To keep his mind off the dull, hollow ringing in his ear, Arnold stared intently around the hospital emergency room. He couldn’t quite remember when the ringing had started and for all he knew, maybe it had always been there. It felt like being the butler to an overly demanding widow, a bell constantly ring ringing in his ear. The flu was really getting to him.

The emergency room was nothing like what he had imagined. Being of a particular generation and level of health, Arnold’s only frame of reference for hospitals were movies and television shows and this was not his envisioned glossy, white bastion of recovery with lights bright enough to disinfect and hospital staff feverishly running around tending to patients’ needs. Instead, the seedy yellow lights inside the hospital inexplicably built within a castle flickered lowly, scattering light unevenly across tiles which alternated in shade between heavily eroded seafoam and the teeth of a consummate coffee drinker. He couldn’t tell if the lights were buzzing strangely or if it was just his head but, all in all, it felt much more like a bus stop restroom than a hospital.

It had been almost an hour since the receptionist chewing gum loud enough to blow a bubble through Arnold’s deafness had waved him into his curtained-off section of the emergency room. That the emergency room here was just a single room parceled out into plots was a bit too literal for Arnold, who had expected a personal room, preferably with a variety of glass openings to always be in the line of sight of the nurses and doctors hurrying about the halls. Instead, all he got were walls of anti-microbial, stain resistant mesh patterned with what appeared to be flower leaves sans blossom. (more…)