Processing

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ARTHUR MALLOREY, the overhead, computer-generated voice booms. The admitting door opens just as my eyes do, and a man in purple scrubs walks towards me. I hurry to stand up and reach for my bag.

"Arthur? Go ahead and leave that here," he says, pointing to it.

He has coppery skin, chestnut brown hair, and a high tenor voice. Before I can grab my bag, the man grabs it instead and slings it over his shoulder. He slumps minutely under the weight of my life.

"That's my-" I start, but he cuts me off.

"It's no problem," the man says, already starting to lead me towards the door. "I'm Dr. Ervine. Normally you'd be attended by a Transition Coordinator through your processing experience, Arthur, but I took a look at your health screening. The Coordinator will grab your belongings from the examination room. You can come with me."

Okay... I resist the urge to ask why my health screening changes things. As the admitting door shuts behind us, a nervous tremor races through my stomach. Don't be an idiot. There's no reason to be scared.

"You have a very serious genetic abnormality," Dr. Ervine says.

We enter a room with just enough space for him to navigate around an examination table and access the various steel drawers and cabinets on the walls. The walls are a light yellow color and the floor is simple white tile. Everything in here looks crazy clean.

"We rarely see cases of EDS anymore," he says. "I expect that you're in need of much more immediate medical care, so we're going to skip a few steps."

"Sure," I shrug, trying to sound casual. I ignore the pinch in my neck that prevents my right shoulder from lifting quite as high as my left.

"How would you rate your pain now, on a scale of one to ten, with one being barely noticeable?" he asks, setting my backpack down on the floor and motioning for me to sit on the examination table.

"Uh, like a six I guess." I shrug again and wince. Stupid neck! I rub my right hand against my left forearm to try and steady their shaking.

"Let's try some of this, shall we?" He fills a syringe with something clear.

"What is it?" I ask, leaning away from him.

"It's a medication that targets your sodium channels and nervous system for long-term pain reduction, combined with a fast-acting anesthetic. It's completely safe, and should provide you some immediate relief."

I hold out my arm and accept the shot. After a brief burning sensation, a blessed numbness washes through me. The relief is such a sharp sensation that it's almost a secondary pain. Thank you, God. Tears immediately flood my eyes, and I start to topple.

"Careful, now." Dr. Ervine grabs my arm and holds me upright. He uses foot pedals to make a back support rise out of the examination table.

"I'm sorry." I choke on my tears. Geez, this is embarrassing.

"It's alright," he smiles, raising leg supports to help me recline. "Resisting constant pain requires a lot of strength. Sometimes when a patient's pain is removed, their strength goes with it for a moment. Now I need to talk to you about your future care. How well do you understand your condition?"

"Well, I've lived with it for almost twenty years," I chuckle and wipe away the tears. "I think I get the gist of it by now. Mom had it too."

"Were you raised by your birth mother?" he asks, entering information onto the tiny personal data entry pad, or slate, in his hand.

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