The Wrong Slide
Happy Friday, everyone! 🙂
Today, over on Story Empire, we have a Friday Fiction Prompt, where we invite everyone to write and share a short story.
Find Staci Troilo’s Story Empire post at: Story Empire Friday Fiction Prompt: Limited and Focused Views
Below is my offering. I hope you enjoy what I’ve come up with based on the prompt …
If I hadn’t had such a bad day, it would never have happened. Have you seen those road signs? The one’s that say ‘Tiredness Can Kill’. Every motorway in England has them. The second part tells you to ‘Take A Break’. Excellent advice. I just wish I’d followed it. Wishful thinking gets you nowhere.
The thing with life is that you don’t get a do-over. Not every mistake allows you to rectify it. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. Forever. Or what remains of ever. Because some cock-ups change everything.
My lab should have had a sign up warning ‘Boredom Can Kill’. But then again, you read a thing so many times and your brain stops seeing it, like it’s just not there.
I spent the whole morning studying blood cultures through my microscope. Every sample that crossed my field of vision showed me the same old same old. About as boring a day as you get.
Such a small, simple word. Until. The same as ‘but’. Before such a word, the universe runs as normal. After such a word, though. Well now, that’s a different story altogether.
On automatic pilot, I slid away Mrs Barbara Winter’s slide, which hadn’t grown one single abnormal culture, dictated into the microphone that the results should show NAD, and slid into place Mr William Robert’s. This sample showed a clear case of Streptococcus infection. I slid that one along and dictated the results for the GP accordingly. Next up came Mr Robert William’s slide.
I know. I know. In hindsight, it’s all so clear. But then, hindsight is about as useful as wishful thinking.
This slide wrapped up my day. Tired eyes blinked away a bout of blurred vision. Okay, then, what did we have here? On first glance, a clear sample. Another Nothing Abnormal Detected. But then … there. Yes, a pinprick of a spot, dead centre. I raised my gloved hand to adjust the focus dial, and just then, Sarah poked her head around my cubicle divider. I glanced up at her with a smile.
‘That’s me off for the day,’ she said.
I grinned and nodded toward the last slide of the day. ‘Me too. Just one more to tick off the list and I’m done. See ya Monday.’
With a wave, Sarah said, ‘Have a good one.’
In a hurry, anticipating my long-awaited weekend, I attached my eye to the viewing tube once more. My overtaxed brain showed me a clear slide, another NAD, a final dictation, and then homeward bound. All I had to do first was input my audio notes into the system.
Quick, easy, and routine.
Come Monday morning, Mr Robert William’s GP called him up and prescribed him a week’s dose of Penicillin to kill that nasty old Strep infection he’d supposedly developed. Meanwhile, Mr William Robert’s doctor’s receptionist reported quite happily that his results had come back NAD. Nothing with which he needed to worry in spite of that annoying cough.
Well, you might well say, that mix-up couldn’t trigger anything that bad, could it? Surely, the Penicillin wouldn’t do Mr Robert William any harm, so long as he wasn’t allergic. And as for Mr William Robert, a few more days or a week would show his doctor that he did, indeed have an infection. Either that, or it would most likely go away on its own within about four weeks.
All true. In the normal course of things.
Ah, another one of those words.
Except for that tiny black spot that I’d forgotten all about after saying farewell to Sarah. The one my eager-to-get-home brain had ignored.
It turns out that a new super-bug has discovered our vulnerable human immune system. What’s more, this nasty little critter thrives on Penicillin. Had I not mixed up the results and slides for Mr Robert William and Mr William Robert, a good chance exists that none of this would have happened. The Streptococcus would have met its match in Penicillin, and the super-bug wouldn’t have received super-fuel.
Official reports say that it can only survive if exposed to an antibiotic within its initial ten-day gestation period. After that, it dies. It goes away. No harm done.
Those same official reports say that once the bug feeds, it grows and multiplies exponentially. All it took was that one contact, and it spread to Mr Robert William’s wife. Then to his three-year-old daughter. Who then passed it on to her best friends. Who, in turn, shared it around nice and liberally.
Hey Presto! Pandemic. End of the world. Only a handful left.
All from the wrong slide.