouring from it.

 MARCUS

So, can I get your details Miss …?

 The vacuum cleaner catches fire.

 

 

  1. INT. APARTMENT. DAY

 MARCUS

I’m not going to lie, that could have gone better. Thanks for blocking that punch by the way.

Matt doesn’t say anything, and has a black eye. He looks miserable.

 MARCUS

Well, back to the drawing board with that one. I feel like we were close though. And it’s not like Ryan would have done any better. He would never have gone through with it.

He turns on the television.

 TV REPORTER

‘An idiot wielding a golf club was arrested in the city today. Wearing an orange bag on his head, the man repeatedly claimed that he was running a legitimate business …’

 MARCUS

Although, I have been wrong before.

END

Curtains

As a child, I was admitted to hospital often. Countless nights were spent in the frenzied rush to the hospital, followed by the agonizing purgatory of the emergency ward, seeing out the night in bleary-eyed waiting. Finally, I would be wheeled to the paediatric ward, oxygen tubes trailing behind in matted transparent coils. By the time I was sixteen, I was thoroughly accustomed to the process, and to the hospital itself. The off-white walls that never quite seemed clean; the aseptic lighting that seemed to drain all colour from whatever it touched. I would lie on my hospital bed, watching the routine of the ward, which was comforting in its unceasing process, and leave the curtains around my bed open, completely at ease.

On one occasion, I had been in the hospital for about a week, settled into the comfortable routine that I was now very familiar with. Later that day, a teenaged girl was brought into the room, and placed into the bed opposite me. I watched her for a moment. She was painfully thin, and was almost dwarfed by the bed, seeming to have sunk into it to escape from a biting cold that I couldn’t feel. After a few minutes, I decided to ask her name.

‘Hi, I’m Luke’ I ventured.

The girl raised her head, and considered me for a moment. Her eyes, a vivid shade of emerald green, ringed by darkness and made only more brilliant by the paleness of her skin, blinked slowly as if she was returning from some place far away.

‘Hello, I’m Sophie,’ she answered. ‘How long have you been here?’

‘About a week. It’s hard to tell in here sometimes. Without the television, I wouldn’t even know what day it was.’

She laughed at that, a quiet lilting sound that I felt wasn’t heard often.

‘It’s nice to meet you, Luke. It’d be nice to have someone to talk to in here.’

With that, she smiled; a sad, haunting smile that I have never truly forgotten. She then closed her eyes, and began to drift off to sleep.

Over the next few days, we spoke often, and I tried to make her laugh as often as I could. I liked her smile, I realised. As we talked, I discovered that she possessed a sharp and witty mind, undimmed by the fragility of her body. But I soon noticed things, like how she never ate. Meals would be brought to her, but she would only look at them with distaste. I watched as she hid food around her bed, and as she would take my plates to regurgitate food onto, trying in vain to remain unnoticed. I soon realised that Sophie was slowly dying, decaying away into dust from an illness I couldn’t possibly understand. We began to talk less as her energy faded, despite the increasingly desperate efforts of the doctors and nurses, but still those vibrant green eyes looked out from her bed, viewing the world with an energy I only wished she could harness to fight the demons that were slowly wasting her away. I would watch her during the night, observing the rise and fall of her breath, before I would fall into a troubled sleep. Then, one morning, she was gone. I stared at the empty bed opposite, feeling an immense sadness bite into the depths of my stomach.

‘What happened to Sophie?’ I asked the nurse, as she did her morning rounds.

‘We moved her to an intensive care unit’ the nurse replied vacantly, distracted as she took my pulse.

I remained silent, trying desperately to hold off tears. I was discharged a few days later, and was never comfortable in a hospital again. I never found out what happened to the girl with the luminous green eyes, whether she conquered the illness that was driving her to the brink of death, or if she finally succumbed to it during lonely and anguished nights. I have never forgotten her. From then on, each time I found myself in hospital, I drew the curtains closed around my bed.