I knew she was in trouble the moment I walked into the room. I'd just begun my internship at the Planetary Clinic in the Gamma Sector, and was not happy to have her case assigned to me. I'd have preferred to win a few battles before I lost a patient.
Her face was covered in cancerous scabs, with seeping lesions between them. Her skin was abscessed and blotchy. Although I always try to maintain a clinical detachment from my patients and their predicaments, I knew there was a subtle change in my facial expression. I simply wasn't prepared for the sight of her obvious malady.
Washed and gloved, I began the examination, striking up a conversation in an attempt to put her at ease. "How long have you been afflicted?" I asked.
"It seems like eons, but actually, it's been much less time than that." The wry humor caught me off-guard, and I smiled.
"Tell me about your symptoms," I coaxed.
"Well, besides the obvious visible signs, and an unsightly discharge, there's insufferable itching, fever, chills, and cramps. That's about it."
"Do you have regular movements?"
"Yes, at first, anyway. They've become more irregular, lately."
"Does this help?"
"Minutely. The symptoms return and the scabs reform almost immediately."
"Taking any remedies?" I asked, peering into her reddened, watery eyes.
"Good. How often?"
"Does it offer any relief?"
"Some. Relief is such a relative term at this stage. The stuff just grows too darned fast."
I was moved by the poor gal's plight. She deserved better than this. I knew that I could help her -- provided she could survive the cure. The only viable treatments were experimental, and had mixed results. It would be an uphill battle all the way.
She seemed to pick up on my thoughts, or perhaps she noticed something in my expression, I'm not sure. She suddenly burst into tears. "Doctor, is there any hope? Can you help me?"
I consoled her as best I could before delivering the bad news: "I can, yes. But the treatment is harsh, and there is great risk...."
She interrupted: "Anything, doctor. Anything! Cure me, or kill me. I can't stand this anymore."
I nodded, smiling grimly. "Don't worry, dear. We'll beat this thing. It will take cosmic medicine, though. You are aware that the treatment is still classed in the experimental area?"
"Yes, doctor, but I'm willing to do it. I just want to be healed. When can we start? What should I do to get ready?"
"First, and immediately, I want you to increase your doses of cataclysm. Six times a year, I think. Then, just before the injection, we'll increase that to eight."
She shuddered. "Yes, doctor, I'll begin today."
"You do understand that if the Cosmic Injection doesn't work, we're left with just one alternative -- and that's way out on the cutting edge of experimentation."
"Supernova Immersion." Her countenance darkened. "I've heard of it. The success rate is high, and the survival rate is low."
"True ... but it is up to thirty percent now. But let's not worry about that right now. I'm certain that the injection will give you great relief, if not a complete cure."
"I'll go and order the injection now. Please begin your new routine of medication right away."
She shuddered again. "I will, doctor. Thank you."
"You're welcome, miss ... umm, what was your name again?"
"You're welcome, Miss Earth."
The telephone rang six times before it was finally answered by a bored monotone: "Cosmic Medicine. This is not a recording, but your call is being recorded. Can I help you?"
"Hello, this is Doctor Kosmik. I need to order a Cosmic Injection for a patient."
"No, Doctor ... the patient's name."
"Oh yes -- Earth."
"Type of injection? Please tell me it's asteroid or meteoric. We're backlogged on black holes until the middle of the next triennium."
"I think an asteroid will work for us. Four point five kilometers."
"Whew! That's a heavy dose. Let's see ..." There was the sound of turning pages. "The nearest window of opportunity I have is ... hmmmm...."
"Please make it as soon as possible. This poor gal is in a bad way..."
"Everyone is, by the time we're called. Ah, here we are ... Gamma Sector?"
"You do know that's she's already had one Cosmic Injection, don't you?"
"Yes, but that was some time ago, and for a different malady."
"I see. How about May of 2012?"
"Wow! You don't have anything sooner?"
"Not of that dose. We could give you a double injection of one point two kilometers in 2008...."
"Not likely to work. I'll take the 2012 date."
"All right, Doctor Kosmik. I'll log it in. Thank you for calling Cosmic Medicine." The line went dead.
My thoughts returned to Earth. "Hang in there, Sweetheart. Help is on the way."
Well, on to the next patient.
Dallas D'Angelo-Gary 02