Abigail was perfectly calm. When she felt calm, the light turned blue. She didn’t know how, but the light had been connected to her brain. That woman had told her they’d done some kind of operation when she was brought to the hospital, so that the doctors would know how she was feeling even when her jaw was still wired shut. It was very considerate of them to think of her mood like that. The other doctors hadn’t cared about her mood; they just told her she needed to keep the tubes in her arm, that she shouldn’t be walking around and needed to use the wheelchair.
The doctors at her new hospital were so much more thoughtful. She didn’t remember exactly when she’d come to the new hospital, but ever since then she’d felt so much better. The doctors were so much more considerate, after all. They always asked whether she wanted to take the green pill today, or if she just wanted the pink one. The other doctors hadn’t asked that; the woman said it was important that patients be active and involved participants in their own care, exercising consent when choosing treatments. They always asked Abigail what she wanted for dinner, too. Or at least, until her jaw surgery. The doctors said the accident had caused sub-something damage with lasting something, and she’d need reconstruction. But consent is important, so they let Abigail decide whether the eye surgery came first or not. They were so considerate!
Though, now she came to think about it, she couldn’t remember being asked about the light.
When she woke up after being transferred, the woman was there in her white coat and blue doctor gloves, the ones she always wore when she was talking to Abigail. She said that the doctors had wanted to be sure that they always knew how she was feeling, so they gave her a light for inside her room that was connected to her thoughts. Abigail didn’t remember how she felt when the woman said that, though; the first week in the new hospital was all fuzzy and distant. There were lots of new doctors and she knew that all of them were so considerate, but it was so hard to remember. The woman said that was perfectly normal after a big surgery, her memories would come back soon. She couldn’t remember what the surgery was for, but maybe that memory would come back too.
Abigail felt her eyebrows begin to furrow, just a little. Why couldn’t she remember the surgery? If there was a surgery, wouldn’t there be… scars? Stitches? Were some surgeries done without cutting people open now? But surely there would be something, right? So why couldn’t she find them? What surgery did they give her (or was it the last hospital) that made it so hard to remember? Abigail began to feel the oncoming tides of frustration. Maybe upset. But-
But the light was still blue.
That meant Abigail was calm.
The light showed her what she was feeling, and if the light was blue, that meant she was calm. And when it began to pulse, like it was pulsing now, that meant she was even more calm than normal. The woman had explained it all to her.
Abigail felt her forehead relax slowly back into smooth, placid relaxation. It was so considerate of the doctors to help her understand how she was feeling. The woman said that lots of patients were very confused about how they were feeling after they came to the hospital. They would think they were “angry” or “trapped” or “used”, but that wasn’t how they really felt. Abigail nodded along with the memory; she knew how they really felt, because the woman had told her that was how she felt, too.
She felt calm.
The memories began to fade, slowly, as the light pulsed a little brighter, a little faster. When it began to pulse like that, it meant she was feeling so calm that she could hardly hold onto thoughts anymore. When her thoughts began to ebb slowly into the background, leaving her very, very calm and peaceful, the lights blinked extra-hard. So that the doctors knew. So that they could understand how to treat her properly. It was important that they know how she was feeling, so they could treat her properly.
She felt very, very calm for a long time. For a while she thought she was feeling hungry, but the light hadn’t turned orange, so she knew she was just imagining it. One of the side effects of her new medications was feeling hungry sometimes, but the light was so useful in telling her when she was really hungry. But it was still blue. So she was still feeling very, very calm.
After a while, the light turned green.
That was one of her favourite colours! Green meant she wanted to exercise. She reached down for her call button and pressed it, so that the nurses could take her to exercise. She wanted to exercise now, and it was important to be an active and informed participant in her own care, so it was important that she press the button. Otherwise they wouldn’t come to get her. And it was time to exercise now.
Abigail smiled when the door opened, and two nurses stepped inside. Her jaw was still wired shut but she pointed eagerly at the green light on the wall, sitting up and waiting until the nurses carefully removed the tubes from her arms, unshackled her legs from the bed, helped her down and onto a sturdy, silver walker. They smiled at her and gently patted her hand. She was one of their best patients, they said. She was so good about telling them when she realised it was time for exercise, they said. Would she like to go for exercise now, they said.
Abigail nodded, slowly following them towards the door, leaning her weight into the walker below her. Ever since her ankle surgery her legs had been very weak, and the walker helped prevent more accidents like last… week? No, last month. A while ago. The woman had told her that her accident had badly damaged both her ankles and they needed to be repaired. This hospital was so much more attentive than her first hospital; they hadn’t even said anything about her ankles! Typical, self-absorbed doctors who didn’t even properly examine her. Why, until she’d arrived at the new hospital, she’d thought she was almost better! But the new hospital had shown her all the things that needed to be fixed. They even let her choose what to fix first! That was so nice of them. Consent was so important to ethical hospital care, after all.
One of her nurses moved ahead of her, now, to hold open the double-doors to the exercise room. That was so kind of them! When Abigail had first arrived, she’d thought she was confused about why they always did exercise inside unlike the first hospital. The first hospital let her go outside to exercise, they said sunlight was important for healing and mental-something. But the woman had explained that this was more of their negligence, that they were risking injury or skin cancer during her unsupervised exercise sessions. The new hospital was so much more considerate, carefully guiding her through the best exercises, helping her to build up the appropriate muscles.
Abigail realised her eyebrows were all furrowed-up again. If consent was so important, why did the new hospital choose her exercises for her?
She looked over to the corner of the room where the weights rack sat, filled with tiny 500-gram hand-weights all the way up to big metal discs that were probably too heavy for her weak muscles. But she was sure she could handle the smaller ones. Maybe she could get stronger?
The physiotherapist’s hand fell on Abigail’s shoulder. She turned, and looked up at the hard, focused expression on the older therapist’s face. Where was she going, they asked? It wasn’t time for weights yet, they said. It was time for hydrotherapy now, they informed.
Abigail blinked, slowly, and pointed questioningly at the weights. Her forehead was so crinkled-up now, she was sure she didn’t normally feel upset during Exercise but… but she wanted to do weights now. Wasn’t consent important?
The therapist nodded, slowly, and their hand slid up behind Abigail’s head. She didn’t move, feeling the fingers lace themselves into her hair and, very gently, pulled her head backwards. Tilting her eyes up towards the ceiling. Towards the-
They were pink now.
Abigail realised that she felt very, very compliant.
The compliance seemed to ooze down through her eyes and head, slipping like warm syrup across her spine and nerves. Inside the wire frame she moaned quietly, so much pink all around her that she knew she must be very, very, VERY compliant now to be making the lights flash so very, very brightly.
The squishy, drippy compliance poured through her body in waves, each pulse of the light timed with the pulse of happy, slippery bliss that bounced around inside her and made her feel happy and dreamy and obedient. Through the yummy squishy pulses, Abigail realised how incredibly compliant she must feel towards her physiotherapist to have made the lights turn so very, very pink. The woman had told her that compliant patients were those who did exactly what their treatment staff instructed, and Abigail knew she must be so very, very compliant now that the lights were blinking so brightly and she was following so easily and she was listening so obediently.
The physiotherapist smiled, now, and gently took Abigail’s hands in theirs, leading them away from the weights, and the walker, and the nurses blinking rapidly as they stared up at the ceiling. Abigail saw the glisten of drool seeping from the corner of one of the nurses’ mouth, but that was perfectly normal. Abigail’s lips were so compliant with what her therapist wanted that, unless they told her to close them, it was perfectly natural to drool obediently while waiting for instructions. The nurses must be feeling very compliant too, to turn their own lights pink.
When her physiotherapist scooped her up in a strong, comforting baby-carry, Abigail stopped thinking about which lights were theirs.
When her physiotherapist told her to think compliantly, Abigail stopped thinking about anything for a while.
Abigail blinked slowly when water began to surround her buttocks and legs, but the pink was still so strong and she remembered that she was too compliant to question her treatment. She was being carried slowly, slowly deeper into the warm, salty water, her thin blue hospital robe turning dark and translucent as it stuck tightly to her body before billowing outwards as the tub’s currents took it. She sighed with happy relief, then, muscles immediately loosening as her pressure on the strong arms carrying her lessened and her limbs drooped into easy compliance just like her mind.
Her therapist smiled down at her, before leaning in and gently pressing their lips to her ear. Would she like to sink deeper into compliance with doctor’s orders now, or would Abigail prefer to relax and allow her therapist to choose for her, they inquired?
Abigail giggled slightly, the sound muffled inside the wire frame holding her tongue to silence, and blinked with vapid, guileless eyes up at the therapist supporting their body in the water. Her therapist smiled ruefully, realising how silly it must be to ask a question of someone so very, very compliant.
We’ll start with some de-stressing exercises, they murmured, fingers slipping behind Abigail’s back and neck, unfastening the gown and letting it drift away with the currents. Abigail nodded obediently, happy pulses of light telling her that she still felt very, very compliant. The woman had said that compliant girls followed doctor’s orders and, until then, she would smile and nod and accept and believe.
It was important to be an active and engaged participant in her own treatment. To do as she was told. To spread her legs for the physiotherapist’s de-stressing massage.
It was important to let her physiotherapist turn her muscles into jelly while she keened, quietly, through the medically-enforced silence. Staring into the therapist’s smiling, predatory eyes. Seeing the pink reflected in them.
It was important to follow doctor’s orders.