The challenge for this week's Flash Fiction Friday was to write a medical thriller.
This week, we want you to take us into a hospital, clinic, or physician’s office. Most of the time, we’re in and out. All we require is a clearance note to be able to return to work, or we only need one additional vaccination to keep us compliant with school policy. But, what if, on one visit, we see, or experience, something that causes us concern? For instance, what’s that unnerving whining sound that’s coming from behind the curtain in Treatment Room C, or why did two different nurses call you back for extra blood samples when you were already on your way out?
It’s all routine, they say. Nothing to worry about, they say. Don’t give it another thought, they say. Comforting words, right?
Prompt: Write a story set in a healthcare facility
Genre: Medical Thriller
Word Count: 1,500 or less
Mine is around 700 words, and best savoured with a bit of Dijon mustard.
It was nice for a change to not be the biggest person in the room. This clinic was new, promising amazing weight losses, but they had cautioned that program might take weeks, might take months. They stressed the cutting of old negative ties and patterns, so only took clients that could say they were now unencumbered with links to friends and families, looking for those free to take themselves 'off the grid' for however long it took.
I'd paid the money, signed the forms, and had shown up as specified at 8 am, after 12 hours of fasting. It was now almost noon, and while others had been called in, none had come back - well except for one guy. He did look a little over-weight, but certainly not as extreme as the rest of us. He'd been given a refund by the nurse, and sent on his way. Leaving me to sit and wait, and wonder at all the moans and groans from behind the clinic door.
I was starting to think this was all a mistake, when the nurse called my name. She led me into an examination room and explained the program. There would be an extensive massage, with a proprietary blend of oils and herbs, designed to soften the skin and prepare it for the treatment. To help with that, they would first apply a depilatory cream over my whole body. And before it all, I would be given a high colonic irrigation. Between that and the extensive massage, I would probably find myself adding to all those groans. The next stage would be a series of very hot baths, part of the overall process to basically cook the fat out of me. It sounded a little strange, but I was way past just obese, and willing to try anything.
They gave me some soothing tea during the initial procedures, a sweet drink that made me feel quite mellow. The massage seemed to go on forever, and left me supple, oily, and fragrant. I had almost dozed off, when a nurse came to take me to the next stage - the hot baths. And were they ever hot. Not to bad to start, but mine kept going up and up it seemed. It reminded me of that story of the frog that was put into warm water, and then eventuality boiled. The nurse had settled me in, with my arms and legs on some supports, and left me with another drink, cold this time, to sip on while in the bath. Unfortunately, it was too spicy for me at first, but eventually I ended up getting so thirsty I tried it again. Unfortunately, the pepper got to me, and I sneezed - one of those convulsive sneezes where you sort of curl up in a ball. As I did so I heard several clunks under the water in the bath. A series of restraints had closed just where my wrists and ankles had been. What was with that? I scrambled out of the tub, and was amazed at how cool the room air now felt. I checked the control settings and saw that it was only set for 100. I peered closer - it was 100C, or 212F, as in boiling. What were they trying to do - kill me?
I grabbed a robe and peered out into the hallway. It was empty, with just a series of doors. I slipped along the hall and checked some of the other rooms. They all had tanks like mine, some with slightly bemused patients, happily bobbing in the water, empty drink container by the tub. In some the victims were unconscious. In a few of the baths they looked very dead, very red. And smelling a lot like my grandmother's soup.
I had to get out. The first and second exit doors I checked were locked very firmly. I was about to start yelling for help when I noticed that the door at the end was propped open just a crack, with a piece of cardboard wedged against the frame. I burst through, and found myself just a few feet from a busy sidewalk and safety, As I made my escape, robe flapping, I noticed a nurse against the wall, cigarette to her lips, and a startled expression on her face.
Thank God for smokers, I thought.