He deserved it.
He knew he did.
He was an exceptional doctor. His colleagues were inferior and their skills mediocre. Christopher sat, the hard, unforgiving plastic of the chair digging into his back. The smell of disinfectant mixed with the sweet odour of sickness swirled uncertainly in the base of his stomach. Soft light reflected off the small animal stickers stuck to the wall, their bright colours contrasting the mood of the hospital. The noise; the constant, echoing tick of the clock began to slide across his nerves like glass. Sharp, but not enough to draw blood. He considered pacing but dismissed the idea. There was no need for fear; he had done well. He nonchalantly thought back through the last few weeks, and a small, unconscious smile formed on his dry lips.
Everyone had wanted this job. It was the only one available, despite the multiple doctors graduating. With the Hospital Board constantly scrutinising over their performance he had forced himself to excel. Each Pre-Med student had. They followed protocol to the letter - checked and double checked paperwork and wrote meticulous notes. But alas, many had failed; they simply did not meet the standards.
Christopher recalled one particular night when he was not on duty, but had come to check on one of his extra-care patients Anna. Samuels, another Pre-Med student, had been on duty. Samuels’ main patient Shannon, a small boy on his way to remission, was lying alone in his bed. His pale skin was blending into the whiteness of the bedsheets. Staring through the window, watching the boy with an unnatural intensity, he made his decision.
It was unfortunate for Samuels’ career that that night Shannon passed away. Reports suggested that he had been given the wrong medication by mistake. Christopher remembered the vacuous look on Samuel’s face, his haunted, hollow eyes still not comprehending his misdeed.
As the pressure for the job increased with graduation approaching, the incompetence of the Pre-Meds surfaced. Christopher remembered every fellow student and he was disappointed at their universal unworthiness. Nonetheless, as he took one opportunity; others arose for him. Who was he to let a golden opportunity pass? What a waste that would be! Everything with a purpose, everything for his purpose.
So every opportunity that presented itself, he took. When Christopher felt he needed to, he stepped in. Each time was easier – better – than the last. He took care of each of his colleagues with methodical precision. None were good enough for the job. Disappointingly, most offered no real challenge. No one fought and no one suspected. Though each of the incidents had been believable forms of negligence, no one had questioned why there were such failings so close to graduation. Christopher, however, continued to excel. The only one who presented a real competition to him was Mark.
Mark could have had the job.
But he would not get it; he was not better than Christopher. Mark dedicated a lot of time - after hours time - to his patients. It seemed that he cared. This was an obstacle to Christopher. Mark’s patient was young, two years and three months according to his sheet. He was just old enough to understand something was wrong. Fred was suffering from lung failure; each breath was a heavy, laboured rasp. He slept most of the time. So Fred didn’t disturb Christopher when he came in to stand at the foot of Fred’s bed. For a while he just watched, considered, reread his sheet. But he took too long.
Mark had returned.
He saw Christopher standing at the foot of Fred’s bed staring down at the vulnerable figure tangled in the crisp sheets. He turned slowly and stared at Mark. Christopher’s thin blonde hair fell neatly across his forehead and brushed against his eyebrows; his eyes were such a pale blue they appeared almost white, as though they held no substance, no emotion, no soul. After a moment, and without a word, Christopher walked out of the ward; his steps silent as a ghost.
After that, there were less opportunities. He couldn’t be certain so he suppressed the paranoia. No one knew and they couldn’t prove anything. Yet with every glance in his direction, every whisper between workers came the chilling sensation of thousands of spiders crawling along his spine. But he could not stop now.
It was so very late, dark enough that the brightest hospital lights appeared dim. The blue and red monitors glowed faintly. It was silent, apart from the machines. The machines and the hospital itself all held their breath in apprehension, none daring to disturb the horror of what was to happen. The absolute wrongness chilled the air and froze the moment; dangled it in suspense. The heart rate line flattened and a long, mournful howl echoed through the room as a door clicked quietly shut.
The office door opened. A man in a white coat and blue suit beckoned Christopher into the room. His moment had arrived. All his work had led up to this moment, this interview. The softness of his chair contrasted greatly with the hard plastic one he had been waiting on outside. His limbs sunk comfortably into the fabric as he smiled across the desk at the man who sat there. Files and papers littered his desk. Christopher could not help feeling that when he eventually had this job he would keep it tidier. The man, Dr Sanders, stared at Christopher. His wrinkled hands folded across his chest.
“Dr Edwards,” Sanders noted coolly. Christopher nodded; the spiders were back. “We have some questions for you, about the incidents with the children.”
It was then that the spiders reached his heart.
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