Waiting in the sterile room under the cold fluorescent lights, Paul stared at the tile on the floor, studying the shapes and their disregard to any semblenc of a pattern, just speckles of black and gray with the occasional smidge of red. Wooden birds hung from the ceiling, circling over him like vultures waiting for a feast.
He shivered slightly, his cold hands rubbing his bare arms while his crumpled fleece lay in his lap. The decorative furnishings did little to conceal the sickness that permeated from within. His gaze met the bright red biohazard container that clung to the wall, holding the used needles that had punctured the flesh of others, injecting them with foreign substances that entered the bloodstream to roam the bodies of trusting victims. He looked at the discarded pieces and wondered about the fate of those punctured by their tips.
Standing, he walked over to a painting on the wall. A man, hunched over in the rain, clutching a soggy newspaper in his arm while shuffling in the direction of darkness. The hopelessness of the painting spilled into the office, giving him a feeling of dread. Where was this man headed? Did he have a family, anyone to come home to? Somewhere he could dry off and read his soggy newspaper? Whose idea was it to hang this drab work of art in a doctor’s office?
A deep breath, he sat back down on the thin slice of paper that was put on the bed. It crunched and crinkled under his weight, reminding him of its purpose: to keep his germs off of the bed, or other’s germs off of him. The blood pressure apparatus portended doom from its place on the wall, its numbers threatening him with their boldness. What was taking so long?
The painting, the birds, the arm cuff, ready to squeeze his arm and judge his insides. His eyes avoided the fixtures of the room. He checked his phone, only 5 minutes had passed. He glanced out of the small window above the paining. The skeletons of the tree tops reached towards the sunset, barren and sad without the colorful leaves of the fall. Today was the first day of winter, the and supposedly the last day of the world.
Muffled laughter could be heard on the other side of the door. Healthy, vibrant voices, interacting with each other without worry and fear of what awaited him as he sat on the cold sheet of wrinkled paper beneath him. Footsteps clicked as they approached, their shadows shuffling under the door. More laughter. The end was near.
The door handle turned upwards as the door opened towards him, the laughter from outside now clear and defined.
“Hello Paul” the nurse said while holding the instrument in her hand. He glanced again at the window, which now only reflected the cold unnatural light from inside the room. He wanted to scream for help, to bolt out of the door and into his car, but he was frozen.
“Ready for your flu shot?”