I’ve seen death. We all have. It’s just part of the job, see. Nothing to be afraid of. Come on, let’s get you started on some basics. I expect you’re nervous on your first proper shift? Not to worry ─ it was the same for me. I thought I’d be dead confident too! Still, it’s nice to be out of training, isn’t it?
Anyway, first things first, this cupboard here’s where we store all the beddy stuff: clean sheets, pillowcases, bed-pans and what-not. Iiiin the cupboard next to it… Our lovely cleaner and his cleaning equipment ─ hello, George. This next cupboard was supposed to be my new office but as you can see… it’s full of junk. This influx of patients in the past few months has left us pretty tight for space. Still, what can you do, eh? Aaaand, last but by no means least … it’s the Get Well cupboard. Now, I know Dr Montelle took you through the inventory on your first unofficial shift last night, but I’m going to have to test you on this at some point. I just need to be sure you know where everything is in case of emergencies. For now, though, I’ll just say, that box behind you … new needles. Just so’s you know.
Might take one now actually. I’ve got a new patient who’s in need of a good stabbing! If I could just squeeze past… Yes, it’s cosy in here, isn’t it? Well, get used to it. There’s only so much storage space in this facility. Nothing like at the general hospital back in town.
I must say, you’re awfully quiet tonight. Everything alright? You were dead chatty when we first met the other day. Might be first-shift nerves. I suppose it’s a bit like going on stage, isn’t it? Well, I shouldn’t worry. It’s a nice, short twelve hour shift; you’ll be out of here before you know it. I best get going. You go find Evelyn, she’s got a few odd jobs to keep you busy. I’ll be in the west wing if you need anything, okay?
What’s that? Screaming? Last night, you say? Oh, from the basement? Ah, that’ll be the screaming room. You can hear ‘em at night when it’s all quiet. Sometimes, on me breaks, I pop down there and lock meself in for a bit, have a good scream and then dig into me sandwiches. Bliss ─ absolute bliss. And a fantastic stress-reliever, you mark my words. Works wonders if you’re married. Well, anyway. I suppose you’ll be wanting to have a quick look? Alright. We’ll have to be quick, though, I’ve got things to do. Come on.
That’s right, down the stairs. No, after you, and mind your head when you get to the bottom. It’s an old building in parts, and we can only slowly update where it’s most needed. That’s it, nice and low. Eh? How’s that? Where? On your bottom? No, I didn’t see anything. Sharp, was it? You poor thing ─ do you want me to take a look? No? Don’t be brave, pet. Well, so long as you’re sure. You’d better stop rubbing it, though. If you have been stung or bitten, that’ll only spread the poison. You better sit down. Let’s keep going.
That’s right, last door at the end of the hall. Sorry? Feeling woozy, you say? You must be tired. That’s what it’s like when you’re not used to night shifts. Not to worry, there’s a seat in here. Oh good, it’s empty too. Not much to look at, I know, but all these foam pads give a good bit o’ soundproofing. That’s it, you sit down. Yes, you’re just going to have to get used to being awake at night, I’m afraid. Though I do find it funny how they call it the graveyard shift. Like night workers are… I don’t know, the walking dead or something, perish the thought!
Sorry, if you could just rest your arms on the armrests… Then I can wrap these round so they’re nice and snug. That’s it. Good. Now the other one. Nice thing about these straps is the sheepskin insulation. Quite comfy, actually. Righty right, same again for the ankles, I think! Nice and still now. That’s right. You’ll be a good girl, I know you will. I’m a bit of a clairvoyant, you know. I can sense it. You won’t need much. Two to four sessions, give or take. Just think of it as precautionary insurance for new ones like yourself, so’s we can keep things running smooth as they are now. It hasn’t always been like this, you see.
Evelyn: she used to pinch and tickle us all. That was her thing, you know. But I wasn’t having any of it, so she doesn’t do that anymore. Janice was like that too. Stacy was all mouth ─ used to say nasty things, bitching about people behind their backs. She only says nice things now, the sweetheart. It’s amazing what this technology’s done for us. Just a few zaps every now and then makes everyone a sudden delight to work with. It’s such a smooth run now. George says we’ve got the medical equivalent of a German football team, ha! The lovely George…
Well, there we are! Not too tight, I hope? Bit flushed, I see; still feeling woozy, are we? Sadly, not much I can do about that for the moment, my dear. Best let George take over. George!
He’s got a special hat for you to try on.
Previously published in the UKCCWS Illustrated Anthology Vol. 4 (2017) with the accompanying illustration.
Simon Pressinger recently graduated with a BA degree in English & American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Kent. He has been treasurer / health & safety officer for the Kent Union Creative Writing Society for the past two years, and has enjoyed dreaming up risk assessments for various society trips. In the past he has worked as a shoe salesman, an apprentice electrician, and many other part-time minimum-wage jobs. He also has a diploma in musical performance from the Academy of Contemporary Music and likes dancing to music in his room when no one’s looking.