Sparked unusual-green. Spat twice, turned widdershins three times,
as Manual decrees; letter ETA two days.
If your eyes are crusty, pick at the edges of them. The sleep is done and dusted with, another day to face, another day to try to remember what you once were told to forget.
There’s the piece of paper stuck to your bedside table that says: Swing your feet out wide and leap clear of the underbed darkness. This way the crocodiles can’t snap at your ankles.
It’s always a better day if your ankles take you down to breakfast.
Phew! That was close, and there’s the next note where you left it: Wear your pyjamas (and bathrobe) to breakfast. ps. the others will thank you for it, even if they don’t want to be your friend.
And though it scratches, especially around the neck, you wear it over your dinosaur jammies. You remember your morning stretches all by yourself and when they knock, you smile.
They look you over, once, thoroughly, and nod. ‘Can you walk today, Therese?’
‘My legs are good today, thank you. I can walk.’
Because you need to show them you can still manage; you’re allowed some days where you can’t but too many of those and you will be given a wheelchair. You’re pretty sure you have a couple of days left in the month. But you must fight it – after that it’s all downhill. And you’re not ready just yet; your post hasn’t arrived.
Still no letter;
too late for the garlic.
Resorting to broomstick spell.
Addendum Note: Patient #24HF60Z
Therese exhibits all the classic signs of a traumatic event having occurred to her as a young girl, but even after so many years here, she will not talk about it. Happiest living in her own little world. Her quirks – of stepping on cracks, hissing at cats, gargling with garlic, not stepping on cracks, and spinning until she nearly falls, to name a few of her most frequent behaviours – mean that we don’t venture much further than her room. We’ve observed her at night, during the day, trying to discern a pattern, but there is none. She watches avidly for the postman, giving him a little wave, but she never receives anything. She has no friends here. We have detailed notes from her previous doctors and nurses: pages of medicines tested, observations of what worked (temporarily) and what didn’t. She isn’t getting better. It is my professional opinion she will likely never get better and that the best we can do for her is ensure she is comfortable. //Dr. Harding
Your letter arrives, pushed under the door with a whoosh, skittering across the tiled floor. Leaning out of bed, you grab it, secreting it in your book that you know they read some days. You don’t mind, they won’t work the hidden code anyway.
The Council have decreed that the following are no longer appropriate in today’s age. Please amend Manual accordingly:
Crack-stepping: to be replaced by a small skip every other foot
Broomstick jumping: do something fun with your friends
Garlic, all forms: very outdated. Consider a glass of wine or two instead
Spinning: speak to Nurse Mia, she will help
Plucking petals: let the flowers unfurl in their own time
Until next time,
Your Friend Always
Standing in sunshine – eyes closed, faces leaning into the glow,
A boy, Thomas, handing me a daisy
Bird and crickets surround us; in that peace
I mentioned my one-time story.
He needed to think, he said; but next week
If I choose, he will hold my hand. Be my friend.
I smiled to progress.
Waved at the postman.
Nurse Mia has my package.
Because of that shooting star.
Hanne is a British Swede who longs for the 95% humidity and hawker centre food of her childhood. Her stories are fed by environmental science topics, moss-covered rocks masquerading as trolls and what-if scenarios. Her words can be found in Splonk, Twin Pies Literary, Ellipsis Zine, with work in Best Small Fictions 2022. She’s a member of the Pause Collective and dreams of day-long hacks on Icelandic horses. She tweets: @hannelarsson.