A hospital ward gives access to a special kind of night or of reality for that matter; especially on bank holidays and weekends when, in a hospital with hundreds of patients, only a few doctors might be available. It seemed they might be on call and not on the premises judging from the time it might take for them to show up in response to calls from the nightshifts of nurses who looked after the patients.
These nurses had plenty to do, the load could vary with how many patients there were in any ward, or on how many nurses turned up for a shift. They had to record measurements such as patients’ blood pressures , weights, etc. they might have their routines disrupted, if an existing patient had some sort of fit or crisis or if a new patient was admitted to the ward.
But all medical decisions had to be taken by doctoral demi-gods. Between decisions all else lapsed in to phosphorescently lit limbo and people moved in white formica walled rooms like fish plucked from rivers and placed in featureless holding tanks made from temporal chunks delimited at their ends by handover to another shift.
When patients were fished out of the tanks again, to become outpatients or even healthy persons, they could experience a cicada-like sensation as though they had crawled from underground chrysalises which had once been buried very deep for a long, long incubation and protection.
This illusion of metamorphosis might only last as long as the bus, taxi, car or ambulance took to deliver dischargees back to their previous environments where they had been people once upon a time. The luckier, usually the younger, the richer and the tougher might deinstitutionalise relatively rapidly and painlessly going back soon to who they probably would have been anyway.
Conversely, the older, the poorer and the weaker are more likely to retain reminders of how and why they had been hospitalised. Just scars, if they were lucky.
Peter K first went to hospital when he was ten years old, then, in Britain in the 1960’s, nearly all ten year olds had their tonsil surgically removed, and if Peter K’s memory served him right, he had had his adenoids taken out as well. Perhaps this because a scalpel-happy surgical tendency was then in the ascendant within the British medical profession, until those who asked what purpose this large scale paedomutilation was for and moment of scientific enlightenment stopped the practise, which did not seem to be doing much good .
About Forty years later Peter K became a hospital inpatient again and during this time his tonsular and adenoidal lack shad had no discernible effect on him. However the other several alter hospitalisations of Peter K left him well scathed in other respects. He hobbled out on arthritic knees and the perpetually swollen and painful feet of a diabetic and sadly he had not had a foot transplant, they were his own. Involuntarily abstinence had usually made him slightly thinner but on his latest discharge he was discharging too. He was leaving a trail of slime behind him.
It was a clear liquid that seeped, at times almost poured, from what had to be holes in his lower legs. Peter thought of the origins of the discharge in these terms, because although his leg skin felt and looked sore, he could not discern any evidence of a break or tear in it.
Nurses and Doctors who had looked more closely spoke of “pin-holes”. They called the liquid that came soaking out of the bottom of Peter’s trousers, sometimes filling his shoes, “exudiate”. It was clear, it looked like water, but maybe did not flow quite as fast. When it soaked into cloth and dried, it could make it rigid, as a starch might. It smelt slightly sometimes like an old wet dog or faintly fishy cat food.
Peter K posited three possible explanations as to why he exuded exudiate. These were:
a) Genetic determinism
b) Paranoid conspirationalism
c) Zombific metamorphosis
The first, genetic determinism, involved conflating two mythically true facts. That Henry VIII’s legs leaked, (probably lots of other people’s legs had too, but Peter had never heard of it). Henry VIII might be descended from King Arthur. Peter K’s exudiate was therefore conclusive proof that he a descendant of and probably heir to the last true High King of Britain. However he hid his light under a bushel, and hid his exudiate inside rubber clogs and underneath shopping trolleys wherever possible. However one the stuff really got flowing, Peter K left a trail of wet blobs behind him. This trail leads to the next category of explanations.
The central tenet of the Paranoid conspirationalist explanation was that some person, agency or entity had caused Peter K’s leg to leak. Depending on which version of this multi-faceted explanation was examined, various possible motivations for this could be posited. Knowing that Asian bears were on the verge of becoming extinct, a Chinese traditional medicine cartel, or perhaps, a single sinister practitioner might have made Peter K into the subject of a genetic experiment which enabled humans to produce a medically efficacious liquid from leg pin holes that could be a substitute for Bear bladder gall.
It seemed likely that this experiment had failed since no one seemed to following Peter K around attempting to collect exudiate. Peter therefore guessed that he could have been a semi-successful or unsuccessful prototype of the “human gall bladder bear” who had been allowed to escape, or thrown out of hospital, because his exudiate had not had the medicinal properties required of it. Even now other unfortunates could be being farmed or harvested for what was coming out of their legs.
The Zombific metamorphosis theory indicates that Peter K was dead but hadn’t noticed.