Hello, Book Dragons! Today I would like to welcome you all on my stop of the Blog Tour for The Waiting Rooms By Eve Smith and I would like to share an exclusive extract from the book, with all of you. Thank you very much to Anne from Random Things Tours for the invitation. Please do show some love to all the wonderful book bloggers on this blog tour by following and sharing their work. 🙂
Publisher: Orenda Books
Release date: 09 07 2020
Price*: Kindle £3.99 (GBP)/ Paperback £7.91 (GBP)
Kindle $7.99 (USD)/ Paperback $15.95 (USD)
Pages: ~ 320
You can get this book here:
Description of the book: Decades of spiralling drug resistance have unleashed a global antibiotic crisis. Ordinary infections are untreatable, and a scratch from a pet can kill. A sacrifice is required to keep the majority safe: no one over seventy is allowed new antibiotics. The elderly are sent to hospitals nicknamed ‘The Waiting Rooms’ … hospitals where no one ever gets well.
Twenty years after the crisis takes hold, Kate begins a search for her birth mother, armed only with her name and her age. As Kate unearths disturbing facts about her mother’s past, she puts her family in danger and risks losing everything. Because Kate is not the only secret that her mother is hiding. Someone else is looking for her, too.
Sweeping from an all-too-real modern Britain to a pre-crisis South Africa, The Waiting Rooms is epic in scope, richly populated with unforgettable characters, and a tense, haunting vision of a future that is only a few mutations away.
My stomach churns. It’s a Pavlovian response; it happens every time I look at my calendar.
Those white paper squares are like a game of Sudoku. Each day has a number at the bottom written in the same black felt-tip pen: the one with a rubber tube around its middle, like those used by infants who are struggling to write.
Forty-eight days until my birthday. The big seven-o.
This is no childish anticipation. Quite the opposite. Cut-off. That’s the expression they like to use.
Rolls off the tongue a bit quicker than ‘no longer eligible for treatment’. Elaine used to say that if octogenarians were a classified species they’d be almost extinct. Poor Elaine. She never made eighty. It started with a common cold, and the next thing, she’d got pneumonia.‘Old man’s friend’, wasn’t that what they used to call it? Or, in her case, old woman’s. I suppose there are worse ways to go. But I miss her. She was the closest thing I had to a friend here. She was the only one who ever got the joke.
‘You’re dead right, Lily,’ she said to me one afternoon, as she contemplated my rows of little white squares. ‘Our days are most definitely numbered.’
I press the pen back into its clip, slip my wrists into the clamps and wheel my frame out in front of me. I slide my right foot forward, my left foot, and stop. I repeat this pattern, again, and again, edging along the carpet. It’s an effort, even at this woeful pace, and I can feel the damp spreading under my arms. Eleven shuffles and I make it to the door. I raise my wrist and the sensor flashes. The lock thuds across. Freedom.
I head left, getting into my own slow rhythm: push, shuffle, push, shuffle. Before my cartilage started crumbling I rushed everywhere. I never walked, I marched. It took some adjusting. At first I ignored it, pushed on, despite the pain. I took a few falls. But now I’ve had to accept my limitations. If I have another break, they won’t operate: I’m too close to cut-off. And I’ve seen what can happen, even with minor fractures. Bone infections are bad. They don’t go away. Not without treatment.
A wall dispenser puffs out a chemical waft of jasmine. It doesn’t disguise the acrid stench of disinfectant. I glance at then ameplates as I move past: Dr Elizabeth Miles (Edin).Dr Bill Jackson (Camb).I don’t know why they bother putting up your letters. Must be some marketing gimmick. Professor HarrietWeatherly (Oxf ). I knew her: medical sciences, I think. A real pioneer in oncology. Now she’s got Alzheimer’s. See what becomes of these once-great minds? They’re either losing their marbles, or trapped in failing bodies, like mine. None of our knowledge can save us now.
I hear someone coming up fast behind me.
‘Off for a stroll, Lily?’
It’s only Anne, in a hurry, as usual. She’s a good one, Anne; I could have done a lot worse.
Carers must be a bit like keyworkers at nursery. You get a bad one, you might not live to regret it.
‘That’s right,’ I say. ‘Fancied a bit of fresh air.
’She cocks her head to one side like a bird. ‘What about the grand quiz? Aren’t they about to start?’ Her eyebrows arch.
‘Thought you liked testing the old grey matter?
’I pause just long enough. ‘I do.
’She shakes her head, but I see the crease of a smile as she turns. My rebellion, as always, is subtle: it has to be. But Anne can take it. And sometimes, it’s a relief to be me.
The eye of a camera swivels round above me and back again. I’ve reached Auden. Everything is green here, like the Emerald City. The colours are supposed to help us, in case we get confused. Betjeman is Tuscan orange, Donne is rose pink, and my dorm, Carroll, is jaundice yellow. The San’s plain white, so I’ve been told. That’s where we all end up, eventually.
I press on, battling hot spikes of pain in my fingers. It maybe a little further, but Auden has my favourite garden. It’s south-facing, and there’s a bench tucked away in an arbour next to a Boscobel rose bush that gives out the most glorious scent. I stare at the lurid green walls and think of those little pastel strips they used to have, to test your urine. As if we need reminding. I remember when it used to be heart disease or cancer. Now, for women my age, there’s a new number one: UTIs. The infection passes into your blood and knocks out your organs. I’ve taken to drinking cranberry juice. I’m surprised my pee isn’t pink, the amount I put away.
I slump over my frame and flash my wrist. The lock releases and the doors swing open. They tell us all this security is for our own safety, to stop the bad guys getting in. But we know better.
I wheel onto the ramp, digging my frame into the grooves. A warm breeze blows the white wisps of hair around my head like a dandelion clock. I edge along the path, pausing to admire a white gardenia. Mauve and indigo asters nestle amongst feathered daisies; hollyhocks tower over lupins that peppered with bees. Nature continues, despite all. It’s a comforting thought.
I pause by a clump of lavender. My knotted fingers sneak around a stem and claw a few buds loose. We’re not supposed to touch the plants but flowers don’t frighten me. In any case, they’ve all been neutered: genetic variants with no spikes or thorns. I lift the lavender to my nose, and a childhood memory sparks: Grandmother’s furrowed hands, flour and aprons. Sanctuary.
I tuck the lavender into my pocket and gear myself up for the final sprint.
As I lift my frame I hear the crunch of tyres on gravel. I freeze. The other side of that fence is what my grandmother used to call the tradesmen’s entrance, round the back. These days it’s a different kind of trade.
One door slams, and another. I hear talking. Sounds like male voices, but they’re muffled, indistinct. Another door opens and something slides out. My stomach clenches. I flip back to yesterday and run through the faces, using my mnemonic to work my way around the room. It can’t be anyone from Carroll. They were all there. Weren’t they? My hips protest, but I push on, past the arbour, and stab my frame into the lawn.
Footsteps march up the drive and stop. I try to hurry, but my feet keep catching on the grass. I rest a moment, conscious of my heart hammering beneath my patch. It’s about the only thing we’re good for, generating data; there must be terabytes of it, streaming through the ether. As soon as your profile wavers, they send in the heavies. But data has its limits.
I reach the fence. I take my arms out of the clamps and squash my face up against the fake willow mesh that covers the bars. I’m only just in time.
Two men emerge from the San with a stretcher; they’re all suited up in coveralls, masks and goggles. A still body liess trapped under the regulation grey blanket. They head towards the ambulance. I say ambulance, but it’s more of a taxi: most of the equipment has been removed.
As they come closer, a paleface I don’t recognise lolls towards me and stares with glassy eyes.
My heart flutters in my chest like a trapped bird.
The men slide the stretcher into the back, secure it and slam the doors. As they amble back round, one of them starts to whistle. I squeeze my frame so hard that my knuckle bones stick out, a chalky white beneath my skin.
Dr Barrows appears, wearing her trademark white suit and black boots. She takes off her mask and I feel an absurd rush of hope.
‘Stage two: severe sepsis,’ she barks at them. ‘I’ve administered a sedative.’ She hands one of the men a small black screen.
‘Another day-tripper, then,’ he mutters. He scribbles something and hands it back.
’They’ll come up when you scan her.’
Both men hop into the front. They drive off, small cuts of gravel flying out behind. The rear windows of the ambulance gaze back at me like skeletal sockets absent of their eyes.
I say the words in my head like a prayer:
I hope Dr Barrows pumped her full of Valium.
I hope she reaches stage three. I hope her heart gives out before she arrives.
I want to turn and run, run like I used to, the wind screaming past my ears. But instead I push myself up, hook my wrists into the clamps and shuffle back to the path.
When I reach the arbour I do not stop. And I do not smell the roses.
About the author: Eve Smith’s debut novel The Waiting Rooms was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize First Novel Award. Eve writes speculative fiction, mainly about the things that scare her. She attributes her love of all things dark and dystopian to a childhood watching Tales of the Unexpected and black-and-white Edgar Allen Poe double bills. Eve’s flash fiction has been shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award and highly commended for The Brighton Prize.
In this world of questionable facts, stats and news, she believes storytelling is more important than ever to engage people in real-life issues. Eve recently contributed a piece of flash fiction, Belting Up, to an anthology of crime shorts called Noir From the Bar. The collection of stories has been launched to raise money for the NHS.
Eve’s previous job as COO of an environmental charity took her to research projects across Asia, Africa and the Americas, and she has an ongoing passion for wild creatures, wild science and far-flung places. A Modern Languages graduate from Oxford, she returned to Oxfordshire fifteen years ago to set up home with her husband.
When she’s not writing, she’s chasing across fields after her dog, attempting to organise herself and her family or off exploring somewhere new.
Website: http://www.evesmithauthor.com / Twitter: @evecsmith / Instagram: evesmithauthor
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