"What are thoooose?!"
The hovercar zipped along the busy highway through District 2 of New Albion. The streets glowed in the dark, the city alive with lights and nightlife. Giant screens advertised the latest and greatest in cybertech: the next generation tablet the Mascot 550C, a virtual reality simulator that could take you to the moon, and a new club the first to feature a robot DJ. Rebecca’s mom was pointing at a holographic ad displaying a new line of winter jackets, sleek and trendy with neon accents. The jackets looked quite nice, but they were not shoes.
“Mo-oom” Rebecca whined “You're using it wrong!"
"Am I? I thought for sure I had gotten it right this time." Her mom looked genuinely confused. On some level, Rebecca knew that she should be glad she was making an effort to understand, but gods this was embarrassing.
“I can never keep up with you kids and your me-mes.”
“Memes, dad,” Rebecca rolled her eyes. She swore her parents were doing this to her on purpose. “They’re memes, not me-mes.”
“Right. Me-mes. Isn’t that what I said?”
“I do like that one with the cat,” her mom piped up before Rebecca could correct her dad again.
“Which one? Mom, there are so many cats.”
“Yes, really. There’s Nyan Cat and Grumpy Cat and Keyboard Cat and Monorail Cat and In-Bread Cat and--”
“Keyboard Cat!” Her dad exclaimed. “That’s my favorite.”
“I like that one too,” Rebecca said with a grin.
“What is this inbred cat?” Her mom asked, the telltale crease of disapproval appearing between her eyebrows.
“Not like that, mom!” Rebecca rushed to explain. “It’s a slice of bread, like actual bread, you know, the kind you eat. People tear a hole in--”
There was a screech of tires, a resounding crash, thousands of shreds of flying glass. A violent jerk threw everything out of balance, with twisted metal and the taste of blood. There was a hot flash of searing pain and screams pierced the air.
And then, silence.
Some days, being a doctor was very rewarding. There were days when surgery goes smoothly without complications, or days when blood tests show that the medication and treatment has been successful. There were days when people cheerfully walk out of the hospital doors in full health, days that are filled with grateful smiles and hugs from cured patients and their closest family members. Those are the days Dr. Morrow lived for, the days where he knew that his work was making a difference and improving lives.
Today was not one of those days.
First thing in the morning there was this kid, Kirstin, who refused to sit still for her shots. At the first sight of a needle the girl took off running, crying and shrieking and wailing all the way down the hallway. Chasing her down took a full thirty minutes, and that was time that the doctor couldn’t afford to spare. When he finally managed to catch the child, Kirstin called the doctor a poopy head and kicked him in the shins.
Then there was an elderly man, Otis, who had been stuck in the hospital for weeks and whose scans showed a worrying new growth appearing in his lungs. The patient threw a bowl at the doctor’s head when he heard that he would have to have an additional surgery. Dr. Morrow had ducked out of the way in time to avoid getting hit in the face, but the tv screen behind him had been cracked by the impact.
His latest patient was Macayla, who herself was a sweet girl. But when he told her family that there could be nothing done about her disease, her twin did not not take the news well. They had erupted into a bit of a tantrum, insisting that the impossible be done to save their sister. They had caused a whole scene in the waiting room, with the twin loudly accusing the doctor of being incompetant and useless, insults which stung more than his bruised shin.
And now, glancing at the patient list, next up was Rebecca. Another bad prognosis. Another person who was beyond his help. Another situation where he was incompetent and useless.
“Miss Black?” Dr. Morrow said as he entered the room. The words were out of his mouth before he realized his mistake. He swore under his breath, but nobody heard him.
He walked to the side of the bed and gave a little wave of his hand to get the girl’s attention. Rebecca didn’t move. Her eyes were closed and she just lay there, all wrapped up in bandages with IVs plugged into her arms. The doctor sighed. He didn’t want to disturb her sleep, but this morning’s incident with Kirstin had set him terribly behind schedule and couldn’t afford to sit around and wait for her to wake up. He gently placed a hand on Rebecca’s shoulder, careful to avoid the bruises. The girl’s eyes slowly opened as she registered her surroundings.
“Hey,” Rebecca mumbled, “what’s going—” her voice trailed off as a look of alarm flashed across her face. “What? Why can’t…?? Hey!” she shouted, her voice quickly increasing in volume “HEY!”
Dr. Morrow held up his hand in an attempt to get her to calm down. Rebecca was clawing at her ears in a panic, shouting still escalating. For a moment the doctor didn’t know what to do, but then remembered the tablet in his hands. He quickly opened a blank document, and typed out some words, opting to use short phrases in order to communicate quicker. Then he held the screen out for the girl to read.
“I’m Dr. Morrow. You were in cyber motorcycle crash. Drunk driver. Traumatic brain injury, loss of hearing. Broken ribs. Internal bleeding. Fractured femur.”
Rebecca quietly blinked as she processed this information. She started to speak again, then winced when she couldn’t hear her own voice. Instead, she made a motion to reach for the tablet, the unspoken question if she could borrow it to type a response. Dr. Morrow handed the device over to her.
“Is it permanent? And how about my mom and dad?”
“Parents in intensive care. Not looking good. Femur and ribs will heal. Hearing uncertain, not likely.”
Rebecca stared at the words on the screen. Several minutes passed where she just blankly gazed at the tablet, stunned and unmoving. Becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the extended silence, Dr. Morrow typed on tablet again.
After a pause, Rebecca slowly shook her head. The girl was probably in shock and didn’t even know where to begin asking for more detail. The doctor wished there was something more he could do to help, but the only thing that could be done was to give her time and space to process and come to terms with her situation. And he had other patients to tend to. He typed out one more message.
“Nurse will come soon.”
Dr. Morrow left the room, trying not to feel incompetent and useless.