Written by Erin Nust
Art by Sevenstorm JUHASZIMRUS
Violet bit her lip and dug it with her teeth. The corridors were white, shining, so clean that she felt she was contaminating the waiting room with her human bacteria and the illnesses she might have been carrying.
Farther down the corridor an old man was sitting alone, coughing in his fist, with his eyes closed and squeezing. Violet pushed her purse tighter to her lap.
She didn’t like that she had to wait alone.
“The doctor will come in twenty minutes,” the kind nurse with the red lipstick and the overall pin-up girl-look informed her when she arrived.
Violet thought the nurse was only too polite to say: You, madame, came early. You couldn’t bear the peace of your own house, could you?
The silence was more eminent in the hospital’s corridors, a fact which sadly surprised her. She expected the building to be full of life, with doctors talking after a harsh night’s shift, nurses carrying ill people to their rooms, surgeons shouting for assistance. None of those things happened.
The old man had another coughing episode and Violet discreetly moved a seat to her right. Hospitals had changed a great lot since she last had to visit one.
She could still remember the day. Peter had driven her to St. Helen’s after a strong pain in the abdomen and a heavy haemorrhage. They had just lost another chance to become parents. The incident happened two years ago, when Peter was well and unaffected by the illness.
He got it without warning, when no one knew about it, how lethal it was for those who, like Peter, worked underneath the earth. Like most of the miners he worked with, Peter’s symptoms included: heavy headaches, diarrhoea, and unexpected dizziness.
Doctors still researched what infected the fragile human bodies of the miners. The possibility their institutions had discovered something lethal under the surface scared Violet and many others who were affected by the mysterious illness.
And while people who still had the free time and the money to travel anywhere in the world, just entering the tubes in the former train station and the airports, the illness remained a mystery to the world.
The hospitals worked only to help cure common diseases, because there was nothing they could do for those who suffered from It. They just left them to die in their homes, next to the people they loved, or alone, in some desolated cardboard box.
Violet never understood why the government didn’t use robots to do the heavy jobs; why they had to send real men to excavate minerals, and connect cities with wires, while robots remained on the surface and worked in offices and on the roads. Anger fuelled a million questions like these. Time ran and the doctor still was nowhere. She had to wait, silent, not to disturb the beautiful nurse, while she had to protect herself from the old man’s viruses. She was only a wife and a daughter after all.
Peter was proud, too proud to yield to anyone with more power than him. Now that he was gone, thoughts tortured Violet: she had been a sort of hypocrite towards him. The reason she fell in love with him was his resistance towards power; how he didn’t give a second damn about her being the daughter of Lucius Hall; how him marrying a girl like her would probably cause him more trouble than good. Violet loved him for all of that, but she never understood why he preferred to work with no sight of sunlight, under heart-breaking conditions and provide for his family than to be fed by that corrupt son of a bitch and his dirty, lawyer-money.
She hated when he called her father like that. She didn’t approve of his mistreat of his employers (robots and humans), but he was still her father and she had to be respectful to his name, or else… her dolls would be taken away from her, no phone calls, no partying, no dessert. Marrying Pete was the most rebellious act she dared against her father’s power; and that because she wouldn’t have to deal with the consequences on her own, there would be two of them. The whole hypothesis was thrown in the trash of course now that Pete was not alive anymore.
Violet lifted her coat sleeve and checked on her watch. It had been almost twenty minutes and there was no sign of the doctor or the pin-up girl. She searched around to check if more people were waiting, like her, if there was another woman she could talk to. The place was empty except for the two nurses in the reception and the old man in the end of the corridor. She would like to go and ask the nurse again when the doctor arrives, but she didn’t want to be perceived as annoying or needy. So she remained in her seat with the purse, holding her purse closely in her lap.
“Mrs Theole?” the nurse called and she sprang from her uncomfortable plastic seat.
“Doctor Walter is here. You can come in.”
Violet pulled up her skirt and used her right hand to zip it on its side. She couldn’t look the doctor in the eye. Gynaecologists always made her nervous.
She lied down on the bed and nailed her gaze on the wall opposite to her. The doctor put on her gloves and spread the jelly in her.
Violet looked at the familiar screen on the side, for the first time wishing it would be empty.
“Mmm. Congratulations, Mrs Theole. You are pregnant,” the doctor said with a cheerful voice, but Violet couldn’t share his excitement.
There was no one to share the news with. Peter had been gone for almost two months now. How didn’t she notice? Her period had been late, but she never had a steady cycle; she had been dizzy and sick, but she thought– she wished– it was the illness and she would soon reunite with her Peter. She attributed some of the symptoms to the fact she was mourning her husband’s loss.
The idea of a child was only relevant as long as Peter was alive.
Violet took the high-speed train and stopped three stops after. She stood before a skyscraper. She entered the turning door and she saw busy people running with coffees in their hands, others with earphones plugged in their ears, all running errands and copying files.
Her father’s office was on the fifty second floor and Violet was forced to cram herself in the elevator with eleven more people. She enjoyed witnessing people living, moving around, being busy, but she didn’t like to be touched.
The elevator took six minutes to reach its destination. It was the longest six minutes she had experienced in her life. After they heard the ding of the elevator, they swarmed out in different directions like ants that had been trapped and finally being released.
Violet followed the path to her father’s office which was boldly shined by the bright sun at the end of the corridor. She knocked, and a humanoid welcomed her with a seat and a cup of tea.
She didn’t like the tea her father offered to his clients. It was too soapy. After stating her name and business, she waited, holding the steamy mug in her hands.
Five minutes later the android let her enter her father’s desk.
“Violet! What a pleasant surprise,” he said without taking his eyes from his papers. He always sounded chipper, especially since Peter was gone.
Violet swallowed hard, bringing down her pain for his heartlessness.
“Dad, I need to work for you. I’m moving back home.”