Congratulations to “harmlos” who claimed the Administrivia prize, 374 days after the contest began.

{ in·deed·a·bly }

adverb: to competently express interest, surprise, disbelief, or contempt

Hot shot

Write a short story of no more than 350 words, containing the word “fire“.

This was the microfiction challenge set by Marc from FinanceYourFire. Here goes…


Hot shot

A strained gasping sound emanated from the hospital bed. The noise we make after spending too long under water.

Then a pause, punctuated by the wall mounted clock.

Tick.

Tick.

Tick.

The wheezy rasping sound of escaping air, accompanied by the low moan of an animal in pain.

Another pause.

An unnatural stillness.

Tick.

Tick.

Tick.

The silence shattered by yet another tortured gasp.

It was tough to listen to. Brutal to experience.

Had been going on for days.

Relentless.

The palliative care doctor had visited earlier. The outcome was certain, just a question of time.

Shouldn’t be long now”.

He had said the same thing days ago!

The doctor departed, leaving a repeat morphine prescription and his hope the suffering would soon be over.

I approached the bed with a sense of resignation. Loaded syringe held out of sight

The patient’s eyes fluttered open. Glanced around. Disorientated.

Oh. I’m still here.

His eyes met mine. His despair was absolute.

Pulling back the bedclothes, I raised the needle with one hand. The other easily fended off the feeble defence of his pride.

The tyrant of my youth, now weak as a kitten. Unable to resist. Our roles reversed.

In a practised single movement the needle found the cannula, injecting the morphine. It surged through his circulatory system like a euphoric wave of fire.

Tossing the empty needle into the sharps disposal container, I waited for meds to kick in.

Tick.

For the breathing to become less tortured.

Tick.

For the moaning to stop.

Tick.

Desperate to escape.

Tick.

Duty bound to stay.

Tick.

Minutes passed with the speed of ice ages.

Eventually those horrible rasping breaths slowed. Became shallower. Infrequent. Less pained.

Leaving troubled thoughts.

If the end was imminent, why the double prescription of a controlled substance?

Overkill in an underfunded health system.

Had the doctor been empathising? Or providing the means to end the suffering?

Palliative care patients aren’t autopsied, cause of death is a given. Budget constraints.

I glanced again at the sharps disposal container.

Do they audit how much morphine should remain?

Tick.

Tick.

Tick.


Check out the other entries in this microfiction challenge:

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8 Comments

  1. Cashflow Cop 27 April 2019

    Micro comment: Bravo 👏

  2. earlyretireman 27 April 2019

    Thanks for your contribution 🙂 I love the story and the title as well. Very creative!

    I always enjoy your posts/stories and this one is no exception.

    Some phrases are priceless… like:

    “Then a pause, punctuated by the wall mounted clock.”

    Love it!!!

  3. SavingNinja 28 April 2019

    349 words! You should have included one more tick. The tension building was insane, I almost couldn’t breath myself. Very well done 🙂

  4. [HCF] 28 April 2019

    Strangely I have been in a similar situation once. Just I was another patient in the room. There was only one occasion in my lifetime when the ambulance had to carry me away. Long story short I had to spend a night at the hospital. After the tests they showed me a bed in a bigger semi-dark room (as the time was over midnight). Once the nurse went away and I laid down to sleep I heard that heavy (Darth Vader like) breathing from the bed opposite to mine. As I focused more and my eyes get used to the half-light I was facing an old man with an oxygen mask on his face. He was laying on the bed in a half sitting position and for a moment I got scared as I realized that he was staring at me. Then I tried not to think about that and fell asleep from tiredness and dizziness. When I got up un the morning the old guy was nowhere. Everything was there, the bed, his stuff, the oxygen mask… just he was missing…

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 28 April 2019

      Thanks for sharing HCF, and glad the medical folks were able to cure what ailed you.

      Sounds to me like you have a great beginning for a 350 word story to enter Marc’s challenge!

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