Atropos

The hospital was the perfect place for him. In a hospital people die all the time, so if there was a mistake no-one would notice. People also came and went regularly, the effects of his hunger wouldn't be as obvious than if he chose just one person to maintain him.

He'd haunt the wards at night, hidden in the shadows. He'd long ago mastered the skill of being nearly invisible in the dark. Sometimes a nurse on her rounds would walk past him. He'd push himself back against the wall and hold his breath while the nurse passed, oblivious to his presence.

He'd go from patient to patient, snipping out a day or two of their lives. He left no trace and who would notice their lifespan reduced by a few hours? It's not like anyone knew when they would die.

It wasn't blood he drank, nothing so base. What he took was time, nibbling away at the thread of the person's lifetime.

The only time that someone would die would be if they were near death already. He'd learned to avoid those that were too ill. Once, many years ago, he'd been feeding from a patient and he felt their life just slip away. Alarms had sounded at the nursing station and he'd barely managed to clamber through the window before the crash team arrived.

He could still taste that final drop of life. It tasted like ash.

Sometimes he would risk the maternity ward, what baby, with seventy years of life left in them would notice a week or two of life drained away to feed him?

It was only fair, after all he kept darker, nastier things away from the hospital.

Each life tasted different, some had the flowery taste of opportunity, others a heady broth of experiences and regrets.

He'd started to feed from the staff, the doctors and nurses who'd seen so much – he liked their flavour the best because they had witnessed it all, life, death and all that lay between. Their lives tasted of a thousand things at once, each experience adding it's own distinct seasoning to a life well lived.

He'd started feeding from them more and more often, the taste of other lives could not compare to that of the nurses. He knew it was wrong, that to take too much from one person would cut their life short by years, not days but he couldn't help himself.

The nurses would say that it was the work, the shifts, the stresses that aged them. But he knew the truth.

—–

Yep – I've completely run out of things to write, which means that I might be posting fragments of fiction for the rest of this week – perhaps even a sneak preview of what I'm working on at the moment.

I really need to get back to work. Only then will normal service be resumed.

18 thoughts on “Atropos”

  1. You do realize that management is going to put this leech on permanent staff, don't you? He's the perfect excuse. They'll want to be sure he doesn't leave. I can hear them now: ” Nurses and EMTs are sick from ghosts! Not crazy working hours! Not, not, not! No need for expensive solutions like hiring enough people. “

  2. Spooky! My first interpretation of this was as a metaphorical description of something that causes premature death in people e.g. smoking, MRSA, heart disease etc. Isn't Atropos on of the Three Fates – the last one, who cuts the thread?

  3. Reminds me of a Gaiman short story. Grab a copy of “Smoke and Mirrors” its in the middle somewhere and its about a cat. 🙂

  4. I've only ever seen the one film while trapped on a flight to America – something about a time travelling watch?Is Voldermort in that?

  5. Sounds great! It can live in my mind. Maybe you should put more fiction up here! I want to know the ending now.

  6. oh, and I don't want to be annoying, but if it's a she, why does it say at the beginning “The hospital was the perfect place for him.”?

  7. That would be because the title came to me about… oh… six months after I actually wrote the piece.At about 3am.

  8. Ooooh, I like this. Dark and creepy and reminds me of a patient I've met.This guy was a life-force vampire, too: he lived life at a permenant low mumble of complaints that sapped the very will to live if you stayed with him for any length of time. We moved him tout suite from the main ward to a side room as soon as his poop started to get even slightly loose, as the rest of the male bay were threatening to kill him if he stayed with them any longer.

    Maybe a spot of mutiny on the ward would have livened things up a bit.

    Tough call.

    Better part of valour: the psychic vampire got a sideroom and muggins here as student nurse-cum-annoying-jobs-bunny got the chance to “practise your dressings technique” and see to this guy's drain sites.

    'Practise', alright. I bit like 'practising' in a war zone, with the emphasis on “' get in, chnage and get out as fast as you can'.

    At Defcon 3, perma-mumble life-force suck at warp 5…

    There is nothing wrong with fantasy and RPGs… ironically for your post, I like to kick back with a spot of vampire LARP…

    Reading your book. Bloody good. Thank you for contiuing to post.

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