Small beads of sweat trickled down my forehead as I held patient number 17858’s shoulders down on the surgery bed. As each electrical shock traveled through his large body in an effort to reanimate him, I had to apply more and more pressure to keep his body from falling off the shaky bed that was way too small for a man his size. The dim lights flicked each time a new shock was administered and I had to refrain from jumping each time it happened. At some point, the electrical shocks stopped and all of the healers took a step back from the bed. Not knowing what to do, I imitated them.
When patient number 17858 had come in an hour ago, he had a sliced arm and broken jaw. Most likely from working on a new section that was to be added to the Seekers’ headquarters, explained his immediate supervisor. Though I was still very inexperienced, I kept wondering how those wounds could come out of a simple work accident. The blood loss had already been pretty high and the poor man was barely conscious when we had started working on his wounds. This kind of situation was not unusual for members of the Builder subsidiary. That being said, wounds were usually minor and very rarely did they die from them.
” Time of death: 11:54 AM, ” declared the main healer in charge of this procedure, while scribbling something down on her laminated clipboard.
” Sorry you had to witness your first death on your first day, kid. ” whispered another healer before walking out of the room.
And just like that, I lost my first patient. My heart sank and for one small moment I almost let a tear slip from my eyes. This was too soon. How could The Circle be so desperate as to let a student be taken out of school this early to start her career? I was barely done with my healer training when my professor had pulled me out of cl*** to announce to me the “good news.” According to her, my marks were some of the highest they had ever seen and The Circle was in dire need for a new healer. It did not matter that I did not feel ready or that most of the material we were required to master in order to fulfill our role in society as healers were not yet acquired at my level. All that mattered was that The Circle had asked that I be taken out of school to start working in the infirmary. Perhaps, some people would have been flattered or even happy to not have to be in school anymore. In my case, I was scared to the bone. Being a healer meant you had people’s lives in your hands. I did not want to be the one to screw up something so fragile as someone’s health. Maybe part of me resented The Circle at that moment, but I would never admit it to myself.
My vision started to blurr and I had to exit the surgery room to get some air. I removed my gloves and mask and pushed out of the door of the infirmary to the front of the block. I placed my hand on the side of the wall to steady myself and took a big breath.
” Take a break, new girl. Toughen up or you won’t last long in this place. ” said my Head healer , Hadley, as she walked past me.
We lived in an underground society and depended on what we called “The Regime” to ensure our colony’s well being. Each individual was bred with certain genes that would enable him or her to perform a certain job that The Circle decided for them. The Circle was composed of 17 individuals who were chosen for specific qualities. They made all the decisions and decided on the faith of the colony. Because we were forced to live underground since the nuclear war 250 years ago, strict rules were put in place to ensure that our society strived and that the human race did not go instinct. One of those rules was to perform the job chosen for you after completing years of training. Up until the age of 14, we went to General School, where we learned basic skills such as writing, reading, history and basic mathematics. At 15, we were sent to a specific school where we learned the skills needed to accomplish our respective jobs. Future Healers went to Health School, Enforcers went to Law School, Seekers went to Survival School, Builders went to Building and Architecture School, Breeders went to Maternity School, Farmers went to Agriculture School and Caterers went to Dietician and Cooking School. Each subsidiary was in charge of a particular aspect of our society. For example, us Healers were in charge of everything that had to do with the health of our colony, from psychologists to basic surgery assistants. At 18, we were ready to start our jobs. I was unfortunately pulled out of school at just 17 and would have had about one year left to my training.
After a short lunch break, I was required to make my way back to the healing block. If being the new unexperienced girl had not made me the one receiving all the less important jobs, my reaction to this morning’s event had. I spent a whole afternoon cleaning surgery tables, putting bandages away and cataloging drugs. I could safely say I already felt out of place. I could hardly blame my coworkers for treating like I was below them, my training was not finished and I needed help to accomplish the simplest tasks. I would learn quickly, I always had. All I needed was a chance to prove it to them.
Cleaning up and putting things away was hardly going to be enough to prove myself. I had to find another way. Of course, I would try to stay away from the big operations for a little while. I needed to start by simple things.
” The alcohol pumps in the exam room need to be refilled. ” said Hadley, looking down at a clip board in her hand.
I made my way to the reserve and took out some new alcohol bottles. As I walked backed into the main room, a young man stood at the entrance of the block. Judging by his dirtied and rugged clothing, the dust all over his skin and his large frame, I could tell he was a Seeker. They probably had the most dangerous job in the whole Colony. Their mission was to protect us from the outside. Or whatever was in the Outside. They had to make regular outings to gather resources, information or to fight Cold Skins. The Seekers were the ones who did not fit in anywhere else. They were expandable. Where the healers were the kind, compassionate souls who wanted to help others, the Seekers did not care much for anything other than adrenaline and danger or so I had been told.
The young man was standing there casually, holding his bloody arm with ease as if the pain meant nothing to him. Perhaps it did not.
“Have a seat, ” signaled my Head healer to the young Seeker.
This was my chance and I was not about to blow it. It was only a simple scratch. Nothing too complicated, but at least it was something.
” ‘ll take care of this,” I motioned to the man who was now having a seat on the examination chair.
The Seeker turned his head towards me at the same as my head healer.
” You sure you can handle it? ” I heard a hint of sarcasm in her voice as she moved away from my new patient. I nodded and made my way to the chair where the young man was still holding his injured arm. His eyes followed me the whole way as I approached him.
I gathered all the necessary items on a small tray; bandages, alcohol, thread and needle in case the wound was deep, ointment, gauze and gloves. As I made my preparations I could feel his eyes on my back.
“New girl?” he drawled with desinterest.
I turned around abruptly at the sound of his voice, nearly dropping the contents of my tray.
” I’m not trying to be an *** here, but I’ve got stuff to do, so if you could just hurry it up a little bit. “
I set my tray on the table next to the examination chair and put my gloves on. He presented me his arm and I took hold of it, turning it around a little bit to examine the wound. It appeared to be a bite mark, made by something with very long teeth. There were 6 puncture marks that were almost bone deep and around it was burnt skin. Blood was slowly dripping from each hole, as well as thick black liquid.
“Does it hurt? ” I asked, stupidly. Of course it hurt.
I grabbed some gauze and soaked it in alcohol in order to disinfect the bite. I started dabbing the gauze and cleaning off all the blood. And there was a lot. I was definetly going to have to do stitches. Oh well, there was a first for everything. It was not as if I had never practiced in school.
“Nice handwork there, honey. I wonder what else those hands are good at. ” I accidentally dropped the contents of my alcohol bottle all over his arm.
“I take that back! ” he said between fits of laughter. The fact that this guy was laughing and making jokes while having a near decapitated arm did not escape me.
Focus, North. Just focus and forget about him. I could not blow this up.
Showing him that his snarky remarks did not phase me, I ignored him and started drying his arm from the wetness of the liquid.
I had started preparing my needle for the stitches when my name was called from the door. I looked up and saw Skylar. He was probably the last person I wanted to see right now. He and I had been really good friends, until recently when I had admitted to him that I felt something stronger than friendship towards him and he had rejected me. It was after the counsel had announced that I would be taken out of school. I had been stressed and he had been there. I realized now that my feelings had not really been love anyway, but still. The feeling of being rejected had been a blow to my ego. Since then, our relationship had been stranded. We had been playing cat and mouse for weeks now, him trying to reach out to me and me trying to avoid him. Sooner or later I knew we would have to talk about it.
” I’m busy right now, can this wait? ” I said looking in his direction, but never at his eyes. Seeing him was still causing me pain, even after weeks. Or maybe it was shame.
“Sure, I’ll see you later tonight. You going to the Pit? “
The Pit was a sort of party area in Block F where people in the Colony liked to hang out. Music played, drinks were served, people danced.
“I don’t think so. ” I mumbled, cutting some thread to place in my needle. I was vaguely aware of the Seeker’s calculating eyes watching our interaction, still remaining silent.
“I’ll come by your unit later, then. See you. ” with a look of disappointment evident on his face, Skylar waved me goodbye and took his leave.
Skylar was an Enforcer. They were the people in charge of the security down in the blocks. They enforced the laws and made sure everyone obied by them. The Enforcers were strong in nature, smart and cared deeply for rules. They obeyed orders without question and worked for the greater good. He was a year older than me, but we had met in school. For years, we had been inseparable, until recently when I had decided to make a fool out of myself, I thought to myself as I watched after his retreating form.
” Boyfriend? ” asked my patient, looking at where Skylar was now walking away.
I shook my head.
“No.” I replied flatly. “This may hurt a little bit, so stay still, please.”
Only when I approached my hand to the wound did I realize I was shaking. I took a deep steadying breath in order to calm myself, but it was in vain. Seeing Skylar had disturbed me. Top that off with the fact that this guy was positively intimidating. I wanted to show him that his little comments did not affect me and my work. I wanted to succeed at this so bad. I could feel his icy blue eyes watching my every move, which did not help me focus.
“Let me do it. Just take the rest of the day off and be here at 7 AM sharp tomorrow. ” Hadley pushed my hand away and took hold of the needle.
I brushed my hands on my hips and nodded, taking a few steps back. I looked up to the Seeker and met his icy gaze.
“I’m sorry. I hope this heals well. ” I turned around and left.