Humanity @ 13% – Chapter One (five of six)

Nurses came and went. They wore blue uniforms and mostly revolved around a chaotic, unorganised desk, littered with papers and folders. What I assumed to be a doctor appeared, and she was immediately surrounded by an explosion of activity, as the nurses and other staff vied for her attention. I gathered from the exasperated whispers of complaint that her presence was a rare occurrence. The doctor wore a charcoal suit that was creased and shiny with age and use. She flapped her hands at the nuisance the nurses caused, then checked some of their paper charts as they thrust them under her nose, and she disappeared almost as quickly as she had appeared. Time passed, and the doctor did not return.

I rose from the chair and strode over to the administration desk and I went unchallenged as I drifted behind it. I picked up a stack of papers. A nurse using a telephone looked across at me, so I took the initiative. ‘Nurse, I’m looking for a young girl. Blonde, blue eyes.’ As I spoke, I flashed her the back of my stolen identity card so that she couldn’t see the picture of the woman I’d taken it from. I need not have worried because she did not spare it a glance.

The nurse pointed towards a white board on the wall where names and acronyms were recorded in blue pen. ‘Rosie O’Connell, ward five. She presents with a pulmonary infection. Are you the specialist we requested?’ In answer to her, I held my hand out and she gave me a tablet with the girl’s case notes. I made a show of reading the information then showed the nurse my back and strode purposefully away. I thought that I may have overdone the dismissive attitude, but she said nothing.

I found a cupboard opposite the main desk and I passed my stolen ID card across the reader and heard the locking mechanism disengage. I took a syringe enclosed in plastic from the top shelf and put it into my pocket. I made a point of doing this as slowly as possible. Those watching would think I had every right of access, and every credential.

Ward five was a private room containing only Rosie’s bed. She was a small child, and she lay with her back to me, huddled up in the rough starched sheets. She was asleep. I treaded softly to the foot of her bed and took up her status chart. She was thirteen. Around the same age as April when she had died.

By the time a human reaches their early teens, their organs are almost completely fully grown. And they are at their freshest.

‘Who’s there? Mum?’ The girl began to stir but maintained her back to me.

‘I’m the specialist,’ I said.

Words copyright David J Harrison

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on

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