Method in the Madness | Short Story

Leaps forward in science necessitate risk. Whether the leap justifies the risk is a judgement for the scientist. All of which self-satisfied claptrap didn’t help Greg much as he lay in his hospital bed, waiting for doctors’ rounds to alleviate his boredom.

Above the beeping of IV bags requiring attention and the intermittent ringing of a telephone at reception, Greg could hear a pair of doctors discussing the x-ray of a fellow patient. Consumed by a minor argument over whether a fracture was greenstick or oblique, the medics had no perception of what it was they held in their hands, and more importantly the cost by which it was obtained. Marie Curie had died in acquiring the knowledge that allowed their petty argument to commence. The ability to look inside someone’s body was so valuable, so undreamt of, that Curie had deemed it worthy of her life and health. Such knowledge carried with it a value entirely because it was so dearly bought. So much was taken for granted.

Today’s scientists, Greg amongst them, stood on the shoulders of their forebears. As such, it was their duty to provide a platform for those who came after. Hypothesise, experiment, reflect, repeat. Take nothing for granted. Ask questions of everything and everyone. Enquire after established wisdom. Which was sort of how Greg ended up in this mess in the first place.

A tone sounded over the intercom to signal that visiting hours had begun. Conversational hubbub enveloped Greg’s bed, and it was not long before he could pick out familiar voices.

            ‘Greg darling. How are you? Any improvement? Have you managed to eat anything?’

Greg’s mother was worried, and when she worried, she fussed.

            ‘Are you managing to keep up with your homework, son? I don’t want you falling behind while you’ re in here.’

Typical Dad, straight to business.

A nurse pushed past as Greg’s parents took their seats beside his bed.

‘Everything okay, my little warrior?’ she cooed, taking his temperature and blood pressure. Greg’s mother had started to cry softly. The nurse ignored the sound. ‘Ready for our next check?’

‘Absolutely,’ replied Greg, feeling around for the dictaphone that the hospital staff had let him keep at his bedside. ‘I’ll take observations if you don’t mind.’

Greg felt latex-clad fingers tug at the bandages covering his eyes. The nurse, his mother, and his father all waited for him to speak.

            ‘Nothing,’ stated Greg, more to his dictaphone than the nurse. ‘The same blackness, darker near the middle, lighter around the edges.’

            ‘Not to worry,’ said the nurse grimly. ‘These things can take a little bit of time. Can I get you some toast, love? Some orange squash perhaps?’

            ‘He’ll never see again,’ wailed Greg’s mother into her hands.

‘In conclusion…’ intoned Greg over his mother’s cries and the entreaties of the nurse.

‘Of all the things to pick for a science project…’ said Greg’s father, raising his eyes to the ceiling.

‘…we can say that staring into the sun,’ continued the boy. ‘Can cause serious and perhaps even lasting damage to a person’s eyesight. Nevertheless, many questions remain…’

‘Still he continues!’ said Greg’s mother, raising her hands in the air.

‘Does the position of the sun in the sky have an effect on seriousness and chronicity of the injury? Will the damage be permanent, and if not, which colours will return to the subject first? What treatment, or combination of treatments, will prove effective in addressing the damage? And then the social aspects of the injury! So much to explore. So much science to confirm or disprove!’

*Thanks for reading, folks. Images courtesy of Public Domain Pictures and Wikipedia.*

Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Near to the Knuckle, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, and Shooter magazine. He is a doctoral student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father.

Not necessarily in that order.

14 thoughts on “Method in the Madness | Short Story

  1. Always intriguing, always a bit of mystery. In doing a quick Wikipedia dig trying to clue your indicatives, I found this:

    “Curie was also exposed to X-rays from unshielded equipment while serving as a radiologist in field hospitals during the war. Although her many decades of exposure to radiation caused chronic illnesses (including near-blindness due to cataracts) and ultimately her death, she never really acknowledged the health risks of radiation exposure.”

    Am I on the right track, Agent Storyteller? :)) Hope you’re well, buddy. xoxo

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You are right on the scent as usual! 😂 I always think Marie Curie doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her achievements, particularly in comparison with some other less qualified male scientists. Consequently, I try to lever her in to as many short stories as possible! 😂

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Great buildup and reveal here, mate. 😀 At first the reader thinks the patient’s an adult awaiting a regular checkup, but you slowly drip-feed small clues that pay off in a satisfying – and darkly funny – ending!

    Liked by 2 people

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