The Rhythm of Life (Flash Fiction No.2)

By Deborah Rickard

Slow, slow, quick-quick, slow. It began with the rhythm of a quickstep but soon crashed to a crescendo of jungle drums, beating a warning while I held fast, immobilised, confined. A corpse in a coffin.

I could move my eyes though, and if I looked in the small, square glass above my head I could see my toes, oddly still existing in the outside world. I could even wriggle them as if there was nothing wrong. But incarcerated as I was, I couldn’t even chew my thumb-nail. I had to keep still. Dead still.

“Breathe in,” a disembodied voice boomed from somewhere unseen. I pulled deep on disinfected air. “And hold … And breathe normally.”

Breathe normally? For how long? How long before I could breathe in the unconscious way you do when you’re unconcerned about how many breaths you might have left to take?

Thump, thump. Thumpety-clunk, clunkety-clunk. A ricochet of quick-fire rattles. And silence.

“Thank you. We’ve finished with you now.”

Finished with me?

The cold, hard platform on which I lay slid like a refrigerated morgue drawer from the MR scanner, while the scanner, quiet now, processed images. How much longer would I be able to process anything?

“How long?” I managed to ask the radiographer.

Neat and spruce in white and blue she cast me a glance from accustomed eyes and used to tending patient after patient, patiently uttered her practiced words; “The radiologist will report your scan shortly and let your consultant know the results.” My consultant said he’d phone as soon as he’d spoken with the radiologist. By the time I got home, he hoped.

Outside the hospital, rain pelted lead pellets on granite slabs. I dashed into the car, slammed the door and turned on the engine. Its steady hum wrapped around me, drowning the slappety-slap of rain on metal and the swish of wheels through water as I drove through the car infested city out onto country lanes and finally, into my village.


And here I sit, waiting for the intense metallic rant to stop.

At last I splash up my garden path bordered with rain-washed roses and honeysuckle. The key slips into the lock and the door swings in a seamless sweep of welcome. I close it softly behind me, lean back against it and sigh.

Suddenly the pulse of the phone pulls my nerves and I hurry to the kitchen holding my breath; my heart pounding a quick base rhythm as I pick up the receiver.

“Hello?” I say.

Rain on the tarred felt roof beats a tattoo – telling me I’m home and dry.

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14 Responses to The Rhythm of Life (Flash Fiction No.2)

  1. Awesomely ‘real’; it seems as though you’d done some serious research for this kind of experience, or you have an amazing imagination, or both! I almost felt in there with the narrator. Also conveys that sort of remote, abstract detatchment too often found with health services professionals. I take it this is your Friday’s ‘Flash’. Good stuff!

  2. Love this Deborah. Well paced. Love your questioning thoughts… that’s just how they leave you… a bit up in the air. Love the way normal sounds, scents & sensations bring you back to reality.

  3. Helen says:

    Now this really captured that ‘real’ feeling. I was with you on the table – have been there myself. I too loved the questioning thoughts. Well written piece that transported the reader into your world.

  4. Very moving and beautifully written. I felt real empathy with the character and the descriptions had just the right amount of detail to bring the scenes to life. Great!

  5. Mandy says:

    I love the way you aren’t sure exactly what’s happening until half way through. Keeps the reader guessing.
    Fantastic detail, great show vs tell skills. I felt like I was ‘there’ with her.

    I also loved the switch to present tense as she gets home, more immediate. Helps to foster empathy when the phone rings. Great job!!

  6. Chuck Allen says:

    I love the way you turned the MRI experience into a story. And the description at first was spot on, even without giving away what was was really happening. Great story!

  7. Thank you all so much for your fabulous comments. It’s a real delight when people read your work, take it in and comment – even more fab when they’re such delightful comments, though of course, I welcome (constructive!) criticism as well! With regard to the ‘reality effect’ I work in a radiology department and have been in one of these things, so I do have a slight advantage! Thanks all.

  8. Steve Green says:

    Very well written, it is very easy to put oneself in the position of the MC, and feel the fear and uncertainty of their predicament.

  9. yearzerowriters says:

    the rhythm of life of our pulsing, twitching, vegetative physical selves, nicely rendered

    marc nash

  10. Enjoyed this very descriptive story. Very well structured and quite moving. Keep going with this style. 🙂

  11. sonia says:

    Easy to follow the lady through it all! The description is wonderful.

  12. John Wiswell says:

    Acute fiction, took me in firmly with those sweeping lines. It’s drastic and just long enough to never shake up with its own emotion. Thank you for sharing it.

  13. brainhaze says:

    I love the descriptions in this piece – the opening paragraph in particular is awsome. Nice work

  14. laradunning says:

    I felt her anxiety and nervousness. What an ordeal!

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