Making the Rounds (Friday Flash)

Doktor Hesseline Vaughn paused at the heavily reinforced door to the ward. It was too warm in here. The fetid air saturated his clothes leaving behind a stink of desperation and despair that followed him along on his rounds. It made an unpleasant routine all the more distasteful. He examined his delicate white wermskin gloves. The gilded monogram might have been a bit much for most people, but he had been born into one of the Old Families. Some claimed his ancestors were among those who had founded the Second of the Three Encampments that had allegedly served as the nucleus to the original walled city centuries ago. He snorted derisively. Only fools and patients believed such errant folklore. He had seen too much during his tenure in this place to believe such nonsense and faery tales. No doubt it was all some sort of romantic rubbish intended to help salve the ego of some decaying old man locked in a room within one of the Six Manors.

The door groaned as it swung slowly open. Chains rattled and clanked behind the spattered and lichen-crusted walls. It wasn't comforting. It wasn't supposed to be. Despite himself, he glanced over at the ragged wretches slumped and panting in the wooden wheel used to wind and unwind the chains. Their scars were said to be some form of stigmata. Each carried a different tale embedded within their very skin. Some interns had attempted to decipher the skin-texts last Winter. It had ended badly. The survivor was now one of his patients. The scars disturbed him. More now that he knew what to look for, thanks to his recklessness. Peter Zimes had whispered to him what to look for and in a moment of weakness he'd indulged his patient's lunatic fancies. In a moment he had seen it. All too clearly. The stigmata criss-crossing their bodies was not any cipher. No secret code. It was a cursive form of Aklo. He was grateful that the slaves were blinded, lest they learn too much of things best left unsaid, unread. The guards were of no concern to him in this regard; they were selected for their illiteracy as per the old mandate set down nearly a hundred years ago, after the last uprising.

The orderly stared at Doktor Vaughn. It was the empty stare he'd become accustomed to in this place. The young man was pithed. Only those sections of his brain absolutely necessary for him to carry out his assigned duties remained intact. A brutal, if necessary precaution against some of the things locked-away on this ward. At least someone had finally wired the boy's jaws shut with some wire so he didn't dribble spittle over himself any more.

Doktor Vaughn sighed resignedly. Adjusted his monocle. Nodded to the orderly. There was nothing left to help him delay the inevitable. He took the clip-board from the orderly's limp grip and walked down the short ramp. Each step taking him deeper and farther into contained madness and stunted mayhem. It reminded him of a zoological garden of sorts. One with terribly human exhibits.


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