I alluded to the fact that I’d won a competition, but I wasn’t able to say anything because it hadn’t been announced or published. It is my first creative writing win. I won the local writing competition for The Mylor Magazine. I was told that there were 27 entries, and that my entry was a clear winner. Feedback was that it was ‘well-structured’, ‘not a word wasted’ and ‘polished’. Those comments made my heart sing, because that’s what I was trying to do. It was a story of 430 words, my first attempt at flash fiction. I must’ve edited the piece about 10 times, over a period of a few weeks, tying to pare down the writing to the minimum. I almost knew it by heart, and that’s also a danger because you have to edit what you’ve written (and not what you think you’ve written). Years of reviewing audit working papers, audit reports and more audit reports have honed those skills! Anyway, here’s the story….
Emilia Novak lay, swaddled in a white blanket, her eyes fixed on the ceiling.
She muttered the numbers like an incantation. She wondered if she would reach twenty by the time she got there. The wonky wheel, like that on an errant shopping trolley, snagged. It made for a lumpy ride.
She travelled along a sea of endless shiny blue walls, punctuated by loud posters for ‘FLU JABS’ and ‘NOW WASH YOUR HANDS’. The voices of the porters, her two pilots at her bow and stern, drifted above her. The wonky wheel squealed as they rounded the corner.
Fourteen… bulb not working. Does that count?
The stiff cotton of the gown chafed her. She wanted to scratch, but could not wrestle her arms free. She attempted a wriggle, but the cotton dug in.
The porters eased the trolley to a stop. A shrill ‘ting’ sounded, as doors opened. She was edged into the dim space, which darkened as the doors closed behind them.
Huh. Pretty pathetic light – does this one count?
Her stomach clawed at the loss of height.
The lift stopped abruptly, like a yoyo on the full release of its string. The doors opened and brilliant light flooded in. The light caught the gold tooth of the porter, as he beamed a wide grin at her.
‘Nearly there, love.’
The reek of Dettol assaulted her, as she wrinkled her nose.
Great doors swung open, and the porters wheeled her in and executed a three-point turn parking her against the wall.
‘Good luck love. Goodbye.’ Their feet padded off into the distance.
She felt a squeeze of her hand, soft and warm.
‘It won’t be long now. Dr Lloyd, the anaesthetist will be along shortly.’
There was nothing to count so Emilia shut her eyes.
‘Hello there,’ Dr Lloyd peered down at her, ‘I’ll be at your head, just wanted to say hello. We’re going in. You know Mr Carter, of course.’
Different voices drifted above her, as the wonky wheel limped back to life.
Eighteen. A big light, like a dentist’s lamp on steroids. Perhaps that could count for two.
Dr Lloyd settled down behind her with his upside-down smile. Something cold stroked her right hand.
The door opened. Six squeaks advanced across the floor. Mr Carter, with a union flag scrub cap, appeared. ‘Right let’s get started.’
‘You’ll feel a sharp prick, and then you can count to ten,’ said the upside-down face. Emilia smiled. Then the union flag spoke.
‘OK Mrs Jones.’
What? Oh no…
“I’m not Mrs…”