The Waiting

Submitted into Contest #49 in response to: Write a story that takes place in a waiting room.... view prompt

1 comment


Tick, tick, tick.

How long had it been? Much longer than it should be for sure. A bead of sweat rolled down Paul’s temple. He looked over to a decrepit old window mounted AC, whinnying as it futilely tried to overpower the muggy night.

Tick, tap, tick, tap, tick, tap

A sour looking nurse was typing away behind the reception desk. Her keystrokes rang through the empty waiting room, pounding out a duet with a broken clock on the wall. Others might have thought the rhythm hypnotic, even soothing, but each tick and tap hit was an assault bearing it’s way past Paul's ears into a developing headache. 

Tick, tick, tick

What was taking so long? Paul looked around. Still just him; no one else waiting in a hard blue plastic chair. Quiet for a Saturday night, it must normally be packed at this time, so why had he been waiting so long? He only needed a look over after the accident. Why was he still in the waiting room? 

Tick, tap, tick, tap, tick, tap

Paul hated waiting. It was too quiet, too still. He always found his mind wandering in a bad way. He had so many regrets he didn’t want to think about. Best live in the present. But there was nothing to distract him in the void of waiting.

Tick, tick, tick

Something had to be wrong. Paul wasn’t sure how long he’d been here. The clock was stuck at 11:32, the second hand ticking the same second over and over again. He couldn’t take it. He got up and crossed the room to the reception desk.

Tick, tap, tick, tap, tick, ...., tick

“Can I help you?” The words had a mischievous note to them. No, that couldn’t be it, Paul thought, maybe a playful tone?

“Do you know what’s taking so long... or the time? My phone broke during the crash and your clock appears to be broken”

“Well, my, you’ve only just got here and there is a backlog of people ahead of you” her tone was definitely something sinister, “Besides, the EMTs brought you here and not straight into the hospital, so I’m sure you can wait”

Tick, tick, tick

The still, muggy air was suffocating. There was something about this place that made Paul feel like an insect trapped in a box.

“I feel fine, can I just go?”

“You were in a pretty serious car crash, I wouldn’t advise you leaving without seeing a doctor first”

“But you just said I must not be that serious if I can wait out here”

“Please return to your seat and wait, it won’t be long”

Tick, tap, tick, tap, tick, tap

Paul didn’t really know why he followed the nurse’s directions. He could just walk out and go home. It wasn’t like there was really anything keeping him here. There was a feeling he was somehow meant to be here. Even if he couldn’t completely remember when he got here.

Tick, tick, tick

Why aren’t there any magazines at least? Most waiting rooms have those. Paul tried to shift into a comfortable position on the chair. It was as if it was designed for anything except human comfort. Hard plastic and metal dug into Paul’s legs.

Tick, tap, tick, tap, tick, tap

Paul tried counting the ceiling tiles as he sighed and tilted his head back. More sweat rolled down his forehead. It was a hot night that fueled hot tempers. That’s why he was here. That’s right. The argument. She was crying holding a blackening eye and he had gotten into his truck.

Tick, tick, tick

Paul stopped himself right there. He didn’t want to think about that. She’d been lying to him. She needed to be reminded of her place, no one lied to him. He didn’t do anything wrong, there was no reason for Paul to feel bad about it.

Tick, tap, tick, tap, tick, tap

The car ride. He’d gone to clear his mind. What had happened again? Paul imagined his truck, one of the few places he felt comfortable, where he was in control. He wasn’t going anywhere, just somewhere that wasn’t the house. There was another pair of headlights.

Tick, tick, tick

The car that was swerving. That’s right, Paul thought the dude might have been drunk. He tried to get out of the way, but there was the collision. It was head on. That’s right, he was lucky to only have a few minor injuries. Better to get a doctor to look at them than that woman.  

Tick, tap, tick, tap, tick, tap

No doubt she was crying in the back room after the fight. His son would go in and try and talk to her. The kid was growing. The other week, he’d tried to stop one of the fights. No place of his, what did he think was going to happen? He deserved it that brat, there was no reason for Paul to feel bad about it.

Tick, tick, tick

Maybe he’d go take a look at that AC. Maybe then it wouldn’t be as hot as hell down here. And it would give him something else to think about. Give him an escape from his mind.

“Please do not tamper with hospital property” The nurse didn’t wait for Paul to get up, almost as if she knew what he was thinking from the glances he threw at the AC. 

Tick, tap, tick, tap, tick, tap

Ah well, he’d probably break it anyway. Like that time he was assigned to help with the bench press when he still had a job. Shown up drunk that time. Some dude got killed that time. Still, it wasn’t as if it was Paul’s fault. Poor fool should’ve been paying attention, there was no reason for Paul to feel bad about it.

Tick, tick, tick

The screen faintly illuminated the demon’s face as she read the file for the poor soul still trying to escape his memories in front of her.

Paul Smith: 42

Date of Death: 6/13/2020, 11:32 PM

Cause of Death: Automobile accident 

Destination: Hell

July 10, 2020 22:24

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1 comment

11:00 Jul 16, 2020

That was a great story! I loved the way you built comeuppance and excitement that the reader's expectation may be correct.


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