Dreaming of the Doctor

A dream. A little like Charles Dickens’ a Christmas Carol. In this one the ghost came for a doctor. One gave the idea for the other

There was a doctor. He was GP I had known in times when I lived closer to Sydney and represented a number of particular doctors I have faced.

The doctor wore a black suit, white shirt and silk tie. His nails were trimmed and his silvery hair styled and colored. His surgery glowed with wealth and self-importance. His assistants were women who wore white and also glowed with satisfaction and efficiency.

The doctor called a name from the front of a file and a man shuffled into the doctor’s room. The man was skinny and had a three day growth. His jeans had holes and were stretched out of shape in the way jeans get when they have not been washed in a while. He wore a non-descript flannelet shirt and dirty trainers on his feet. He was pale and there were dark bags under his eyes. He limped and his body was obviously twisted by some terrible event. His eyes were sad or distressed

The doctor sat up in his chair and looked disgusted. This doctor was a front line fighter in the culture wars and determined to ensure no member of the great unwashed got away with anything. The man sat in the chair by the doctor as any normal patient would and the doctor obviously recoiled. The doctor noticed the man had a lot of missing teeth.

In a hoarse voice the man said “Doc, I am in such great pain. I am not able to do the things I need to do to live. I cannot get to the supermarket without help. I cannot clean my house or cook food. I am driven to suicide from the terrible pain and I have not slept in days!”

The doctor had heard all this before. People often came into his clinic claiming to be suffering pain and he knew that people who were not employed did not need strong painkillers to sit in front of their televisions and drink beer or smoke pot. He knew it was his god-given job to prevent the great unwashed abusing drugs and his job to weed out drug abusers and deny them any but the most basic medical assistance.

He smiled his most pleasant smile and slipped a packet of paracetamol from behind the desk. “This is all the drugs I can give you son.” he said. “I can get you an appointment to see the methadone clinic but they are heavily booked and it will be two years before they see you. It is obvious you are a drug addict seeking drugs!” The doctor somehow managed to avoid seeing the man’s savagely twisted body and said “I cannot see any reason for your pain other than that you are withdrawing from some drug you made a choice to use!”

The man smiled. His body straightened in the seat and the doctor noticed he looked a lot more menacing. “Ah Doc!” Said the man “Do you remember the classical tale, A Christmas Carol?” “The one where Scrooge is visited by the ghosts?”

The doctor looks annoyed and suggests the consultation is over, the man can pay the assistant at the desk and please use another medical clinic the next time he wants to doctor-shop.

The man swirls across the doctor’s vision changing to black mist. From the mist comes a sharp knife that drives itself into the doctor’s knee between the joints and the kneecap. The doctor screams and is engulfed in the black shadows. The tidy, sterile little consulting room disappears and is replaced with a strange surrounding.

They are in a barn. The doctor is leashed to a pole on a leash several feet long and limited to a circle containing only straw, an old mattress and a pail. Just outside the circle which can be reached by the chain leash is a vision of simple luxury. A comfortable lounge, a television, a computer area with a computer, printer and scanner. There is an old fridge and door leading to a big, well-appointed bathroom.

The doctor is on the floor screaming and begging for help. His blood is being swept in among the dirt and straw by his writhing and he has fouled himself. Centimeters from the furthest point his fingers can reach is a small pile of medical tools including a syringe and a bottle of morphine. There are surgical tools that the doctor knows he will need to give first aid and remove the blade in his knee joint.

The man who stabbed the doctor seems to have reverted back to being a man again. Whatever he had become in the doctor’s surgery did not show here. Nor did he have the twisted body or the ruined clothes or the toothless mouth. He walked over to the fridge and opened the door. It was a clean glistening kitchen appliance with a wide range of vegetables and drinks in its well-lit interior. A bourbon and cola in hand he turned to the television and chose a DVD from a pile on a small wood table. The modest screen lit up and in no time the man was sitting in the big old sofa, sucking back the bourbon and enjoying Men in Black II. He almost fell out of the seat laughing when Frank, the dog, was singing to himself in the car.

The doctor lay in rubbish around the pole and screamed until tears ran down his face. He begged for help and threatened to kill himself.

Hours later the movie had ended. The man rose from his seat and walked over to where the doctor lay sobbing. I will make you something to eat he said, speaking to the pain ridden medico for the first time. “You must understand that I think you are quite capable of helping yourself and this is just charity to keep you from starving.” The doctor cursed and his captor turned. “Is this how you treat the people who help you, you are a very unpleasant man and I am sure cannot be trusted?” As he walked off he almost stepped on the vial of morphine and it rolled into a corner on the carpet that underpinned the whole humane part of the barn. The doctor whimpered. The captor turned and grinned, “So that’s it! You think more of having a drug hit than eating.”

He walked through a door turningĀ  off the light. Sounds of bed springs settling. Recognizing he would not even have a meal for comfort the doctor screamed until his voice was hoarse. He cried and kicked at the chain and the pole holding it. He injured his hands. At first he didnt care. He wanted to die but as that pain rode into the pain of a knife stabbing his kneecap he stopped and broke into sobbing. He would have slept knowing it would reduce the pain he was experiencing but as so many people have discovered sleep is another thing that pain can make difficult. He pulled at the knife but although it moved back and forwards it didn’t move any further out. He wondered why he didnt die from the horror of it.

He fell asleep just before the sun rose and dreamed of monsters clawing his flesh. It seemed like moments before he was woken and his captor was rattling around the kitchen. There was another person with him, Leaning against the stove was a tall, fit man who appeared to be in his mid forties. He was fit and wore jeans and a casual shirt. He had short hair and a trimmed mustache. They chatted happily between themselves. After a short time the newcomer stood straight and then shimmered and disappeared.

His captor seemed to callapse into a hunched and depressed figure as he sat on the old lounge and tears ran down his face. He was in great misery and the doctor feared the pain could represent itself in some even more terrible treatment. He cowered feeling ashamed and vulnerable.

A face appeared just centimeters from his own and said “That was his brother, you caused him to commit suicide!”

Gasping through blood and exhaustion the doctor denied doing any such thing.

“You represent all those doctors in the culture wars whose self righteousness allows them to leave human lives destroyed by pain. The man who holds you prisoner and guarantees all your agony was himself crippled by pain you would not assist him with. Not only did you not assist him you told your peers he was a drug seeker and a criminal and that meant his pain and disability was irrelevant to you.”

“He lost his humanity, his place in the community, his family and when his brother cried for help he had no resources to support him. You killed them both as surely as if you had taken them from their homes and tortured them to death.”

The doctor screamed that he refused to be responsible for people’s choices. He yelled that he remembered the man who held him captive and he was a junkie anyway. Nobody cared about junkies.

The face hovered in the air smiling placidly. “You were his doctor before he ever became a junkie. You fed the myth that a person who uses a few recreational drugs should not have his pain reduced. When he became crippled by an accident you abandoned a disabled man into the clutches of crime and illegal drugs. He had no other way to survive. He worked hard even though he was crippled in body and by pain. He had a business, he went back to school, all this in a fog of pain and yet your kind saw him as drug seeking and judged him unworthy of the most humane pain relief.”

“You accepted the role of gatekeepers, you enforced it and gave yourself authority no man should have over another.doctordancin He has a curse to give you. If you are lucky he will return you to your nasty, selfish life after that. We have convinced him not to keep you here in your own blood and shit forever although you deserve it!

The face became smoke and swirled into nothing. The man on the sofa wiped away his tears and said.

“You are the only one they would allow me to have. I would curse you all or drag you all into this place and give up my eternal rest to tender your pain and ensure it never stops.”

“I curse you” He said quietly. “Doctor, I curse you!” “May you never know a day without pain. May everything you do from this day forward be bounded and limited by pain and loss. May your friends abandon you as they move through life and your condition becomes too painful to watch. May all the joys of your family shrivel up and become shadows of that same pain. May your peers see your attempts to get assistance with this pain and loss as drug seeking. May you always have the integrity you have now and may no person ever be able to see it beyond your disheveled state.”

“May your skills as a doctor and income generator be denied by those who find another person’s need to be a weakness. May your teeth rot and may you enjoy learning the craft of pulling them from your own mouth. May you get to watch the people around you take their own lives as they find themselves threshing about in a community that has the tools to save them but the will to watch them suffer. May you try to die and fail so you know the worst failure of all in the war to get free of the pain.”

“May you know everyone who loves you cannot bear to hear you talk because your life is almost totally borne within the envelope of that pain. May you learn to smile through tears and hold your tongue rather than beg for help or mercy.”

The doctor began to think he might be set free. Whatever nightmare this was might be over and he didn’t believe in cursing anyway. He looked around him and gulped. He hadn’t taken a Christmas Carol seriously either!

The man stood up and went to the kitchen. A frying pan went on the stove top and several strips of bacon were placed within. They spluttered and popped filling the entire space with mouth watering smells. After the bacon was ready there were eggs and then toast. The man put the whole lot onto a plate and carried it to the ashen faced victim. “You think this will bring you comfort.” He said. “You have begun to realize the desperate chase for anything that brings gentle pleasure in a sea of pain. Enjoy!”

The doctor stuffed the food into his mouth. The flavors and scent almost overwhelming his senses and yet the pain destroyed all but small vestiges of the experience.

He placed the last morsels into his mouth and looked for more. It was almost nothing but there was comfort in the tastes and smells, He ran his finger around the plate struggling to get the last of the egg yolk and shamelessly sucking the sticky mess off his hands. The man walked over to him. He smiled and said “So it begins!”

The room wavered and suddenly they were sitting in the doctor’s surgery. The man stood and stuck out his hand. Stunned the doctor shook it and was told “My time here is over.” Leaving the stunned doctor where he was the man walked through the door leaving it open behind him. The clock indicated they had been there ten minutes, no more.

Struggling with the agony the doctor yelled to his staff. “Call the police that man stabbed me!” He attempted to leap to his feet and give chase but was unable to straighten his leg. The pain was terrible and almost made him pass out. “Help me.” He gasped to his assistant. Struggling, he limped into the waiting room and fought with his belt before dropping his pants to the floor. “Help me!” He said “I have been stabbed!” He grabbed at his bare knee. Nothing!

His knee was as white and flaccid and unmarked as it had been last time he had dressed for golf at the club. The pain came in chilling waves. He looked into the eyes of the people in the waiting room. They were guarded. He had his pants down and was sobbing like a baby in front of everyone. The beginning of the end. He knew he would give any money and try any cure to get away from that pain and he knew that nobody who saw him at that moment would trust him again.

And there would be no mercy from his peers. No mercy in the gossip. A quiet voice in his ear said “Welcome to the club!”

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