Chapter I: Requiem Aeternam - Fourth Instalment
Warning: The following story contains the depiction of violent scenes and also, adult language. Reader discretion is advised.
This is the continuation of Madness Serial: The Hand of Madness Chapter I: Requiem Aeternam - Third Instalment
At that time, without thinking twice, I throw myself towards him, pushing him off the street and accordingly, saving him from possible death. Everything happened so fast I could barely get the feeling of everything moving violently, ending this in absolute darkness.
Now, I wake up shocked that I’m not in my room surrounded by my usual solitude and the shining radiance, but instead, I’m in this darker room whose only light source comes from frosted glass windows. I’m in this bed flanked by four white curtains, wires, bright monitors, and the beep-beep-beep emitted by them. Everything in this room is white. The smell of this place is like sterilised rotting. A foul odour of illness hidden under litres of disinfectants. One can perceive the lugubrious stench of death beneath all that. Of course, I’m in a hospital. I immediately feel the repudiation these places cause me. That’s when I understand it. I'm lying in this bed because in an instant of impulsive heroism I decided to risk my life to save a stranger's. He is in front of me at this moment, seeing me, feeling entirely indebted to me due to my daring act of courage; he calls me by my name interrupting my delirium. To saving him wasn’t anything extraordinary, given my declared enmity with Death, which’s a platonic repercussion of having snatched from me the only real friend I ever had. I return to the present, to me, the great painter Mads Madsen who is now defeated in this bed of impotence and vulgarity.
In the back of the room, I see a man dressed in white from head to toe, who seems checking some 3D X-rays on a holo-screen that hangs from the ceiling. He turns around and heads towards us with his omnipad in his hand.
“Hello, Mr Madsen. I’m glad you’ve wakened up. I’m Doctor Ambroise Crow, the director of this hospital ,” this serious and grey-haired man says . “You’re in Saint Thomas hospital, by the way. You were run over by a car. There is someone who could take care of you? Some relative? Someone who lives with you? We have scanned your retina and face, but our biometric records haven’t shown anything. There’s no medical history. Nothing. All we have been able to get among your belongings is a library card with your name,” he adds looking at the device’s screen unable to understand why I don’t appear in the database.
“No, doctor. I live alone,” I respond to him trying to avoid eye contact . “And what you mention must be a system error ,” Yes. A 'system error', that’s precisely what I am. A glitch. A bug in the system. Simpleton. Clearly, he hasn’t found any information about me in the databases since I never let them get any record of me. I’m invisible even in the digital world. Do I even exist?
“I’m related to him, doctor!” this young stranger whose life I saved interrupts. I don’t know his name yet so I still try to guess it in my mind. I relate him to some characters in the literary works I've read and even to the authors themselves.
Virgil! It must be Virgil! Look at his resemblance to that magnificent bust is still preserved in Naples. His thin and slender face with large, piercing, proud eyes on this. The straight hair that dimly curls as it reaches his forehead. That thick lips and half-split chin. It’s Virgil! I’m sure to have guessed.
“Are you a friend of Mr Madsen? Sir? ” the doctor asks, finally and discreetly formulating the question flitting around my head like a wandering little ball spinning in a casino roulette wheel, which, in a tiny chaotic moment, will end up falling in one of the pockets, rising one of many possible universes.
“My name’s Constantine Shepherd. It’s a pleasure, doctor, and yes, I am,” he says as he shakes the doctor’s hand, but not before wiping his sweaty palms on the legs of his trousers.
Although I haven’t guessed his name, the charm of the melodic sound of those interwoven letters fascinates me. Constantine. Constantine. Constantine. The grace and powerful rhythm I find in the locution of that name to hear it escaping his mouth resembles the sweet tinkling bursting out of Giotto’s Campanile on a dying spring afternoon.
“Thank you, Constantine,” I reply trying to emulate a smile like his, nothing but the effect of the tingling I feel to hear myself saying his name out loud.
“Well, Mr Shepard, your friend has many contusions on his head and different parts of his body due to the impact of the car that struck him. Mainly, he suffered a mild severity spinal-cord injury, which we hope will be temporary, but I must and am sorry to say that for now, Mr Madsen will be unable to walk. In addition to this, Mr Madsen may present partial amnesia in some of his long-term memories,” the doctor explains, while he seems reading my death sentence to Constantine.
“But will he do it again?! Won’t he?” he asks immediately, showing even more astonishment than I do.
“We hope that with the help of the latest treatments and under proper care, he would walk again in a few weeks,” the doctor says while someone knocks on the door.
“Doctor Crow?” a nurse asks peeping.
“What’s going on? ” the doctor asks.
“There’s a person who wants to come in to talk to Mr Madsen. He’s from the Metropolitan Police.”
Perfect! A policeman. That’s all I need now. He certainly will ask about my identity.
“From Scotland Yard? Sure, let him in,” the doctor says condescendingly.
“Father, what are you doing here? ” Constantine asks surprised as he sees this robust man in his mid-fifties entering the room. He is dressed in a long black cloak that covers him below his knees. On his head, he’s wearing a beret of the same colour which is decorated with a red stripe at the base and over this, there’s a small and glittering golden insignia of the G.C.U.N. in the centre of it.
Authority. The justified monopoly of violence. As someone who has lived all his life outside the law, I’ve never rooted for it or those who employ it. Their badges and uniforms shape the thin line dividing the rulers from the ruled. But my rejection towards the authorities isn’t merely about their appearance but about what they represent. Domination. Control. Power. And they’re the ones who gave themselves the right to exercise such things over others. They’re the hand that operates the scale of justice. An instrument working in one direction tending always to lean toward the minorities. However, for the authority to exist, there’s a need for someone willing to obey and believe in it, and I am definitely a sceptic when it comes to the superstition of authority.
“Hello, Constantine, you alright?” he formally murmurs . “Gentlemen ,” the man says, greeting us and pulling his hand out of the long dress to remove his beret in reverence.
“Commissioner Shepherd, I had no idea this young man was your son,” the doctor says in surprise.
“That’s right, Dr Crow,” he immediately confirms . “One security drone-bot identified my son’s face in the accident, then I was notified about what occurred, and I wanted to come and know first-hand what happened.”
“Father, he’s Mads Madsen. He saved me today from being run over ,” he says looking at me with a smile on his face which is marked by the thin black hairs on his cheek for a couple of days without being shaved.
“Constantine, your mind’s always wandering. You must pay more attention to your surroundings,” the commissioner says him in all seriousness . “Thank you, Mr Madsen. I owe my son’s life. I hope you are well,” he says to me . "Of course, as far as possible ," he adds, clearing his throat.
“I’m well, commissioner Shepherd, and I’m glad your son is well, too,” I reply as I begin to feel uncomfortable among so many strange people seeing me prostrate in my ordinary and deplorable condition.
“The traffic drone-bots identified the serial number of the respondent’s car, and this is already being investigated. Do you want to file charges against him, Mr Madsen?” Commissioner Shepherd asks me.
“I believe this man could have raised a significant tragedy today and he must be held responsible for his imprudence,” I say pretending to agree even when I know human laws are futile. The only justice needed here is ours. I know you would like to have his head served on a plate for this too.
“Then, so will be. We’ll contact you to take your statement as soon the respondent is arrested,” he tells me preparing to leave . “Thank you again, Mr Madsen. I hope you get well soon,” he adds saying goodbye . “Just one more thing ,” he says stopping and turning back . “We’ve noticed you don’t have any records in the government systems. Why is that?” he inquires with a certain suspicion.
“I’m a foreign, sir. I’m an alien to this country,” I answer him hoping he doesn’t go deeper into the issue.
“humph,” he exclaims a bit meditative . “Good. Thank you again for your time, Mr Madsen,” he adds not very convinced. “Dr Crow, may I speak to you privately?” he addresses the doctor making me think there’s something wrong.
“Of course, Commissioner,” he answers as they both leave the room.
Continues in Fifth Instalment