The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith
English | 2020| Mystery/Thriller| ePUB | 2.3 MB
Decades of spiralling drug resistance have unleashed a global antibiotic crisis. Ordinary infections are untreatable, and a scratch from a pet can kill. A sacrifice is required to keep the majority safe: no one over seventy is allowed new antibiotics. The elderly are sent to hospitals nicknamed ‘The Waiting Rooms’ … hospitals where no one ever gets well.
Twenty years after the crisis takes hold, Kate begins a search for her birth mother, armed only with her name and her age. As Kate unearths disturbing facts about her mother’s past, she puts her family in danger and risks losing everything. Because Kate is not the only secret that her mother is hiding. Someone else is looking for her, too.
Sweeping from an all-too-real modern Britain to a pre-crisis South Africa, The Waiting Rooms is epic in scope, richly populated with unforgettable characters, and a tense, haunting vision of a future that is only a few mutations away.
My stomach churns. It’s a Pavlovian response; it happens every time I look at my calendar. Those white paper squares are like a game of Sudoku. Each day has a number at the bottom written in the same black felt-tip pen: the one with a rubber tube around its middle, like those used by infants who are struggling to write.
Forty-eight days until my birthday. The big seven-o.
This is no childish anticipation. Quite the opposite. Cut-off.
That’s the expression they like to use. Rolls off the tongue a bit quicker than ‘no longer eligible for treatment’. Elaine used to say that if octogenarians were a classified species they’d be almost extinct. Poor Elaine. She never made eighty. It started with a common cold, and the next thing, she’d got pneumonia. ‘Old man’s friend’, wasn’t that what they used to call it? Or, in her case, old woman’s. I suppose there are worse ways to go. But I miss her. She was the closest thing I had to a friend here. She was the only one who ever got the joke.
‘You’re dead right, Lily,’ she said to me one afternoon, as she contemplated my rows of little white squares. ‘Our days are most definitely numbered.’
I press the pen back into its clip, slip my wrists into the clamps and wheel my frame out in front of me. I slide my right foot forward, my left foot, and stop. I repeat this pattern, again, 15 and again, edging along the carpet. It’s an effort, even at this woeful pace, and I can feel the damp spreading under my arms. Eleven shuffles and I make it to the door. I raise my wrist and the sensor flashes. The lock thuds across. Freedom.
I head left, getting into my own slow rhythm: push, shuffle, push, shuffle. Before my cartilage started crumbling I rushed everywhere. I never walked, I marched. It took some adjusting. At first I ignored it, pushed on, despite the pain. I took a few falls. But now I’ve had to accept my limitations. If I have another break, they won’t operate: I’m too close to cut-off. And I’ve seen what can happen, even with minor fractures. Bone infections are bad. They don’t go away. Not without treatment.
A wall dispenser puffs out a chemical waft of jasmine. It doesn’t disguise the acrid stench of disinfectant. I glance at the nameplates as I move past: Dr Elizabeth Miles (Edin). Dr Bill Jackson (Camb). I don’t know why they bother putting up your letters. Must be some marketing gimmick. Professor Harriet Weatherly (Oxf). I knew her: medical sciences, I think. A real pioneer in oncology. Now she’s got Alzheimer’s. See what becomes of these once-great minds? They’re either losing their marbles, or trapped in failing bodies, like mine. None of our knowledge can save us now.