Short Story: The Krankenhaus

Wearing a clinical white hospital gown and slippers, Thomas glances back at his friends in the hallway. Their encouraging smiles persuade him further along the corridor and into the dark of the governor’s office. He pauses beside a tall grey cabinet and prises his little fingers into the lip of the bottom drawer. One last check behind him.

The coast is clear.

His friend, Siggy, hisses along the corridor. ‘What does it say?’ He is the eldest of the trio and his uncombed hair drips hazelnut spirals over his grey eyes.

Thomas is quiet. He concentrates on the rough green file. ‘Property of the Nord Staatlichen Krankenhaus’ is written in black ink on the cover. He takes from his shoe a packet of matches and strikes a match alight. A small gasp as he reads: Thomas E Wolf. Admitted 03rd December 1965. Clinically suspected poisoning by salt.

He is startled by the fluorescent lights clicking into brilliant white in the hallway and snaps shut the file. He rolls out the drawer, stuffs the file inside, and tiptoes across the office and towards the door. His heart pounds in his ears and thrashes against his chest. Peeping around the wooden door frame, he watches his friends run for their lives. A stretched black shadow of a thick and lumpy shape slicks the corridor floor. Its length grows in the imitation light and passes the place where Thomas listens. With his back flattened against the woodchip wallpaper of the office, he feels the cool leak inside his gown, but the cold, the fear, shares no likeness to the harshness of the nurse.

She stops a fraction from the door. Her musty scent clings to her overalls. Thomas dares not breathe, dares not blink an eye. This is the moment in his life he feared, a moment uncanny and perverse. This is the moment the office is locked and will stay locked for thirty years.

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