Two men in slacks and matching blue polo shirts walked down the corridor labelled ‘Palliative Care.’ Paintings of happy children visiting grandpa and diagrams warning of the dangers of bed sores clung, hopelessly, to the stark walls and tried to ward off both depression and poor nursing practice. Neither man noticed these bleak reminders of frailty as they approached the room containing beds 5 – 8; they'd grown too used to it.
Once in the room, technician one, the older looking of the two, looked at the patient data sheet on the back of the door.
“Bed six is the only one down for it. What's his card say?”
Technician two, a young guy, early twenties, pushed off from the door where he'd leaned. At the foot of bed six, he lifted a small piece of plastic strapped to the foot of the bed.
“Jim Cartwright. Patient PC6N114.”
Tech one pulled out his company phone and unlocked it with a dismissive swipe.
“Okay. James Gregory Cartwright was a teacher. Next of kin is in... wow... Singapore and is a Victoria Cartwright. She last visited 14 years ago in 2044.”
“Jesus. Poor guy's been forgotten.”
“He's been a vegetable for two decades. I can't believe they haven't pulled the plug. He'll be expensive to reconstruct; his insurance won't pay for us.”
“What's the company paying for a digitised teacher this year?”
“God. That's low. And two decades in a coma is... what... 20,000 credits?”
“Fuuuck. I can't believe that, in this whole hospital, there's only one geezer down for being downloaded. We're not going to make anything on commission.”
“Well that's just how it is sometimes. Go next door and check the last four patients. I'll see if there’s anything in his file that will scrape up the last 4k.”
Technician two left the room and ducked his head into next door. None of the produce listed in beds one through four had elected to be digitised.
On returning, technician two said, “None. Of the 119 vegetables this place has got, only this guy can be digitised and he's not even goddamned worth it. I hate this ass-backwards country. I can't wait to get back to the States.”
“System's too new here. Hospital probably hasn't even called the families yet. This guy is only on the list because his daughter asked for it fourteen years ago.”
“Fourteen... The tech didn't even exist then.”
“Right? But she's left a note here: Something along the lines of ‘It's what he would've wanted.’”
“Well... That's too bad. Can we call ahead for the next hospital? I don't work for free.”
“Oh. We're not working for free. This guy is an organ donor. Company can upload the brain and sell the parts to make up the difference.”
“Oh. Nice. That’s something at least. Let’s wheel him out and get him to the van. I'll call the other hospitals and aged care facilities.”
Minutes later, after getting the proper forms signed by the proper, but dismissive, hospital staff, the two technicians wheeled Jim out of the hospital. They exited via the freight passage and loaded Jim and a small life-support system into the back of a cavernous semi-trailer. There, Jim, a forgotten vegetable; a decrepit and wasted coma patient, lay alone in the dark.
In the following hours, Jim's brain experienced the first conscious thoughts that it had had in over a decade: First, a swirl of flashing lights, then a burning rush of pain, and, lastly, cool, blue lucidity.
From Jim’s perspective, entire years passed in one, fluid moment.
Support "The Forgotten Man -- Platinum Online"
My name's Tim and I'm writing Forgotten Man Online, a game-literature light novel web-series that I plan to release here, on Royal Road, and eventually hopefully through Amazon's Kindle platform.
I studied writing at university for three years and then became a high-school English teacher in Australia (6 years in). Hopefully, that means you will find my content to be of a high standard and that you will enjoy it, provided you can stand the British spelling of words :).