It was a little after eleven and Kristin sat down at her desk in the Staff Nurse’s office a little more heavily than she’d intended. The swivel chair creaked a little, accusingly she thought, and squeaked as she leaned back in it. It was supposed to adjust to the sitter, but it was over thirty years old and was mostly frozen in place now. She found it useful though; it wasn’t comfortable enough for her to fall asleep in during the small hours, and it was uncomfortable enough that after twenty minutes sitting down she’d start to look for something to do standing up. It was, she conceded, a very practical chair for her office.
She looked out of the big window which gave her a view down the length of the three wards that she was responsible. Wards 8 and 9 were quiet, with no lights lit, and the Chebyshev ward, previously ward 10 before a benefactor had donated enough to name a ward, had a single night-light on. She squinted a little, but it was, as usual, Mr. Chalfont still reading his magazines. His wife had brought them in, struggling a little under the weight of the fifty of them tied in a bundle with twine, and he’d been reading them obsessively ever since. She’d added a note to his file about it, but the doctors were too busy to pick up on it at the moment. When she was satisfied that it was all quite, she swivelled the chair round and looked out of the other window. There wasn’t much to see, though the low lighting in her office at least meant that she could see out of it, but there was Lincoln Hill a little way off in the distance, with trees silhouetted at the top of it. Beyond it was the occasional white twinkle of the old mercury-vapour street lamps in Hamilton, and above it all the stars were out tonight.
The door to her office opened, and she lazily swivelled the chair to see who it was. George, one of the junior nurses and new to the night-shift, came in. He closed the door behind him, and remained stood there, peering through the glass for a moment.
“Evening, George,” said Kristin, wondering what he was looking at.
“Who’s on ward 9?” he said, looking away from the door at last and meeting her gaze.
“The patients,” she said. It wasn’t a joke, really, but she didn’t know what he meant.
“Haha,” he said. “Seriously though, I thought all the lights went out at 11.”
Kristin swivelled again and looked through the big window. Sure enough, as George had said, there was a glow now at the end of ward 9, furthest away from them.
“I don’t know,” she said. “That wasn’t there a moment ago, there was just Mr. Chalfont–“ Her words cut off as she looked down the Chebyshev ward and saw Mr. Chalfont sliding down his covers and starting to fall off his bed. “Jesus!”
“Wha–? Oh crap!” George saw him too, and the two of them hurried down the ward; George breaking into a run to get to Mr. Chalfont before he reached the floor. Between the two of them they got him righted on the bed and tucked in again and Kristen started checking his vital signs while George paged the duty doctor. She’d barely completed the check when the doctor arrived, looking startlingly bright-eyed and enthusiastic.
Kristen drew George aside as the doctor started talking to Mr. Chalfont, who was unresponsive, and then prodding him.
“George, go and check on ward 9,” she said. “There shouldn’t have been any lights there at all. Find out who’s playing games.” George nodded and slipped away, and Kristen returned her attention to Mr. Chalfont and the slightly-less ebullient doctor.
“Damn it,” he sighed. “This has all the signs of a stroke. Mr. Chalfont was due to be released at the end of the week, he’s been responding well.”
Kristen murmured, knowing that the doctor wasn’t really listening for a response from her.
“Oh, damn it. Well, there’s nothing we can do at the moment. You’re here all night, right?” Kristen nodded. “Good, then it’s hourly checks…” he droned on, telling Kristen how to do her job, and she nodded politely and tried to feign interest. When he’d finished lecturing her and left, she checked Mr. Chalfont once more, and returned to her office. George was sat in the swivel chair now.
“Mr. Chalfont’s had a stroke,” said Kristen. “Do you know the drill for this?”
“Er,” said George. His eyes had a faraway look.
“Er. Kristen, that light….”
“At the end of ward 9? What of it?”
“It’s… it’s coming from the patient. I checked it, and everything. She’s glowing.”
“Who is?” Kristen wondered if that was some practical joke that he was trying to play.
“Her chart says she’s Mrs. Vacher.”