"Life Gets You Down" by Andrew Blair

The life support machines beeped, even though there was no one there to hear them.

Footsteps. Swift and regular, then silence. A contrite man in a white coat stood by the bed.

'We're going to turn you off,' he says, his finger scratching at the back of his neck. 'I'm sorry. This is difficult for me to say.'

He bows his head in the ensuing silence.

'But...I'm only in for a pilonidal sinus,' says the patient, eventually.

The man sighs. The patient has decided to make things difficult for him.

'It has been decided,' he says, 'not by me, but I agree – that your continued existence benefits no-one.'

'Who decided?' says the patient, incredulous.

'It's best that you don't know.'

The patient looks into eyes that show no remorse, but seem far from happy. The thought occurs to him, for the first time, that this man might be capable of weighing himself down through certain actions. The thought occurs that, no matter how nonsensical his utterances, his sheer belief might make them reality.

The thought occurs: these might be his last thoughts.

'But...my wife-'

'No.'

The word doesn't hang around. More of a stab than a gunshot.

'I don't understand.'

'Your intelligence has been taken into consideration.'

Increasingly brittle, this insult makes the patient snap.

'What the hell do you think you are-'

There is another short, sharp snap. The man has clicked his fingers. The patient's eyes glaze over, and he exhales very finally. The man's eyes remain focused. Whoever he thinks he is, he has a job to do.

The man turns and leaves immediately, hastily removing his coat as he strides. He winces as a nurse approaches, and looks beyond him. He keeps walking, ignores her reaction to the patient. He increases his pace, but the nurse runs up to him. She is intending to calm, to soothe.

'Hardest part of the job, eh Doc?' she says, not unkindly.

'I don't work here,' he says, and clicks his fingers.

The white coat falls to the floor.



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