Authors: S.L. Grey
S.L. Grey is a collaboration between Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg. Based in Cape Town, Sarah writes crime novels under her own name, and as Lily Herne she and her daughter
Savannah Lotz write the Deadlands series of zombie novels for young adults. Louis is a Johannesburg-based fiction writer and editor who worked in the book trade for many years. He has a
Master’s degree in vampire fiction and a doctorate in post-religious apocalyptic fiction.
First published in trade paperback in Great Britain
in 2012 by Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books Ltd.
Copyright © S. L. Grey, 2012.
The moral right of S. L. Grey to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons,
living or dead, events or localities, is entirely coincidental.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available
from the British Library.
Paperback ISBN: 978 0 85789 586 8
E-book ISBN: 978 0 85789 587 5
Printed in Great Britain
An imprint of Atlantic Books Ltd
26-27 Boswell Street
London WC1N 3JZ
S.L. Grey thanks: Lauren Beukes, Rina Gill, Mike
Grant, Adam Greenberg, Sam Greenberg,
Bronwyn Harris, Sarah Holtshausen, Savannah
Lotz, Charlie Martins, Helen Moffett, Oliver
Munson, Sara O’Keeffe, Laura Palmer, Lucy
Ridout, Becci Sharpe, Alan and Carol Walters,
Maddie West, Naomi Wicks and Sam Wilson.
I can’t see.
I try again. Open my eyes.
Or rather, when I open my eyes there’s a shear of pain which might be light if I could see. But I can’t see and the light goes straight into my cortex and becomes pain.
This can’t be happening to me. I turn my head away from the doorway, and try to make the rest of my body follow, but it’s heavy and it takes all my effort to budge. When I do manage
to twist my legs and arms over, there’s a rip in my right arm and a pinch and pull on my dick. I stay where I am, squeezing my eyelids closed, panting, head pressed against something hard and
Someone grabs my sore arm and shoves it off my side with an impatient tut, and pulls at something embedded in the soft skin in the crook of my elbow. I try to move my fingers but my hand is
bandaged. I smell sweat, bad breath, something medicinal, the reek of burned stew. Something’s clamped onto my finger, then there’s a liquid slosh and a rustle of cardboard or plastic.
Finally the pain in my eyes recedes with a flash. Now I recognise it: somebody’s turned off the light.
Where am I? I open my eyes again, but I only see darkness for a second before the acid burn returns. I close my eyes and feel around with my left hand. Sheets, narrow mattress with a metal rail.
Tape in the crook of my right arm, a narrow tube leading upwards. Muffled rattling sounds and beeps from outside, loud conversation, crying, a resigned moaning.
I’m in a hospital.
Where’s my iPhone? It’s an effort to pat down my body to check my pockets but I realise I’m wearing a short gown, tied loosely at the back. Where did I leave my camera? Where
the fuck’s my stuff?
Hospital beds have call buttons, right? I feel along the cold edges of the bed – nothing – then probe my unbandaged left hand into the space beyond it. On my left, some sort of
cabinet. On my right, nothing until the drip tube stretches and tugs at my vein. I try not to imagine a void, but the vertigo makes me want to vomit. I clutch my hands over my chest for a few
minutes until the panic subsides. I feel behind me. Blank wall, then a plastic plate of some sort. I finger it for the call button until I realise it’s an electrical socket.
Fuck. What kind of a moron built this place?
Christ, I need my phone. How did I get here? What happened to me? I don’t feel like I’ve broken anything. I don’t feel any serious pain, except for my eyes when I try to open
them. But I’m weak, and moving hurts. ‘Hello?’ I call. ‘Hello?’ My voice is too feeble. I try to knock my knuckles on the bed’s railing. Nobody comes.
I close my eyes. I draft a MindRead post in my head. 140 characters or less.
MRers, help. Pls check my FindMe app and report back. Don’t know where I am.
I’m sure if I crowdsourced this problem one of my followers would help me out in minutes. But then again, if I could get online to post the problem I wouldn’t need to crowdsource the
fucking solution in the first place.
I could just call Katya. She’d take my call, even after what happened. I could use the hospital’s phone. But I don’t even have the strength to turn over, let alone walk around
looking for a phone. Oh yeah, and I can’t see to look for a phone. And nobody can hear me fucking calling. Jesus Christ!
This would be funny if it wasn’t happening to me.
Come to think of it, what
happen with Katya? I know
happened, but, when I try to think about it directly, it’s like I’ve got a blind spot. All I have in
my head is this still of her leaving, crying. That doesn’t help. She’s done that a few times before.
But I didn’t do anything to hurt her, not that I can remember. What the fuck
? Did Glenn do this? Where am I? And what’s wrong with me?
Maybe Glenn thought I cheated on Katya or something. That would give him the excuse he needed. Maybe Katya told him that. But she’d never do that if it wasn’t true. She loves me.
Oh Jesus. Glenn’s going to find me and kill me. He’s going to find me lying here, wherever the fuck I am, blind and half naked, and he’s going to kill me. Christ. Oh Jesus. Oh
‘Hello? Help!’ At last I’m shouting loud enough.
‘Yes? What?’ A woman’s voice barks at me.
‘Where am I?’
The woman sighs. ‘New Hope Hospital. Green Section,’ she finally says, like a prisoner of war giving up his name and rank.
Oh shit. ‘New Hope? Why am I here? I’ve got medical aid.’
‘No. Medical aid had no record of you. They brought you here.’
‘What do you mean no record?’
I can just imagine her smirking at me. Rich man lying helpless in a state hospital, finding out how the other half lives.
I’m going to fucking
Lizzie. She’s supposed to handle my medical aid and bullshit like that. Jesus. I’ve heard horror stories about this dump. Everyone calls it
‘No Hope’. I can’t believe I’ve landed up in here.
‘You need to call Da Bomb Studios. Speak to Lizzie Gebhart, my assistant. She’ll sort it out.’
‘I’m not phoning for you. It’s your problem.’
‘Okay, then. Tell me where my phone is. I’ll call myself.’
‘Your personal belongings are in your cubby.’
‘Do you mind? Could you—’ But she’s gone.
I say, ‘Hello? Hello?’ a bit but I know I’m wasting my breath. I try to feel around the bed for my cubby – wherever that is – but I’m really tired. I curl up
and imagine what I’d say if I could get online.
MR alert: &JoshFarrell has found self. In fucking No Hope, can you believe!?
&LizzieGstring you’re in deep shit. Prepare for a month’s mail duty.
At least that brings a smile to my face as I fall asleep.
I struggle to wake up. Someone’s talking to me. A man.
‘… so apologies for the cramped conditions. I’m afraid New Hope doesn’t have any private wards.’ He pauses, no doubt sharing a joke at my expense with the grumpy
nurse. ‘But, after last year, nobody’s keen on a measles epidemic again.’
‘That’s what you’ve got, Mr Farrell.’
‘As you can tell, it’s a serious disease. Especially in adults. It’s notifiable. Any idea where you caught it?’
‘Could be anywhere. I keep telling the board that it’s only going to end when mandatory immunisation kicks in. Eventually it’s going to kill everyone who doesn’t get
‘Can measles make me… make me not able to see?’ I can’t even say the word ‘blind’. I can’t go blind. I’m a photographer, for God’s sake.
Seeing is my work. Seeing is my fucking
. ‘I’ll get better, right, Doctor?’ I say in as deferent a tone as I can manage, as if he’s personally in charge of
whether I will see again or not.
He breathes out a long pause. ‘Uh, there are rare cases of permanent eye damage. At the onset of the measles we typically advise that you take twenty thousand units of vitamin A and that
will usually protect you. Your GP should have prescribed—’
‘I didn’t go to a GP. I don’t know how I got here. Or when.’
‘There is a good chance your sight will recover,’ the doctor says. ‘But it’s crucial that the ophthalmologist sees you and prescribes an antibiotic suspension. It’s
a shame we missed him yesterday. He’ll be doing his rounds in this section again tomorrow.’
‘But… if I need the medicine now to prevent—’
‘We’ll see what we can do. The best thing to do is get the virus out of your system and recover. You need to rest and replenish. You have severe liver damage and bronchitis and your
kidneys are in distress. All you need to do is lie still and let the drip do its work.’
The doctor leaves and I start to probe the space around my bed for the cubby.
‘Can I help you with that, Mr Farrell?’
I jerk with fright and then pretend I didn’t.
‘I’m Nomsa,’ the woman says in a comfortable, attractive voice. She’s standing near me, and she smells of quality soap and hand lotion. ‘I’m a supply nurse
here. I’ve just come on shift.’ She presses something into my left hand. Her hands are leathery, but smooth. ‘Here’s a call button. We rigged up a remote one for you. I bet
you don’t know you’re bedded in a supply closet. Closest we get to an isolation ward in Green Section.’ She laughs.
She makes me feel at ease for the first time in… since I came here. ‘Thanks. That other nurse…’
‘She’s not very helpful.’
‘No. But she’s good at her job. She’s here all the time. Almost runs the section. It’s thankless work and terrible conditions. At least I get a chance to work in the
private clinics half the time. Get a break from all this.’
‘You were looking for…?’
‘My stuff. She said it was in a cubby.’
Nomsa rustles next to my bed, and pushes a plastic bag into my hands. The bag’s handles are tied together at the top and I can’t open them with my right hand bandaged. Under the
dressing, my palm hurts like hell. Nomsa takes over and opens the bags. ‘We should get that to the laundry, probably,’ she says as the stench hits me.