Flash Fiction Friday: Cubicle #6

Another Chuck Wendig Flash fiction challenge. The theme was Insomnia: “Insomnia must figure in your story in some way.” (1000 words).

Cubicle #6 was inspired by my stay in hospital on 4th July. Not my usual style. I hadn’t slept for two days due to pains in my back and arms. Heart issues were ruled out – pinched nerves, extreme muscle tension. Oh the joy of back issues and anxiety!

© 2016 Karen J Carlisle


Ping. Four hundred and fifty-one.

Ping. Four hundred and fifty-two.

Ping. Four hundred and fifty-three.

The sound echoed through the Emergency ward.

Ping. Four hundred and fifty-four.

Ping. Four hundred and fifty—

Jane clenched her fists and groaned. Each ping was a crowbar thrust into her temples. She peered at the heart monitor.

2.00 am.



She clutched her arm and peered over the end of her gurney. K: Large orange numbers marked/denoted/numbered her cubicle: ‘6-0′. Speckled grey linoleum lined the floor and seeped the bottom of the walls. Concertinaed curtains wafted in the artificial breeze of the air conditioner, trans-illuminated by the harsh fluorescent lights in the Nurses’ Station. Shapes formed in the imperfections of the re-constituted material – a face, a tree, a space ship, a doughnut.

Jane’s stomach gurgled. She glanced at the monitor.

3.00 am.


Jane yawned and surveyed the room.

A pile of folded cotton blankets sat on the chair beside the bed. Jane counted them. Five. Why white? They would be hell to clean. I’m glad I don’t have to do the laundry.

Reflections shone in the chrome of the chair legs. Shadows flashed along the tube as nurses flitted past the other side of the curtain.

Her eye tracked up to the shelves above the chair. Three boxes of disposable gloves – small, medium and large, a box of tissues and five Emesis Bags. She grabbed one of the bags. She twisted the neck of the bag just below the circular plastic collar.  Clever design. How many ways could she knot the bag into the nifty ‘lockable twist ‘n’ seal’ feature?



Pain clawed out from under her shoulder blade, escaped down her left arm, fingered around her elbow and spewed along her forearm to the wrist. Her fingers cramped.

4.00 am.


A buzz vibrated through her arm. Air clicked. Jane sucked in a breath, through gritted teeth. The cuff tightened. She concentrated on the muted voices outside her cubicle.

“It’ll be okay.” The man’s voice was tired, shaking – old.

Jane’s arm throbbed.

A muffled sob from the next cubicle.

Tighter. She held her breath. The cuff released and hissed.

The curtain swished. A flash of blue entered the cubicle.

“Hi, I’m Josh. How are you feeling?”

“Tired,” replied Jane. “I can’t sleep.”

Josh wiggled the wires attached to her chest and perused the monitor.


His pen clicked on the clipboard.

“Try to get some rest. The doctor will be in soon.” He slipped out past the curtain.

I’m trying.

The curtains swished in the next cubicle.

“Hi, I’m Josh. How are you feeling?”

The man mumbled a reply.

Jane’s eyes refused to close. She sighed and scanned  the posters. Apparently it was

‘OKAY to ask STAFF
To WASH their HANDS’.

Another listed the Emergency Response Criteria and a green heart declared the cubicle to be a ‘Heart-Cardiac-protected electrical area’.

She glanced at her phone. The green message light flashed.

At least the phone still worked.

She slipped the phone closer and pushed a button.

5.00 am.


Pip. Pip. Pip. Another machine!


Jane frowned.


Pip. Pip. Pip.



Pip. Pip. Pip.


She buried her head deeper into her pillow. Pain thumped in her shoulder. Her arm burned and the back of her hand itched where the catheter had been inserted. Liquid dripped unseen, behind her head.

For God’s sake!


A phone trilled. Murmuring voices drifted into the cubicle.

“Who’s next?” Shoes slapped on the linoleum as the voice faded into the distance.

Jane turned her head toward the monitor.

5.30 am.


Pip. Pip. Pip.


The trifecta of pips quickened, slurring into one long, ear-piercing note. A nasally voice crackled over the P.A. It sounded like a supermarket announcement.

Price check, cubicle six. Jane chuckled.

“Code Blue, cubicle five.”

A rubber sole squeaked on the linoleum.

“Please, not yet.” The old man’s voice cracked.

The machine silenced.

The man sobbed.

Jane bit her lip. Had someone…?

The pain returned, radiating into her back, crawling up her neck. Pins and needles pricker her fingers.

Jane’s heart skipped. She grabbed the call button.

A shadow crept along the curtain. It slid open, rattling like beads.

“Hi, I’m Doctor Wallis. How are you feeling?

“My arm hurts,” replied Jane.

The doctor scanned her notes, raised an eyebrow and stepped behind the gurney, out of sight.

“How long since you slept?” he asked.

Pip. Pip. Pip.

“Three days.”


“You must rest.” His voice was calm, almost hypnotic.

Pip. Pip. Pip.

Jane licked her lips. “I can’t.”


“You’re in safe hands,” he said.

The needle tugged in her hand.

Pip. Pip. Pip.

“We can’t do anything until you sleep.”


Jane’s eyelids flickered.

“What if I don’t wake up?” Her voice was slurred.

Pip. Pip. Pip.

Pong. It echoed like a sonar, searching for its prey.

Jane closed her eyes.



Photos:©2016 Karen J Carlisle.
All Rights Reserved.

If you wish to use any of my images, please contact me.


Flash Fiction Friday: Cubicle #6 was originally published on karen j carlisle


About karen j carlisle

writer artist gardener chocoholic tea lover
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