Room Seventeen by Brian Skinner

Angus Toomey walked down the hospital corridor looking at the numbers on the doors. He was searching for room seventeen but he had no idea where it was. He was told to go to the room but he wasn’t told what floor it was on or even what part of the hospital it was in. At the present moment he was passing rooms that were numbered in the hundreds. A porter appeared from out of one of the rooms and looked in his direction. 

“Could you tell me where I can find room seventeen?” he asked. 

“It’s on the ground floor sir,” said the porter, “you’re on the fourth floor at the moment.” He nodded in the direction Angus was going and added, “Go through the double doors and you can either take the stairs or the lift.” 

Angus did as the porter said and stood at the top of the stairs debating whether he should walk down the stairs or use the lifi. A glance down at his rather portly figure made him choose the stairs and he began the rather slow descent. He reached the second floor and paused for breath. He really was out of condition. The lifi stopped at his floor and the doors opened. An elderly lady with snow white hair stood looking at him expectantly. 

“Are you coming in, young man?” she asked. Angus shook his head and patted his tummy. 

“No thank you,” he replied, “I really should use the stairs.” The doors closed and Angus was alone once more. 

He reached the ground floor and was surprised at how tired he felt and made a silent vow to take more exercise in the future. He walked along the corridor in what he hoped was the direction of room seventeen. There was a sudden bustle of activity as a porter and a nurse came hurrying past him pushing a trolley. The patient had drips in his arm and there was a look of urgency on the face of the nurse. The group turned a corner and disappeared from view and Angus once again began to look at the numbers on the doors. 

“Ah,” he said aloud, “here at last.” He gazed up at the numbers and knocked on the door. There was no answer so he knocked again only this time louder but there was still no answer. He tried the handle and the door opened easily. He was rather surprised to see that the room was in total darkness. 

He called out, “Is anybody there?” There was no answer. He peered into the gloom but couldn’t make out any shapes at all. It was like looking at a blackout curtain. He had a sudden thought that maybe it was a blackout curtain and reached out to move it but there was nothing there. 

The porter who passed him earlier in the company of a nurse appeared from round a corner. “Can I help you, sir?” he asked. 

“I was told to come to room seventeen,” Angus explained, “but the place is in darkness.” The porter frowned. 

“Is there no one with you, only you’re not allowed in there unaccompanied? Who told you to come to room seventeen in the first place?” 

Angus shrugged his shoulders. 

“A doctor,” he replied, “but I don’t know his name.” He suddenly decided that he didn’t want to go to room seventeen anyway. His head started to hurt and he felt decidedly sick. The porter became a blur but Angus knew that he had reached out to try and stop him falling. 

“Are you all right sir?” Angus was not all right but he couldn’t reply. “Are you all right sir?” 

Angus struggled to open his eyes and then struggled to focus them. His head hurt like hell. As his eyes focused on the scene around him he saw a man in a white coat whom he assumed was a doctor and a concerned looking nurse. He recognised her as the one he saw earlier with the porter pushing a trolley. 

“There was no one in room seventeen,” Angus told her. She frowned and her eyes darted in the direction of the doctor. 

“Room seventeen?” she queried. 

“Yes,” said Angus, “the doctor here told me to go to room seventeen.” 

“You need to rest now Mr Toomey,” the nurse said. Angus lay back and closed his eyes. He wanted to ask what was wrong with him but he was too tired to care. 

It was only later that Angus Toomey found out he had had a massive heart attack at work and had died in the hospital emergency room. They had tried to start his heart again several times before the doctor had suggested he would have to go to room seventeen. The nurse had urged him to try once more and that was when his heart started. Room seventeen, he discovered when he was discharged, was the hospital term for the morgue. 


Published in Issue #25

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