Andrew looked at the clock again.  Barely a minute had ticked past.  It felt like hours.  He glanced at the people around him.  The young girl sitting on the end of the row looked tired.  She was flipping through a magazine, stopping on each page for only a few seconds before she moved on.  She tucked her long dark hair behind her ear and glanced at the clock.  He wondered why she was here.

The man opposite him shifted his considerable weight.  He coughed, a hacking, wet sound, and crossed his legs.  Three seats over, an older lady with carefully curled grey hair and an expensive looking broach leant away slightly, as if afraid she would catch something.  Maybe she would.  A baby whimpered, and was swiftly comforted.

The clock ticking was surprisingly loud.  It echoed in Andrew’s head, ever present, like the hum of air conditioning.  Always there, but seldom thought about.  Cloth scraping over cloth and the faint flick of magazine pages turning filled the room.  Nobody spoke.

Suddenly the intercom crackled.  The whole room froze.

“Emma Harford, please go to room 1, that’s Emma Harford to room 1.”

The older lady stood up and gathered her coat from the seat next to her.  She shuffled off slowly.  Her forehead was pulled down into a slight frown.  The rest of the room settled back into their chairs.  Cloth scraping over cloth and the faint flick of magazine pages turning filled the room.  Nobody spoke.

Andrew looked at the clock again.  Barely a minute had ticked past.  It felt like hours.  He reached forward to the small table and pushed the magazines around, looking for one that interested him.  Fly fishing.  Racing cars.  Heat.  Some lurid teen thing that he had to concentrate to find the name on.  He sighed and leant back in his seat.

The man opposite him looked up at the sound and shifted his considerable weight.  Three seats over, an elderly aristocratic gentleman was looking lost.

The young mother laid the baby over her shoulder and got up.  She moved quickly, almost furtively, as if she was ashamed to be moving at all.  She rifled through the magazines, pulled out one and sat down again.  She had a large red stain on her leg, fresh blood.  Andrew thought it was odd that the wound wasn’t bothering her.

The man opposite Andrew coughed, a hacking, wet sound.  It seemed to go on for hours.  The young girl on the end of the row tucked her long dark hair behind her ear and glanced at the clock.  Andrew followed her gaze.  Barely a minute had ticked past.

Some time back, Andrew’s head had begun to pound.  He wasn’t sure when it had started, or when he first noticed it.  Suddenly he was very aware of the pain.  He closed his eyes and tried to relax his shoulders and neck.  Soon the ticking of the clock and the rustling of paper grew to fill his skull, echoing back and forth.  He opened his eyes again.  The tired young girl on the end was looking at him.  She blushed and looked back at her magazine.  Nobody spoke.

There was something wet on his head.  He could feel it crawling down between the hairs, slowly, so slowly moving towards his neck.  He reached up and touched it.  His hand came away red.

He looked at the clock again.  Barely a minute had passed.  It felt like hours.

Is this hell?

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