Limper is a smart little human monkey. But we know he’s no übermensch. He is not on our level, yet. Luckily, we have infiltrated the majority of his city and we have received messages that he has returned to the hospital for some reason. He has checked into the urgent care department.
We figure he somehow found a way to contact someone in the city to arrange a search-and-rescue and one of our own may have caught him in the act. So, like a savage, he must’ve used brute strength to tear the limbs off and to crush its chest. We would have to repair it later. For now, we hurdle towards the city, in a frenzy, hoping he hasn’t told anyone of our existence. He won’t get far, though.
City. Oil stains, darken the sidewalks. Cigarette butts pile up in corners. Stickers, papers, and whatnot plaster the ground. Thick, rank air. The smell of garbage permeates. At least there are more electric cars parked on each side of road this time around. Most of the city is homogenous: there are lights dotting each street, flickering sometimes, mindless nightlife. There are solar panels scattered on almost every roof. Cars zoom to and fro, with human passengers giggling and horse-playing in the backseat. The car seems to creak with every bump and crack in the road as its rotund passengers heave up and down. There’s hardly anyone walking around nowadays. We don’t pay too much attention to this.
We scurry our way through those city bridges, with the stink of the river oozing up. It’s utterly diluted with shit and oil and trash. We would take care of that, later. Fast food restaurants and dispensaries litter every street front and corner. Instant meals, everywhere. Candy bars boasting essential nutrients and calories for the day. Sodas and sugary juices. There’s also a water fountain, here and there, rusted and brown. There are TVs everywhere, providing a harsh luminescence to the streets. It’s all reality television and porn.
The hospital isn’t hard to locate. It is glossy, pristine, white, bright, and has a plastic sheen. The inside is marked with green tile, machines, IVs, touchscreen doctors, and whatnot. Worried relatives and friends rock back and forth in the lobby, next to the emergency room and urgent care areas. Nobody looks up as we slip past the reception desk without making eye contact to the computer, which is expecting us to sign in with a fingerprint. Slithering past the keycard security doors to the urgent care department is not difficult; the door simply cannot read what we are made of and clicks open. We change into the standard grey scrubs to embed ourselves in the background.
Limper was not lying. What we saw was a travesty to humankind; for any kind, really. Patients lie in hospital beds, swiping and tapping at tablet computers, and diagnosing themselves with inane questions: “How do you feel?”, “Which part of your body hurts? Circle.”, “Do you have a fever?”, “Are you suicidal? If so, please donate organs and limbs.”, “Are you bleeding? Attempt to pressure wounded area.”.
There are a few patients talking to human doctors. There is one signing papers for surgery and organ donations, knuckles white, as if there is some kind of silent blackmail agreement between her and the surgeon. The anesthesiologist keeps squeezing the gas mask, nails ticking densely. Sharp-sounding mutters perforate the air. A surgeon signs the patient’s form and hauls her away into the operating rooms. She howls like a banshee. We figure the surgeon must’ve forced her to agree to a standard viable organ and limb donation. It isn’t too surprising, with all the diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It surely would control the population a little. Other patients look on, and pull their curtains shut. She would be an empty hull soon. A disembodied torso.
Just then, we hear the clatter of metal utensils and a man shouting and growling out obscenities back through the hallway to the operating rooms and prep rooms.
“Please, wait. Wait! Don’t put me under, yet. You have to listen to me, Doctor Hou.”
There he is, sitting up in a gurney in a prep room, in a hospital gown. His legs are contorted in grotesque directions. Limper latches his fingers into Dr. Hou’s arm, voice close to tears.
“Please, lie down and relax. We need to operate on your legs. They’ve developed gangrene tissue,” says Dr. Hou, unfazed and cold. He wraps his hand around Limper’s wrist and sets it down and motions for the anesthesiologist. He catches sight of us, standing in the corner of the preparation room. “About time you got here. Psych department is so damned slow, Christ.”
Limper hasn’t noticed us in the room until now. He recognizes us instantly and begins to weep quietly. He doesn’t bother shrieking. We cart him into another room, switch on the sickly light, and lock the door. He has much to explain.