THE END BEGINS
When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.
I felt that from the moment I woke. And yet, when I started functioning a little more smartly, I became doubtful. After all, the odds were that it was I who was wrong, and not everyone else-though I did not see how that could be. I went on waiting, tinged with doubt. But presently I had my first bit of objective evidence-a distant clock stuck what sounded to me just like eight. I listened hard and suspiciously. Soon another clock began, on a hard, decisive note. In a leisurely fashion it gave an indisputable eight. Then I knew things were awry.
The way I came to miss the end of the world-well, the end of the world I had known for close on thirty years-was sheer accident: like a lot of survival, when you come to think of it. In the nature of things a good many somebodies are always in hospital, and the law of averages had picked on me to be one of them a week or so before. It might just as easily have been the week before that-in which case I’d not be writing now: I’d not be here at all. But chance played it not only that I should be in hospital at that particular time, but that my eyes, and indeed my whole head, should be wreathed in bandages-and that’s why I have to be grateful to whoever orders these averages. At the time, however, I was only peevish, wondering what in thunder went on, for I had been in the place long enough to know that, next to the matron, the clock is the most sacred thing in a hospital.
Without a clock the place simply couldn’t work. Each second there’s someone consulting it on births, deaths, doses, meals, lights, talking, working, sleeping, resting, visiting, dressing, washing-and hitherto it had decreed that someone should begin to wash and tidy me up at exactly three minutes after 7 A. M. That was one of the best reasons I had for appreciating
a private room. In a public ward the messy proceeding would have taken place a whole unnecessary hour earlier. But here, today, clocks of varying reliability were continuing to strike eight in all directions-and still nobody had shown up.
Much as I disliked the sponging process, and useless as it had been to suggest that the help of a guiding hand as far as the bathroom could eliminate it, its failure to occur was highly disconcerting. Besides, it was normally a close forerunner of breakfast, and I was feeling hungry.
Probably I would have been aggrieved about it any morning, but today, this Wednesday, May 8, was an occasion of particular personal importance. I was doubly anxious to get all the fuss and routine over because this was the day they were going to take off my bandages.
I groped around a bit to find the bell push and let them have a full five seconds’ clatter, just to show what I was thinking of them.
While I was waiting for the pretty short-tempered response that such a peal ought to bring, I went on listening.
The day outside, I realized now, was sounding even more wrong than I had thought. The noises it made, or failed to make, were more like Sunday than Sunday itself-and I’d come round again to being absolutely assured that it was Wednesday, whatever else had happened to it.
Why the founders of St. Merryn’s Hospital chose to erect their institution at a main-road crossing upon a valuable office site, and thus expose their patients’ nerves to constant laceration, is a foible that I never properly understood.