This piece is the opening of a new novel concept. It is written from a fixed point of view in a room, not from a person’s view.
After the acid, his vision was no more than silhouettes through net curtains.
‘Does anyone know anything?’ Voices, whispering secrets, discoveries.
‘Have we any witnesses? It happened in broad daylight right in the centre of town,’ the sound carried on weighted breath, muted by the thick glass of the window. Its owner was just out of sight down the corridor.
‘None, sir. I knew him; from school. He helped everyone.’ A sigh of tears.
‘Well, no one is helping him today.’ The measured steps of authority faded away, the voices just a memory on the air.
They know nothing.
Curtain rings jangled, snatched open with a hiss of nylon. The bedside lamp painted the sheets with sick shadows. Hands: one balled in bandages, the other, rose-pink, gripped the air with intensity. A soft whir heralded the release of morphine. The rose unfurled, setting the victim adrift toward oblivion.
A jug of water stood next to an upturned glass, neither usable to the occupant. A burst of pollen brightened the dust on the bedside cabinet, a tear from the weeping lilies suffering in the gloom. A dressing gown hung from a wardrobe on a stained wooden coat hanger, its hook fingering the lip of the door.
In measured silence she steps around the bed to investigate the soft tapping at the window. She huffs out a sharp breath at the sight of the robin fixated by the red mites negotiating the dust boulders in their path. The bird hops the length of one foot and pecks another inch of the sill clean before vanishing in a blur of wings into the privet bailey protecting this infirmary from the paparazzi braying at the kerbside.
It’s a wonder anyone in the unit can get any rest. Never has the hospital been so exciting. Exciting to everyone but the occupants in room seven. To one, it is a refuge of pain. To the other, it is the pain of guilt. Guilt that brings her to his bedside. Guilt clawing at her breast to escape. Guilt that would drive a saint to pray. But she is no saint. Already she is plotting her escape.
‘Did anyone see you arrive my dear? Do take a look at the photo by the bedside. Do you recognise the children playing in the pool?’ She shook the thoughts from her head.
Her heart pounds to the point of pain. She closes her eyes, tight, she bites her lip, turning the cherry white then red. ‘Why?’ She asks of the closing stillness. He lay there oblivious to the world: to her rage at him. ‘You brought this on yourself.’ She leans over him, her soft bosom close to his chest. ‘I hope you die for what you’ve done. You took everything from me. Everyone will see this as a result of how you lived. You’re lucky it’s only your face I got melted.’ Spittle dripped from her lips to his. She stood, ran her tongue over her lips, tasting the iron. ‘Is there no end to what you can do?’
She stood there, watching the slowness of his breathing. Was he unaware of her? Filthy bruises surrounded the site of the tracheostomy poking out of his throat like a robotic implant. The ventilator gasped into life. ‘Why don’t you just die!’ She kicked the bed, catching the pedal with her foot. A caterwaul of alarms screamed for attention. ‘Bastard’ she hissed slithering from the room beneath the crimson strobe of emergency light. She could hear footfalls hitting the floor with a clop and slap as they homed in on the alarm. She dared a final look through the glass. He was going nowhere, was telling no-one anything, he did not need a name. He had all he deserved burned into his precious face. She walked away, unfastened the white coat allowing it to flap around as she increased her gait and ran.