Jessica was glad about her private hospital room. It was bad enough lying here for weeks on end, waiting for flesh to regrow and bones to knit back together. Bad enough that the accident would leave her scarred forever. But if she hadn’t had privacy to recover, she thought she might have gone mad.
This was the small comfort that came from being hit by a wealthy driver who was paranoid about publicity. He’d go to any lengths to avoid being sued.
A man in a doctor’s white coat walked in and closed the door behind him.
“You must be Jessica,” he said with a smile. “I’m Doctor Ellis. I’ll be taking over from Doctor Levi.”
“I liked Doctor Levi,” Jessica said. She’d grown comfortable with the charming old man. She didn’t want to lose him in favor of someone else.
“There are some concerns about how long you’re taking to recover,” Doctor Ellis said. “The gentleman paying for your treatment has asked me to step in.”
He pulled a drip feed bag from his pocket and hung it up.
“This is to help you recover faster,” he said. “This might sting a little.”
There was a brief stab of pain as he inserted a needle into her arm and then connected it by a tube to the drip bag.
“You might feel a little drowsy as it kicks in,” Doctor Ellis said. “Don’t worry. It’s for the best.”
Even as he left the room, Jessica could feel the world spinning around her. Soon she was asleep.
Days passed. Instead of feeling stronger, Jessica felt weaker.
“It’s not working,” she insisted as Doctor Ellis replaced the bag. “I feel worse.”
“You’ve just developed a secondary infection,” he said. “Give it time.”
“But I was already recovering. Why change?”
Ellis smiled and left.
Jess glared at the tube running into her arm. Maybe she had come down with an infection. Maybe not. What she knew was that she felt like crap. This was probably just a way for the guy who’d hit her to make the stay cheaper, using discount drugs or trying to get her to go home quicker.
She yanked the needle from her arm. There was a dribble of blood. She took a towel from beside the bed to staunch it.
“Are you alright?” A nurse stood in the doorway looking worriedly at Jessica.
“That doctor’s given me something awful,” Jessica said. “I’m not having any more.”
“Doctor!” the nurse called out.
“You were right,” the nurse said. “The fever’s making her paranoid.”
“Fever?” Jessica asked. “What fever?”
“Just lie back, Jessica,” Doctor Ellis said. “I need to put that back in.”
“It’s for your own good.”
“You can’t make me.”
“If your mental health is impaired then I can.”
Ellis approached with a fresh needle in his hand. Jess tried to leap out of bed, but instead stumbled and fell.
Ellis and the nurse grabbed her. Together they pulled her into bed and strapped her down. The doctor slid a needle back into her arm.
“It will all be for the best,” he said as the world swam around her.
Jessica drifted in and out of consciousness. Even when she was awake, it was hard to focus. She was getting weaker in body and mind.
In the wakeful moments, she heard worried voices around her, people talking about an infection, about resistance to antibiotics, about a fever.
Was she really that sick? Maybe she needed this. After all, they were the doctors.
She didn’t know how long it was before the day the trainee nurse checked the feed line. It was only as the world became less blurry, as wakefulness kicked in, that Jessica saw the way the girl had got the line twisted, stopping the medicine coming through.
No medicine and she felt better.
She barely had the strength to struggle against her restraints. One arm had become so thin it was little more than skin and bone.
Slowly and carefully, she pulled that hand through the strap. It scraped, and she left behind a flap of skin, but she got it clear.
As quickly as she could, she unbuckled the other restraints. Her body ached as she pushed herself to her feet. She couldn’t just run away, she was too slow and weak. And she couldn’t just challenge Doctor Ellis’s word – she knew the others believed him.
There was a bedpan at the side of the room. She picked it up and stood behind the door.
A few minutes later, the door opened.
“Jessica?” Doctor Ellis said in alarm, staring at the empty bed. He had the usual bottle and syringe in his hand.
With all her remaining strength, she slammed the bedpan into the side of his head. He staggered. She hit him again, this time catching him in the face. There was a crunch, a spray of blood, and he staggered back clutching his nose.
“Help!” he yelled.
Lunging forward, Jessica stepped on the bottle. It rolled out from under her and she fell, smacking her head on the side of the bed.
There were rushing feet and someone grabbed her, hands squeezing her already aching flesh. Doctor Ellis was growling about better restraints and assault charges. Other doctors had gathered around.
One of them picked up the bottle and peered at the label. He frowned.
“Al, why on earth were you giving her this?” the doctor with the bottle asked.
Ellis froze, panic in his eyes.
Jessica smiled as they strapped her back down. She didn’t think Ellis would be treating her anymore.