'The Rhythm of Life' by Deborah Rickard

Slow, slow, quick-quick, slow. It began with the rhythm of a quickstep but soon crashed to a crescendo of jungle drums, beating a warning while I held fast, immobilised, confined. A corpse in a coffin.
I could move my eyes though, and if I looked in the small, square glass above my head I could see my toes, oddly still existing in the outside world. I could even wriggle them as if there was nothing wrong. But incarcerated as I was, I couldn’t even chew my thumb-nail. I had to keep still. Dead still.
"Breathe in," a disembodied voice boomed from somewhere unseen. I pulled deep on disinfected air. "And hold … And breathe normally."
Breathe normally? For how long? How long before I could breathe in the unconscious way you do when you’re unconcerned about how many breaths you might have left to take?
Thump, thump. Thumpety-clunk, clunkety-clunk. A ricochet of quick-fire rattles. And silence.
"Thank you. We’ve finished with you now."
Finished with me?
The cold, hard platform on which I lay slid like a refrigerated morgue drawer from the MR scanner, while the scanner, quiet now, processed images. How much longer would be able to process anything?
"How long?" I managed to ask the radiographer.
Neat and spruce in white and blue she cast me a glance from accustomed eyes and used to tending patient after patient, patiently uttered her practiced words; "The radiologist will report your scan shortly and let your consultant know the results." My consultant said he’d phone as soon as he’d spoken with the radiologist. By the time I got home, he hoped.
Outside the hospital, rain pelted lead pellets on granite slabs. I dashed into the car, slammed the door and turned on the engine. Its steady hum wrapped around me, drowning the slappety-slap of rain on metal and the swish of wheels through water as I drove through the car infested city out onto country lanes and finally, into my village.

And here I sit, waiting for the intense metallic rant to stop.
At last I splash up my garden path bordered with rain-washed roses and honeysuckle. The key slips into the lock and the door swings in a seamless sweep of welcome. I close it softly behind me, lean back against it and sigh.
Suddenly the pulse of the phone pulls my nerves and I hurry to the kitchen holding my breath; my heart pounding a quick base rhythm as I pick up the receiver.
"Hello?" I say.
Rain on the tarred felt roof beats a tattoo – telling me I’m home and dry.


  1. This is lovely. It captures exactly what it's like to be in an MRI scanner. I like how it isn't revealed what the illness is and whether or not they are going to be OK. The use of onomatopoeia throughout is excellent.


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