Zombie Ward

There is a sick old woman who walks the wards in her slippers and gown, dragging a metal pole on the ground on creaking wheels. A bag of blood is tied to the top and from it, plastic tubing worms down sharp red, to drip blood to the needle in her arm. Her dead fish mouth hangs half open, sucking in dry air with difficulty. She groans as she trudges along.

It takes her an age to pass by my mother in her hospital bed. She is sitting up cheerfully with a crossword, and chemotherapy drugs slide into her veins. I can hear it dripping, or I imagine I do. Perhaps it is the other blood bags I hear, dripping over the yellowed beds.

My mother has an icepack on her head that a nurse tells me can prevent the hair from falling out. I smile, because my mother is smiling. But her hair will fall out anyway.

I sit hunched over in the plastic seat, watching the zombie woman. I watch her shuffle down the chlorined corridor, gasping for air. The wheels squeak on the plastic floor and I hate her.

It’s her fault I have to listen to the old men moaning as they die in their beds. It’s her fault I’m sitting here, nausea turning the air sour.

The lights flicker lower and the bedsprings creak: I’m the only one getting out of here alive.

Words by Eleanor Stewart, illustration by Toby Grimmett

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September 2011
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