“First World Simple Mistakes,” by Jon Hakes

Dec 20th, 2015 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

Dr. Horton entered the room and took a deep breath. “There’s been a slight mix-up. We accidentally replaced some of your plasma with plasma.”

Brownell frowned. “I’m not following.”

Across the hall, nurses rushed into another room.

“You’re familiar with the plasma in your blood?” Dr. Horton said.

“Not really. I know there is such a thing.”

“Well, this plasma is different.”

“Different like it’s from a different person?”

“Different like it’s a completely different substance with the same name.”

The nurses across the hall were joined by a doctor, several doctors, a specialist.

“So what the hell did you put into my body?” Brownell said.


“Are you trying to be funny?”

“No. Sorry. It’s the kind of plasma you find in the sun. Its temperature is about five million degrees.”

“Is it dangerous?” Brownell said. She noted to herself that she felt relatively fine.

“Oh, extremely,” Dr. Horton said. “Honestly, you should be dead.”

The specialist stormed out of the room across the hall, arguing with one of the other doctors.

Brownell said, “Shouldn’t I be feeling something?”

“Oh no, you’d probably just be vaporized.”

A new nurse showed up in the hallway, pushing a cart. The cart was full of vials. The vials were full of liquids. The liquids were mysterious colors.

The cart disappeared into the room across the hall.

“So what happened?” Brownell said.

“Your system managed to quickly synthesize a completely innovative solution from its own research on the network,” Dr. Horton said. “It encased the sun-plasma in a threaded magnetic seal.”

“My system?”

“Your immune system.”

“No it didn’t.”

“It certainly did. In fact, your immune system should be able to publish the results of its research.”

“It’s impossible. I have all automatic updates to my body turned off.”

There were screams from across the hall, until someone thought to shut the door, at which point, there were muffled screams from across the hall.

“Come again?” Dr. Horton said.

“I have my body-updates turned off,” Brownell said. “I don’t believe in them.”


“That doesn’t make me weird. A lot of people feel the same way.”

“No, no. You’re absolutely right.”

“Somebody must have turned them on again after the operation.”

“Let’s not jump to conclusions.”

“I don’t feel like I’m jumping very far.”

“Are you suggesting you’d rather your system had been offline?” Dr. Horton said. “You’d rather be dead?”

“I’m suggesting that your hospital is guilty of gross and subtle negligence,” Brownell said, “and that it’s time to involve lawyers.”

Dr. Horton pressed an intercom button. “Patient has invoked legal option. Please proceed as per the usual thing.”

The gaggle of doctors stood in the hall again. They whispered, shooting glances toward Brownell’s room.

Twenty minutes later, Brownell’s lawyer, Johnson, stood by the bed. The hospital lawyer stood next to Dr. Horton.

“My client wants to know who is responsible for this profound screw-up,” Johnson said.

The hospital lawyer coughed. “We won’t know that for months, pending a full review.”

“Excuse me,” one of the doctors from across the hall said, knocking on Brownell’s door. “We have a situation in the room across the hall.”

“We’re in the middle of something,” the hospital lawyer said.

“I understand that,” the doctor from across the hall said. “I’m here on a related issue. It’s pretty urgent.”

“Tell me first,” the hospital lawyer said.

The doctor from across the hall whispered to the hospital lawyer.

“I think you’d better explain it,” the hospital lawyer said.

“We’ve had another incident,” the doctor from across the hall said, “similar to yours.”

“How similar?” Brownell said.

“I can’t say too much due to privacy laws,” the doctor from across the hall said. “Suffice to say, it’s the exact same thing that happened to you, except the other patient’s immune system was a little slow. It managed to contain the problem, but the other patient is in quite a bit of pain, if not in danger of immediate vaporization.”

“Hell of a facility you’re all running here,” Johnson said.

“In any case,” the doctor from across the hall said, “we’d like to try to duplicate your body’s solution.”

“I don’t know,” Brownell said. “They tell me my immune system can publish this. I don’t want another immune system to steal it.”

“We can make guarantees,” the hospital lawyer said.

“I’m certain the other patient, who, as I mentioned, is in quite a bit of pain, will be willing to sign whatever you want,” the doctor from across the hall said.

“And can we also get this stuff out of me?” Brownell said.

Dr. Horton said, “That’s a separate issue. We’ll need some time on that one.”

Brownell shrugged. “Well, I don’t want to prolong someone else’s misery. I’ll help.”

“And,” Johnson said, “let us be clear that this cooperation will have no bearing on any settlement between my client and the hospital.”

“Understood,” the hospital lawyer said.

Dr. Horton brought in a huge diagnostic machine and hooked it up to Brownell. Thirty minutes later, a super-clutch of doctors and nurses accompanied the machine across the hall.

The doctor from across the hall came back with Dr. Horton.

“Don’t you need to tend to your patient?” Brownell said.

“He’s not my patient,” the doctor from across the hall said. “I’ve been assigned as your liaison with his doctors.”

Brownell’s phone rang. It was Collins.

“I need some privacy, please,” Brownell said.

Dr. Horton took the two lawyers and the doctor from across the hall out into the hall.

“You were supposed to be home two hours ago,” Collins said.

“I’m still at the hospital,” Brownell said. “Something’s come up.”

There was a silence on the other end.

“It’s not serious,” Brownell said, “Well, it should be serious, but it isn’t. Or something… I’m sorting things out.”

“I want to come to the hospital,” Collins said. “I want to be there for you.”

“Can you just wait at home, please? I’ll be fine. I’m dealing with the hospital lawyer. Take a nap or something. Save your strength.”

Collins hung up without answering. Brownell cursed. She threw her plastic applesauce cup at the door to get the lawyers’ attention.

When the doctors and lawyers were back in the room, Johnson said, “How exactly does a hospital accidentally inject part of the sun into a patient? Where did you even get the material?”

The hospital lawyer coughed. “The company that owns the hospital also has an astrophysical research division. Some boxes got mixed up. The tube containing the sun-plasma looked strangely like the tubes we use to store human-plasma.”

“And the sun-plasma tube was somehow compatible with the medical equipment in this hospital?” Johnson said.

The hospital lawyer nodded. And coughed again.

“Seems like a wildly improbable sequence of events,” Johnson said.

The hospital lawyer nodded. “A completely freakish occurrence, which, statistically, has no chance of being repeated, especially now that it has happened once.”

“Twice,” the doctor from across the hall said.

“Twice,” the hospital lawyer said.

“Can you get this thing out of me, or not?” Brownell said.

“We’re working on it,” the hospital lawyer said. “We’ve moved 95% of the hospital’s supercomputing capacity over to the project.”

“We want that other five percent,” Johnson said.

“We need a fraction of capacity for critical patients. I can get you maybe three percent more.”

“Do it,” Johnson said.

The hospital lawyer made a call.

“Rest assured,” Dr. Horton said, “as soon as we can calculate a solution, we’ll get that errant plasma out of you and back to the sun, where it belongs.”

The hospital lawyer hung up the phone. “They say they’re actually getting pretty close.”

“I want the hospital,” Brownell said. Johnson nodded.

“Excuse me?!” Dr. Horton said.

“It’s a matter of scale,” Johnson said. “We’re talking about malpractice on an unprecedented level here. If we took you to court, we could easily be awarded more than the hospital’s value.”

“It’s ridiculous!” Dr. Horton spluttered.

“Let me remind you,” Johnson said, “that at this point, my client is still sitting in bed with a chunk of the sun circulating through her vascular system.”

“I’m here to take that out,” said a nurse in the doorway.

The procedure was painless.

“Excellent work,” Brownell said.

“Thank you,” the nurse said.

“Thank you,” the two doctors said.

“You two can stuff it up your asses,” Brownell said.

There was an uncomfortable silence.

“We’re waiting,” Johnson said.

“I’m going to need to make some calls,” the hospital lawyer said, heading for the door. “I’ll be back.”

When she got home, Brownell embraced Collins. They held each other for a while.

“Good news,” Brownell said, “I’m fine, and I’m now the proud owner of a hospital.”

“What?” Collins said.

Sunshine streamed in through the windows.

After some more hugging, Collins said. “Do they have cancer specialists there? Maybe I can finally start getting treatment…”

Brownell walked around, closing curtains. “I think I’d rather get you treated somewhere else, until I can make some changes.”


Defenestration-VikingJon Hakes has been writing fiction and other things since before he was potty-trained. His short stories have appeared in Brain Harvest and Analog Science Fiction & Fact. You can visit him at www.jonhakes.com, www.facebook.com/JonHakestheWriter, www.patreon.com/JonHakes, and/or twitter.com/HakesJon, if you don’t have anything better to do online.

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