Dr Warner brushed a slender finger against the telephone cord and rummaged through his desk for a phone number. He waded through medical records, observation notes and evaluation sheets, when he found what he was looking for. Adjusting his glasses, he picked up the phone and quickly dialled the number on the paper, attempting to block out the typical noise of a busy Emergency Room.
'Children's Psychiatric Ward, how can I help you?'
The doctor cleared his throat. 'Yes, hi, I'm ringing from Emergency. Look, I need an on-call psychiatrist down here as soon as possible tomorrow morning to see young Erim. She is sixteen and a half and has just presented at Emergency with her friend, who reports that she has taken over one hundred painkillers. We are looking towards admission as she is currently homeless. The whereabouts of her family are unknown, she reports suicidal intent and appears to be hearing voices. We need a psychiatric evaluation as soon as possible.'
'Right, I see,' the nurse on the other end spoke in a clear, almost girlish voice, 'I'll page Dr Ray tonight.'
Dr Warner hung up the phone, feeling a slight weight lift off his shoulders. He looked towards the girl, Erim, who was lying almost immobilised on the hospital bed with her mouth slightly open, muttering under her breath. Poor thing. She was probably feeling terrible. Sixteen is a hard age to be.
One of the nurses approached Dr Warner with a concerned look shadowing his face.
'We can't make much sense of her, but the friend says she took the tablets roughly three hours ago. We are awaiting a blood test at 9:00PM, in an hour.'
'Good,' he replied, 'once you have the treatment sorted, put her in Isolation. She will be seeing Dr Ray in the morning.'
The nurse nodded, and walked off back to bed thirteen. Dr Warner sighed. It was going to be a long night for this young girl.
Erim lies on her bed, her long black hair sprawled out on the white pillows. She would normally be fiddling with her hair, or twiddling with her thumbs, but instead she just lies there, motionless. Her lips move occasionally in a meaningless gesture as she whispers under her breath to those voices. Those strange voices, which seem to live inside of her head. But she can barely get a word out her cold, sealed lips she is so weak. Merely lifting a finger takes strenuous effort.
Sid sits by her side, his thick golden dreadlocks covering his face. He looks genuinely concerned for Erim, as he knows she has been hearing voices and occasionally attacking herself with scissors lately. He wonders if this is a result of her traumatic childhood or that she is just insane.
Erim doesn't know why Sid brought her here. She doesn't know why he lets her stay at his apartment without wanting sex in return; she doesn't know why he is helping her. She doesn't know why he doesn't just fuck off.
You shouldn't be here, Erim. You don't belong in a hospital. You should be dead, like Lee.
Effa is obsessed with the idea of death and wants desperately for Erim to kill herself. Her obsessive masochism would scare anyone off in a heartbeat.
'Shut up,' Erim groans, rolling over and clutching her head tightly.
Lee is dead. He hung himself in the backyard with his belt. He was gone when Erim found him. Resting below his mangled, dead body was a matted piece of paper with one word scrawled onto it in tiny writing; 'Freedom.'
Nineteen going on twenty, and all he wanted to do was end his life. Similar to their mother. But Erim really can't remember what her mother was like. There are huge gaps in her memory which she cannot for the life of her remember.
Sid sees that Erim is restless and agitated, and he lays a soft finger on her chest. 'What's up?'
'Bathroom,' Erim mumbles the word quietly through her parched lips, eyelids flickering over her hazy sapphire eyes.
Sid calls over a nurse, and Erim is hauled out of bed. She feels dizzy and weak, and cannot walk in a straight line. Halfway to the bathroom the world spins abruptly and Erim collapses onto the floor. She is taken back to the bed and told she must piss in a pan.
Erim doesn't find that idea very appealing. She tells them to forget it, and goes back to staring at the ceiling.
It's too bright, Erim. It's too noisy. Ask to be taken somewhere else.
The little boy is called Alaric, and his voice is pleading and scared.
Don't listen to him, kid. Run for it, run away.
'I can't,' Erim mutters, 'just be quiet.'
A nurse comes over, and checks Erim's blood pressure, pulse and body temperature. The blood pressure machine is tight on her arms.
Make it stop, it hurts too much.
The nurse asks her if she knows where she is, what her name is. He asks her if she has any siblings.
'Yes,' says Erim automatically, before she realises her mistake.
'What's their name?' the nurse asks kindly.
Erim can't reply. She has a lump in her throat that stops her from talking.
Lee, fool. Your brother's name was Lee.
The nurse nods, as if Erim's silence was an answer, and turns to Sid.
'We're going to take her into the treatment room now, where she will get a blood test and a drip put into her. Do you plan to stay with her overnight?'
'I think I will just go,' Sid rises from his chair and touches Erim lightly on the shoulder. Erim flinches, an almost agonising pain flaring up inside of her. She doesn't like being touched.
'I'll see you later, kiddo.'
Erim watches as Sid turns to go. She feels like yelling after him, begging him to stay with her. But instead she just watches him leave.
In the treatment room, Erim watches as a nurse takes her hand and pushes a needle into her veins. Thick, deep scarlet liquid spurts into the container. She watches it with pleasure.
'Wheelway Hospital, how can I help you?'
'Yes, hello, I'm calling from Emergency. We need methionine urgently. One of our patients has ingested eighty grams of paracetamol. She is barely conscious and we have her hooked up to an IV flushing fluids through her bloodstream.'
'Oh, I'll send some down straight away. Is the patient okay?'
'Distressed, but we will have her calmed down soon.'
'That's a lot of paracetamol. I hope she survives.'
'Yes, we hope so too.'
Erim stares at the clock right in front of her. It is 11:25PM, and it is dark in her section of the hospital. Next to her, a young boy is throwing up and nurses around him are checking his pulse. A worried mother sits beside him.
Her head is on fire. A scorching, smouldering headache is hammering inside her mind. She groans and rolls over, but it is uncomfortable to do so as she has heart monitors all over her chest. Attached to her hand is a drip, and it keeps beeping every once in a while. Nurses keep coming in to press buttons and check her heart beat and ask if she wants a blanket.
'Do you need anything?' they ask.
'Yes,' says Erim, 'a toilet.'
'Oh,' the nurse's face falls, and she reaches over to Erim and begins unhooking her.
Erim drags herself out of bed and stumbles a bit when her feet touch the cold floor. The world keeps spinning, and desperately she tries to steady herself. The nurse holds her hand and she edges very slowly towards the bathroom, wheeling the drip along with her. The nurse has to come inside with her to check that Erim doesn't pass out on the toilet.
Once inside, Erim hesitates, as if she is not sure what to do. Then she stumbles towards the sink and promptly throws up.
1:15AM. Erim has been lying here for an eternity, listening to the cries of sick infants in the bed next to her. She should not be here, she thinks. She should be dead. They are wasting their time, treating her like this. Soon Effa will kill her, or Alaric will force her to become a hermit. He is a frightened, sad little child. Effa is a bitch.
Erim feels a terrible nausea in the pit of her stomach. Her eyes are heavy and she feels them steadily close, as she quietly listens to the chaos of the Emergency Room.
She wonders what Lee is doing now.
A beeping sound erupts in Erim's dreaming and she wakes with a start. No, she wasn't dreaming. Erim never dreams.
A nurse is rushing into the bay to hurriedly press buttons on her IV pump. Erim looks at the clock. 5:40AM. She is not with Sid, or wandering aimlessly around the streets. She is in here, in this bloody hospital. And she hasn't seen natural sunlight for a day. It doesn't matter what time the clock says it is, the fluorescent lights are constantly beaming and time never moves.
Erim hears faint whispering from the nurses' station. They are talking about her. They are talking about moving her to a different place. They say something about Isolation.
A couple of nurse's open the curtains and Erim looks up. She is cold. They begin unhooking the drip and attaching it to the bed. They begin moving all the heart monitors. With a vast effort, Erim manages to pull herself so that she is sitting up. But she feels terrible and dizzy, and she knows she is about to throw up. She begins to breathe heavily.
Sensing her distress, one of the nurses grabs something from the desk and places it in front of her. It is a bucket, and Erim leans over and experiences the unpleasant feeling of stomach acid crawling up her throat. She fills up the bucket quickly and lies back down, relieved.
The nurses wheel her bed through Emergency, the drip constantly beeping as every second goes by. Erim closes her eyes, not sure where she is going. Eventually she finds herself in a small room separated from the other patients, its walls painted a hazy purple.
'Now you just sit tight and get some rest,' a nurse smiles warmly, pulling a blanket over Erim's body, 'we're going to give you something for the nausea and some counsellors will see you in a few hours.'
Erim rolls over and groans. She doesn't want to see any counsellors; she just wants to get out of here. She just wants to curl up in a tiny ball. She just wants to sleep forever.
But she can't sleep. She won't sleep. Sleeping is dangerous…