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by scriever 

Posted: 19 August 2017
Word Count: 980
Summary: For the challenge.

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Don woke to the soft chime of his alarm, as he did every day. He ate his usual breakfast while the wall vid gave him that morning’s news headlines in cartoon form. After 15 minutes the table tipped away from him and the vid morphed into his work desktop.

Good morning Don. Today’s workload: comms from Finance and Procurement, comm from the Tahiti office. Which would you like to take first?


The morning progressed, as it always did. Don got through all of his assigned tasks before lunch.

Don, you have no more tasks. Would you like some music or a vid?

Don didn't answer. He stood and stepped out, into the hallway.

Where are you going Don?

He didn't reply, walked on, to the full length window at the end of the corridor. He stopped, looked around. In the corner stood a fire extinguisher. 

It was heavier than he expected. Awkwardly, he swung it against the window. A crack appeared. He swung the extinguisher again. The glass buckled. Another swing and it fell out, in a single piece, and tumbled through the air.

Heat. Wind. Don felt the cool air around him retreating under the fierce assault. He stood in the opening, revelling in the sensation. He stepped back a few paces, then ran at the opening and launched himself out, into the void. Legs and arms cartwheeling, a sensation of flying, then the ground rushed up, unbelievably fast, then crunching, bone-jarring pain. Then nothing.

He was on a narrow bed, in a cool, small room. He moved his head. A mechanism of some sort hummed softly. A voice:

Hello Don, are you in pain?

Yes. Thirsty.

A probe touched his flesh; a slight hiss, an icy sensation, and the pain ebbed away. A narrow tube snaked toward his mouth. A cool liquid, slightly bitter. He swallowed. He slept.

He awoke with a ravenous hunger and burning thirst.

Thirsty. Hungry.

This time, rather than cool liquid, the tube delivered warm, thin soup. He swallowed and swallowed, feeling the nutrients flooding his body.

Are you in pain, Don?

No. Where am I? How long have I been here?

You are in room 1107 in the central hospital, Don. You have been here for four days.

Four days! He flexed his arms: slight pain, but bearable. Next, his legs. He winced, almost cried out.
Your right leg was broken in the fall, Don, but it is getting better, you will be able to walk soon. Would you like to watch a vid? Listen to some music? 


He lay back and stared at the ceiling, and thought. Was he trying to escape, or take his own life? He couldn’t remember. He was confused, his mind filled with cotton wool.

He had been happy to escape with the vids and meds, alcopops, just like everyone else,but no more. He had a hole in his existence. He suddenly felt angry. He hated his life. Anger gave way to despair.

A noise. Something in the room besides his robot nurse. No, not something, somebody. The movements weren’t smooth enough to be made by a machine.

Shh. Don’t say anything.

He turned his head and found himself uncomfortably close to a pair of staring eyes, set in a face the likes of he'd never seen in his life. Patchy stubble, cracked lips, filthy, broken teeth, hair standing up in tufts. And there was a smell.

Can you move? Can you walk?

I’m not sure.

Try. I’ll help you.

He turned on to his side, heaved himself upright so that his legs dangled over the edge of the bed. No pain. He recoiled from the stranger's touch as he put his arm round him. He put all his weight on his good leg. Then the other leg. Stiffness, but the pain was bearable. The two men shuffled across the floor, into a silent corridor, towards a partly closed door, and then they were - outside. Colours, sounds, smells, movement, all assailed his senses. Another pair of hands grabbed at him; his new rescuer was even scruffier than the first one, but he didn’t smell any worse.

He stumbled over the rough ground, fell awkwardly.

Come on, got to keep moving. Let’s get him on the stretcher.

Hands grabbed him, set down on a piece of rough material slung between two long poles. He watched a tangle of branches and leaves slide by above him as he was carried away from everything he had ever known. To where? He had to grab the poles as his rescuers stumbled over the rough ground.

After an eternity, they stopped, and he was tipped from the stretcher, which made him cry out with pain. He was lying in a wide clearing. Nearby stood a large fire, with flames flickering softly around its edges. Three more dishevelled specimens of humanity that had been sitting at the fire got up and inspected him with interest. One of them hurried off back into the woods, and the other two stood over him. One prodded him.

Bit skinny.

Don didn’t understand what was going on, but thought he should try and make a good impression.

Hi. My name’s Don. Thanks so much for rescuing me. My leg’s pretty sore, do you have any meds?
We’ll sort that for you, don’t worry about it. No pain soon.

I could do with some water if you have it, and I’m very hungry. Do you have any food?

They all laughed. He saw the remaining one emerge from the woods with an armful of something, which he piled on the fire.

Yeah, one of them said, we’ve got food all right.

An upraised arm, holding a large rock. The rock hit his head with unbelievable force. Pain washed over him, subsumed him. Then the rock smashed into him again, and he felt no more.

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Comments by other Members

BryanW at 10:42 on 20 August 2017  Report this post
Talk about 'out of the frying pan into the fire'! - a really well devised story, Ross. Dramatic and exciting.

V`yonne at 12:29 on 20 August 2017  Report this post
Oh I didn't see that coming. And neither did poor Don surprise I was so happy he was being rescued too! Always keep a hold of nurse for fear of finding something worse, eh?

A good tale well told.

Cliff Hanger at 15:22 on 20 August 2017  Report this post
I like the use of all of the medical details which make it real. Great twist at the end, seamlessly set up.


Bazz at 15:38 on 20 August 2017  Report this post
Chilling, Ross, love the numb, alienating, world and the raw wild one Don's unprepared for. It reads a bit like a nightmare, especially with the casual tone of the dialogue, giving everything a disorienting feel. Great, taut, piece of flash.

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