The Inkwell’s half-hour challenge flash fiction competition for January is themed “Of Prologues And Other Such Beginnings”.
It seems a day like any other but there is something nagging me; something out of reach, out of sight. I’m uneasy but I can’t tell you why. My room is bright and airy; my bed is warm and comfortable. I’m full awake, though still feeling tired.
That aroma: what’s that? I know I recognise it. Ah yes, it’s the smell of a hospital; mystery solved. I’m starting to nod off again when a thought assaults me: why does my room smell like a hospital? I prop myself up on my elbows and look around. Now I’m confused: this isn’t my room; this is a hospital. I take in the row of beds, the curtains, the tubes and cables, medical paraphernalia, clip-boards and charts. There’s a nurse looking at me, walking my way.
“Ah, you’re awake again Mr Daniels. How are you feeling this afternoon?” In a moment she’s at my side and rearranging my pillows in an authoritative manner. “Just lie back and take it easy.” She finishes with the pillows, picks up a clip-board, plucks a pen from her breast pocket and sits back beside my bed. “Now then Mr Daniels, what can you tell me about our conversation this morning?”
“Who are you?” I regret it as soon as I’ve said it. I realise it sounded rather rude. The nurse has a very friendly, if not jolly, face. I think she has confused me with someone else, though obviously she has my name right. Maybe there’s another Mr Daniels in another ward: it’s not an uncommon name after all.
“I’m Carrie Templeton. I am the consultant neurologist on your case. Do you remember speaking with me this morning?” Consultant neurologist is a phrase that jolts. I’m struggling to make sense of what she’s saying. Case? What case? I’m not a case! I was playing golf this morning, or was that yesterday? If it’s afternoon, why am I in bed?
Carrie continues “Don’t worry. Everything is OK. We had the same conversation this morning, and yesterday, and every day last week. You suffered a small thrombotic stroke but it has caused damage to a region of your brain called the Hippocampus. You have a condition we call severe anterograde amnesia which means you are unable to create new memories. So every time you wake up, your memory carries on from where it was when you suffered the stroke at your golf club.”
“Yes, I remember playing golf. Is that good?” I ask, more in hope than conviction.
“Yes, that’s very good. Your long term memory is working well. We’re going to try stem cell therapy to prompt repair to your Hippocampus. But in the interim, alas, we will have many conversations like this one. My colleagues or I have to tell you about your stroke three or four times each day. It is always news to you.”
“Is there an end in sight?”
“The prognosis is favourable. We’ve had some remarkable results with stem cells. I can’t make you any promises of course.”
“Oh, I think you could. I wouldn’t remember, would I?”
Carrie smiles “Yes, very funny Mr. Daniels. That’s the third time you’ve cracked that one! Now try to get some rest and we’ll begin again in a few hours.”