Beep, beep, beep. Her bloody alarm. Hannah thought. Beep beep. She’d get up soon.
“Can someone turn that noise off?” an elderly voice asked. She wondered what was this person doing in her bedroom. The more she thought about it, the beep wasn’t an alarm and she was sat propped up in bed. Suddenly She remembered the goblin, the demon and a brief mental image of a car bonnet
She opened her eyes and saw a fluorescent tube light hanging overhead. She turned her head towards the beeping and winced. “Can someone turn that noise off? It’s not like she can hear it, poor thing,” the old lady voice remarked again.
“It’s okay. I’m awake,” Hannah replied
“Oh sorry dear, I thought you were still out,” the old woman added. Hannah shifted her weight slightly. Her chest was tight and every movement hurt. The whole world seemed far away. She looked to the old lady. Was the figure very small, or very far away. Whatever had happened to her had shot her perspective. The figure seemed a foot or two tall but otherwise shaped like a human. A lady in her seventies perhaps with long white grey hair. Hannah went to feel herself but felt a tug at her wrist. She tracked the sensation to the cannula in her hand and felt the plastic tube under her skin, going into her vein.
The fact Hannah wasn’t in agony lead her to figure she was on strong painkillers. This would explain the light-headedness. She wasn’t entirely convinced she wasn’t floating above the bed. She was reminded of having teeth removed as a teenager. Her first sensation of or like being drunk, years before she first tasted alcohol. She braced herself for neck pain and looked around. She moved her head and a dull stab went up the back of her like a blunted knife. Well it was definitely a hospital, that was reassuring. There were five other beds, four were occupied. Along with the tiny woman there was another woman, who sat reading the Daily Express. She had a pack of Snakes coming from her head. Some looked over the paper while one tried to eat it. Hannah laughed in a daze as the misbehaving snake was slapped away by the woman reading the paper. The laughter hurt. Another woman looked normal to Hannah though her white hair went all the way to her waist and covered her like an ever present shawl and Hannah kind of hoped she looked like that when she got old. The final bed was occupied but with curtains around it. Hannah eyed it as a green glow came from a gap in the curtains.
She craned her neck down with a wince. She definitely had whiplash or something similar. She was in a grey hospital gown. She considered the events leading up to the accident. She’d felt the heat from the demon and she’d smelled the goblin in the interview and all the patients sat around her seemed real. She thought on this for some time and it dawned on her that the idea of it being real was probably far more terrifying that it being fictional. Despite this all, eventually, she fell asleep again
Hannah woke up. A woman with a thick glossy beard was shining a torch into her eyes and saying her name. She fell asleep again.
Hannah woke up. A man with a blonde buzz cut was near her. “Hello?” she managed. She looked to him. His right arm had a sleeve tattoo of strange symbols. They seemed to move and dance around his skin. They constantly changed order and formed shapes and patterns on his arm. He put the clipboard down and looked to her and smiled warmly.
“Hello Hannah,” She fell asleep again.
Hannah woke up, it was night. someone was looking at her. A pale woman in a dark blue nurses uniform. Her eyes shone a bright red at their centre like she’d had LED’s placed inside her pupils. “Don’t mind me Hannah, I’m just changing your drip,” she said in a west country accent. She smiled and Hannah saw that two long fangs reached down over her lower teeth, each like a freshly sharpened knife. She opened a box. Something inside it gave off a bright blue light and cast long shadows across the room. Hannah could just about see other beds, with people asleep on them. The nurse produced a plastic bag filled with a liquid that was clearly the source of the bright light. It shone and danced over the nurses pale skin like patterns underwater as she hung it on the drip stand. Hannah watched the blue liquid move down the fine tube into her arm before she fell asleep again.
She woke again. An alarm had gone off. She opened her eyes to see figures rushing to the bed opposite her. Someone wheeled a trolley into the bay and pulled some machine off it. Despite the noise, Hannah fell asleep again.
Hannah woke an indeterminate amount of time later. She went to sit up and realised she was already propped up by the bed. She remembered the previous day and her monstrous surroundings before the pain meds had knocked her out. A quick glance reminded her than the patients were still there and mostly still not human and the glowing blue liquid was still flowing into her veins. It was dawn outside and the smell of toast and coffee filled the room so she figured it was morning. She ached everywhere, mostly in her head and her left arm. She followed the tube from her wrist to the strange blue liquid hanging next to her bed. She studied the bag briefly and saw it was marked with what looked to her like Norse runes and other strange symbols. She glanced around, double checking she hadn’t been dreaming. No she definitely was in a hospital. Nurses in various coloured uniforms stood talking to patients and serving food.
She looked at the patients. The woman with snakes for hair was enjoying her breakfast. The snakes moved around and some of them tried to get a bite of the breakfast cereal and others were fighting amongst themselves. The two foot tall lady sat nursing a seemingly huge cup of tea. The fairly human looking woman with hair down past her waist sat on the bed next to Hannah sipping coffee A man came in and checked the charts at the end of her bead. She recognised the slightly short man with a brown buzz cut with the moving tattoo. “Morning,” She said to him
“Morning Hannah, how are you?” he asked politely. He was well spoken with a hint of a local accent.
“Unsurprisingly, I feel like I hit a car, or a car hit me,” she laughed
“Well you’re not wrong there,” he noted.
“What’s the damage,” She asked, sitting up slowly. Her head felt warm and heavy.
“Well the doctors will discuss that later, but you’ve fractured a rib and they had to apply stitches to the back of your head.” Hannah instinctively went to feel the stitches and found the skin was sensitive to the touch. She looked back to the nurse
“Oh okay, cool,”
“I’m Nick by the way, I’m one of your nurses today,”
“Hi,” Hannah managed.
Another nurse approached them and spoke. Hannah noted the new nurse was reassuringly human looking. Nick looked to Hannah and smiled.
“I’ll be around if you need me, just ring the bell,” he gestured to a remote by her bed with a big red button on it. She nodded and smiled
She watched as two Healthcare assistants came in and asked what people wanted for breakfast. Hannah smiled as they both appeared reassuringly human. One of them, a short older woman with close cropped greying hair came up to her and offered her options in a slightly tired nasal voice. She ordered Brown toast, marmalade and corn flakes. All normal, all mundane. It was reassuring for a second until she looked past the nurse to see three of the twelve snakes on the other patients head looking straight at her. A thought hit Hannah. “Excuse me, nurse?” Hannah knew the woman wasn’t a nurse, but calling her Healthcare Assistant seemed awkward.
“Call me Kim,” she said with a tired smile.
“Ok, Kim, what day is it?”
“Tuesday,” So she’d only been out a day. Between the monsters and injuries and everything else this just warranted an “oh okay.” before adding “And I’m at Severnside Hospital?”
“Severnside Royal Hospital. Ward Thirteen,” she paused “Bay C Bed 5 to be specific” Kim said with a smile.
Kim returned with breakfast and placed it on the bedside table that could be pulled across her lap. It was only now she realised the small piece of paper. An NHS “With compliments” slip with a message hand written on it. “Cariad, see you soon, love of love, mum and dad,”
“Excuse me, do you know if my parents were here?” Hannah asked. Kim thought for a second.
“They phoned up last night. I think they are planning to come this afternoon,” Hannah’s face beamed with a smile and the HCA couldn’t help but smile back. “Thank you,” Hannah said. It hurt to smile, but it was so worth it.
Hannah ate her breakfast silently, removed from the wider world by her sleepiness and the painkillers going through her bloodstream. She found it hurt when her teeth applied pressure to anything. As she swallowed she could feel the bruising down her neck. Someone came and served her coffee. It was cheap instant coffee and the best and worst thing she had ever drunk as her body screamed for caffeine that it’d gone without for a whole eighteen hours.
Another indeterminate amount of time passed. Hannah knew she’d checked the clock but she’d forgotten what it had said. She checked and forgot again. Finally two figures entered the room. One was a Doctor and judging by the different coloured nurses uniform Hannah figured the other person was a Sister, or whatever senior nurses were called. Were Sisters still a thing? It took a moment to notice next to the doctor floated a pair of gloves. They were brown leather gloves with large metal rings around the cuffs. They moved around as if attached to an invisible person walking alongside the doctor. “Hello Doctor!” the woman with snakes for hair said quite loudly,
“Hello Mrs Katsaros, I’ll be with you in a minute, I just need to speak to this lady here. The two stopped at the end of her bed. The doctor, who was reading through Hannah’s file, offered her a polite smile. He was tall, with light brown hair in a short in an immaculate quiff. His white shirt was rolled up and he wore a Brown Paisley Waistcoat. “Hi Hannah, I’m Doctor Cunningham, this is Anne, she’s the ward manager. The nurse was quite striking. She was tall and quite imposing and even under the loose uniform she was quite muscular and toned. Her face was quite stern with defined cheekbones and a shaved head. She smiled politely. Hannah smiled back, admiring the woman’s look and pondered briefly if she should shave her head. It distracted her for a moment from the gloves which now floated just to the right of Doctor Cunningham, their fingers intertwined.
“How are you feeling,” Cunningham asked
“Okay, mostly high as a kite,” Hannah replied, frankly.
“Yes, you’re on opiates as pain management , they can have that effect. Are they managing your pain though?” he enquired
“Yeah, I think so. I occasionally get stabbing pains and my chest feels tight, it’s hard to tell, I’ve not long woken up”
“Right well if the pain gets worse we can give you something extra,” he said. Hannah’s gaze kept moving from him to the strange floating gloves and back again.
“Right, we’re going to send you for an MRI later today if possible,” Cunningham
“Is that the Big Ring one you go through or the big thing you go inside,” Hannah asked, a little excited
“the one you go inside,” He clarified
“cool,” she remarked. “I’ll have to take my piercings out?”
“Yes please, We just want to check if there’s any trauma to the brain tissue, we may also do X-Rays if thought necessary,” he said plainly. There was a pause, “If that’s okay?” he finally added.
“Yes, thanks,” Hannah said and they said their goodbyes. She watched as they walked to the next bed.
The doctors moved on and Hannah watched them speak calmly to the woman with the long hair in the bed next to her. She heard the woman’s name. “Jean”. Jean, Mrs. Katsaros, they all had names. Were they people? What if they were real? Did that mean they weren’t people? Or people but not human? Her mind considered this vast thought for a moment before a stabbing pain in her side overrode this and filled her head at the cost of all other thoughts. She reached for the buzzer and pressed it, soon enough. Nick was there. She asked for painkillers and Nick swiftly returned with a sweet tasting liquid to help and soon enough her eyelids grew heavy and she fell asleep again.
She awoke as one of the porters arrived mid-morning to take her down to radiology. A wheelchair rested in front of him. “Hello,” The porter smiled. He looked reassuringly human.
“Hi,” she said, smiling back.
“Radiology? MRI?” he said politely. She nodded and she swung her legs out of bed and hobbled over. She landed with a thud in the chair. “Careful,”
“Sorry, I think I’ve pulled a muscle in my,” she paused and sighed “Everything,” he chuckled at this.
“That is the correct medical term, yep,” he said before turning the chair around with Hannah in it . He headed first out of thee bay and then the ward. Hannah watched the patients and members of staff go past. She was a little disappointed to find out they did indeed still look like elves, ogres goblins and whatever else. Even the normal looking staff members seemed to have an eccentricity about them with bright, luminescent hair or dancing tattoos. Glancing into other bays she could see they too were populated by an even mix of monsters and normal looking humans. Well maybe they were all normal looking humans, she considered but to Hannah’s battered brain, many looked like inhuman creatures.
They left the ward at a tremendous pace. At first Hannah felt quite unsafe but was reassured by the knowledge that the porter knew what he was doing. Soon enough she was waiting in radiology and bathed in the normality of it all. Normal patients waiting for normal treatments. No glowing liquids or moving tattoos or whatever else. Was it chance that the hallucinations seemed to stop at the ward door?
The MRI was exactly what she had expected. With more wincing and slow movement she lay back on the stretcher sticking out from the enormous machine. She’d been dosed up again on drugs before the MRI and resisted screaming with pain as she lay flat. The Radiologist handed her a button to hold while she was inside in case the enclosed space became too much. There was one final check that she’d removed all piercings. She reassured the radiologist that all her piercings would’ve been visible if she still had them in. She hadn’t been convinced that they were magnetic and had to be removed but figured it was sensible given the potential alternative. She rested her head in the surprisingly comfy rest that engulfed her ears and muffled all sides. As the stretcher slid inside the huge machine she wondered for a moment if metal sparked and lit with plasma inside this machine, magnetic or not. Like her grandmothers plates with the gold inlay when put inside a microwave. Hannah’s grandmother had been so confused when she found her granddaughter microwaving clean, empty plates for fun.
THUNK. Hannah jumped briefly, taken by surprised. Another THUNK all around her and an enormous mechanical whirr, like she was inside a giant dot matrix printer or floppy disk drive. More whirrs, more thunks. Thunk thunk thunk thunk thunk. She found herself tapping her foot as the massive machine started putting out a beat. She found herself singing along, ”Hearts on a string like an old fashioned phone can, bang ringy ring and you think you’re gonna get some,” She mumbled to herself. The beat got louder. Her mind drifted onto another song. “Good morning Killer King you’re a Star. That’s perfect hold it right where you are, the weather’s kinda lousy today, dum de dum de dum dedum dum,”
The radiologist looked to his assistant, “Is she saying something?” they both frowned and looked through the glass at the patient inside the MRI. “I don’t think so,” his assistant replied
“She’s tapping her foot,” the Radiologist observed. “Is it affecting the scan?”
“No, we’re looking way further up,”
“Whatever, carry on then,”
The regular thumping of the machine continued and Hannah was off in her own world inside the machine. “Do you wanna dance? Do you wanna fight? Do you wanna get drunk and stay the night? Do you wanna smoke? Till our throats are sore? Make out then and then talk and then make out some more,”
“She’s started moving about quite a lot in there,” The radiologist commented, “and is she shouting for help?”
“She hasn’t pressed the button,” the assistant replied. The radiologist leant into the microphone.
“Are you okay in there Hannah?
Hannah froze on the spot as the radiologist’s voice came in through the pads holding her head in place. Her face flushed bright red. “Sorry, I um, yes! I’m fine!” she said quickly. “I guess I was singing to myself, sorry,”
“It’s fine, we just wanted to make sure, and can you stay still while you’re in there please?” the Radiologist added.
“S-sorry,” she stuttered and stopped singing. Still the song carried on in her head.