I hurtled to the ground; too late. An arrow-head sliced into my left buttock. The pain paralysed my leg, the desert air blurred. There was sand in my teeth.
“Are you alright, Captain?”
I nodded, unwilling to speak.
The nurse turned me over. “There’s my brave boy.”
I smiled. She said that to me most days. It was my penicillin injection. Some time later penicillin was administered in pill form.
“I wouldn’t like that.” It was Owen who had the bed next to me. He’d waited until the nurse had moved on, as though afraid she might act upon a hint. It was a strange thing to say because Owen couldn’t be turned over. His stomach was half open and sometimes he smelled. We shared books and talked about pirates.
He had one large book I was particularly fond of and when he was sleeping - which was more and more often - I would read it from cover to cover. The artist was particularly fond of the colour red. The Buffalo Bill story was awash with red deserts, blood red buttes and crimson skies. Indians and cacti appeared as stark silhouettes. The pirate stories occupied the same terrain: blood-red seas and mangrove swamps in black. The only exception was the solitary Space Story which was essentially yellow and black: large yellow robots on saffron plains, or else hurtling through black space in yellow ships.
One night I was awakened by a soft shuffling sound and the squeaking of wheels. Two nurses were wheeling a green screen around Owen’s bed. A doctor walked quietly down the ward and joined them. I fell asleep and in the morning the screen was gone and so was Owen.