'A Little Beacon of Hope' - a short fiction extract from Brunel University student Melanie Solari

January 03, 2019

This is an extract from a piece of fiction written by Brunel University Creative Writing student, Melanie Solari. Please note that the extract includes references to cancer and illness which may cause distress. 

The hospital room was as devoid of beauty as Alice was of hope. Its walls were simply cream, not peeling or dirty, just cream. There were no decorations at all aside from the limp curtain that could be used to separate Alice’s bed from the three others in there with her. It was perhaps once the kind of green that reminded people of springtime and hope, but it had faded so much that the hue was insipid. The room has an undertone of bleach and the floor was simply grey.

At the far end were windows in brown metal frames, only openable at the top. Not a single person had flowers, cards or home brought food. They were sleeping to pass the time or staring at nothing at all. There were stands for intravenous drips and monitors.

At the door were dispensers for rubber gloves, hand sanitiser and soap. These items only reinforced Alice’s fear of germs, they were so ubiquitous here that cleaning was mandatory every time a doorway is passed, or a patient is touched. But what if the nurses forget, or not wash properly, then what? I get sicker? These were the thoughts that whirled around Alice’s head as she laid in her bed, staring into nothingness. Alice had been hospitalised for six months. Being in hospital for quite some time had made Alice wish death would come upon her. Alice had stage 3 lung cancer. She knew she was showing symptoms the moment she started coughing nonstop for three weeks, along with blood. She showed symptoms that her mother and brother showed when they too, had cancer.

As the days went by, Alice went deeper into depression. She had nothing to do but to let her thoughts wander around in her brain, causing her to overthink. It didn’t help that two of the patients in her room were conversing about their funeral arrangements.

“So, Marge, I want Celine Dion to sing at my funeral and I want my casket to be jet black. What d’ya think?”

Marge was an elderly woman in her late 60s. Her wrinkled face grew pale. She was paralysed from the neck down from a collision with a motorcyclist. Her voice was croaky and deep from the number of cigarettes she smoked from her early teens until right before her accident.
“Sounds good to me, Bev. I want a dozen roses that are wilted, and brown like me.” Beverley was much younger than Marge. She was in her mid-40s. She had patches on her head from where her hair once was. She had stage 3 cancer. The atmosphere of the hospital room was melancholic and bleak which contributed further to Alice’s state of pessimism. God, I can’t do this anymore, Alice thought to herself. I can’t keep staying here. Please take me away, get me out of here. Kill me if you must but please just take me. A couple of tear drops rolled down Alice’s cold cheeks as her hazel-green eyes were firmly shut, hoping that God would answer her prayers.

“Alice,” a soft voice had interrupted her inner prayer. It was one of Alice’s nurses. “I’m here to take you outside to get some fresh air.” Alice simply just stared at the nurse and, a small smile appeared from her face as she felt that God had answered her. The nurse helped Alice out of bed and changed her into a yellow sundress that she picked out for her.

Outside was empty and tranquil. As the late afternoon sun warmed her bare back that was exposed from the yellow sundress, she breathed in deeply through her nostrils, revitalised by the fresh surge of oxygen.  The six months of being hospitalised in St Bartholomew’s hospital had constricted her lungs and her life. But this—this was different. As the trees blew in the wind, swaying to some kind of silent spiritual, their branches waved at Alice, welcoming her to their open space. The blowing of the wind had caused Alice’s hair to flutter like a dozen of butterflies in the air, the sun, exposing her hair colour which was light brown. She sat down on a nearby bench, took in another deep breath, and laughed when the dry, dancing leaves tickled her ankles. She laughed until tears of delight trickled down her prematurely-aged cheeks, and for the first time in her life, she was happy.

If you'd like to read more of Melanie's work click here to view her blog. If you are part of an HE/FE institution and would like to feature some of your students' work on our website, get in touch with by emailing Natasha at natasha@creativeindustriesfederation.com.

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