The Warden

Valerie Thomas, a 55 year old woman, has been admitted to hospital having suffered a stroke in her home town. She is taken to the Prince John hospital where she is treated by a team of ward sisters who, Valerie believes, will nurse her back to health. But, just a few rooms down in the same corridor, the hospital's secret screams through the walls. A case that will test the boundaries of human nature and the true meaning of what can only be described as a crime against humanity - bullying.

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4. To The Dogs

Valerie awoke heaving fitfully in the dim room light only by headlights of passing cars for the second time. Her forehead was heavily dappled with beading sweat droplets and her fists where balled up at her sides. Viciously her back arched and she heard her chest wheeze, whoop and whine as she fought to receive what she had been so naturally denied. Her head was pounding and her vision blurred slightly. Beside her head, the red and green bulbed monitor called to attention the ward nurses for assembly. Valerie attempted to breathe down into each breath and gather the most oxygen she could. Supply: denied her body seemed to reject. She stifled to breathe through the phlegm that hung tight in her throat like a hammock. A sharp pricking pain surged through her chest and Valerie unclenched her fists and brought them up to cradle her left rib cage. She began to gasp, though she could quite bring enough energy to scream. It hurt. It hurt. Valerie could feel her cheeks flushing with colour and running dew roll down her neck. Her whole body began to tremble violently and she sensed herself slipping away through, now welling eyes, though she fought against it.

I mustn't, she panicked. I mustn't go.

Raged, worn and exhausted Valerie loosened her grip on anything she had and allowed herself to sink into the dampened bed sheets. Her eyelids fluttered a surrender.

This is it, she managed to think despite her discomfort. Here I am. Alone. And I shall go. Alone. And I shall be forever. Alone.

Then she let go and gave in. Numb, drained and blue she gave in.

                                                                         * * * * * * * *

The next morning, Valerie awoke to find herself in a new room and on a different ward that was closer to ICU but not in it. At first, she gathered that someone must have taken the hint about her not wanting to go back into the Intensive Care Unit, though she was almost certain that no one had listened to her pleas. So instead, after peering through the half shut blinds of ICU succumbed with old age, she concluded that that particular room was full and, had it not been for the gracious angel who now lay limp like an abandoned deer carcass, Valerie would now be in there. Again.

The day passed just as the previous, despite the night's suffocation; a wake up call from Sister Summer and a delivery of 2 slices of crisp, cool toast, a bluntly serrated butter knife and a small plastic jar of seedless blueberry jam. Then, after a hasty session of plastering the toast in jam with unfit and aching upper arms, Valerie would take a few munches from the outer crust of the bread into the middle before being received by an insolent and uncompromising frisk by Nurse Ingrid Vaughn. She would adjust the tubes that swam through Valerie's veins and smack the end of her pen to her ample pear-shaped breast and noting down the number from the IV drip. She would then snatch Valerie's half empty plate from the end of bed and waltz out of the cubicle sending the divider curtain billowing in her wake like a raging fire.

At the start of her time here, Valerie had thought that Nurse Vaughn was a blessing and a remedial answer to her prayers of a quick stay in Prince John's as well as an efficient service.

Finally, someone running a hospital that actually knows what they're doing.

Though the latter was almost half correct, it soon became apparent that Nurse Vaughn had more than just a menial chip on her shoulder. She could see it in her conduct. Nurse Vaughn's hands were broad and wide, carrying a certain aggression, and her face was slate grey and dragging, like fruit-filled shopping bags.

At first Valerie hadn't noticed that she wasn't quite like the others. However, she had noticed that with every bark that came from Nurse Vaughn, the others nurses and doctors would act a little more glumly and their faces would harden.

It was just two nights ago that the realisation hit her.

It was 6pm, the night before last. Valerie was combing through pages of a glossy magazine she'd found at the end of her bed, splashed with black and white photographs of the latest people to shoot to fame; Alexandra Charlton, Bobby Macerfield and footballer, Frederick Hilton. She turned the page and was struck by the image of Wellington Carter, her childhood hero. She fingered the image whilst reading the title of the article, before her eyes met back with her fingers that lingered on his cheek

“We’ll get ‘em and batter ‘em flat,” it read. Valerie smiled. It was one of Wellington Carter’s many catchphrases, but the one that Valerie loved the most. The phrase had taken hold after the premier of the blockbuster movie, Linchback, when Valerie was just 17. Wellington had played the part of heart-throb, Johnny Fern, whose father was chief patrolling constable of the Hamperbuckle police until he was mauled to death by savages and their dogs in what was one of the largest drugs raids. Valerie could still remember the exact way that Johnny Fern had looked after learning the news. His lips had crippled into a dry smile and his eyes had hardened. His eyes had been brimming with tears, but then he looked at Andy Morrison, who was to take over his father’s position, and spat in thug English; “We’ll get ‘em and batter ‘em flat”. The film had been a hit and soon young Wellington Carter was cast for as many as five leading roles within the next two months. Since then his career had rocketed and sometimes it was almost a relief to sit and watch a film that didn’t star Wellington.

Valerie traced her fingers down to his shirt, the flesh of her fingers dragging on the magazine creases.

Wow, Valerie thought, watching where a six pack had once been. Hot crossed buns - if I ever did see any!

A harsh whipping of the curtains made Valerie jump and she snapped closed the magazine in fear of embarrassment. There stood Nurse Vaughn, clear liquid filled syringe in one hand and a paper documented wallet in the other. She pushed the magazine to the floor and without looking at Valerie, Nurse Vaughn gruffly said,

“Mrs. Thomas, this won’t hurt. It will help.”

Confused by her lacking explanation, Valerie eyed Nurse Vaughn carefully as though waiting for her to explain more. When she didn’t Valerie asked what it was that she was giving her.

“Mrs. Thomas, trust me. It won’t hurt.”

“Oh no. I’m not scared but I do want to know what it is,” Valerie chimed, putting on a brave front.

“Mrs. Thomas, as I said this will help you,” Nurse Vaughn replied clearly frustrated.

“You’ve said that, I know,” Valerie snapped. “But what will it help me with?”

“You’ve got a gob on you, haven’t you? Just as well then that I’ve come to give you this!”

Valerie frowned and gaped her jaw in disbelief.

“It’ll help you sleep. Can’t be dealing with what happened last night can we?”

Last night Valerie’s condition had deteriorated slightly. She had had trouble breathing and had shrilled as much as she possibly could have since no one had responded and the cries of the monitoring machines.

Nurse Vaughn seized Valerie’s right wrist and aimed it at the vein in her hand. The strain of her grip shocked Valerie and she fought to break free from it.

“I don’t need it!” Valerie cried. “I can manage without. Honestly! Please!”

Valerie wriggled more and attempted to fight her nurse of with sudden kicks of her legs.

“Thought you weren’t scared!” Nurse Vaughn mocked and squeezed Valerie’s wrist a little harder.

Her eyes were murderous and red. A snicker escaped her lips as she set down the paperwork. She pressed the needle hard into Valerie’s wrist. Valerie cried out and felt as though she were a child again. Nurse Vaughn’s grip constricted and Valerie’s wrist gave way. It buckled and chipped whilst Valerie cried at the agony. Nurse Vaughn’s grip loosened and she wrenched out the needle. She righted her position and stepped out of the room sending the curtains surging in her assassinating breeze.

Valerie lay limp though still conscious with her chest jumping. Next to her, her wrist drowned in a rushing river of tepid blood and it pulsed in pain. She watched the white washed ceiling and saw onyx orbs vanish and then re-appear. Her eyelids felt heavy.

Briskly Nurse Vaughn re-entered with a box of tissues, a bandage, plaster and splint. In silence, she mopped the mess and applied a plaster. Then she positioned the splint along Valerie’s wrist and tightly wrapped the cotton bandage around it. She was neat and efficient in her work and before Valerie’s breathing had returned to normal, Nurse Vaughn had left without a trace of her existence nor the bloody state she’d forcefully caused. 

Trembling, Valerie rolled her head to the right and saw that the magazine was open on the floor to the page Valerie had been on. Her eyes lethargically closed and re-opened.

“We’ll get ‘em,” she read to herself. “and batter ‘em flat.”

 

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