The Hospital Wing
Hanu awoke with a ringing in his ears. He kept his eyes closed and listened, concentrating on the sensation. It wasn’t really a ringing. No, it wasn’t a sound he was hearing at all. He was feeling it, rather. His ears were warm and full- as if the canals were slowly expanding, filling up with noiseless sounds. For several minutes he lay there motionless, willing his ears to hear it.
Then Hanu actually did hear something. A scraping noise. Metal against metal. It was very close to his face, actually. Hanu opened his eyes to look for the source of the sound, and was surprised to find Akesh standing over a small tray next to his bed. He was snooping through the various instruments and medical supplies on it.
“They didn’t give you anything good, then, huh?” he said, noticing that Hanu was awake now. Hanu sat up. They were in the hospital wing.
“What are you doing here, ’Kesh?” he asked.
“I’m visiting, of course. Mr. Walsh is escorting me. He’s in the bathroom right now, though,” Akesh said, putting on a pair of plastic gloves.
Hanu looked around. He hardly ever had reason to visit the hospital wing. It was rather like his bedroom, actually. But that wasn’t surprising, as there wasn’t much variation from wing to wing. Just like his living quarters, the hospital room had bare white walls and a large plaque of the rules and protocols. Beyond the metal tray next to his bed there was a desk with several instruments, and above it was a small square window with thick glass. It displayed a different courtyard than the one Hanu’s bedroom window faced. Hanu looked up into the sky. The water was no longer falling.
“How long have I been here?” he asked. An IV was in his arm and he could feel a tube running from his nose into his throat.
“All day. It’s seven o’ clock by now,” Akesh said, looking anxious. “Hanu are you feeling okay? You passed out and…”
“I feel alright now. Earlier I don’t know what happened. My body just kind of... locked up.”
“Hanu, I really hope you’re okay. I just feel…” and his voice trailed off. Sometimes Akesh got really sentimental and then things got weird. Hanu knew it was because he was a really sensitive person, and he liked that about him. They learned to just skirt around that kind of stuff, though, to keep some semblance of normalcy in their lives.
“Enough about me, what about you?” Hanu asked brightly.
“Well, today they told me that I was invited into the District!” he said excitedly. Hanu was taken aback. Akesh doubled over, laughing at the terror on his face. “No, they’re taking a group of us into the District as special guests to watch the Bowl. It’s in Asia this year, so they’re setting up a huge party. It’s the South American Suns against the Pan Asia Dragons. We’re going to be in the parade and everything!”
“Oh that sounds way more awesome than override,” Hanu exhaled, relieved.
“Yeah, I know. My therapist said they invited us this year to show support for the Flush. Afterward they’ll be doing some research to help our treatment and stuff. I think it’s some publicity stunt, but hey, I’m going to a Bowl party!” he said, dancing around the room now.
“Hey, you quiet down!” said Mr. Walsh, rushing into the room and scaring the boys half to death. “You’re disturbing the whole floor!”
Then the nurse came in, looking back and forth from Hanu, now sitting up in the bed, to Akesh, arms still raised in a celebratory dance.
“Well it looks like you’ve had your visit, dears. Out!” she said, rushing them out of the room. Once they had cleared the room she turned to Hanu.
“Dear, you’re supposed to be resting. Doctor’s orders,” she said as she took his vitals. Then she adjusted the drip in the IV. “I’m going to give you a little dose of medicine to help you get back to sleep. Rest up, now.”
“But I’ve been asleep for like twelve hours,” he argued. It was too late, though. He was already drowsing.
Hours later Hanu was swimming in a state of half sleep. His body just refused to slumber any longer, but the medicine was still in effect. Hanu blinked a few times, trying to shake the feeling. The sun was coming up. He had slept for a whole day.
Hanu could hear voices now, and was afraid. Not that it was unusual for him to hear voices, he heard them all the time. But he was afraid it was the nurse coming to give him more sleeping medicine. He closed his eyes again and pretended to still be asleep.
Then he recognized the voices. They were real, and thankfully not the nurse’s. They belonged to people he actually knew. Hanu sat up and tried to hear what they were saying.
The door was cracked just slightly. He could hear Ms. Jones and Mr. Carlisle, talking with a third person whose voice was unfamiliar.
“In your prognosis notes you never mentioned he was waking up by himself,” Mr. Carlisle said to Ms. Jones.
“I guess I wasn’t as explicit as I should have been. However, I did mention that he was doing his morning hygiene earlier than usual,” she said defensively.
“That’s neither here nor there,” the third person began. He spoke slowly as if he were bored or uninterested. “What is important is that we were able to minimize this incident. We’re lucky this happened yesterday, of all days. With current arrangements, it was easy to make accommodations.”
Hanu realized they must’ve figured out he wasn’t taking his medicine. Of course, he thought. Everyone takes sleeping pills at night, so it would be obvious if he was waking up on his own all of a sudden. Hanu began to feel uneasy about the accommodations this man was talking about.
Ms. Jones continued. “That is all very well, but how will I be reprimanded?” she asked in anxious tones.
Hanu wondered what kind of punishment staff got for incompetence. He imagined Ms. Jones being taken in for behavioral reprogramming.
“I wouldn’t worry about it too much,” said Mr. Carlisle. “The nurses will get more flack about it than anyone else on the team.”
“Are you two sure there is nothing more you would like to record? The unfamiliar man asked. After a few moments of silence they must’ve shaken their heads. The man continued.
“Alright, Ms. Jones you may go and get some sleep. Thank you for your cooperation.”
“Thank you, goodbye,” she said, and Hanu heard her footsteps grow feint down the hall.
“Can I ask you a question, Mr. Wolfe?” said Mr. Carlisle.
“Of course,” he replied.
Mr. Carlisle lowered his voice, speaking more urgently now. “You transport patients and information into the District all the time. Have you heard about the new drugs they’re mandating? First the RiboBan and now this inhalant they started giving yesterday. What’re they for, and why are they keeping the therapists in the dark about it?”
“I’m a simple transport agent-,” Mr. Wolfe began in his drawling voice, but Mr. Carlisle cut him off.
“Look, if it’s a matter of security that you can’t tell me, I’ll just have to get over it. But I know you can attend the briefings with the Council and they just had one a few weeks ago. I know you know what’s going on,” he said.
“I did attend that briefing last month,” Mr. Wolfe admitted. “Honestly, Mr. Carlisle, we are just in a…unique situation. The Council has reason to believe that the Dissenters are trying to strengthen their numbers. They may be trying to prey on the weak and unbalanced members of society,” Mr. Wolfe said.
“You think they want to recruit mental health patients?” Mr. Carlisle asked, almost laughing.
“It’s not a matter of what I think,” said Mr. Wolfe. “It’s a matter of keeping these patients safe, for the good of society. If you’ve noticed, in the last few days they’ve tightened security around the habitable zone here as well.”
There was a long silence. Hanu strained his ears to hear more, and was startled when the door suddenly swung open. Mr. Carlisle stood in the hallway with his back turned to Hanu.
“I’m sure this goes without saying, Mr. Carlisle, but don’t repeat any of this to any of the patients or residential staff,” Mr. Wolfe warned in a lowered voice.
Hanu took this opportunity to relax his body and close his eyes, feigning sleep. He heard Mr. Carlisle’s footsteps cross the room to the empty chair. For several minutes Hanu kept his body still, afraid of being discovered. This proved to be quite difficult because trying to keep his breathing slow and even made his lungs protest at the lack of oxygen.
Deciding he couldn’t keep up the façade for much longer, Hanu rolled on his side and slowly opened his eyes. Mr. Carlisle was sitting in the chair, his dark beady eyes were fixed on his computer. After typing up his notes, Mr. Carlisle minimized the screen and placed the small device into his briefcase. As he leaned back and tousled his dark brown hair, he noticed Hanu watching him.
“You had a seizure,” Mr. Carlisle said.
“Oh.” Hanu didn’t know how else to respond.
“How are you feeling? You were out for almost a whole day,” he said, looking at his watch.
“I’m feeling fine. Akesh came to visit me yesterday. Told me he’d be in the parade next week.” Hanu sat up in the bed and noticed he had a red blemish on the inside of his left wrist.
“What’s this?” he asked, running his fingers over it. It felt warm.
“Hanu when they ran your blood test the doctors found that you had very small traces, if any of your medications at all.” Mr. Carlisle’s face was inscrutable. “When we renewed your treatment goals you said you wanted to shut out the voices so that you could go back home. You know that taking your medicine on schedule will help you to achieve that goal, Hanu.”
“For seven years I’ve tried. Seven. I’ve taken my meds, I’ve cooperated with staff, and I’ve been honest during our sessions,” Hanu said through gritted teeth. “After seven years you’d think I’d be cured!” he continued, raising his voice now.
“You’ve made significant progress in that time, Hanu,” Mr. Carlisle began calmly.
“Progress, Progress,” Hanu interjected, mocking Mr. Carlisle. Hot poisonous flames welled up inside Hanu’s gut, and were forcing their way out of his mouth. “That’s all anyone in this place ever talks about. As long as there’s progress you keep your job, right? You don’t care about curing us, you just keep pumping us with drugs. Oh, guess what? My kidneys are failing because of my medicine. That’s alright, I’ve got more medicine to fix that! How can people be born so messed up when the Ancients came back and fixed all of our problems?”
Hanu didn’t know why he was being so rude. He actually liked and respected Mr. Carlisle. But he couldn’t help it; he couldn’t keep the words that had been churning deep within him from finally spilling out. Hanu got out of the bed and started pacing the room. The flames pulsed through his entire body now, threatening to burn him alive if he sat still any longer.
“Makes no sense to me,” he continued, speaking more to himself than Mr. Carlisle. “I do everything they ask… all this technology…gifts from the Ancient Ones,” Hanu said, mocking reverence when he said ‘Ancient Ones’.
Mr. Carlisle sat patiently in his chair, allowing Hanu to vent. “It’s not even like I’m dangerous!” he barked. “What does it even matter that I can see things no one else can? What if you’re the messed up ones? You can’t even see things that are right in front of you!” he said, pointing to a spot right in front of Mr. Carlisle’s face. He knew the man couldn’t see the dark spiraling anomaly, but he was convinced that it was a fault of Mr. Carlisle’s, and not his own.
Hanu raised his pointed finger up to his temple- thumb sticking straight up- and pretended to shoot himself in the head, slumping dramatically onto the bed. Of course, Hanu didn’t know what this actually meant, but he’d seen some of the more defiant patients do this gesture much to the dismay of their therapists.
“I guess I’m going to containment now,” he sighed.
Mr. Carlisle looked at Hanu dejectedly. “No, you won’t be going for behavioral reprogramming this time, Hanu.”
Hanu sat straight up in the hospital bed, looking at his therapist.
“They’ve already implanted your trade interface,” Mr. Carlisle said, indicating the mark on Hanu’s wrist. “You’ll need it to get into the District of Operations. You’ll have to join the patients that were requested by the Council.”