This isn’t science fiction but it feels like it. A white-haired old woman comes in. “About 70 of them,” she says “we’ll come back.” She leaves. The number ticks up, the beeper beeps twice. Most of the room just sits there. It’s hard to remember, but most people are used to just doing nothing. Just sitting and staring, barely thinking, barely looking.

The number ticks up, the beeper beeps twice. Eyes focused on arbitrary points they sit in the tight-crammed seats, the smells of each other’s dinners washing over them, hot. A few souls have brought things to read and focus exclusively on them. There’s no jealousy or anger from the others, just resignation.

The number ticks up, the beeper beeps twice.

The number ticks up, the beeper beeps twice. The most common expression is a jutted jaw and blobbed out cheeks, eyebrows and eyes flat. A voice from the back of the room; “Who wants to swap tickets with me?” then when there’s no reaction, not even a turned head, laughs uncertainly. “Twenty quid,” he says. I turn to look at him. Long white hair, old red beret, wolfish smile. My face says nothing and he turns and leaves. The mix of the room is odd. Mainly minorities (like me?), 1 in 10 Caucasian. Lots of big-featured faces, Hassidic ladies with wigs covering their foreheads low, fat-faced darker ladies, some talking to themselves, a single tall headscarfed woman looking uncomfortable on the front row.

The number ticks up, the beeper beeps twice. More people shuffle in, get tickets from the queueing machine pilfered from a supermarket deli counter. In the hour I’ve been here, the number has ticked up twenty times. My number is still 37 away. I really don’t want my bloodwork done. I don’t like the normality or false camaraderie that injections enjoy. But I really want this to be over and done with.

The number ticks up, the beeper beeps twice. A short mid-40s lady with dyed blond hair walks in, wearing a nurse’s uniform; “Can you loosen your clothing please and roll your sleeve up, so we can be ready to bleed you as quickly as possible?” then retreats, chin up, into the glass clinic door. The seventy or so people look confused – no-one does it. A homely cockney lady in the row behind me starts letting her neighbours (and inadvertently everyone else) know that “They’re usually quicker than this. There’s a lot of people.” Red-beret rogue is laughing bow-legged as he tells stories.

The number ticks up, the beeper beeps twice. A tall man leaves, relieved. His results aren’t in, but he’s obviously feeling better for just getting out of there. A collapsed-looking old lady is wheeled out of the clinic, asking for the toilet.

The number ticks up, the beeper beeps twice. I could have been here forever. My former life, as convincing as it is, could have been a dream. I could be here forever, the beeps spreading out, the event horizon approaching. I am going to be here for a long, long time.

The number ticks up, the beeper beeps twice.

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  1. Alan Dexter

    Cut yourself. Bleed out while you’re waiting. The irony won’t be lost on them.


    1. Grill



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