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One Floor


Meredith Rule

Isobelle Carmody Award

for Creative Writing


‘That’s another.’

The fifth person this week alone. I had been counting, recording

their names in my notebook, if they had them. Numbers were all

that mattered to people here now, numbers were important because

a person’s number determined the cold containment in which their

corpse would eventually be stored.

If things don’t improve soon

, I thought to myself,

it won’t be long before

the whole town would be lining the corridors

. Only a matter of time before

the water coolers sit empty and the arrangement of nourished

flowers wilt, dispirited and neglected.

A corpse was removed, only to be rapidly replaced by another

nearing that lifeless condition. Coughs became the major form of

communication, overpowering the chatter of the nurses, and the

incessant beeping of the machines. I remained quiet, I walked the

halls with my head down, and my hands deep within my pockets. My

satchel contained the few things that I felt I should always keep with

me, its thick strap ensured the protection of these items. Within its

leather bindings lay my notebook pages with names, dates and

numbers, a torch, and hospital papers, and my rowing badge.

The emergency door, wide open. Markings of where trolleys had

frantically been pushed scraped against the walls lay forgotten.

I had never witnessed anything so powerful as this disease. Its

unpredictable qualities scared everyone. Something that has the

ability to eat its way into the living and destroy everything with

sentience. A beat, a blink, a flinch. It was so human-like, yet so

destructive. It pierced one with its unfamiliar presence, moved

quickly and continued to then eat its way at others. It came in many

forms: viruses, pains, always accompanied by an unexplained bite;

but each progressed into something that could cease a heartbeat. I

collected each autopsy, often from the main office bin.

‘Harper! Get this one downstairs, now!’ An unfamiliar voice

demanded. I took orders from many, all of which I obeyed. It was

just like being at school. My knowledge of biology extended to my

half completed year 12 subject – this plague had even killed my

studies. Everything I thought I knew had changed. This outbreak

had become bigger than anything in my textbooks. Resources had

become scarce, rooms were at their capacity, medical services in high

demand, and there hidden within many is something that is growing,

and infecting. People came, sometimes accompanied by a brave