Laura asks William if she can remove the blanket. He shrugs his shoulders. She slowly removes the blood stained sheet. She spots multiple stab wounds, lots of lacerations, scratches, bruises. It’s a mess, but it doesn’t need to be fatal. She sees the patient has very shallow breathing. He’s barely breathing at all, but somehow still smiling.

‘Some of these are self-inflicted, but I have brought the other perpetrators along with me’.

‘How come you are still alive?’

‘I had some excellent people who took really good care of me.’

She tries to count the number of wounds, but gives up. It’s odd. How many times can you stab a person without killing them? More times than most people would think. She’s seen a lot worse, but it’s bad enough.

What to do first? Dress the wounds or figure out who did this to him? She finds it more urgent to treat the wounds, but her patient sits up, jumps out of the bed, leaves a trickle of blood behind with every step, but sits down in the patient’s seat across her.

‘Don’t touch me’, he says, ‘I will patch it up myself. Just interrogate the culprits. Although I think the most brutal stabbing I did myself.’

She turns her attention to the group of people in the back. They are dressed in white togas. As a history buff she thinks of the group of senators that slashed up Julius Caesar. Where to begin?

A leprose teenager steps forward and says, I’m Acne, I really cut him up very badly, really mauled the bastard, you know, just went at him with a dagger again and again. It was vicious. He had no way to ward me off whatsoever. I had no motive. I just did it. I still do it. I think I really got to him. Without me you might not have a patient. That’s why he stares at the ground when he walks and won’t come close to you, I guess. Good job, right?’

Laura thanks Acne for the confession and turns to a grinning dwarf.

‘I’m Average Height. Ha! I’d say I really messed up his legs. Those holes in his legs are my doings. That’s why he walks like he’s made of wood.’

Laura rolls her eyes and moves on. She spots an embittered couple throwing her a look that could kill. ‘What’s your part in this?’, she asks.

‘We really fucked up William’s father. His father didn’t stab him, but when we ran our swords through his father, we cut him up as well. He was standing right behind his father, and tried to jump in front of him to protect him, so he got hit pretty badly too.’

Laura shakes her head.

There’s a bunch of women all the way in the back.

‘We didn’t want to have sex with him and somehow this let to stab wounds, but we swear we didn’t do the actual stabbing.’

A bunch of women on the opposite side of these say: ‘We dressed his wounds and stitched him up, but in return he tried to stab us. Please help him.’

More people walk in, showing their daggers. ‘We are the publishers that rejected his manuscripts.’, ‘We are the employers who refused to interview him face to face’, ‘we are the media that propagate the lies that keep the elite in power’, ‘we are the entertainment, fashion and cosmetics industry that help to isolate him by zombifying most people’, ‘we are the people who were so happy anytime he failed.’ More and more people waving bayonets, knives, pieces of glass, etc keep walking in.

Laura yells ‘stop!’. She turns to the patient and asks: ‘Do you really want me to talk to all these people while you sit there bleeding and tearing some of your wounds wide open? Under what circumstances would you allow me to heal those wounds? I am totally convinced I can do that, you know, if you’d let me.’

‘No, it doesn’t work like that. Let me treat YOUR wounds, and let me make YOU happy, and then I promise I will be so intoxicated from just being with you and giving you something that nobody else may be giving you and I will patch up my wounds myself. How’s that?’

‘I am the caregiver here. I can’t allow you to pay me to let you take care of me.’

‘But what if taking care of you is the only way for me to heal? Wouldn’t that be a win-win situation?’

‘You can’t patch up your own wounds in any truly lasting way on your own, no matter how much motivation you may derive from being able to make me happy. So will you allow me to touch your wounds?’

‘No, you’re too beautiful to touch something so ugly.’

‘What’s the point of this if I am not allowed to touch your wounds? You seem to get some perverse pleasure from making me stare at those wounds, but not allowing me close enough to do anything about them. I think you want to show me how many times you can be stabbed and still be alive. You are good at surviving, but you’re not good at living.’

‘This is exactly why I never go to prositutes. They don’t allow you to do anything that may give them orgasms.’

‘That’s humor as a shield. You have many shields. Shields are heavy. The energy you need to drag those around could be used to live more freely. I won’t try to take them from you. Lower them enough for me to put one hand on one wound, even if it’s just for a couple of seconds.’

‘I would sooner allow you to stab me than do that.’

Silence and eye contact between two highly competitive chess players who are thoroughly enjoying the somewhat painful strain on their brain.

‘Let me touch your wounds first. Or if you’re all healed up, then at least let me kiss your scar tissue’, he says.

‘If I consider this, will you at least bandage yourself enough to stop the worst bleeding?’

‘Yes, I will’, and he staggers out the door, clutching one hand to his stomach, leaving her to watch his stooped posture from behind.