#1: Man, thirty. On the end of an empty row of sculpted blue plastic seats in the town’s new walk-in centre. White shirt, wide grey fabric braces, khaki trousers, heavy walking boots, everything muddied, as if he’d just walked in from an eighteenth century harvest. His face is long and dusky, pointed at the bristled chin like an ant in close-up, his hair tangled, desiccated. When I ask him his name he smiles efficiently, watching me closely.
‘I don’t believe in possessions. I suffer from Dextroprodesiacondraplasia. Hah! Spell that! I suffer from Memory Ankylosaurusemia. Second formation. You’d know. Something like. Mmm. And in the evenings I’m surrounded by voices. Etcetera. But you don’t want to hear about them.’
#2: Woman, ninety. On a rustic wooden chair in a bright blue hallway furnished like an art gallery with framed ceramic tiles of fish and farm animals, broad abstract oil paintings and delicate swatches of Chinese silk. She is wearing a simple white robe gathered loosely around her waist, open at the chest, one leg tucked in to her and one off to the side, an arm draped over the back of the chair, in a pose you might expect from an artist’s model.
‘Fallen on the floor? What nonsense. I’m absolutely fine,’ she says. ‘Who called you? I’m simply waiting for my carer.’
#3: Man, forty. Sitting on the edge of an unmade bed, his arms close in to his sides to keep him propped upright, legs apart to make room for his grossly distended belly, a veined and vegetable thing, laparotomy scar zipped up from groin to middle like the linea nigra of a pregnant woman.
‘It’s the ascites again. I’ve been a silly boy. Drinking all week. Totally my own fault. I expect I’ll have to go in again for another drain.’
#4: Man, twenty. Sitting bare-chested in a dark shop doorway, his face and body smeared with the blood that has run down from the cut on the crown of his shaved head and the split on the bridge of his swollen nose. He has his legs drawn up, resting his hands on either knee. He looks like a wounded hunter, staring out into the crowds, wondering where his prey could have gone.
There is another young man standing leaning over him. His arms and hands are covered in blood, too, the hunter’s blood. He is shouting down at him to go on to the ambulance to get some help. An ambulance man taps him on the shoulder and asks him to stand to one side; he tells him to be careful about getting the wounded man’s blood on him; there are antiseptic wipes and gel on the ambulance if he’d like to get cleaned up. The man says he doesn’t care. He says if he saves one life tonight and dies as a result it will all have been worth it.
The hunter jumps up, pushes the man aside and runs off down the street.