Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
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Flash Fiction
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by Kilmo

‘Ow,’ superheated coffee sprayed across the wards reception as the crash finished reverberating through her head. ‘What the hell was that?’

Bella rummaged through the drawers for a cloth.

‘Cindy? You there?’

Another crash bounced round the ward. It had to be the windows. She leant further into space, ‘…Cindy?’

She should have nicked her colleague’s mobile before she’d welded it to her ear. The raw look on Cindy’s face the last time she’d returned from the toilets spoke volumes about how the break up was going.

Bella glanced at her watch; half two on the graveyard shift and bedlam was breaking out. Her hand crept downwards, rubbing absently at her stomach. She still felt ill despite the vomiting having stopped.

‘They’re never going to go back to sleep now.’

The hospital was big and full of echoes anyway. But with the woods joining in the screaming as the storm tore them to pieces it wouldn’t be long before the whole place erupted.

Her eyes returned to the drawer where they kept the happy pills and she picked up some charts to distract herself.

‘Should have called in sick.’

The next crash sounded much closer. Bella listened to it roll down the corridors. She should check on the patients. There was that much Chlorpromazine in them they hardly knew their own names, but she’d still feel safer once she’d checked their restraints. Bella was beginning to wonder how long it would be before the lights flickering overhead changed her job description to inpatient.


‘Hallo sweetie.’

Bella had decided to take a break from the nurse’s station. She already felt like an animal stuck in a trap. As the nurse approached the patient’s eyes stayed fixed on Bella. She had a face more spit and gum than anything else.

‘I thought you might not be asleep’ said Bella. ‘Like to know what's going on, don't you? It would be nice if you didn’t stare at me like that though. Doctor Ferryman said he’s going to have to take the week off after what you did.’

Bella massaged her temples as another flood of nausea rolled through her. There was something about what Doctor Ferryman had said before he’d been carted off to have the wound bandaged. Bella tried to concentrate, ‘You glad they say you’ll be going back soon?’

She meant the unit where they kept the special cases. The entire staff had turned out to watch the first twenty arrive. ‘A temporary relocation due to refurbishment’ is what hospital management had called it.

Bella’s nose was beginning to bleed again. She grabbed a tissue from her sleeve. The nurses had been given a show as well, seeing as the strait jackets had arrived in a separate van.

For a moment Bella felt something twist deep in her gut as the patient’s eyes lit up.

‘Not fair is it? Nothing ever is.’

‘Water, water, water, water.’

Bella looked at the creature sitting in the bed, ‘…not in this world anyway.’

‘Water, water, water.’

‘Ok, just don’t wake everyone else…please?’

Bella reached the fountain in record time. The quicker she was done the quicker she could visit the maternity ward.

‘There you are,’ she said as she returned, ‘you can tell the day shift what a wonderful nurse I’ve been when they get here.’

The girl gave no sign she'd heard but the next time their eyes met it was a different story.

‘It’s coming.’

‘What is?’ said Bella.

At first, she thought the ripples were the carpark’s lights shining through the flood washing over the glass. But it was too dark for that and they’d been turned off hours ago.

‘The exchange,’ said the patient with her eyes fixed on the trees thrashing outside as ripples travelled over her skin. ‘It wants what you’ve got.’

Bella stared, mesmerised at the flicker of slick wet gums and naked teeth as they chewed the air. Her nose bleed was getting worse. Spots of blood were spattered the tiles round her feet and the tissue was soaked.

‘There’s nothing you can do, nothing, nothing, nothing.’

The girl was still saying it when Bella left, ‘nothing, nothing…’ the word followed the nurse into the corridor as she rubbed her stomach like something had kicked deep inside.

Bella shuddered, it had only been for a moment, but she'd felt like she could push a finger through that ruin of a face.

‘Very professional Bella, and you still haven’t checked Neonatal.’

Bella’s shoe’s squeaked as she fled up the corridor. When the arks came into view she smiled.

‘There you are. I’ve missed you. I bet your Mum never screamed when she saw you the first time.’ She reached out and tickled one of the tiny things in their cots. ‘No, not with you little one. I bet she was all smiles and kisses.’

Button eyes blinked up at her, and for a moment Bella was lost. Her favourite gurgled and grabbed her finger.

‘Awww, my little sweetheart.’

Bella looked behind her; checking there was no one to see her fawning over the child. But in the eyeblink of shocking white as lightning split the sky the ward was empty. Her first thought was an ark had gone over as the scream reached her ears.

‘That was next door.’ The hairs on the back of Bella’s neck were standing up now. ‘Cindy…? You there? I’m sorry I laughed earlier.’

But the only answer was the rattle of ceiling tiles jumping in their sockets. Bella glanced overhead; the wind must have found its way inside. She set off, trying not to run.

‘That’s it, no more.’ Bella forced herself to calm down. ‘I’m not going out there again until the next shift arrives.’

She pulled the nurse station’s one shabby office chair over to the desk and tried to immerse herself in some tunes. When she saw the chart tucked away by the bin it took her a moment to realise whose signature was at the bottom.

‘What were you looking at Cindy?’

Bella thought of the look on her colleague’s face the last time she’d seen her. Maybe it hadn’t been what she’d thought, it was easy to jump to conclusions after hearing what she’d said to her boyfriend. Bella read the paperwork’s other name.


Her favourite was called that. It had been the first real problem delivery she’d attended. Afterwards, as Bella had stepped toward the door the mother had latched onto her. She’d begged her, said she had to understand that she’d been made to do it and she was sorry. She’d kept patting Bella’s stomach too. Bella had hated herself for it, but it had freaked her out.

She glanced up as the overheads flickered again.

‘This is stupid. I’m calling security…maintenance…somebody anyway.’

Black wings hammered inside the neon fittings before there was a pop, and Bella couldn’t see an inch in front of her face.

‘Oh my God.’

She was reaching for where she thought she’d last seen the intercom when she stopped. Hell would freeze over before she cried for help over nothing. The storm would pass, the lights would sort themselves out.

Bella's head came up. There’d been movement on the tiles, a patch of darkness that had folded in on itself as something scurried through it.

‘Rats? They’ve been at everything else round here.’

The reduction in power must be affecting the heating, because it was getting cold enough to give her goose bumps. Even the lights on the life support’s machines had dimmed. Bella’s hands shook as they searched under the desk for the torch and when she got up to leave her footsteps followed her.

‘Everybody Ok?’

The torch beam flickered once before it went flying. A dying quasar spitting out a last flare like a lighthouse. Something had struggled over her foot.

‘Please…’ Bella’s finger’s scrabbled on the tiles. When torchlight trembled across the walls again her mouth went dry. The beam had come to rest on the doorway where they’d left the asylum’s inmates, and it was so cold she could ice on the lintels.

Inside the occupants were staring at a shattered window with their blankets tucked up round their chins. Even the air felt bright and razor sharp.

‘What happened?’

The torch played across the patient’s faces, but there was no answer as glass crunched beneath her feet. It was like they were waiting for something. When the girl she’d supplied with water earlier spoke Bella nearly left a hole in the ceiling, ‘I told you. It’s here.’

Bella took a step back then another until she couldn't stop but the girl didn’t shut up. Instead her voice became a song, ‘It’s here, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here.’

A wail came from the maternity ward. The place was in darkness by the time Bella reached it bar one circle of light above her favourites ark.



Needle sharp teeth grinned up at Bella from below slit eyes. Sol’s skin looked red raw like he’d been rubbing at it, or something worse. Bella watched as the baby smoothed a fold behind his ear.

‘What’s wrong with you?’

A crib slammed against her ankles as she tried to back away. The thudding in her head was so bad there were spots in front of Bella’s eyes, and her tunic was soaked from the nosebleed. Maternity’s new addition watched its mother struggle and lapped its tongue along its lips. The blood sprinkling across the floor was so red it had brought the saliva to its mouth.


2017 Kilmo

Bio: In Kilmo's twenties, he lived in vehicles and caravans on the continent as part of the European travelling/ squat/ teknival scene. He contracted Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis in 2011 which lead to him moving to Aldershot, and to cut a long story short - he writes. He brought it from squatting in Bristol, to a pub car park...to here: piratefrequencies.wordpress.com

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