Jayeeta | Northcote High School
Secondary English | Term 1 2021
The silhouette bent over, opening a drawer with a well-practised flick of the hand. Inside, bottles and small boxes were lined up neatly in rows, some half-filled with pills and others waiting to be refilled. A slight knock on the door signified that something had arrived. Without looking up from the drawer, the person pressed one of the many buttons that was arranged on a panel on the wall. With two short beeps, the door began automatically sliding open. In stumbled a boy who looked as if he couldn’t be a day over ten, carrying a box that almost completely blocked his face. Inside it, stacks of orange bottles clicked and rattled, threatening to topple out of it. He wordlessly placed it on the glossy tiled floor and stood up by the table.
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Leyla glanced through the large glass window. She was on good terms with the security guards, so they didn’t keep her under constant surveillance. Plunging her hand deep into one of her coat pockets, she fished around for a while,
Grinning, the boy snatched the wrapped sweet from Leyla’s hand as he skipped away.
“No telling anyone, alright?” Leyla waved.
That conversation was one that they had almost every week, and they both would have kept the secret even if the other hadn’t told them to. They both knew the consequences of doing such things, of keeping such secrets. Even wanting to indulge in small pleasures like having a piece of candy went against Their beliefs. No man, no child, no one at all was allowed to cross Them.
Leyla shuddered, clearing her mind. The screen on the wall emitted a faint, twinkling sound, displaying a crescent-moon shape. Sighing, she walked over to the sink by the window, placing her hands underneath the stainless-steel tap. “Soap,” Leyla mumbled, and the tap spurted out a stream of watery, lemon-scented liquid, filling the room with a citrusy fragrance.
Once she had done a final check of the room, Leyla handed her coat to the mechanical arm that had extended out to her. Sensing her presence, the door glided smoothly open for her. Leyla yawned as she strode through the doorway and into the hall.
Though her shift was over, the hospital still remained as lively as ever. The brightness-adjusting downlights flared brightly as flask-holding robots zoomed around along the walls. Waiting for the elevator, Leyla leaned against one of the white walls. The walls, along with all other surfaces of the hospital, were pristine, continuously being sprayed and wiped down by miniature drones. The faint buzz of their fragile rotors whirring filled the silence in the halls, all other nurses and doctors not communicating with others more than the absolute necessary amount.
After all, that was one of the rules They had made. They wanted the best for society, and would stop at no cost to reach perfection. Even if that ‘perfection’ meant everyone had to work, no matter their age or abilities.
With a ding, the elevator arrived. Leyla slipped in behind two other nurses, careful not to make eye contact with either of them. While she was a qualified nurse, there were many others above her who had the authority to replace her. They were too busy tapping at their watches to notice her anyway.
The elevator landed on the bottom floor, a scene beginning to unfurl. On the floor a boy lay curled up, whimpering and shivering. Leyla recognised him as the boy who had delivered her order earlier, and as one of her regular patients. She loved how energetic and cheerful he always was. Yet here he was, eyes bulging out of his face in terror, too scared to make a noise.
The cause of his sheer horror seemed to be the person standing before him. A tall figure loomed above him, dressed in billowing white robes. An air of elegance and superiority enveloped Them, and everyone in the area couldn’t help but be entranced by Them. In Their hand, a stark contrast to their pure aura, was a scrunched up pink wrapper. The same wrapper of the candy Leyla kept for the children she treated.
“Come,” a voice from under Their veil commanded. The boy on the ground spun around, desperately trying to make eye contact with someone, his expression one of pure and unmistakeable fear. Time seemed to slow down as he stared at Leyla. She could feel his despair, his pleading gaze wanting her to help him.
But she couldn’t.
As much as it disgusted her, as much as it hurt her to look away, she just couldn’t. She could not meet his eyes. Trying to defend him was no longer an option. At this point, she would only be stripped of her rights as a nurse and be forced to bear the same punishments as him.
Even though this was a minor offense, the fact still remained that he had eaten a piece of candy for his own enjoyment. As a punishment, he would be forced to work a much less pleasant job. If Leyla admitted to being the one to give him the forbidden item, she wouldn’t be safe either. A new children’s nurse would be appointed in her place, though this time, it would be someone who would complete their duties mercilessly. They wouldn’t pay attention to the cries of the children. They wouldn’t feel anything. She couldn’t bear the thought of that.
No. All of these ‘reasons’ were just excuses. Leyla knew that deep down, she just didn’t want her own life to be ruined. Her current life was one of great comfort, one of the best lives this world had to offer. She was just passing on her own interests in the name of others. She knew this, and it made her sick.
Shame and guilt showered her as she silently wept. She had no choice but to walk away. To walk away to her ‘happiness’ and ‘freedom’ as the boy’s hands were tied together with chains. Perhaps she too, even though she didn’t realise it, was chained.Jayeeta | Northcote High School
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