This week, I was supposed to digitize all of Dr. Marnen’s patient files.
I was feeling good about my progress when I saw it. A second filing cabinet, hiding behind the shelves, that I’d never noticed before.
Sighing with fatigue, I yanked open the first drawer. I plucked out a file from the ‘A’ section and began to read.
“Alright, Carla, let’s see if you’re in the system.” I set the file on the desk, sat down at the computer, and typed in her name.
Nothing came up.
Oh, hell no. I am not doing ALL the files in this cabinet. But I sighed, opened a new patient file, and began copying the data. Carla Aberdeen… DOB 4/24/72… 5’ 9”, 176 lbs…
Finally, I got to the doctor’s notes. They were written in messy script, as if in a hurry. I put on my glasses, and read:
– Complaints of eczema
– Itchiness after eating some fruits
– Lungs may be useful
I stopped and re-read the last line.
Lungs may be useful
I shrugged, figuring it was some sort of mistake or reference to something. I typed it into the computer and took the next file from the cabinet – a Mr. David Akowski.
But the doctor’s notes were even stranger, this time.
– Family history of heart attacks
– Large skin surface area
I typed him into the system and stared at the screen. Large skin surface area? What does that even mean?
When I got to the next one – a Miss Katerina Alanson – I felt the knot in my stomach tighten. It was a file for a little girl, and it read:
– Night terrors ever since sixth birthday
– Mom says increased anxiety
– Feet are perfect size
I rolled away from the computer. Heart pounding, I picked up the file and studied it. There must be an explanation.
But I couldn’t think of anything.
I took a deep breath. Then I picked up the phone, and dialed the number on Katerina’s file. But what will you say? I didn’t even know. I just had a terrible, nagging feeling, and wanted to do something about it.
But I wasn’t in luck.
We’re sorry. You have reached a number that has been disconnected –
“What are you doing?”
I whipped around.
Dr. Marnen was standing in the doorway, his arms crossed over his white coat. “I was digitizing the files. Like you told me to,” I stuttered, slamming the phone down.
“Not those files.” He violently grabbed the files from the desk, shoved them back into the file cabinet. Then he pulled a small key from his pocket and turned the locks on each drawer. Click, click, click.
“Finish this up, okay?”
And then he was gone.
The silence pressed in. The waiting room was empty and still. I checked the clock – 4:45. No more patients would be coming in.
It was only Dr. Marnen and me in the office now.
So I did what any reasonable person would do. I shut down the computer, grabbed my coat, and started for the door. As I hurried towards the exit, I saw Dr. Marnen at the end of the hall.
He was opening a door – the door he told me went to the supply closet.
But beyond him, I could see a set of stairs, snaking down into the darkness.