Flash fic: This is Hell

This one came to me at five in the morning. Horrible time to be struck by inspiration, but sometimes you have to go with it. Word count: 807.


Dr. Jane was working graveyard in the ER when an old man was brought in a few minutes after midnight. He was wearing pajama bottoms and nothing else. She checked his pulse, looked in his eyes, asked him if he knew his name. His mouth moved, but there was no sound.

She directed the EMTs to a curtained cubicle and gestured for them to move him to the bed. “What’s the story?” she asked.

The one called Salmon huffed a little as he lifted the patient. “Guy called 911. Cop was dispatched, had to break in the door. Found the guy on his bedroom floor.” Transfer complete, he pulled something out of his pocket and handed it to Jane: a wallet. “Cop said it was on the dresser.”

She flipped it open and immediately saw a driver’s license. The old man’s name was Copper Smith. That rang a bell. Smith was a writer. He’d won all kinds of awards for his last book. She’d read and liked it. No, loved it.


A male nurse appeared: Carter. “What have we got?”

“Not sure yet. Prepare for admittance exam.” She addressed Smith, who was staring at the ceiling, a blank expression on his face. “I’m Dr. Lisa Jane, Mr. Smith. Can you tell me what day it is?”


A few minutes later, Jane stepped back. “Schedule an immediate CT scan, CBC, and MRI.”

“Stroke then?”

“Most likely.” She stuck out her hand, and Carter gave her the chart. Jane scribbled and initialed. The patient had not been able to say a word.


The sharp smell of ammonia pricked her nose. She pulled back the sheet, and it got stronger. “Help me strip off the pajamas.” Something crinkled in her hand. There was something in the pocket. She pulled it out as Carter efficiently cleaned the patient and changed the sheet.

Unfolding the paper, she read: This is hell: to be surrounded by people and loved by none of them. 


Mr. Smith had no living relatives. He’d lived alone. After being diagnosed with a hemorrhagic stroke, he was scheduled to be moved to a rehab center. He’d stay there until his money ran out, then be shuffled to a state-run home.

Because of the extensive damage suffered, and his age, he would likely never leave. Dr. Jane felt terrible sadness as she signed the release papers. Mr. Smith’s writing days were over. They would stick him in a wheelchair, and with luck, he might recover enough strength to move himself around, but any way you looked at it, the remainder of his days would be bleak and empty.

Picturing him in that situation, surrounded by strangers, she remembered the piece of paper she’d retrieved from his pajama pocket. She’d clipped it to his chart. Retrieving it, she went to her office and typed the words into a search field.

It took only seconds to come back with a hit. The quote was from Mr. Smith’s award-winning book.

This is hell: to be surrounded by people and loved by none of them. A fate worse than death, you ask? Hell yes. If I am ever in that situation, please kill me. Take me out. Put me down with mercy and care, but make me die. What is life worth when it is nothing more than time passing?

Had he known it would come to this? She stifled a harsh laugh. Of course he had. Everyone came to this in one way or another. The end days of life were often filled with pain and misery.

She didn’t think about it much. She knew what she had to do. Unlocking her desk, she retrieved the bottle of potassium and a needle, filled it, locked up again, and quickly strode through the halls to Mr. Smith’s room. He was still there, as she’d known he would be. They wouldn’t come for him until morning.

She bent over the famous writer and smoothed the hair off his forehead. “I bring you the mercy and care you asked for. Safe journey, Mr. Smith.”

She gave him the shot.


Fifteen minutes later

After a fruitless attempt to revive the patient, Dr. Lisa Jane called it. “Death recorded at 11:48 p.m.”

Carter noted it on the chart. She drew the sheet over Mr. Smith’s head. Another soul sent to heaven. She wondered if he’d known, in those last moments, what she’d done for him? Saved him months, maybe years, of pain and agony. “‘This is hell’,” she murmured.

Carter looked up. “What?”

She smiled. “Next patient, Carter. Suspected Alzheimer’s, isn’t it? Such a tragedy, that disease. Killing your brain bit by bit over the long years.”

“My grandfather had it. When he was lucid, he kept telling me he wanted to die. I felt so bad for him.”

“Yes.” She exited the room and went down the hall to the next patient.



About Fenraven

Fenraven happily lives in south Florida, where it is really hot most of the year. Find him on Twitter, Google +, and Facebook by searching on 'fenraven'.
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21 Responses to Flash fic: This is Hell

  1. So…wait. Is she going on a Kevorkian spree now?

  2. That’s my thought too, Jaycee. Dr. Jane, Merciful Reaper at your service.

    Glad you succumbed to your inspiration, Theo.

  3. Helena Stone says:

    Wonderful. And if it ever comes to it, let there be a Dr. Lisa Jane in my life.

    • That’s what I was thinking. 🙂

    • Lindsaysf says:

      I don’t care for people who go around killing off those they think miserable, but on the other hand, I’m with Helena on this.

      • This was meant as a horror story, but it surprised me how many saw the nurse as someone doing good. That tells me there is a definite need in this country to address the issue of how and when we die, and who gets to make that choice.

        It better be the person who has to live with the decision.

  4. Patricia says:

    I would pray everyone could have that short, mericful end. Don’t like the idea of being locked inside a frozen body. Great efficient story with strong characterization of Dr. Jane.

  5. Patricia says:

    edit. merciful

  6. Allison says:

    I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything that was simultaneously so utterly depressing and hopeful at the same time. Well done.

    • It’s not a topic most people want to think about, but anyone getting on in years considers their future. The story was prompted by the terrible case of the Australian nurse who murdered maybe as many as one hundred patients “because they were annoying.” Talk about bleak! Couldn’t go there. Gave it my own twist.

  7. suze294 says:

    Enjoyably uncomfortable!
    Well worth the sleepless night

  8. Yvonne says:

    Living in Holland my dad was allowed to have a somewhat merciful ending. I don’t understand why people should suffer longer than they can cope with or be kept alive when they’re not really living.

  9. Karen says:

    This is so ironic as the supreme court of Canada has struck down the law prohibiting doctor assisted suicide. Of course there are a lot of views on this those who want to make it look like what’s happened is the Supreme Court is giving anyone carte blanche to commit or had assisted suicide performed on whoever. Those who maybe do support it in the other extreme and a range of thoughts in between. Reality is (the following explanation is directly from the National Post as I honestly couldn’t explain it better than what they have done)

    “In the landmark 9-0 decision, the high court ruled that the Criminal Code provision against aiding and abetting someone to commit suicide deprives people suffering from grievous and irremediable medical conditions the right to life, liberty and security of the person as guaranteed under the Charter.

    The court’s ruling limits physician-assisted suicides to “a competent adult person who clearly consents to the termination of life and has a grievous and irremediable medical condition, including an illness, disease or disability, that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.”

    It is the individual in question who must be competent to make this decision and personally as someone who worked over 15 years in health care I support this. I have seen what prolonged illness does to both the patients and their loved ones and I neither want nor should I have the right to decided when someone has suffered enough, let it be up to the individual who has to endure the actually mental and/or physical pain to say when they are no longer able to do so. It should not be anyone else’s decision. If suicide is a mortal sin then what is making someone endure what for them is unendurable? Our doctor’s take an oath that says ‘do no harm’ but if they allow someone to suffer when there is an option that the person desperately wants because there is not a reality of them getting better or recovering can we truly say they have done no harm?

    Sorry I sort of got long winded there. My point was simply that it is very ironic how reflective of what is happening in my country your story ended up being and in spite of the fact that I do support this decision your Dr. Jane, she does scare me.

    • Thanks for the comment. It was worth reading. I only wish the US would have as sensible an approach, but as the world knows, this country is not sensible in the least about almost everything.

      Dr. Jane is a little scary. She was supposed to be. 🙂

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