“Johnathan Crux,” buzzed the voice of the clerk at the desk of the New Falls Medical Center.
John awoke suddenly from his doze and looked around the clean, white waiting room. He stood up and wiped the sweat off of his face. He always seemed to wake up in pools of sweat these days. Even short naps.
There wasn’t much in the waiting room. No pictures. No reading material. No television. Not even any toys for the children. Any sign of even remote joy or life lay in the miserable, wilted plant sitting in an oak crate in the corner of the room. The room was practically empty; out of the twenty or so oak chairs in the room, only one contained a patient with a persistent, revolting cough. In the far wall, a glass window with a built in speaker prevented any adventurous patients from reaching into the receptionist’s office. An oak desk and chair could be seen in the office, and nothing else. The oak plaque resting on top of the desk read nothing except for, “Janice Whitaker, Receptionist.” It was from behind this desk that its occupant did business every day, calling out names of patients an hour or two after they arrive.
“Johnathan Crux,” buzzed Janice Whitaker, this time sounding more irate.
John hastened over to the window and pressed a red button next to the speaker. Almost immediately, a hidden door slid soundlessly open in the wall next to the window. John stepped into the carriage waiting for him, pressed the button to close the door behind him, and pressed the lit-up button on the carriage wall with a red cross. The carriage began to move downward, shakily at first but then stabilizing after a few moments.
As the carriage moved down the transport chute, John began to worry. He was already five minutes late for the appointment when he checked in. Who knows how long he had dozed off? He began to pace back and forth in the carriage. If the carriage didn’t move any faster, he would miss his checkup, and the Medical Overseer would skip him completely. Then he would have to wait another year before he could come to the clinic again. A whole one hundred days, according to the New Institution of Concise Evaluations. The NICE, John thought to himself with an internal smirk. In frustration, John prepared to kick down the doors of the carriage, but before he could do so, the carriage came to a jolting, sickening halt. A soft bell chimed in the distance, and the doors slid silently open. John stepped out into the corridor ahead of him.
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