Shattered Ghost King
Chapter 1 – Unresponsive
William Solace walked across the garden to get to the hospital. The flowers were starting to bloom now that it was May. He loved being able to see early morning sunshine before beginning his 0600 to 1800 nursing shift. In 1943 in this corner of England the only signs of the ongoing war were the camouflage netting over of hospital roof, blackout curtains in the windows, and of course the hospital full of servicemen with serious injuries. At 23 He was lucky not to be in active service since he was the sole surviving adult in his family. He missed them, but he had to be strong for his sisters.
Today he would get a new patient in his ward, critical care. He was one of the worst types, 'unresponsive'. He was Lieutenant Nicolas Devan Angle, a 20 year old RAF radio operator. He was injured three days ago in a crash that killed the rest of the crew. He had jump out of the bomber before it exploded and was found tangled in a tree. Damn, he hated seeing all the young men who, although they had survived, would spend the rest of their lives in an institution. Maybe it was not as bad as it sounded on paper.
He came in about 10:00 under heavy sedation. The attendants that brought him called him 'the Ghost King'. Often these unresponsive ones were given cruel nicknames based on their injury, he would not use them since he found it demeaning. Still he wondered about this unique name. William began his usual procedure for new arrival. Now, while he was under heavy sedation, he bathed him and changed his bandages and wrote up a status on all his injuries for the duty doctor to review.
And sadly, it was worse than he expected. He had a few abrasions and burns on his face that were healing, conversely the burns on his palms were so bad that he might lose hand function. Why hadn't he kept his gloves on? Likely he had used his hands to protect his face. He would likely always have a limp due to a shrapnel hit to his right thigh and knee. He had lost his hearing, maybe due to an explosion. These alone where serious enough but, worst of all, he would never even know what happened to him due to the brain damage from a shrapnel hit to his head.
He checked on him often. He waited as long as possible before the next morphine injection, just to see what his 'awake' state was like. Unfortunately the only changes were open eyes, a faster heartbeat, and slightly shallower breathing. Those large brown eyes were blank and haunt, and they did not seemed to see anything around him. He almost thought he might be blind too, but he could see the abrasions that represented the outline of his goggles, so he could see at least physically. Maybe his brain damage had effect his vision. As the next dose took hold he saw his eyes close and he hoped Nicolas Angle could find peace in sleep.
Four hours later he was shaken by a pitiful shrill wailing from Nicolas.
"NO… PLEASE… COME OUT… THIS WAY…"
William hesitated slightly to keep from grabbing his hands. Instead he put his hand on his upper chest, just under the neckline of his gown. He began to rub in slow smooth circles as he morosely noticed the silky texture of his pale skin. He was so broken for someone who should be as unblemished as his chest.
Then Nicolas' voice became a low desperate whisper, "Not him… not another one… they are all gone… I want to be the ghost… take me instead…"
After that he was quiet as William despondently kept rubbing his chest. William thought pessimistically, so that was why he was known as 'the Ghost King'.
Over the next couple days he completely read through his file. Nicolas Angle had no living family and had been the only survivor on his last mission. Altogether he had flown 28 mission with 3 different crews. It became clear as he read the medical record that he was all but written-off for recovery. Usually the reports were careful to be noncommittal this soon after the injury, but he had given no response to any stimulus. His only reactions were in his dream state.
He also began to notice Nicolas had been incredibly handsome with his olive skin, delicate features, and velvety soft dark hair. Why were the cute ones always the worst injuries? As he spent more time with him he noticed small details such as his lack of chest hair that made him guessed he was actually only about 16 or 17, instead of 20 from his records. He had seen it before. Hell, he was one of those faking an older age, but for a very different reason. It made William miserable to see this boy's life blunted until it was only breathing, existing, without hope.
On his third day in ward he was again jolted in to action by a loud piteous cry from Nicolas.
"… They are all gone… let me go…Get out, plea…"
William put his hand on his chest and the screams stopped instantly. After a few slow circles his eyes shot wide open. He was shocked at how shattered and haunted his dark eyes looked. Looking into those eyes he could see death staring out of them. He had to have had death around him with his family gone and the high RAF fatality rate. He knew how close these RAF crews would get and Nicolas had gone through three crews. It was easy to see why he had nightmares.
He wanted to reach him, at least let him know the war was over for him. He was not sure why he felt the need to contact him so strongly. Sometimes the damage is just too much and he had to accept it and move on. Usually he could separate himself enough emotionally to focus what he could do as a nurse. This time he was struggling to accept what the records said.
His thoughts swirled around. I know my duty and I should move on. I know he is young, but whatever else he was is gone. Just like my parents and my brothers. He should be treated just like all my patients. Respectfully, carefully, gently, but kept at a distance.
But, he is just so beautiful, and young, and his skin feels so….
Oh my God! …
He stopped screaming when I touched him! …
That means he knew I was there…
He is in there after all…
And he's all alone…