THE TRUTH

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: The Imaginarium

Chapter 24 (v.1) - ESME

Submitted: September 10, 2019

Reads: 43

Comments: 3

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Submitted: September 10, 2019

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The reception is full of animals... my eyes are drawn to a gorgeous little spaniel, her eyes so like Nettie's as she looks up adoringly at her owner. A knot tightens in my stomach... this is so hard sitting here among all these precious pets, their owners reaching out a reassuring hand, or cradling them to calm their fears. I want to do the same for Nettie, to be with her, talk to her, tell her I love her.

“How much longer have we got to wait? Can't someone tell us how she is... she needs me, Dad. I can't stand this much longer.”

Mum fidgets in her seat and consults her phone. “She's right, we've been sitting here for nearly two hours, I mean how long does it take to run a few tests?”

Dad walks over to the reception desk. “Can someone please give us an up-date. This really isn't good enough.”

The nurse looks up from the screen, her expression clearly one of irritation. “As you can see the clinic is extremely busy. Veronica will let you know when she has the test results. I understand she advised you to leave her with us... well that might still be the best option, she will contact you as soon as she has more conclusive information to give you on her condition.”

You did not answer my question, I asked for an update on her condition, whatever that might be. Whether she has deteriorated, stabilised or improved. Surely Veronica must be able to tell us something by now and, for the record, we are going nowhere until we see her.”

The nurse stands up, her thin, pale face stony. “I'll go and see what I can find out.”

I said, we want to see Veronica.”

Hushed whispers are being exchanged around the room, little do they know I can hear exactly what they're saying...

Would you believe it, I'm sure that's The Queen and the Duke with their daughter...

They seem such a close and caring family...

Those drug claims must have been awful for them, I mean, just look at their daughter, seems a lovely kid, obviously thinks the world of her pet...

They're all so upset, guess they're human like us all...

The Queen looks so young and much prettier in real life...

I cant believe they're keeping the royal family waiting like this...

I didn't realise the Duke was such a hunk, the Queen is one lucky lady...

If you'd like to follow me,” the Nurse instructs from the doorway, interrupting my snooping.

We follow her down a long corridor and into a long room off... an Intensive Care Unit for animals, lined with cages with comfortable beds for their furry occupants. Veronica walks towards us, though still serious, I sense a change in her attitude.

I'm pleased to report that Nettie has responded well to the steriods and IV fluids. The scan also showed the extent of neurological damage caused by the stroke could well be temporary. The fact that we treated her quickly seems to have paid off. She still remains critical but the signs, so far, are looking more positive.”

Where is she? I need to see her.” I say.

Come with me.”

We follow Veronica as she walks the length of the sterile room, the faint smell of antiseptic and bleach mixed with the distinct smell of animals, linger in the air.

Here she is. She's resting and comfortable, though we will need to continue with IV fluids, medication and regular observation of her vital signs for the time being. She will receive close scrutiny overnight, so my advice would be to go home and get a good night's sleep. As I said, we will contact you if there is any adverse change in her condition.”

I stare down at Nettie through the cage, lying on a soft bed, hooked up to an IV. She looks so vulnerable and alone. “I can't abandon her at a time when she needs me most. Please, just let me lie by her, she's not used to being on her own. I know she would want me with her and it will help her recover.”

Veronica ignores me and turns her attention to Mum. “The last thing Nettie needs at the moment is stimulation... I really must insist, she needs total rest and quiet time.”

Please Mum, she doesn't know Nettie like I do... I know what's best for her. I won't stimulate her, I'll just lie quietly by her side to give comfort and reassurance.”

Excuse me but, with respect, I am the professonal here. Besides, in the circumstances, I cannot allow a child to remain here. If Nettie's condition were to deteriorate, the last thing we would need to deal with is a traumatised child. Please, just do as I say and leave us do our job.”

I notice Dad's jaw is clenched and his fingers curled into tight fists.

Veronica, I hear what you say, and I'm both relieved and delighted that Nettie appears to be improving, but I have to say your bedside manner leaves a lot to be desired. Esme has grown up with Nettie, they have been constant companions and she just wants to be given the opportunity to stay with her for a while. She's a sensible girl who loves Nettie dearly, for goodness sake, what's the big deal. As humans we take great comfort from the support of loving family members during difficult times, and to us Nettie is a precious part of our family, please respect that fact.

Veronica glances from me to Dad, her mouth a thin hard line, her brow furrowed in deep lines. “This is highly irregular but since you are so insistent I will allow her to stay, but only until the night staff arrive for their shift at eight o'clock. Is that clear?”

Absolutely, and... well thank you, it means a lot.” Dad turns to me. “Okay, as Nettie's condition has stabilised, we'll leave you with her while we go back to sort out some urgent business issues with Uncle Lett.”

Mum, please be sure to tell Deja that Nettie is holding her own. She'll be pining for her.”

Of course, honey. We'll be back to pick you up later, but if anything changes give us a shout-out.”

They watch as Veronica opens the cage door then stands back to let me in. I step inside, lie down close to Nettie, feel her warmth next to me and run my fingers very gently over her silky, domed head. “It's okay, Nettie, I'm here, you're going to be fine.”

A look of astonishment spreads across Veronica's features. “I don't believe it, she responded, I saw her eyelids flicker. That is a really positive sign.”

Dad smiles, lighting up his blue eyes. “She's a dog whisperer, always has been. See you later Ez.”

***********

Cara, the duty nurse, periodically walks through to tend to and monitor the various animals. It is unnaturally quiet, just the sound of her footsteps and the smell of antiseptic that radiates from her. She smiles down at me, her expression kind and caring. “She's doing well, her vital signs are much stronger and I truly believe that having you here is making a real difference.”

Do you think she'll recover?”

Well, all the signs are positive, let's hope they're maintained.”

Her phone bleeps. “Sorry, have to go.”

I hear her footsteps retreating on the tiled floor and, once again, silence descends.

As I lie next to Nettie, listening to her rhythmic breathing, I'm suddenly aware of a distant but heated conversation taking place in different part of the premises.

I hear Veronica ask, “how many more, Luca? We've already accepted more than we can comfortably accommodate and you still insist on taking others in."

But this one is a real challenge... a particularly complicated hybrid case. I toyed with advising euthanasia to put the poor thing out of it's misery, but I need to keep experimenting until I succeed, which one day I will. I need you to help me prepare for the new arrival later tonight, and carry out a preliminary assessment.”

Luca I'm tired, I can't keep doing this cloak and dagger stuff in the dead of night. Enough is enough, it's unethical. Your treatments have failed time and time again, only to render the poor victims even more mutated and disabled than they already were. It has to stop, you're obsessed, have you no conscience? The laboratory has been turned into a macabre institution for hideously malformed hybrids, just to satisfy your ghastly appetite for genetic experimentation. Its not only unethical, its cruel and I can no longer be a part of it.”

You signed a legally binding contract and confidentiality agreement which still stand. Besides all our hybrids could never have lived a normal life, I am only trying to help them and, given time, I will. Unfortuately experiments involve failure and disappointment before success, its all about learning by our failures. I'm on the brink of a breakthrough, please Veronica, you must believe me.”

I hear her laugh, scornful and mocking.

This is not what I signed up for, you reeled me in with your grand talk of genetic realignment, but you've turned into a warped, mad professor on a quest for personal acclaim without any regard for the poor victims you are under oath to help and protect.”

There is an ominous silence before I hear a crashing sound, my senses tell me Veronica is in danger. I whisper in Netties ear, telling her I'll be back and not to worry. As I make my way stealthily towards the door, one of the animals begins to whimper, alerting Cara. “Esme, what's wrong, is it Nettie?”

Veronica is in danger... we must help her.”

What do you mean, she's an experienced vet.”

I don't mean from an animal... someone called Luca, I heard them arguing, then a crash, we have to help her. Where are they?”

She stares at me as if I've gone raving mad. “Luca's office is located in the laboratory, you could not possibly have heard anything from where you were. You must have been mistaken.”

Cara, believe me, I heard. How many times do I have to tell you, Veronica is in danger. She needs help.”

The laboratory is secure and access restricted to designated personnel only.”

Well, who has access to it, someone must have.”

Right now, only Luca and Veronica.”

I pull my phone from my pocket, my hand shaking. “I'm alerting the police, whoever this Luca is, he's dangerous.”

I hear the sound of a key turning in a lock, then footsteps along the corridor, my whole body starts to shake.

And who do we have here, Cara? You know the rules... no owners to be allowed on the premises outside of clinic hours. So what is she doing here?”




© Copyright 2019 Sue Harris. All rights reserved.

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