Someone doing something.

Door opening. Trolley sounds. Trolley being pushed in, could hear the rattle and clunk as it went over the threshold. One or two pushing it. The number would determine the type of indignity and discomfort to be inflicted. Let it be one. No pissing about being rolled around and lifted and dumped in a ‘more comfortable’ position.

Two voices. Shit. More inane chatter then.

Angels eh?

Angels of death he’d welcome. For fucks sake turn the fucking shit off. Turn me off.

But no, it would be angels of mercy. Prodding at him, wetting him and rolling him. Scrubbing and dabbing and checking tubes. Fuck, that made him gag and the sores were worse he was sure. They hurt more.

‘Hello Steve. How we doing today?’

Nice voice, a big wide grin moved into his peripheral vision, it was the black girl, great hair. Wished he’d been what, twenty? No, who was he kidding? Thirty years, younger. It would be lovely to flirt with her and more if he were lucky.

‘Come on, let’s be having you. Another voice, not as rich and warm, more business. And they were off. Nappy changing. He thought of the beautiful tone of the black girl’s skin, tried to imagine the feel of her curls in his hand but it was too big a leap when they were so busy exposing his inadequacy, his disgust with himself and bodily functions. You could put up with having to shit if you got to love as well. But having to have it mopped up without even the flicker of the compensation of living of life was too much.

How many times had this happened?

He cast around but there were no records written. He tried the roller index of his brain. It was in there somewhere. He’d discounted the initial period of physical and mental pain, the feeling of swollen red terror after first waking. He’d realised he’d never work out how long that had been. No doctor was going to stand over him chatting to a nurse and laying out the time scale.

So he’d started counting. But then he didn’t know what it was he was counting.

He’d looked for patterns trying to work out what was likely to be one once a day, what three times a day. Tube changes. Liquids rigged, feeding bags replenished. He wondered what they called the bags but no-one gave a running commentary of what they did to him.

He was carrying too much information in his head and pattern recognition was difficult. He laid out spread sheets in his head and got what he thought was a pattern and counted the events. But really he knew there were too many variables, too many anomalies.

Artificial day night cycles seemed best, lights up in the morning, down at night, but he had suspicions this was not a simple 24 hour on off cycle. There were too many anomalies with washing, feeding, deshitting. He hated being coarse. He was, no, he had been, a very fastidious person, private and almost embarrassed about such evacuatory processes. Fart jokes had been and remained a mystery to him.

Not that anyone told him jokes anymore.

The pulling and scrubbing was lessening in intensity and changing in nature. The rustling and clanking of disposal was ceasing and they were sticking his legs into other positions. They’d be going soon.

Please don’t put the fucking television on. Not the inane fucking rubbish they left him with. He had been a radio man. A radio four man, with a helping of radio three on the side. A cut and thrust of intellectual debate, discussion of cultural trends, exposés of government, corporate and personal criminal ineptitude and mendacity. Leavened with some baroque music and the odd foray into jazz.

Now he had jabbering bobbleheaded idiots peddling the latest drivel in primary colours.

‘Now, that better?’ The smile flashed into view again. Kind eyes above.

‘Put the tele on Alesha, he likes that. Doc says it’s keeping his brain active, the sound and movement you know.’

‘You sure?’

‘Yeah, everyone likes the breakfast shows don’t they?’

Alesha, lovely name, walked out of his vision and the idiot box flashed into life.

‘There you go. Keep him happy for a bit won’t it?’

Alesha wavered into view again and she stared into his eyes; how he wished she could have done that before this happened.

‘I dunno. He looks sad to me, poor lamb.’

‘Leave it Al, lots to do, come on.’

‘I suppose.’

The door opened as they went on their way.

‘There’s nothing going on in there anyway love, no offence but he’s just bed blocking. Just a vegetable. Should turn him off.’

The door swung shut.

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