Nature “Dark Hospital”
 Nature “Prison”
 Wolfnacht “Pa Vikingtog”
“Wakey wakey, sleepyhead”
“Where am I? What’s going on?”
“You gave us all a good scare there kiddo. We very nearly lost you”
“I don’t…I don’t remember”
“It’s probably best you can’t. You’re lucky to still be alive you know. Somebody up there must like you”
“What happened? My head is hurting”
“That’s just a side effects from the meds. It’ll wear off soon enough but I’d suggest just taking it easy for now. You’ve been through a lot this evening”
“Why can’t I remember anything?”
“It’s called the joys of selective memory. Well that and the shock”
“Please tell me what’s going on? Where am I?”
“I’d say that was obvious wouldn’t you Ronnie?”
Crystal clear unfortunately, and considering I loathe hospitals with a vengeance, I’m not altogether thrilled to find myself in one. I watched my father admitted to a hell hole just like this and he never left the place so I’ve spent the past twenty years or so avoiding them like the plague. I’ve been incredibly fortunate up until now and have never had to endure so much as an overnight stay but it would appear that my clean bill of health has now come to a rather abrupt end.
“How do you know my name?”
“Ronald Masters. 46 years old and I’m pleased to see that you’ve agreed to donate your organs for medical research. There should be more people like you. If there were, then my job would be a hell of a lot easier”
“How do you know all that?”
“Your wallet silly. It was either that or everyone continue calling you John Doe and it seems so impersonal, don’t you think? Cute photo on your driver’s license by the way”
I’ve always been a sucker for a woman in uniform and that sounded suspiciously like a come on but I’m sure she’d put it down to bedside manner and I’m hardly in the most flirtatious mood. Her name badge reads Nurse McCulloch although it’s hard to focus on it when the top three buttons of her dress are gaping wide. Talk about a sight for sore eyes, if I didn’t know better I’d suspect I’d died and gone to heaven although this place smells far too sterile for the pearly gates of Zion. None of that matters right now as I need answers and I’m fairly convinced that it’s her job to provide them.
“Please tell me why I’m here”
“I’d say you’ve been through enough for the time being wouldn’t you?”
“I wouldn’t know. But it would be awfully nice if you were to fill me in”
“All in good time Ronnie. Do you mind me calling you that by the way?”
“Whatever. Why won’t you tell me?”
“I’m really going to need you to relax. The doctor will be performing his ward rounds in about ten minutes or so and you can ask him all the questions you wish”
“Bullshit. You should be able to fucking tell me”
“There’s no call for that kind of language young man. I’ll put that one down to frustration but must insist that there are no more outbreaks like that”
“I just want to know what’s going on”
“And you will. As soon as the doctor arrives. Until then, I’d very much appreciate it if you treat me with the due respect”
“I don’t have to listen to this. Go get your manager please”
That’s it, the gloves are off now. Nurse McCulloch may possess the kind of pouting rosebud lips that I could really make use of at this present moment but her patient care leaves a great deal to be desired. Call me unreasonable but all I’m asking is for some sort of mild clarity. The last thing I remember, I was returning from the 7-eleven with a bottle of Jack Daniels beneath one arm and a bag of microwavable popcorn the other, but everything from that point forward is a complete blur. Was I in a road accident? Did I simply pass out? And why can’t I feel my legs?
“Nurse! I can’t feel my legs. I CAN’T FEEL MY LEGS!”
“Even more reason to take it easy”
“Why can’t I feel my legs?”
“Boy you’re an inquisitive one ain’t cha? Don’t worry, it’s only temporary. We’ll have you up and about in no time”
“I’m scared. I’m really scared”
“Poor baby. Would you like me to go get you a lollipop”
“NO! I DON’T WANT A FUCKING LOLLIPOP!”
“Now look what you’ve done. You only gone and woke Eleanor and it’s taken most my shift to get the old girl to sleep. Thanks a bunch Ronnie”
Hold on, where does she think she’s going? What sort of whacked out institution is this anyway? I was already more than aware that hospitals sucked but this is taking the piss. With Nurse McCulloch not forthcoming with answers and full body paralysis gripping me tight, it looks like that good luck she spoke of has well and truly run out. So what now? I wait. No great surprise there, I suppose they’re understaffed like every other infirmary on the planet, either that or they’ve one helluva sick sense of humor. Either way, there’s nothing I can do about it, so I guess I’ll just have to lay here and suck it up like a chump. Fuck it, I can still move my head. Let’s see what other walking wounded are in for the long haul. She mentioned an Eleanor so I reckon that would be as good a place as any to start.
Jesus, she looks just about fit for the crematorium. I hope I never get that old and haggard. It also seems like she’s off with the fairies so I doubt I’ll get a huge amount of sense from this one. What I’d give right now to be that oblivious to my surroundings. If you ask me, dementia gets way too tough a rap. I suppose there would be neither harm or foul in attempting to spark up some kind of conversation here. She may not be particularly lucid but it sure beats staring up at the whitewashed ceiling until the doctor decides to show up.
“It’s too late for you”
“I beg your pardon”
“The light has almost gone now”
Yup. As nutty as a squirrel stool that one. Honestly, I don’t know why I bothered. Well I may as well humor her for the time being as alternative options are decidedly thin on the ground.
“Where’s the light off to?”
“He’s taking it away”
“Who’s taking it away?”
“Soon there will be only darkness”
“Can you even hear me?”
“Of course I can. I may not be as fit as a fiddle but I’m not deaf you know”
“Great. Now we’re getting somewhere. Eleanor isn’t it?”
“It was. He took that too”
“Look lady, I don’t know what kind of morphine they’ve got you on but…”
“Don’t patronize me you ignorant little shit”
News just in – we’ve got a live one.
“I wouldn’t dream of it”
“And you can cut that sarcasm out while you’re at it. Your generation are all the same, just because you’ve got your whole lives ahead of you, you assume that you know better than anyone. Self-obsessed the lot of you. “Just put her in a home” you say. “Let someone else take care of the old dear. She’s served her purpose”. Do you have any idea how it feels to be deemed superfluous? I was Pretty Polly model at sixteen you know. Best legs in all state. They called me “the legs”. I could take my pick back in high school. There wasn’t a single senior who didn’t have my photo pinned up in his locker. Even the ones with girlfriends. But nobody wants to know when the varicose veins start to show. Suddenly I’m invisible. Nothing more than a drain on the economy. Funeral arrangements waiting to be finalized. A ghost drifting through a world I once felt a part of. So don’t you even think of getting smart with me sonny boy.
Well that told me. I dare not utter that out loud, as she may be a fucking fruit loop, but she could also smell a pig’s fart in an abattoir and I could do without any more drama after the last revelation.
“He’ll take your light away soon, don’t you worry about that”
“Look, I’m sorry if I upset you, truly I am. For the record, I was raised to respect my elders and any ignorance on my part was not intentional. I just want to know why I’m here. That nurse wouldn’t tell me anything”
“You really want to know don’t you?”
“Yeah I figure that’s pretty much my civilian right”
“Had I mentioned I’m rich?”
“Sorry, have we changed the subject here?”
“Stinking rich actually. My net worth was around twelve million last time I checked”
“Right. And you’re telling me this why?”
“Did you know they do O.A.P. discounts? It’s funny, I could buy this place and turn it into a bingo hall. Yet they knocked $50,000 off the asking price because I’m classed as a senior citizen”
“Is that your medical costs? Wow, that’s extortionate”
“What makes you think I’m ill? The labored breathing was it? Or perhaps the sunken eyes and faint scent of urine, which is the man in the bed next to me if you were wondering. I’ll have you know that I’m here purely for the entertainment”
Maybe I’m missing the thread here, but the last time I checked, hospitals weren’t known for their fun activities. The whitewashed ceiling is beginning to feel like a more attractive option after all. That said, I am vaguely curious about the ticket price. I mean, what kind of event could possibly be so spectacular that you’d pay that kind of asking fee for front row seats? Moreover, that was only the amount they knocked off the bill. Even if that’s a mightily generous 10% discount, it’s still just a chip off half a billion and who the hell pays that for simple “entertainment”?
“So when is this show you paid so much to see?”
“Soon. It starts when the lights dim”
“That’s it? That’s all you’re saying? Not at all cryptic are you?”
Well that was a complete waste of my time and energy. I’m actually more confused now than I was previously and still no closer to finding out what they want from me here. If I disliked hospitals before today, then I hate the places with an unrivalled passion now. With Eleanor throwing precious little light on my situation and Nurse McCulloch no longer anywhere to be found, it looks like I’m stuck here scratching my head until further notice. That’s easier said than done when you’re dead from the neck down. This doctor had better have some answers for me as I’ve got a good mind to sue when I finally get out of here. Hospitals are supposed to be places of healing but I’m hardly feeling on the road to recovery right now.
Worse still, she mentioned something about the man in the bed next to her smelling of piss and I reckon I just found out why that is. Unless I’m mistaken, he’s not exactly in the best of health. Perhaps it has something to do with his off-shade of yellow or the fact that flies have begun to congregate around his bed post. If my nerves were shot already, then they’re downright obliterated now. I’d never actually seen a real life dead person before today and was quite happy to keep that dry spell going. But there is no mistaking that he’s ready for the mortuary slab and the least they could have done would be to pull a curtain around him to spare the old boy the indignity.
What now? I think I’m all done with socializing you know. Well lo-and-behold, if it’s not the elusive Nurse McCulloch. Wonder what pearls of wisdom she’s going to impart this time.
“What do you want?”
“It’s time for your medication”
“I’m not interested”
“I’m afraid it’s compulsory. Don’t worry, it will help take the edge off”
“Do you know what would take the edge off right now? Jack Daniels. But I’m guessing you don’t have any of that on your trolley do you?”
“I’m afraid not. Don’t worry, you won’t feel a thing”
Jesus, look at the size of that syringe. She ain’t sticking that thing anywhere near me and I’ll damn well tell her as much.
“You’re not sticking that thing anywhere near me. Just so you know”
“Tell you what, if you’d like me to stop, just raise your left arm”
“What is this? Some kind of sick joke? Do you get off on being a bitch or does it just come natural to you?”
“The doctor will be here in just a moment and we can’t have you being all wound-up when he arrives can we?”
“I mean it. Don’t you come any closer”
“There we go. All better”
“Fuck you and fuck this whole place”
“What did I tell you about minding your language? That just won’t do”
I don’t know what’s more disturbing right now. The fact that she’s dressing me down or the dry slaps to the face she’s administering as she says it. I wouldn’t mind but it’s the only part of my body I have any jurisdiction over currently and her ring finger is going to leave a mark if she carries on.
“Stop it. I swear to God, when I get out of this bed…”
“You’ll what? Press charges? Have me struck off the medical register? I don’t think so”
“Nothing like that no. I was thinking more along the lines of killing you with my bare hands”
“Good luck with that Ronnie”
And with that, she’s off again and I’m feeling even more woozy than I did before. Whatever she injected me with, I don’t much care for it. The whole room is beginning to spin around me and I’m not sure how much more I can take of this. If only I had a choice in the matter.
“Something got you rattled dear?”
Great, it’s Eleanor The Cryptic.
“Yes, something’s got me rattled. I want out. Is that so hard to understand? I’m done with this shit”
“Not quite yet you’re not. Only the doctor can make that particular call and you won’t have to wait for long as I can see him at the ward entrance as we speak. I’m sure he’ll answer any burning questions you might have”
Thank fuck for that. I can’t quite make him out at this point as the lights have dimmed just as she prophecized. But he’s gonna have some serious explaining to do, that’s for damn sure. I’d never been sick a single day of my life before now and was proud of that record. Suddenly I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever get out of this infernal place and I’m quite aware that doctors are generally the bearers of bad news. “I’m dreadfully sorry to say that the cancer has spread and is no longer treatable” – that was what I was told when my father took a turn for the worse and three days later he was stone cold dead. 57 he lived to and I’ve got this sinking feeling that I won’t make it to that particular checkpoint beacon. I’m going to die in here and the worst thing is that it’ll be without the faintest clue why.
“Mr. Ronald Masters. I hear you’ve been giving my staff quite the runaround”
“It’s funny, I could’ve said the same thing. So are you going to tell me what the fuck is going on or what?”
“All in good time young man”
“That’s precisely what she said”
“You mean Nurse McCulloch?”
“Yeah and I highly recommend finding yourself another skivvy as her bedside manner sucks”
“She’s actually one of our longest-serving members of staff I’ll have you know”
“Why does that not surprise me in the slightest?”
“Let’s dial things back to introductions shall we? My name is Doctor Klaus von Tripp and I’m the resident surgeon here at Saint Ludwig’s. I hope your stay has been restful until now”
“You taking the piss mate? And where the hell is Saint Ludwig’s? I’ve never heard of the place”
“You wouldn’t have. It’s a private hospital you see”
I can barely make him out as the drugs have now well and truly taken effect, but what I can discern, I’m starting to wish I couldn’t. Through my limited blurred vision, he looks like pretty much your average surgeon, apart from the black swastika on his left bicep that is. I’ve watched more than enough old war movies to read that as a surefire sign of SS involvement, and if my eyes aren’t the most trustworthy source right now, then the name Klaus von Tripp is something of a dead giveaway. Have I been airlifted to Munich without my knowledge? I thought they’d rounded up all the Nazi war criminals by now. I wouldn’t mind but I’m not even frigging Jewish.
“I’d really like to go home now if that’s alright with you”
“You’re free to leave at any time Mr. Masters”
“How am I supposed to do that when I can’t feel MY MOTHERFUCKING LEGS?”
“Of course yes. Such an unfortunate state of affairs. All I can do on behalf of Saint Ludwig’s is to assure you that my team and I did everything in our power to save them”
“What do you mean save them?”
“Well I’m not altogether certain I can make it any more clear for you. We packed them in ice of course. Did you know that a severed limb can still be reattached a number of hours after amputation?”
“Don’t worry, we’ve got the ideal donor in mind and I’ll be scrubbing for surgery straight after our little tête-à-tête has concluded. Needless to say, the wounds were both disinfected and cauterised”
Oh God, he’s reaching for the bed linen. Now would be a fairly decent time to wake up from this nightmare but something tells me that I’m way beyond smelling salts. 46 years I’ve taken my legs for granted but if he draws back the sheet to reveal two untouched getaway sticks, then I swear I’ll never do so again. And the very first thing I’ll do when I’m on my feet again is plant my left kneecap straight in this Nazi prick’s “hoden”. My German may be sketchy but I know what testicles means.
“As you can see, we stitched you up good as new. Don’t wish to be boastful but that’s some of my finest work. Now if you don’t mind for just a minute, I’ll leave you to mull over any questions you might have as I’ve just spotted my favorite patient over to your left and I simply have to say a quick hello”
Good luck getting a lick of sense out of Eleanor. She’s off her head that one.
“Mrs. Devlin. To what do we owe this divine pleasure?”
“I couldn’t miss this one. Dr. von Tripp, you’re the very best there is and don’t let anyone ever tell you any different”
I might have something to say about that particular commendation.
“You’re too kind Eleanor. I’d like to take this opportunity in thanking you for all your support over the past three years. It’s because of your generous donations that we can open a fresh wing and you’ll be pleased to hear that we’re calling it the Devlin Ward as a humble token of our appreciation”
“You really don’t have to do that. What’s a couple of million between friends? Besides, you put so much care and attention into your work and it’s my pleasure just to observe such a master craftsman ply his trade”
“You’ll give me a big head Mrs. Devlin”
“I do have just the one request however”
“Just name it and I will make it so”
“Are you working on the arms next?”
“As a matter of fact, I am. You must have read my mind”
“Can you slide my bed around so I can get a better view? I paid good money for this privilege and don’t want to miss a thing”
“Why of course. How does this suit you?”
“Perfect doctor. Thank you”
“Anything for my number one patient”
They’re in cahoots? This dotty old dear is actually funding the whole sordid gig? And what was all that about arms? On second thoughts, perhaps ignorance is bliss with that one. Given that he just produced a set of flesh-cleaving retractors and a bone saw that I’m reasonably assured hasn’t seen so much as an antibacterial wipe since the second world war, I’d say my dimensions are about to change a second time and there couldn’t be less that I could do about it.
I don’t know who I despise more right now, Dr. von Tripp for the fact that he’s preparing to saw both of my arms off or Eleanor Devlin for the sheer excitement spread across her face at the prospect of playing spectator. I’d scream but something tells me that Saint Ludwig’s is more your underground bunker kind of institution and reasoning with the man isn’t an option as he clearly takes a great deal of pride in his work.
“Right then Ronald. Shall we get started?”
“Please don’t. I’ll do anything you want”
“Such a generic response. Just think of all the good you’ll be doing”
“Indeed yes. Soon the Third Reich will be strong once more and you’ll have played a key part in their reassembly. Not to mention the fact that you’ll be making an old woman deliriously happy. Don’t you want to be a martyr for the cause?”
“How can I put this in a way that you’ll understand…NEIN!”
“Very good. I’m impressed. We’ll have you singing Mein Führer in no time”
“I’ll pay you”
“My dear boy, it’s a little late for a bidding war, and besides, I suspect that Mrs. Devlin’s pockets are a little deeper than yours”
“You don’t know that”
“That’s where you’re wrong. You see, we don’t just pull any passing nobody off the street for these procedures. We’ve done our homework on you Ronald and you happen to fit all the criteria”
“But I’ve never seen you before in my life”
“Your GP’s name is Dr. Hans Müller, am I correct?”
“Yes and what’s that got to do with anything?”
“On the 13th March, 2017, you undertook a full medical examination with Dr. Müller if my records are correct. Do I really need to spell it out for you?”
“Would you mind terribly? It’s just I haven’t got the faintest clue how that’s relevant to you cutting off my fucking arms and legs”
“It’s all in the measurements my good man. I have very clear specifications and your limbs match up better than any others”
“So you’re building what? A super soldier?”
“I’d love to say that you cotton on fast but I tired of this conversation five minutes back. Besides, there is much work still to be done, and in an hour or so, your legs will be useless meaning this whole exercise would all have been in vain. Before I forget, Mr. Masters I’d like you to meet the two interns who will be overseeing our little operation, Reinhard and Sigfrid”
I’m searching frantically for upsides at this present moment and the only one I can come up with is that I cannot feel the cold steel working its way through the bone and sinew. Regrettably the mind supplies its own chorus line of pain in circumstances such as these and I’d give anything right now just to be granted swift release.
“There we go, all done”
“Bravo Dr. von Tripp”
“Thank you Eleanor. You see, that really wasn’t that bad was it Mr. Masters?”
“YOU CUNT. I’LL FUCKING KILL YOU!”
“Well that’s hardly gratitude is it? Nurse McCulloch? I’m going to need you to clean up this mess before I begin with the next phase of the procedure”
“Next phase? Next phase? What do you mean by next phase?”
“Had I not mentioned it? I’m dreadfully sorry, must have slipped my mind. I’ll need your full cooperation for this as there is precious little margin of error in neurosurgery and it’s never really been my field. Did you ever hear the term “a good mind is a terrible thing to waste”? Nurse McCulloch? Before you get started, could you be a dear and fetch me my drill pease?