Deirdre hated the hospital, though it wasn’t always that way. As a child she had so many allergies and illnesses that eventually the hospital became a comforting place. The smell of antiseptics held a warm, welcoming note, the smiling nurses and their uniforms became reassuring, the long, sterile hallways were just roads to her next appointment. When she reached ten the almost constant hospital visits became less and less until, eventually, she didn’t need them anymore. Now she was thirty five and for the first time in almost twenty five years she was back in the hospital. The cleaning fluids which had once been welcoming were foreboding, their thick, astringent smell hurt her nose and chest when she breathed. The long hallways formed a never ending maze that twisted about on itself until soon she was hopelessly lost and the once comforting scrubs signalled another painful test or news that they were still looking.
Deirdre had started to take walks outside, the nurses didn’t mind too much and she was never outside for long. Partially because the walks tired her out but mostly because the hospital itself didn’t have much land and she was afraid to wander too far away, should something happen. She had collapsed almost a week ago now, the worst part of it all, in her mind anyway, was that it happened in work, just as she was standing to give a presentation. The last thing she remembered was trying to get her laptop connected to the damn projector and then it was lights out. Since then she had a whole host of symptoms, passing out, vomiting, diarrhea The doctors didn’t know what was wrong with her, but insisted that they would find out soon. At this point Deirdre was starting to consider just leaving. Her symptoms weren’t bad enough to warrant such a long stay, at least in her opinion. She wasn’t in danger of dying anytime soon. Sure the passing out was inconvenient to say the least but she hadn’t been truly hurt.
The lack of visitors didn’t help her overall mood, and the absence of them didn’t pass by unnoticed. The nurses had asked her once or twice if she had friends visiting or if there was anyone she wanted her to call. The answer to both was no. She had no friends and no family. At least, she had no friends that she considered close enough to want to visit her and her family were dead to her. Ever since her mother died and her father remarried that shrieking harpy Vanessa, she had been shunted aside until their only contact was a Christmas card that may or may not come that year. She did not want them knowing about this, not after how hard she worked to excise them from her life. They didn’t care about her when she was distant, an occasional thought, but Vanessa would just love the whole mystery illness aspect. She would land in with fake tears and bouquets of flowers, of which Deirdre would undoubtedly be allergic, and boxes of chocolates, undoubtedly filled with nuts, which Deirdre was also allergic to. If any of this was pointed out Vanessa would descend into sobs about how terrible she was for forgetting in Deirdre’s time of crisis, but she had been so so worried, or cold accusations that Deirdre was just an ungrateful brat. She’s lucky she was getting any gifts at all. Her father would just sit there, watching it all impassively, a spectre haunting her room, unwilling, or unable, to interact with either of them.
It was on the eight day that Deirdre began to wonder if they actually remembered her, or if she had somehow fallen through the cracks, kept around because no one knew why she was there and everyone was afraid to discharge her should some doctor find out and raise hell. After all the symptoms had mostly passed by, the fainting and diarrhea had stopped, she was still dizzy which made her throw up once or twice but beyond that she felt fine. They had taken the IV out the day before, which thrilled her, no longer did she have to lug it around and her near constant trips to pee had decreased considerably. The nurses would tell her that they were sure she would be out soon and the doctors would give her a bland smile, a nod and a “We’ll give it a little bit and see how you’re doing then, ok?” before sweeping out of the room to move onto their next patient. Work had sent in a card and a bouquet of flowers, the card was still perched on her nightstand, the flowers were to be thrown in the bin but had been taken home by one of the nurses. She had been told to take as much time as she needed and her job would be waiting for her when she got back.
It was the ninth night now and Deirdre couldn’t sleep. She missed her own bed and her own pillows, she just wanted to go home. She wandered the halls at night, endlessly waiting until she was allowed leave. It seemed like she had been stuck in this place for years, wandering the halls, asking to leave but being told it would only be a little longer.
Finally on the tenth day she was told she would be going home. Deirdre smiled at the nurse, “Thank god, I’m dying to get out of here. Pardon the pun. Part of me was wondering if I’d stumbled into the hospital version of the sixth sense.”
“No, no, nothing like that. Though you will have to come in for some follow up appointments. We have some medications here that should help with the dizziness and nausea.”
The nurse kept talking but Deirdre tuned out and nodded along, already she was planning her evening, a long, hot bath, some take away and a good nights sleep in her own bed.
The nurse had vanished, saying something about paperwork and Deirdre was still waiting. Perhaps this was like purgatory and she had really died in her office. She snorted and shook her head, oh well, if she was dead at least she wasn’t wasting her life stuck in this damn place. Another doctor walked in, she didn’t recognise this one, but then she had met so many over the last few days. “How are you feeling today?”
“Good, anxious to get going.”
“Yes, the nurse told me that I was being released.”
“That doesn’t sound right, are you sure?”
“Ok, I’m just going to double check, I’ll be back in a minute.”
Deirdre nodded. It didn’t matter what they said, she was going to leave regardless. She had been stuck in this hospital long enough and she just wanted to go home.
The doctor returned a few moments later, smiling apologetically, “It seems she mixed up your case with another patient. We’re going to need you to hold on for a few more days.”
“No, I’m going home. I’m sick of this place and I feel fine. It’s beyond ridiculous at this point. I’ve sat here and I’ve waited and allowed myself to be subjected to tests with the promise of being made better but nothing is happening. I just want to go home.”
“I understand, I really do but-”
“No, no buts. I’m going.” Deirdre stood, the nurse had promised to bring her some clothes to wear, but hadn’t returned with them. She’d just have to make her way home in the sweatpants and top the hospital had provided her with. The doctor was standing in the doorway, but she shoved passed him, yelling that he wasn’t allowed touch her when he grabbed her wrist. She shook him off and started running, what ever the hell was happening in this place she wanted no part in any of it.
She made it half way down the hallway before she was tackled, someone was pinning her to the ground. She struggled and screamed, there was sudden pain and everything became fuzzy and soft, then darkness came.
“I told you not to play into her delusions!”
“I’m sorry, it just makes life easier to agree with her and go on with our day. She’s been here for months and every day it’s always the same, she asks when she can go, we say soon and she goes with it. She was more insistent today so I told her I needed to sort out some paper work. It’s happened once or twice before and she always forgets about it before anyone gets back.