The Smiling Spectre

Ghost NurseWhen your veins are pumped full of morphine and your body is still recovering from seven hours under general anaesthetic, plus you’ve just had a lifesaving, (never mind life-changing) operation, it’s difficult to concentrate on any one thing. It was Day 2 or maybe Day 3, post-surgery (my brain is still fuzzy).

I was lying in bed, enjoying the privacy of my sunny single room in the newly built Queen Elizabeth Hospital thinking about everything and nothing at the same time. One could say: I was just minding my own business. When to my right and to the bottom of the bed, I noticed the drawn curtain by the door, shift. In floated in a smiling face. Above the smile were cainrows that went all the way back. Her complexion was brown and greying like unwatered soil. Her short and stocky body looked neat and tidy in her hospital attire. She was proud; I could tell by her puffed out chest. The smiling face was looking in my direction. My first instinct was to return it, as that’s what you do when someone beams at you, but why was it that I felt my body stiffen?

Now this was strange, as I had become accustomed to meeting unknown people almost on an hourly basis as the medical staff would come in to check my vital signs and the progress of the surgery. There were new people all the time. What was different this time? She was a health care assistant after all, I could tell by the uniform. She was being friendly. So why did I feel so uncomfortable? Could it be the way she stared at the plastic board above my head as she said my name out loud, questioningly “Rebbecca Hemmings?” almost as if she knew me or of me? Was it the crazed look in her eyes as her plastered grin pinned me to the mattress? Or was it the way her dancing body betrayed her clasped hands as they tried to give off an air of control?

“Rebbecca Hemmings?” She repeated. I lay still and silent; “It’s a rhetorical question,” my brain reasoned as it tried to quell the cacophony of thoughts dashing about trying to make sense of this moment. Her raised healed, shiny black plastic loafers walked past my bed to the window. She pulled the curtains and looked outside from the fourth floor to the beautiful landscape basking in the unusually hot temperatures in south Birmingham, all the while that Cheshire cat grin fixated on me like a loaded weapon.

“Do you have an aunt called Pat?”

Silly me! Breathe out girl, relax, this all makes sense, she knows my aunt Pat. Crisis averted. You can smile back now and chill out. You’re so paranoid. What are you getting all tetchy about anyway?

“Yes I do…”

She interrupted me; I had wanted to know how she knows my aunt.

“She lives down the road, in Edgbaston?”

Instantly, the metal bars rose back up and caged me in my imaginary fortress as I answered “No, she lives in London.” My blood pressure had risen; I could feel it as I levitated towards the ceiling.

She slowly walked back across the room like an actor delivering an aside to an audience; that smile would not release me until it gently faded back beyond the curtain and disappeared into the hustle and bustle of hospital life.

That was to be the first of the Spectre’s three unnerving visits.

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