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…
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.
The wheezy rasping sound of escaping air, accompanied by the low moan of an animal in pain.
An unnatural stillness.
The silence shattered by yet another tortured gasp.
It was tough to listen to. Brutal to experience.
Had been going on for days.
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.
For the breathing to become less tortured.
For the moaning to stop.
Desperate to escape.
Duty bound to stay.
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?
Check out the other entries in this microfiction challenge here.