V.O.C. of the People

Scars and Stains

As They Once Were

“There’s a slight scrape with the breath. I’ll want to keep an eye on that, Dion.” Alan held his hand against Rosie McGann’s back, checking her breathing with his extremely sensitive fingers. Beside him, Dion Medina, his new assistant, nodded absently while taking notes on Alan’s examination.

“Breathing otherwise seems normal,” Alan continued, moving his hand up to Rosie’s jaw, and gently placing two fingers beneath her neck. He stood for a moment, motionless and silent, before removing his hand. “Pulse is a bit rapid, but seems otherwise normal.” He moved a light close, and began examining her eyes. “Do I unnerve you, miss McGann?” he asked calmly, focusing intensely on her pupils.

. . .

Rosie slammed her back against the brick wall, trying hard to muffle her sharp, desperate breaths. She’d never run so hard or so fast in her life, and, though she’d known the streets of Dublin since she was a child, fear obscured her memories. She was hopelessly lost now, and prayed that her pursuer had likewise lost his way.

The MacTavish’s gad had always been the sleekest model in town. So helpful, so trustworthy; she had no reason to worry about borrowing it for the day to help with some errands. The last thing she expected was for it to push old man Murphy down some stairs and start chasing her with a hammer. She’d learn later that it was malfunctioning something awful, but, for the time, all she felt was fear.

. . .

“Not at all, Doctor,” Rosie responded through her thick Irish accent. “Your touch was just colder than I expected, is all.”

“Apologies for that, my circulation isn’t what it used to be.” Alan paused and searched her face, as though awaiting a chuckle at what he believed to be humor. She smiled appeasingly. He nodded in appreciation, and resumed examining her eyes.

Johann Lindemann smiled at Alan’s observation. “Well, I enjoy the sport, doc. Boxing might not be the most gentlemanly of pursuits, but I think it keeps me in good shape.”

“Be that as it may, Mr. Lindemann,” Alan replied, unamused, “I must advise against doing so bare-knuckled. Your hands are already showing the wear and tear of a man twice your age. Just look at this scar,” he tutted, pointing at a large gash along Johann’s inner left forearm. “This could have killed you.”

. . .

“Get that damn compressor plugged!” The Chief’s voice carried over the din of the engine room, while Johann wrestled with the white-hot steam now belching out of the compressor tube. Waist-deep and rising in briny seawater, he struggled to keep his footing with the shifting currents and slippery floor. Outside, the cannon-fire had stopped — or maybe he just couldn’t hear it any more, he wasn’t sure — all he knew was that he was going to die in this half-sunken ship, trapped in an engine room.

With a loud pop, the compressor tube in his hands ripped itself open, gouging his face and leaving a huge chunk of metal embedded in his left inner forearm. He screamed in anger and pain, furious at it all. “Dammit, Lindemann!,” the Chief shouted, wading over to him. “If we don’t die today, I’m gonna kill you!”

. . .

Johann smirked. “You’re right, doc, I shoulda been more careful with that one.”

Alan nodded, apparently proud that his patient was heeding his warning. “Good. Now, remove your shirt, please. I need to check your breathing.”

“My Dutch not good,” Selene Berger struggled out, trying to explain her condition to Alan. “Doctor told me, little girl, I have… uh… tired blood?”

Alan held a hand to his chin, pondering for a moment. “Anemia? You’re anemic?” Selene nodded furtively, recognizing the word. “Well, that’s no problem, miss Berger. Just maintain an iron-rich diet, and make sure you get plenty of sleep when you’re off shift.” Alan continued, apparently unaware that most of his words were sailing right over his patient’s head. “Now, tell me please,” He continued, studying her left eye from afar, “should I be concerned about that wall-eye of yours?”

. . .

The sound of pebbles being piled together always filled young Selene with fear. Even as a grown woman, she would always flinch at the sound, and the sight of a sock with a heavy weight in one end.

. . .

Missing the words, but noticing Alan’s attention focused on her left eye, Selene tried to casually brush it off, not interested in opening those old wounds. “Have had since child, doctor. Sometimes not so bad, sometimes so bad. Never big problem.”

“Yes, well,” Alan hesitated, not sure if he should press the matter. “Please come visit me if it ever starts to bother you.”

“Ja doctor.”

Alan repositioned himself to get a better look at the scar on Agarwal Dopinder Singh’s obliques. It was a horrible scar, sick with poorly-regrown muscle and flesh. “I’m not sure what I’m looking for, Mr. Dopinder.”

“No, no, I see it,” Dion, chimed in. “That is a very nice, scar.” Dopinder beamed at the praise.

Confused, Alan stood back up properly. “It looks like nothing but injury and pain to me.”

. . .

Dopinder felt the breaths deep in his chest as his heart thumped mightily in his throat, his back to the ground. The bandit’s lifeless body fell at his side, kicking up dust as it thumped to ground. Letting the battle rage on around him, Dopinder laid there for a moment, catching his breath. This was a good death. This was a noble death. He might not die today, but if he did, he’d be okay with it.

Lifting his head slightly, he could still see the jagged knife sticking out of his side. Buried all the way to the hilt, no less, he knew that taking this thing out would probably make things worse. But he couldn’t keep fighting like this, and his brothers needed him — the village needed him. Jamming a strip of bloody cloth in his mouth, he put both hands on the dagger’s handle, and pulled.

. . .

“I like it,” Dopinder replied gently, a note of self-satisfaction in his voice. “It hurts sometimes, but its a good pain. Reminds me of a very good day.”

Alan nodded as though understanding, the gears in his neck whirring softly as he did. “It would be a lot of trouble to fix up, anyway. I see no reason to operate on it unless it starts being more trouble than it’s worth.”

“You’re wasting your time, doc, I’m fine.” Charlie complained, knowing full well that her complaints were falling on deaf ears.

Alan swirled his hands around in a basin of hot water, his back to her. “Again, miss DuPont, this is just a check-up. We’re establishing a baseline of the crew’s health, so its easier for us to spot when something is amiss.” He wiped his hands on a towel Dion offered him, then turned to her, extending an arm. “Now, please relax, I’m going to check your pulse.”

“I really wish you wouldn’t,” she said, softly, recoiling a bit.

“Is something wrong?” Alan asked.

“I just… I don’t wanna, is all.” Her voice carried a hint of hesitation that both Alan and Dion picked up on. The two physicians shared a puzzled look, then turned back to Charlie.

“Charlie,” Alan began, “It’s just a simple check, nothing serious. I’m just making sure everything’s okay.”

. . .

“Please” crossed her pink lips. “Please, please, please.” It seemed so empty, so meaningless. It was all she could say, even though every inch of her longed to say more.

Like a spring never ending. Wasn’t there a dream last night? None of it mattered, and none of it ever would.


. . .

“Patient um…” Alan hesitated, balking at the weight of the words he knew he had to say. “Patient has no pulse.” He stood in silence for a moment, Dion’s furtive pen scratches making the only sound in the infirmary.

Charlie, her back slouched and her head slumped, locked eyes with Alan as a single tear rolled down her cheek. “I see you, Alan.”


Arikiba Arikiba

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