Blind Control

The destination was a long driveway lined by trees, leading up towards the entrance of what could have passed off as a grand old university, brick walls weathered by age.

“This is the best private hospital in the country now. It used to be an old Soviet hospital. Now, a Russian owns it!” Dima’s laughter grated the air. “Irony, no?”

Alan just smiled and nodded.

A few official-looking doctors in white coats walked outside with what appeared to be patients, some in wheel chairs, others walking, wearing gowns or robes, and some even smoking a cigarette quietly beneath a tree or on the grass. Alan felt a sense of slight relief; at least the hospital looked legitimate.

They all got out the car and walked towards the large, glass doors leading inside, where a beautiful blonde haired nurse with a slightly large jaw and green eyes greeted Dima, who said something in reply. The woman looked Alan up and down coolly, smiled, said something and walked off, beckoning them to follow.

“What did she say?” Alan asked Dima as they followed her down freshly painted, off-white walls with green tiled floors, the smell of bleach and ether mixed in the air.

“Come this way.”

“Seemed like something else to me.”

“Can you speak Lithuanian?”

“No.”

“Then I tell you, that is what she said.”

Closed and numbered white doors passed by on either side at irregular intervals as they walked on beneath the fluorescent lights. Finally, the nurse stopped outside a door, pointed, and said something incomprehensible before walking off back to the main entrance. Dima’s hand engulfed the door’s silver handle and he opened it, gesturing inside.

“After you, please.”

Alan stepped forward into a large, square room, an unmanned reception desk opposite, and a table strewn with what looked like worn out Lithuanian magazines in the middle. Two of the familiar sterile-looking doors stood behind the desk, framed by sickly-looking potted plants on either side.

A young white-coat in his late twenties with black hair and thick glasses sat in one of several green-leathered chairs lining the room. Once they had all entered, he seemed to notice them for the first time, and looked up from inspecting his digital handheld. Standing up, he stuck out his hand towards Alan, face frozen in a mask of seriousness that seemed too old for his age.

“Labas,” said the doctor. Alan just nodded and shook his hand curtly. The man’s glasses were so thick they made his eyes look like they were floating in a pickle jar.

“This is the doctor …” began Dima.

“I think I figured that out already,” Alan nervously plucked at the dark fabric of his trousers. “What is his name?”

“Audrius.”

“So, Audrius, what happens now?”

Dima translated, and Audrius began speaking rapidly in a soft yet stern voice, brow wrinkled in concentrated seriousness. While talking, he reached down to the chair next to his, and picked up one of two greyish-looking robes that could’ve been white in another life. Pointing to the left-hand door, Audrius carried on, ending only once he had gestured towards the door on the right.

“Let me guess,” said Alan as Dima opened his mouth to speak. “He wants me to change into the robe, and then go through the other door.”

“Yes. There is a locker in the changing room where you can leave your clothes. We will wait in the operating room on the right.”

“What about Saulius?”

“He will change with you.”

Audrius handed out each robe solemnly, and Alan and Saulius made their way into the small, white tiled changing room that stank of bleach mixed with a faint smell of urine.

At the back of the room was a grimy glass-walled shower cubical, with an equally dirty toilet with its seat up next to it. Two battered but sturdy metal lockers stood on the right next to an old water-stained basin, water dripping slowly from one of its taps. Saulius immediately walked in and sat on a dark wooden bench that was fixed to the wall opposite the basin, and began stripping off his clothes, seemingly oblivious to Alan’s existence.

Saulius eventually stood up in his robe, collected his shoes and garments, stuffed them into one of the lockers, and left the room. Alone, Alan sat down and put his head in his hands, finally free of scrutiny from Dima and the others. His body was feeling stiff from constantly trying to hide his emotions, but now they drenched his every pore, indecision, isolation, and fear. Suddenly overwhelmed he got up and half ran, half stumbled to the toilet seat where he fell to his knees. The stink of urine was stronger here, and his stomach heaved, emptying its contents into the dirty bowl.

Gritting his teeth and his breath coming fast, he stood up and went to the basin. Splashing his face with cold water, he closed his eyes, trying to breathe deeply, regularly, to calm himself.

He wondered if he should call Sean, just in case. Let him know where he was.

Alan reached into his trouser pocket and took out his mobile. No signal. He cursed himself silently for not trying to contact him earlier.

Did it really matter? Sean would just tell him to leave, and if Dima was up to something, he surely wouldn’t let me leave anyway.

There was no other way out, unless he ran for it, but where could he go?

Resigned, he stripped, locked away his belongings, and put on the robe, the floor cold against his feet as he walked out and into the operating theatre. Two operating tables stood side by side in the windowless, tiled room, surrounded by humming and beeping machines, drips of solution, and trays of medical implements; Saulius already lay on one of them, eyes closed, breathing regularly.

Four white-coats turned to look at him as he walked in. They all looked the same with face masks tied behind their ears, green caps covering their hair, and latex-gloved hands, except for Audrius with his glass-pickled eyes. Dima was nowhere to be seen.

Audrius gestured to the empty metal table covered in a simple cloth, and Alan lay down on top, his head resting on a small pillow. A small, sharp prick of pain in Alan’s arm from an injection was followed by a creeping tide of anaesthetic warmth that slowly and gradually lulled him into a deep and thoughtless sleep.

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  1. […] Blind Control It seemed a lifetime away, but that was how he always remembered her: freckled skin, thinning, auburn-dyed hair, and a red lipstick smile full of life. Not like now. Did she dream in her cryonics chamber, he wondered – not for the first … […]

  2. […] claims regarding the defeat, or cure, of ageing fascinate me. In my most recent short story, “Blind Control“, I explored the idea of someone obsessed with the idea of extending his life, but I’ve […]

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June 30, 2008