To celebrate the approach of the release-date of “Green Haven”, I proudly offer you a large chunk of chapter 1. Please venture beyond the link to read it. I hope you enjoy this snippet!
Chapter 1 – He’s dead
“Priscilla. Hey, Priscilla. You can stop now. He’s dead.”
Someone yanks my shoulder, hard too. Damn him. I open my eyes and seeing the white sheet I realise where I am. Why do I always have to zone out like that? The smell of the operating room fills my nose. I have no choice but to look at the man I am holding. Well, his hand. And that’s no use any more as he’s dead.
“Are you okay?” It’s doctor Holden’s voice.
I nod. “Yeah, I’m fine. Thanks for not entirely dislocating my shoulder,” I say as I rub my face with both hands. “I need a coffee. Or something stronger. What went wrong? And since when is the scent off-limits?”
The doc shakes his head. “Same thing as so often, he was in too late. Bar fights are mean things and people with burst-guns and rip-knives are the worst ingredients. He was on the wrong end of too many.”
With a simple movement one of the nurses covers the dead man’s face. “Get lost, Pris, you done four now. You guys are allowed three a day tops. Move or I kick y’out.” Lorna’s her name. “You were in so deep, you didn’t smell the bottle.”
I get up, my knees and back aching and cracking, everything popping back into place. “You guys need guys like us-” I start to lecture her but Lorna grabs me by the arm and drags me to the door.
“Scoot or I’m a go kick your ass!”
Before I scoot I ask her why she’s so obsessed with my butt, then I quickly leave. I know she will kick me and she kicks hard. Once outside the operating room I lean against the wall and rest my head against it. I should not have been so stupid to do four people again today. It’s going to kill me but there are not many menaces. I shake my head at the stupid name but it’s shorter than mental anaesthesiology assistants.
Tom comes walking up. Tom’s alright, he’s a safety guy. One of the few allowed near the operating rooms. “You look like you need some cheering up.”
“I’m fine, Tom,” I lie, “did not overdo it today and only one died, so that’s a good thing I guess, right? How are you and the wife and kids? No more problems with the neighbours?”
He hooks his arm around mine and with a grin he pulls me away from the wall and towards the cantina while I keep talking. I always keep talking. Tom is one of the few who never tells me to shut up and just breathe, he’s not much of a talker. He pushes me onto a chair and gets coffee.
“Here. Drink. This is strong,” he simply says as he puts the mug in front of me. While I try to sip the hot, black stuff he tells me about his family and that the problems with his neighbours are almost dealt with. “Just hope Josh lays low,” he ends his account.
Josh is Tom’s son, a bright little hothead who is always on the barricades when there is something that smells like injustice. And Josh has a nose for that. Gets him in trouble a lot because there’s plenty injustice going around everywhere.
“Are you out gaming or stuff again tonight?” he asks me while I burn my lip.
“Ouch, damn. No, games are off tonight, it’s Flyer night, remember?” I remind him. “I’m going over to Bashir’s, the others are too but we’re not sure if Dolores will make it. She has to work.”
We’re all looking forward to the new episode of the Black Flyer, a really kick-ass superhero show. Bashir has the biggest video-wall of us all so we usually horde his place.
“Bashir? Is he off duty? I saw his name on the roster for night shift.” Tom’s eyes twinkle. That always gives him away but I decide to play.
“What? Are you kidding me? We can’t have Bashir on duty, we need his vid-wall!” I slam the mug down too hard, a puddle of coffee jumps from it and hits the table. And my hand. Good thing it is not that hot any more but it still burns.
“Careful,” Tom warns, well meaning and too late.
“Oh well, I’m in a hospital.” I shrug and wipe my hand on my green tunic.
While he watches me Tom tells me that he is on dead man’s shift and his wife will record the Flyer for him. “I’ll probably wake up on the couch in the morning, with a sore neck,” he grins, “I plan to watch it when I get home.” We laugh and talk a bit more while people walk in and out of the cantina. Most greet us, some don’t. They’re the pricks.
Then Tom has to go back on his round so we get up. He tells me to take care while going home and warns me to eat something. I assure him that Bashir always has food around. Usually that’s true. I make my way to the locker room, change, throw my green stuff in the bin for laundry and put on my coat. It’s pissing down again outside, nearly always does. I can hear the rain against the windows. No need to look at it, I’ll be having my share of that soon enough. Umbrella duty again, for sure. With my bag over my shoulder I make sure my knife and my stinger are in my pocket where I can get to them quickly. A girl has to be able to take care of herself, right?
It’s busy in the hallway where I have to go through get out. Strange too, as it is not visiting hour – oh crap, wait, it is visiting hour. My bad. Usually I’m out of here already. And I should get my butt out now or I won’t make it to Bashir’s in time.
Chandra’s on duty at the door this aftern- oh, it’s near evening. “How’s it going, girl? You look like shit warmed up. Overdone it again?” She’s charming as ever.
I shrug. “Sometimes you just go on, right?” She’s often doing more than her regular shifts as well, she should know. Although standing guard duty is a bit different from what I do.
Chandra nods and holds up the scanner. I show her my left wrist which has the hospital implant. She scans it so everyone knows I’m not there any more and the door opens. “Chill, girl. Sleep some,” the massive woman says as she winks.
“Black Flyer tonight,” I tell her with a grin.
“Oh yuck, that crap again.” Chandra does not like superhero shows. She’s into romance and sugar coating. I grin at the thought that we have a big strong safety-guard who’s all pink and fluffy inside.
“I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow,” I promise her, which makes her fake a puke. I laugh as I step out and open my umbrella. Laughing relieves some of the tired tension inside me, I should do that more.
Fat raindrops pound on the plastic over my head. It’s warm and muggy utside. As it is dark, the LEDs in the handle of the umbrella light up and I join the crowd that is making its way down the street.
On the centre part of the road the usual traffic jam is inching its way to where everyone wants to go. It’ll take them a while, around this time it’s madness out here, even worse than normal. I wonder how many people are driving on manual control. That usually is a good indicator for accidents, which in turn says something about the amount of work my colleagues in the General Clinic will have. This part of town is famous for its traffic.
While over my head the enormous billboards show their messages and video-ads, I walk along at a crawl. My first destination is the news stand, on the corner of the road. It only takes me a few minutes, miraculously, and I slip into the narrow booth.
“Ah. Hello, Mrs. Farns.”
The stupid automaton always says that, and it annoys me but still I come here for my news instead of getting it from a feed in the hospital. It’s like the old-time news stands where people used to go for their papers and magazines. I reach inside my bag and find my tablet. I hold it up to the automaton. “The usual news,” I tell it.
The ‘bot raises a hand while its camera-eye scans my tab. One of its fingers extends and plugs into my tablet and a few moments later there’s a beep that the download is done.
“Will that be cash or credit, Mrs. Farns?”
Stupid question. It’s always credit. I’ve never even seen cash. I roll up my sleeve and show it my bank-tattoo. The scanner-eye sweeps over it a few times. “Yeah, the tat is kind of faded, I know,” I say. It won’t make a difference for the machine, it always gets it. Beep. See, there we go. No need to get that touched up.
“Have a wonderful evening, Mrs. Farns!” the automaton says with its weird smile. The person who designed the face of the thing should be punished.
“Yeah, you too. Go stand in the rain or something,” I tell it and stuff my tab back in the bag. Then I join the slow foot-commute again, towards the mono. That will be crowded too with this weather.