Shadow

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Chapter 1

Monday Morning

40,000 was the population in Mellville. Many outside of the town would call it a small city but those living inside would call it a miniature country. Characteristic for the greenway that welcomes incoming visitors and tourists, the town was founded in 1907 by a certain Charles Graham. It was far off the border of America so there was no specific tribe, race or religion that ruled Mellville. They were just one of those that encouraged unity in diversity. But as history would show, such a motto is gibberish to those with the tendency to prioritise the status and safety of their race over others. It was a pretty decent town looking from the outskirts. They'd stopped accepting immigrants 10 years ago when the population spiked up to an uncomfortable zone. After some years, resources and population weighed equally on the balance scale. It was the town everyone wanted to be in. But come into the town and it was different. To the inhabitants of this town, it was a place you wouldn't wish your enemy to be. They'd run the country leaderless until 1980 when the town began to get enough population to carry out a proper election. But this, many believe was root of the problem - the leaders were not elected. They simply instated themselves into leadership. At least one should approve their effort of making their politics resemble that of an actual country. They had a President, a deputy President and a board of leaders consisting of the few ministers it took to make sure the miniature burg was run well. Good politics could make or break a country. In this case, it had absolutely shattered Mellville. Not the infrastructure or the roads. But the people. The town was arguably one of the most beautiful in the world but the people were arguably the poorest. An average of 10% of the population commiting suicide due to depressing poverty, another 15% dying due to hate crimes all over the town. Good thing that birth rate keeps going up every year. The leaders had done a good job of masking the state of affairs of their small country. Siphoning the town's resources and using a small deal of it to furnish the town, build schools, banks, houses. Then the great deal of the resources, well according Mellsunday newspapers, 'hung disembodied in mid air'.

However, not all was bad about the state of affairs of the citizens of this town. Those who'd been able to make it through school, graduate university and get a job didn't do half bad. Some of the factories built by the leaders in what seemed like good fate gave jobs to the unemployed. Scott Bernard was one of those who'd managed to make it through school. He'd just graduated medical school in Handerman University. The biggest University in Mellville. His parents had managed to sponsor him and his younger sister through school. Things were hard for them but not hard enough to give them suicide driven thoughts, as was the case for so many in the city.

His digital alarm clock rung loudly on the table across his bed. He stretched his hand and pressed the snooze. He could try to wrap up his day in his head before it even began. First day as a surgical resident at Hargreaves Teaching Hospital. The hospital was understaffed in terms of doctors. But they had an abundance of nurses and non-medical staff as well as other physicians. This wasn't surprising to him and the reason was simple. Many people couldn't go to medical school because they couldn't afford it. He heaved himself up and looked at the time on his clock. '6:00 am' it read. So he had an hour and thirty minutes to be in the hospital fully clad in his labcoat with his stethoscope hanging around his neck. He beamed. He always dreamed of being a doctor. To be able to save lives, to help people. Now today was his first day as a professional life saver. In an hour he'd done the necessary - he'd taken his bath, brushed his teeth, worn his medical armour. His phone rung. He brought it out of his pocket. It was his sister. He answered the call.

"Hello?" His sister said from the phone

"Maisie. Good morning" Scott said

"Good morning! I just wanted to call you before you go to work and wish you good luck on your first day"

"Yeah, thanks"

Maisie didn't say anything for a moment.

"Well you don't sound very excited" she finally said.

"I am excited but, you know me, I'm not a very dramatic person"

"Okayyy" Maisie said in a mocking tone that Scott recognised.

"So is this the part where you blather your google ripped speech for the next five minutes" Scott jeered.

"You're crazy, I don't get my speeches from google" Maisie said and they both laughed.

"Alright if I don't hang up I'm gonna be late. Bye" Scott said

"Okay Bye. Good luck"

"Yeah now go get ready for your lectures" Scott said and hung up. He stared at his watch. 7:08am. He walked up to the mirror beside his wardrobe for one last glance on his appearance. Neatly pressed labcoat on top of everything. Beneath the labcoat, his brown shirt he felt matched with his maroon coloured hair, black slacks and black shoe. He definitely killed the dressing, speaking in a formal sense. The strap of his black shoulder bag lined across his chest. He now had the idea to remove the stethoscope from his neck and put it in the bag. He was proud to be a doctor but still he didn't want to do too much.

He came outside his apartment, hand waved a few greeters and went straight to the edge of the walkway of the road. It was foggy today. The weather had been like that for weeks now, even though it wasn't the raining season. There had been theories linking the cause of the weather to the fact that the town wasn't religious. There were just few churches and few mosques. Truth is, most people didn't care about religion. They were mostly concerned with surviving each day without starving to death. Scott didn't want to look around because he knew it would spoil his professional mood. But he could hear them. The cries of beggars sitting on the streets, under the trees. Straggling screams of depressed people in their houses. Trumpets blowing. Trumpets blowing? A taxi horn. He realised the early morning taxi that stopped by their street had come and was horning to notify people who leaving for work early that he'd come. Scott walked to the car. He bent down and looked through the window.

"Hey kid, how are you doing this morning" The driver said.

"I'm doing good. You?"

"I'm doing fine, boy"

"That's great" Scott said

"Where are you going? Handerman University?"

"Hargreaves Teaching Hospital."

"Oooh so you graduated now?"

"Yeah, like two weeks ago but yeah"

"Congratulations boy! Hop in please"

"Yes sir"

They spent another 5 minutes waiting for morning workers to come and when the car was full they drove out. After a twenty minute drive they arrived at Hargreaves Hospital. Scott alighted from the car and handed the driver his cash prize for successfully getting him there.

"Good luck boy" The taxi driver said and sped off.

"Good luck too" Scott said to the space of air which the taxi occupied a second ago. He turned to face the Hospital. A large plaque on the top of the building read 'Hargreaves Teaching Hospital'. This was where he'd do his residency for the next three years.

He'd made his way inside, sifting through a crowd of both patients and doctors. He was now in the main hall of the hospital. The place was swarming with people. Some were doctors, some were nurses, most were patients. Emergency stretchers with half-dead patients streaked through the hall. He wasn't expecting the hospital to be this busy on his first day. But then again, it was no surprise given the state of affairs of their town. If everybody in the town could afford treatment, all the hospitals would be stretched beyond the limit. He saw a man, ID card in hand, repeatedly looking at it and scanning the people passing through the hall like he was looking for someone. Scott continued to walk down. The man looked at the ID card and stared at him. The man's eyebrows cocked. The man walked to him.

"Scott Bernard?" The man asked

"Yes,"

"Well Dr. Bernard, welcome to Hargreaves Hospital, where medicine gets real." The man stretched his hand out for a handshake. Scott followed suite and they shook hands.

"Okay so who are you?" Scott asked.

"I'm Dr. Aaron Harrell,"

"Okay, nice to..."

"And I'm in charge of you for now"

Aaron looked at his appearance from head to toe. Scott also scanned the man. Brown hair, brown stubble, wore blue scrubs and slightly muscular. He was white as well. Judging from his accent, he definitely had an Irish descent.

"Good thing you didn't wear your stethoscope all the way from home," Aaron said and stifled a chuckle.

"Yeah," Scott said.

"Alright now let me summarise this. As you know, we're understaffed here. Well I mean we got nurses, lots of nurses, but, we don't have enough doctors. So you're gonna be working all day until I say you're free to go. Get it?"

"Yes sir" Scott said

"Nice summary by the way" Scott said in a very low voice so it was audible to only himself.

"You say something?" Aaron asked.

"Nope"

They were interrupted by a gurney being pushed at light speed passing the both of them. One of the nurses pushing the stretcher left it and ran straight to Aaron.

"Dr. Harrell, that patient is Taylor Bates, Personal guard to the minister of Information,"

"What? Minister of Information?" Scott asked

"Yes. They found both him and the minister unconscious in the minster's car. The minister was dead. Gunshot to the head. The personal guard however got a shot to his clavicle"

"Oh my, who could've done this?" Scott asked.

"Doesn't matter now, we have to save that man's life" Aaron said and looked at Scott

"You up for your first gig?"

"Uh Yeah, yeah."

"Good let's go" Harrell said and turned to the nurse "Take him to an unoccupied Operating room"

The nurse nodded and scooted away.

In an hour they were done with the surgery. The bullet shattered his clavicle and he'd lost a lot of blood but still, they were able to save him. He was unconscious but stabilised. Scott and Aaron came out of the surgery room. They both disposed their hand gloves and face masks.

"So how did you feel to partake in your first surgery?" Aaron asked

"Well, we saved a life, so I guess it's a win right?" Scott said.

"Yeah" Aaron said "but we've got other patients to deal with so let's go"

Aaron started walking and Scott followed.

"Um, exactly how many doctors are in this hospital?"

"30 doctors, including you"

"Whoa"

"Yeah, well the hospital's good on other physicians but Doctors are scarce around here and always busy." Aaron stopped walking and turned to Scott "So you're gonna have to work really hard if wanna save some more lives. Get it?"

"Sure"

For the next two hours, they went room to room, attending to the patients, saving the ones they could. Scott really learned a lot from Aaron. Aaron was quite the doctor. Responded quickly and methodically, made the right calls most of the time. That was the kind of doctor Scott wanted to be. Despite his flabbergast at Aaron, he didn't expect his first day at the hospital to be this strenuous. But then again, they were understaffed and patients were pouring in like a cascade. Having helped Aaron treat some of the patients, he could now really grasp and feel the damage done to people by the leaders. Cancer patients who could not afford their treatment, parents that couldn't afford life support bills for their children, people being saved from attempted suicide, various malnutrition cases in children. Scott could continue the list but it was aimless. Aaron and Scott walked into an OR. A nurse walked to them quickly with a file and handed it to Aaron. Aaron took it from her and studied it.

"Patient is James Carrey. He has severe hematemesis and..."

"Stop there nurse. Thank you we'll take it from here" Aaron blocked off the nurse then she nodded and left them.

"Main symptom of hematemesis Dr. Bernard"

"Vomiting of bright red blood,"

The patient leaned up from the bed and vomited into a bucket below him. Red blood.

"Which indicates?" Aaron asked

"Upper gastrointestinal bleeding" Scott said.

"Good I've checked the patient's history he has no bleeding disorders, that's good. So what's the solution Dr. Bernard?"

"Nasogastric suction. Then blood transfusion to replace lost blood and...."

"Looks like you know what you're doing Scott. I'll let you take lead on this one" Aaron said

"Really?"

"Yeah go ahead. But I'll be watching closely" Aaron said and both went forward to attend to the patient.

After the previous patient, Aaron asked Scott to take a break and replenish his strength. He was impressed with Aaron and now Aaron was impressed with him as well. He walked to the hospital's cafeteria and took a seat. The place wasn't half filled. Everybody eating quickly so they could get back to work. He fiddled with his hair. A bad habit that Scott couldn't seem to stop. He breathed heavily and recapped his day so far. The minister of Information was dead. His personal guard was stable at least. Perhaps when he wakes up, the police could ask the guard questions that could help them catch whoever the criminal was.

"What would you like to have sir?" The waiter approached him.

"Um, just coffee is fine" Scott answered.

"Coffee is fine for me too" A man said to the waiter and took the seat opposite Scott's at the table.

"Okay, I'll be back with it shortly" The waiter said and walked away.

The man stared at Scott. There was an eerie feel to the way the man looked at him. His face stern, his eyes blank and focused. He wore a black trenchcoat with a black hat.

"Hi there" Scott said and broke the silence

"Hello. You're a doctor here?" The man asked. His voice was the deepest Scott had ever heard.

"I'm a surgical resident sir"

"Oh that's good" the man said and smiled. The smile was also the fakest Scott had ever seen.

"Yeah" Scott said. The waiter came back with their coffee and dropped it on the table for both of them.

"Thank you" Scott said. The waiter nodded and left. The man took his coffee and began to drink. He took a long sip and put the cup back on the table.

"Have you ever wondered why this town is like this?" The man asked.

"Well, yeah, it's the leaders..."

"It's God" The man interrupted Scott.

"God's punishing us for ignoring him. There's a lot of sin in this town with no one to cleanse it"

"Well, there are churches...."

"Do you believe in God?" The man cut Scott off again, this time with a question Scott didn't believe he was ready to answer.

"Well, I believe there's a higher power that created us and is controlling everything" Scott said. The man smiled. This time it wasn't fake. He was really amused. Maybe by what he'd said or maybe it was something else.

"I'll cleanse this town" The man said, stood up and left. Scott was glad the man had left. What a weirdo Scott thought.

After Scott finished his coffee he went back into the the main hospital to look for Aaron. He decided to check the emergency room first. He began to walk there. He was now at the front of the emergency room. He opened the door. A loud explosive bang filled the air. Scott covered his ears with his hands.

A gunshot?

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