If only every fairy in the facility was as docile as Opal Koboi. All she needed was a few intravenous tubes and a monitor, which had been more than paid for by her first six months' medical fees. Doctor Argon fervently hoped that little Opal never woke up. Because once she did, the LEP would haul her off to court. And when she had been convicted of treason her assets would be frozen, including the Clinic's fund. No, the longer Opal's nap lasted, the better for everyone, especially her. Because of their thin skulls and large brain volume, Pixie's were susceptible to various maladies such as catatonia, amnesia and narcolepsy. So it was quite possible that her coma would last for several years. And even if Opal did wake up, it was quite possible that her memory would stay locked up in some drawer in her huge pixie brain.
Doctor J Argon did his rounds every night. He didn't perform much hands-on therapy anymore, but he felt that it was good for the staff to feel his presence. If the other doctors knew that Jerbal Argon kept his finger on the pulse, then they were more likely to keep their own fingers on that pulse too.
Argon always saved Opal for last. It calmed him somehow to see the small pixie asleep in her harness. Often at the end of a stressful day, he even envied Opal her untroubled existence. When it had all become too much for the pixie, her brain had simply shut down, all except the most vital functions. She still breathed, and occasionally the monitors registered a dream spike in her brain- waves. But other than that, for all intents and purposes, Opal Koboi was no more.
On this fateful night, Jerbal Argon was feeling more stressed than usual. His wife was suing for divorce on the grounds that he hadn't said more than six consecutive words to her in over two years. The Council were threatening to pull his government grant because of all the money he was making from his new celebrity clients, and he had a pain in his hip which no amount of magic could seem to cure. The warlocks said it was probably all in his head. They seemed to think that was funny.
Argon limped down the Clinic's eastern wing, checking the plasma chart of each patient as he passed their room. He winced each time his left foot touched the floor.
The two janitor pixies, Mervall and Descant Brill were outside Opal's room, picking up dust with static brushes. Pixies made wonderful employees. They were methodical, patient and determined. When a pixie was instructed to do something, you could rest assured that thing would be done. Plus they were cute, with their baby faces and disproportionately large heads. Just looking at a pixie cheered most people up. They were walking therapy.
'Evening, boys,' said Argon. 'How's our favourite patient?'
Merv, the elder twin, glanced up from his brush. 'Same old, same old, Jerry,' he said. 'I thought she moved a toe earlier, but it was just a trick of the light.'
Argon laughed, but it was forced. He did not like to be called Jerry. It was his clinic after all, he deserved some respect. But good janitors were gold dust, and the Brill brothers had been keeping the building spotless and ship shape for nearly two years now. The Brills were almost celebrities themselves. Twins were very rare among the People. Mervall and Descant were the only pixie pair currently residing in Haven. They had featured on several TV programmes, including Canto, PPTV's highest rated chat show.
LEP Corporal Grub Kelp was on sentry duty. When Argon reached Opal's room, the corporal was engrossed in a movie on his video goggles. Argon didn't blame him. Guarding Opal Koboi was about as exciting as watching toenails grow.
'Good film?' inquired the doctor pleasantly.
Copyright 2005 by Eoin Colfer. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Penguin Group (UK). No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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