Ian Shorts 1 & 2
Hiya folks! So here’s a little character concept I’ve had bumping around in my head for a while – a magic user who works at a hospital as a curer of magic-related maladies.
Still working out all the details, (for instance whether he’s a doctor or nurse and what kind and whether he actually swears in German or not) but here’s what I have so far: his story takes place in a world where magic is common knowledge, but not everyone has it. Artifacts and charmed items abound, and misuse/malfunction of spells is a common problem. Thus, the Magical Afflictions Specialists – hospital staff specifically trained to deal with magic-related medical mishaps.
Probably doing a long-form story or novel at some point, but for now just writing little vignettes/short stories. Here are the first two: “Cursed Keys” and “Barking Mad”.
Vignette 1: Cursed Keys
Ian pulled his dark grey hair back, stuffing it beneath the paper cap. He was washing his hands as a nurse came through the doors to the surgery on his left.
“Hey,” Ian called to the nurse.
“Ah, there you are,” the nurse was a tired-looking man in his early forties, his name tag identifying him as RN Leo Cho. “You been given the situation yet?”
“No. I was just told to report to the surgery. You, uh, know I’m not the surgeon, right?” Ian pointed to his own name tag – Ian Harrow, RN MAS.
“Oh we’ve already got one of our best in there,” Leo jerked his thumb back toward the surgery doors. “But we really can’t get anywhere until we fix the curse.”
“Ah, gotcha. So what’s the problem?”
“See for yourself,” Leo handed Ian the medical chart.
“Let’s see…” Ian scanned the chart, taking in the patient’s medical history. No red flags for previous magic exposure, the patient had no powers of her own. “It says she’s in for surgical removal of…returning keys?”
“You know those keys that are enchanted so you can’t lose them? Like they come when you whistle?”
“Yeah. Had a set of my own for a while, though the spell’s worn off now.”
“Well this set is, shall we say, over enthusiastic about returning.”
“So they’re stuck to her hand?”
“In her hand, actually.”
Ian winced. “Ah. And the surgeons can’t remove them.”
“They removed them. Only, well, you read the notes?”
Ian frowned at the bottom section of notes. Three years as a nurse had taught him to read most doctors’ scrawl, but this was more illegible than most. “Keys removed, placed in surgery tray… flew from tray to stick in…patient’s… does this say ‘skill’?”
“That’s a U, not an I,” Leo informed him.
“So ‘stuck in patient’s….skull.’ Scheiße.”
“Yup,” Leo was washing his hands now in the prep sink. “So you have fun with that – if you need me, I’ll be drinking about a gallon of coffee in the cafeteria. And maybe some brain bleach. Think they serve that?”
“Oh I’m sure we have it in bulk somewhere,” Ian muttered as he donned a face mask and headed for the surgery doors.
All in all, it could have been worse, Ian thought as he left the surgery. The patient was going to have a couple scars, but she’d live. Her keys were no longer going to impale her when she tried to use them.
Ian had cleaned up and was just contemplating getting his own cup of coffee when a nurse came hurrying up to him.
“Uh, hi there…” Ian glanced at the kid’s name tag. John Walker, RN in training. “…Walker. How can I help you?”
“You’re needed down in room 214. Potion poisoning.”
Ian frowned and checked his pager. The “error” rune was flickering on its tiny screen. No doubt Director Terma had tried another one of her “efficiency upgrades”. Marvelous. “Right,” Ian muttered, turning back to the student nurse. “You said potion poisoning?”
“Are we talking someone putting a boiling a bunch of crap on their stove and drinking it? Because if so the patient probably needs their stomach pumped, maybe some antibiotics. Not my ballpark.”
“Ah, no, this is more…weird.”
Ian nodded. His ballpark then. “Someone turn themself into a newt?”
“No, the patient grew bat wings,” the nurse explained. “I think he was trying to get one big set, to fly with, but instead he’s got like two dozen normal-sized ones growing on his back, like they’re the size they’d be on an actual bat and they’re all over-”
“Thank you, I’ll just go take a look for myself.” Ian rubbed his temples as the student scurried off. It looked like coffee would have to wait.
Vignette 2: Barking Mad
Ian checked the chart before entering the patient’s room. Kim Finnegan: female, early 30s, allergic to dogs, coming in for some sort of curse-related allergic reaction. Stepping into the room, he found Ms. Finnegan squirming in one of the plastic chairs, dressed in neat slacks and heels, the hood of a trench coat obscuring most of her features. What little of her pale face he could see was red, blotchy, and somewhat swollen.
“Hi there,” Ian said gently. “I’m nurse Harrow, with the Magical Afflictions Specialists.”
“Hi,” Ms. Finnegan hopped off the chair. She made to shake Ian’s hand, saw he was already holding her medical chart in it, and quickly turned her motion into an awkward wave. “Um. Kim Finnegan. But you probably knew that – my name’s on those papers.”
Ian gave her a reassuring smile. “Well, good to know I have the right room. Have a seat if you’d like – I’ll need to confirm some of your background information, then we can figure out how to treat your reaction. Just so you know, I have my own, uh, enchantment, that means I can’t be lied to. So if there’s any question you don’t want to answer, just say so, though I encourage you to be forthcoming with any information that can help your treatment. You got all that?”
“Uh…I guess?” Ms. Finnegan gave him a shrewd look, then blurted “The sky is- BLUE!”
There was a pause. “Huh,” Finnigan said. “Really does work. You can’t turn it off?”
“Afraid not,” Ian gestured for her to take a seat. “But I promise your medical history is safe under the law, as with any other patient. Nothing leaves this room.”
“Unless it’s for a legal investigation, I suppose,” Ms. Finnigan said. Then hurriedly added, “Oh, I haven’t like, murdered anyone. Wow that probably came off as really suspicious.”
“Well, since you can’t lie, I think I can take your word for it. Shall we try some easier questions, like whether I have your address right on the file?”
Checking Ms. Finnegan’s information went smoothly enough, though Ian noted she kept squirming in the seat. Maybe part of her allergies, or she could be uncomfortable in hospitals. He did his best to be reassuring. “Alright, that seems to be everything in the file, Ms. Finnegan, thank you. Now, you came in today because of an allergic reaction related to a curse, yes?”
“Well, not a curse exactly. I don’t think.” she scratched the side of her head, but in an odd motion, almost like a dog scratching with its paw.
“Bad reaction to an artifact? Or a misfired spell, perhaps?” Ian watched her closely.
“Not so much misfired as malfunctioned. Or, well, maybe it worked? Not 100% certain what it was supposed to do.”
“So you didn’t cast the spell?”
“No, my friend did. It was supposed to help with my allergies.” She started picking at the skin on her face, then caught herself.
Ian gave her another reassuring smile, pulling a sheet of bubble wrap from his bag – plenty of curses involved some form of compulsive movement, so he kept several squares of it on hand – and handed it to her. “I’m going to go out on a limb here and say your friend is not a medical professional,” he watched her pop the first two rows of bubbles in quick succession. “Or has any formal training in use of magic.”
“Sturdy limb,” Ms. Finnegan muttered as she popped row three.
“I don’t suppose you know what spell he tried? It will help to figure out where it went wrong.”
“Something called ‘Aspect of the Hound’, from a book by some guy called Darth. Or Carth?”
“Marcus Garth?” Ian suggested.
Ian frowned. He knew the book – it was infamous in the MAS. The spells inside were written to be highly flexible, allowing the caster to adapt them slightly as needed. Of course, this meant that in the hands of an untrained caster, they could have any number of unintended effects. “I don’t suppose you know why exactly your friend thought turning you partly into a dog would help with your allergies?”
“Well, his line of reasoning was that if he made me a tiny bit dog, I’d stop being allergic to them. He’d read all these papers on junk DNA and stuff and thought if he could alter a bit that wasn’t actually being used, he could do it without any ill effects.”
Ian heaved a great inward sigh. Bad enough when someone used volatile magic without mixing in a poor scientific understanding. “So instead of fixing your allergies, they made them worse?”
“Not exactly. I mean, my epipen still works and everything. But since I can’t remove myself from the allergen’s source, it doesn’t do much good.”
Wordlessly, Ms. Finnegan stood up, taking off her trench coat. The rest of her outfit was business formal, but her hair was done in an odd sort of pig-tail style, with two large clumps over her ears beneath the rest of her auburn bob.
It was only when they twitched nervously that Ian realized they weren’t over her ears – they were her ears. Two large, floppy, russet labrador retriever ears, half-hidden beneath her hair.
“…the spell gave you dog ears,” Ian said, incredulous.
“And a tail,” Finnegan’s voice was morose as the offending fuzzy limb twitched next to her legs.
“Right. Well,” Ian did his best to regain his composure. “I’ll just take a quick reading of the spell – shouldn’t be too hard to reverse, though it might itch for a couple days.”
He wrote out a series of runes on a sheet of paper, then had Ms. Finnegan hold it between her hands as he murmured a short incantation. The runes flared bright blue for a moment, before settling into a placid, robin’s egg shade.
“Is that bad? Is that a bad sign?” Finnegan’s ears perked, standing at attention.
“Good sign, actually. It means we’ve got the spell right, and the spell itself isn’t too miscast. We’ll have your ears back to normal and the tail removed before the day is out, just need to nip to the storeroom for a few supplies.”
“Oh thank god, I have a job interview on Wednesday,” Finnegan breathed a happy sigh of relief.
Ian had to disguise a snort of laughter as a cough as he assured her he would be right back. He was in fits of giggles all the way to the storeroom. Not terribly professional, of course, but it had been a long day and there was something undeniably amusing about seeing someone in a pantsuit wagging a large, fluffy tail.
Posted on January 4, 2017, in Writing and tagged Ian Harrow, Magic, Medical, Prose, Short Stories, Short Story, Shorts, SkylarkLanding, SkylarkLandingWriting, Vignette, Writing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.