Extreme Writing Challenge #16: “Patient”

Who else is catching up on writing this Memorial Day weekend?  🙂

For today’s challenge, I’ve decided to shake things up a little bit.  Instead of revealing the challenge at the end of the story, I’m going to make you guess!  If you think you’ve solved the mystery, post a comment and tell me what you think it is.  Now:  Ready…set….READ!


Elaine was certain there had been a mistake.

All of her appointments with Dr. Sylvan had ended with the same recommendation.  It had come down to two options, and Elaine faced a hard decision.

Once she had settled on seeing a specialist in California, Elaine was seized by a fear of regret.  If this was the wrong choice, the road back would be slick with the oil of agony.  In this heavenly white, echoing room, Elaine was beset by suspense.

A dark man entered the room, towering over Elaine and reminding her of how small she was in the world.  “I’m Dr. Marsh,” the man said with an extension of a bony, unfeeling hand.  All doctors’ hands felt lifeless, unpromising.

“Elaine,” said the patient.

“I understand you’ve been through a lot prior to traveling here,” said the doctor.

Elaine replied, “Yes, but I think this is my best option.”

“Absolutely,” confirmed Dr. Marsh.  “I’ve seen hundreds of patients in similar circumstances.  A year from now, you won’t believe how much your quality of life has improved.”

Elaine cringed at the words a year from now.  One whole year.

After the first treatment, Elaine’s brain unraveled and expanded, pushing on her skull with the force of a wrecking ball against a brick wall.  Elaine sobbed and she was sure her tears were not tears, but rather her brain leaking out of her eye sockets.

Once the second treatment was complete, Elaine’s bones broke into a thousand fragments and floated around the inside of her body.  Even after they settled back into place, Elaine was stupefied by the pain and she lied motionless for hours as she listened to infomercials on a television she could not position herself to see.

Each treatment was worse than the last.  Elaine tried to be strong, but after six months of treatments, the only change she’d noticed was that her body was perpetually on fire.

Elaine was certain there had been a mistake.

On the day of her 49th treatment, Elaine decided to stop.  As the nurse inserted the IV, Elaine asked to speak with Dr. Marsh.

“I can’t do this anymore,” she told her doctor.  “It’s too painful, and it’s not working.”

Elaine’s doctor reminded her that she was only halfway through her treatments.  “If you can hold on and be strong,” he told her, “I promise it will all be worth it.”

On the day of her 106th treatment, Elaine sat across from Dr. Marsh in a white, echoing room.

“In less than two hours, you’ll walk out of this hospital for the last time,” Dr. Marsh said.

Elaine smiled.  “I can’t thank you enough, Dr. Marsh.  I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for you.”

“Is the pain gone?” he asked.

“It’s like it was never here at all,” Elaine grinned.

In the evening, Elaine boarded a plane to return home.  As the plane ascended, she recalled her last handshake with Dr. Marsh:  full of life and promise.


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