At the window, dawn rays caressed Damien’s face. His lips were twisted at an angle and his arms hung limp over the sides of the wheelchair. Dark hair sprouted from his scalp in disordered clumps. The bedside clock read 8:58. Nurse Horrid, or Holloway on her name badge, arrived each morning at nine o’clock.
Damien had tried to show his parents and the doctors he was not as he seemed. He understood their every word and felt a myriad of emotions. The television news was his solace. His window into the lives of people outside the hospice. To his immense frustration the nurses would often switch it to childrens’ shows, ignoring his avid gaze.
He recognized the clipped pace of Nurse Horrid as she entered and sunk lower in his chair. He closed his eyes and wished her away. There was a jolt as she wheeled him over to the bed. She reeked of disinfectant and cigarettes.
‘Come on retard, you’re drooling again,’ she sneered and hoisted him out of the chair and onto the bed. ‘Have you wet yourself too? Let’s see.’
The nurse was as tall as a man with broad shoulders and a sallow pinched face. Her gaze was deadened, as if she were impervious to feeling. Her eyes remained the same whether she smiled or frowned. Grey hair was dragged back from her face and stretched the skin around her temples.
She pulled his tracksuit bottoms down and inspected his groin. ‘Nope, looks like you’re decent for a change. Someone must have already been in here and changed your diaper. It’s disgusting to soil yourself like a baby.’
Nurse Horrid dug her fingernails into his upper arms and shifted him into position on the bed.
‘Ugh, you smell as bad as an old person. At least old people can speak. Useless piece of garbage.’ She spat the words and her spittle sprayed his face.
Damien escaped to a part of his mind where there were rolling fields and wildflowers. Sunlight beamed through gaps in billowing clouds and the grass was soft beneath him. Her words became a dulled roar, their malice faded.
When she left he examined the metal tray with the full syringe. His left arm worked. It was necessary to use all his strength. To heave, strain and wheeze. After some minutes he picked it up and concealed it in his sleeve. His chest rose and fell and perspiration shone on his forehead.
The nurse returned to give him his sedative and he waited, like a cobra ready to strike. He leaned forward and allowed the weapon to drop into his palm. Nurse Horrid’s back was to him as she cursed and looked for the syringe. Damien used gravity to pitch himself forward and sink the tip of the syringe into her hip, his thumb pressed down on the plunger.
Her squeal surprised him. It was as high-pitched as a small child. She paled, her knees buckled and she sank to the floor.
Damien dropped the syringe into the metal basin and lay back. On the television the Berlin wall was being dismantled. He watched as people claimed their talismans of concrete and feigned sleep as a nurse walked in.