Saturday, 7 September 2013

The second thing.

Continued from the first thing, which can be found here.

The problem with hospitals is that they're never completely quiet. The ward was dark and still, lit by nothing more than a single dim light bulb, which buzzed as it fought ceaselessly to keep the room from falling into pitch black. The clock ticked, trying insistently to tell the world that it was a quarter to three. Machines here and there whirred and beeped and a patient would occasionally mumble or groan, or call for a nurse. A window was open, and the occasional strong breeze would whisper its way past, informing anyone unfortunate enough to be awake of exactly how cold it was outside.

Amid this muted cacophony, a man stirred from his rest - though rest might have been altogether too gentle a word for the unconscious state he had been in for the last twenty-five hours. The first sensation he registered was an itch on his left elbow, so he went to scratch it. However, he found himself stymied by something that seemed to be covering most of his arm. Confused, he opened a bleary eye and looked down - or tried to, as there was a hard, immobile object keeping his neck in place. Failing that, the patient lifted his arm up high enough that it was visible and saw that the object covering his arm was a cast. Presumably, he thought, another one was stopping him from moving his head. But why did he have them on him at all? Dimly, he began searching his memory for any clues as to how he'd injured himself. Last he remembered, he was on his way home, having very satisfyingly made off with some unfortunate soul's valuables. He recalled walking up to the main road, crossing over, and then a loud beep...

A car. Suddenly the night's events came rushing back to him with startling clarity. The patient relived the thrill of taking his victim by surprise, the elation at his success, the pride as he escaped the scene. Stupid, stupid, stupid. How could he have been so careless? With acute embarrassment, the nickname 'Lion' came floating back into his thoughts, taunting him with the arrogance that had initially inspired the idea. So much for a clean night, with no cuts or bruises; the patient could only imagine how his face looked, dreading his next encounter with a mirror.

He was surprised at how little pain he was feeling, considering the circumstances, though he did not know he had been unconscious for more than an entire day. Instead, very powerful sensations of hunger and thirst had gradually made themselves known, so he was forced to temporarily put aside his self-pity in favour of sustenance. Casting around (as much as he could, given his restricted movement), his eyes eventually fell on a remote control with a circular button decorated by a faded green picture of a telephone. Assuming that it would call somebody to his bedside, he reached over with his free hand and pressed it down for a second or two. Then, for good measure, he pressed  it two or three more times. That should do the trick, he thought to himself.

Within minutes a petite, slightly bedraggled nurse came in through the doors, taking care not to let them slam. She was not altogether unattractive, the patient thought to himself, but certainly not up to his own high standards for a female companion. She had brown hair, drawn back into a bun, which no doubt had looked much neater earlier in the night. Her pale face was exaggerated by the pronounced dark circles under her eyes, and though it was too dark to tell exactly what colour her eyes were, the patient could make out enough to discern that they were a light colour, maybe blue or green. Reminding himself that he was in no position to be flirting, and that he was probably too starving to try, he called out to the nurse and was immediately shushed. He hadn't realised how late it was.

A few hushed exchanges later, the nurse had set off and returned with some bread and water. Hardly haute cuisine, the patient mused, but as far as hospital food went it was at least edible. He wolfed the bread down in seconds, downing the water immediately afterwards. Soon he felt a lot better, and fatigue once more began to overtake him. He would worry about his face some more in the morning, he decided, and idly wondered whether his stolen merchandise had survived the crash along with him. It would be a while before he could go out on the prowl again, he guessed, so having access to the wallet and phone to sell would help make sure he could afford supplies in the meantime. Such thoughts would have to wait, however, as the patient drifted off into a deep sleep, oblivious to the sounds of the ward as they continued playing their quiet concerto of the night.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The first thing.

The assailant hated hitting people in the face. It always hurt.

He sat back, nursing his hand, but relieved that his victim had gone down without much of a fight. Of course, being surprised in an alley from inside a large skip doesn't leave much room for counterattack, but the prospect of bruises always slightly worried the assailant. He was a man many would describe as handsome, himself included, and he preferred to keep it that way. He sighed as the pain began ebbing away, and turned back to look at the unfortunate soul laid flat on his back on the floor. It had rained recently, the assailant noted with displeasure, as he rolled the now damp body over and began searching its pockets. Thinking of his targets as 'it' made him feel better. No chance of feeling guilty that way.

The man rose, one more wallet and another phone in his possession. He'd put the phone for sale online when he got back, buy some things with the credit cards before they could be cancelled. Pulling off his mask, he took a deep breath, filling his lungs with the muggy night air. There would be a storm soon. He turned and made his way out of the alley, delicately stepping over his victim and avoiding puddles for fear of the splashes being heard. Turning right, the assailant headed off down the street, towards a main road. There were always people there, whatever the time, and he could easily get himself lost for a while before slipping off home in safety.

The road was still fairly bright thanks to the faded yellow streetlights and tacky shop signs lining it. He always felt at home in places like this, especially after dark - each downturned face a comrade of the night going about their business, in equal parts oblivious to and wary of what was going on around them. The assailant always felt quietly superior to all around him in such settings. He knew he could handle himself, whatever the situation, with the confidence of a young man on a mile-long winning streak. The nervous, jumpy bodies around him turned him into a predator, a lion prowling through a herd of gazelle. He smiled to himself at the thought. The creature he had subdued in the alley certainly fit the part. The poor thing had frozen at the sight of him leaping out from his cover, and barely had time to react before the assailant pounced on him, knocking his defenseless body flat in seconds. It was pure poetry. David Attenborough couldn't have faulted his technique. "A lion, eh?" he chuckled. "Maybe I'll do something with that. A nickname or something."

Lost in thought, the assailant did not hear or see the large car speeding towards him as he began to cross the street.