Drain (Pt. 3)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Gas escaped from the incision, as though a small organ was deflating.

Submitted: February 12, 2008

A A A | A A A

Submitted: February 12, 2008



Iris was still static on the couch when I left for work, the remote control in her stiff grip. It had been there for days. She stared intently at the television as it pumped out a gaudy reality programme. Images of celebrities learning to do something basic, fast edits that rushed past her dull eyes. She still hadn’t moved. The smell of urine and faeces was gaining depth, but I didn’t want to shift her. Every time I touched her, she flinched, aggressively. The first time I tried to lift her, she went for me, I still had the scratch-mark on my neck.

I had checked her throat for bite-marks when it started. No sign. She wasn’t incubating.

Flies hovered around her cardigan, which was browning along the hem. The insect-buzz wasn’t yet overwhelming, but I resolved to buy some fly spray. Her black hair was matted now, filth visible between the strands. Why my wife had frozen into this state two weeks previously, I couldn’t discern. Concerned with work and maintaining routine, I neglected her, allowing her to remain catatonic whilst I continued my weekday trips to the office, spending time between shifts and days off in the bedroom watching the small, portable television, smoking dope and waiting for my next shuffle into the workplace.

Before the change in her demeanour, things between us had broken down to the point where we didn’t even exchange glances, let alone words. She was clearly having a breakdown of some kind, but I had come to resent her to the point where I didn’t feel obliged to help her out, care for her, even report her to the mental health people. I hadn’t even researched their phone number. It was her couch she was covering with her own effluents, so I felt it was her problem. She had cheated on me with a parade of men in the preceding months and I was relieved, almost, to be shot of her. She had changed from an annoyance to a mere presence. Human only in the physical sense.

I couldn’t work out if she’d been eating. There didn’t appear to be any depletion in the food stocks and I mainly bought provisions for myself while I was out – packaged sandwiches, burgers, junk. When I left for work, I watered her, like a plant. Her dry oesophagus gulped as I poured a pint of water down. Proof at least that her motor functions were working.

On the night-bus to work, I considered my options. In order to get myself a freebie from Con, we’d agreed that I would provide him with two blood bags every two days for the next month whilst I had access to the bank, working the night shift with the farmers - so called because of the public’s latent paranoia that, if medicated, they would eventually control those of us who were still untainted. Farming us for our blood.

I would have to deny a patient or two their treatment, of the thirty or so I would see that evening, stashing their medication. Either that or I would have to steal donor bags while Gaskin wasn’t looking. I decided the latter option was the most realistic. Gaskin was often as physically absent as he was mentally. He wouldn’t notice.

When the time came, with Gaskin at a long, probably alcohol-sodden break, I calmly took two sacks of fluid from the locker, slipping them into my hold-all. I took his fountain pen and adapted his notes. Gaskin was permanently in a different dimension and wouldn’t notice the difference. I placed the bags in a tupperware container before zipping it up. Still groggy from the twenty-bag I’d inhaled the previous night, I made sure to double-check that everything looked innocent. I also swiped two syringes and a couple of other devices, so as not to disappoint Con. Then I went back to treating patients, with some zeal.

‘Anything come up in the last hour?’ Gaskin asked when he returned, smelling of whiskey vapour.

‘Nothing’ I replied. ‘I medicated John Squires and a new one – Beth Slater’

‘Beth Slater. Yes – I remember her. Pretty little thing. I registered her two days ago while she was still incubating. Hungry already is she?’

‘Very’ I replied.

Beth Slater was a young brunette girl. Clearly, from Gaskin’s description, while incubating she’d been vulnerable. Sweet, even. By the time she’d got to me, as the urge for blood had overcome her, she’d turned into a real danger. As I’d injected her she’d tried to bite.

‘I’m sure incubation periods are becoming shorter’ he mused. ‘Or maybe it’s just my age - The days going past faster’.

More likely it was the booze in his system. Like the skunk I couldn’t resist smoking, it made all the days segue into one another – day following night following day - the light and the dark mixing into a dull grey.

‘Mind if I go now?’ I asked.

‘Is it that time already?’ Gaskin asked, befuddled. ‘His eyes spied the clock from crow’s feet and folded wrinkles. ‘Yes. Yes – you hurry back to that lovely wife of yours. Is she well, by the way?’

‘She’s fine’ I lied, blotting the mess from my consciousness. ‘See you tomorrow night, Gaskin’

‘Yes’ he replied, already distracted. I left hurriedly. I had a day off coming up. But first I had to deal with Con.

He was much faster this time, answering the intercom and letting me in. It struck me that I was seeing him for the third day in a row, after a hiatus of at least two years. We’d fallen back into old habits already, striking up an anonymous friendship, connected by small trades rather than any empathy with one another. Without speaking, I visited the bathroom, locking the door behind me.

Flies rested on the scabbed remains in the tub and the window was ajar. The small room was musty, the breeze from outside a relief from a vaguely oppressive odour. I had half expected a new corpse to hang silently over the porcelain bath – but was relieved to find the room empty. The worst-case scenario was finding a still living human being in there. I don’t know how I would have handled that. More than likely, I would have allowed the pleading and imploring eyes to bounce off me. It wasn’t my business after all.

Back in Con’s front room, I immediately set about my part of the deal, taking the small valve from my breast pocket and placing it on the coffee table.

‘What’s that?’ Con asked, quizzically.

‘It’s the valve I’m going to be using.


‘So we can access your heart’

‘I didn’t realise you were going to mainline it for me’ he said, cautiously.

‘You’ll never go back to drinking it again’ I assured him.

‘This is the first time I’ve gone without for forty-eight hours. We’d better do this quickly’

‘I should really tie you down’ I warned him, looking around the room for rope, thinking perhaps I could use my belt.

‘Don’t worry, Peter. Self control’. He pointed to his temple again.

I nodded at him, trusting him, despite my better judgement.

Con showed no emotion as I made the scalpel incision, No blood issued. It never did when operating on farmers. Dry as a bone, the blade made cracking noises as it scraped against the rib cage until I cut through. Gas escaped from the incision, as though a small organ was deflating.

‘What’s that noise?’ Con asked, a strange mixture of concern and amusement spreading over his face.

‘Nothing to worry about’

I placed the valve in position and pushed it deep into the hole I’d created in his chest.

‘Ok. We’re ready to mainline’

Con rubbed his hands together gleefully while I pulled a bag out of the sack. I ripped the sterilised packaging around the needle away and proceeded to draw blood into its huge chamber before lining the metal spine up with the valve.

‘Try to restrain yourself when it hits’ I warned him. ‘Most patients lose control at that point’

He didn’t respond, which pleased me.

As the plunger sunk, Con became totally still, apart from his pupils which expanded to fill his eyes, as though his sockets were caving in, being absorbed by his thin cheekbones. I removed the needle.

A huge burst of vapour burst forth from his mouth, a gurgling red mist. He laughed like a drunk and fell into stupour. I was briefly jealous of the reverie he found himself in.

‘That’s good Peter. That is very, very good indeed’ he remarked, a picture of serenity.

‘I’m glad’ I told him. ‘I’ll leave the other bag with you. I’m going now’

Con had left an envelope on his desk, stuffed with skunk. I gathered my clinic equipment, leaving him the syringe and the other blood-bag for his own use, gratefully picking up my reward as I made for the door.

© Copyright 2018 Swineshead. All rights reserved.

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