Ackley had hoped for a few, perhaps final, weeks of peace after being acquitted of her terrorism charges by the Department of Departments. Instead she discovered that children’s hospitals had a domineering attitude toward the terminally ill patients housed within them, and especially so if they had been on television for a high profile investigation.
For a few days, Ackley had come close to stardom. During the investigation of Agent Winchester, various people realized her existence and had come to shine very bright uncomfortable lights on her and stick a hydra-like assortment of microphones and cables very close to her face, forcing her to button up her shirts all the way, redo her messy, long pigtails and keep herself seated upright, a titanic effort after years of slouching. There was a barrage of questions. A Hound News reporter asked her why she hated Amera, and she explained a few facts, such as the prison population as a form of neo-slavery, which were ignored. A GNN reporter wondered how sad and miserable her existence was, to which she responded with indifference. A tabloid reporter who climbed up the side of the hospital and broke through her window with a pair claws asked if Ackley’s disease was real, to which she replied that it was by screaming for help, and in this act, coughing some liquid nitrogen on his face.
“You’re a sensation Ackley!” The Nurse had gleefully told her. She had come in one day with a mischievous expression and passed her smartphone to Ackley, where she discovered various memetic Memetube videos featuring her likeness and sound bites, taken from the news. Many auto-tuned her voice and looped footage of her blank and diffident mannerisms while a plethora of flashing, colorful light filters endangered the epileptics in the audience.
“what the fuq name for a girl is Ackely,” Ackley said, reading the top comment on a video.
“Oh don’t fret, they don’t mean any harm by it.” The Nurse had said.
“Is this what it feels like, to be ‘trolled’.” Ackley asked.
“I suppose so. I have never been trolled. But I am young still, so there will be time.” The Nurse gazed admiringly into space, as though relishing the thought of being trolled, on the internet.
Ackley on the other hand felt very little in the way of stimuli, negative or positive, as she read the various Ragedit threads where she’d been lovingly rendered in Rage comics. It was difficult to feel things when her lungs, and a few other organs, might be freezing over soon. Or at least, that was her perspective on it. However, in her limited emotional range Ackley did manage to hold a bit of contempt for the memetic process, and tried her best to ignore it. Surely, she was not becoming a sensation. Just the source of a few laughs, for a few reprobates. She resolved to pursue her bucket list in peace.
However, over the next few weeks, The Nurse grew ever more motherly toward Ackley.
“Ackley, I fear that you may be growing antisocial.”
The Nurse hovered over Ackley’s bed with a look of most grievous concern.
“That is fine. I’m not altogether sure I like society.” Ackley replied.
“That is exactly what I feared. Our little shining star needs to cheer up.”
Ackley shuddered. “To whom do you refer by ‘our’, and to what do you refer to by ‘star’?”
“Well, the children’s hospital has received a lot of donations and attention from people concerned about you. I believe that it is my duty as your Nurse, and the hospital’s duty to the donors who love and cherish you, to insure you have a fulfilling life here. It would not do for Epic D– I mean, you, Ackley, to be miserable here.”
“What were you about to say there?” Ackley asked sharply.
“Nothing!” The Nurse waved her hands. “Are you sad, Ackley? You are always so blank and pale. I’ve never seen you frown, but I’ve also never seen you smile. You’re always so deadpan.”
“I don’t feel anything right now other than mild annoyance.”
“Do you think maybe some antidepressants would cheer you up?” The Nurse pulled out a tube from her pocket and shook it like a maraca in front of Ackley’s face, smiling pleasantly at the offered temptations. Inside the tube were bright, colored bubblegum orbs laced with children’s antidepressants. “They come in yummy flavors!”
“I have the best antidepressant already, Nurse. Your presence.” Ackley said.
The Nurse’s face turned very red, and she shied away from Ackley. “Oh, Ackley!”
Ackley produced her bucket list from under her pillow and marked off an item.
“That was sarcasm.” She then declared. But the Nurse was too lost in her own elation.
The world seemed to grow ever more interested in her. A Child Psychologist on staff came and asked her questions, such as whether she loved Amera and whether it was okay for this information to be divulged to the Department of Departments. Ackley attempted to explain the failure of austerity politics and the growth of privatization of services as a means to syphon wealth and benefits from lower-income persons to the rich, but the Psychologist told her she was silly and did not have a college degree, so she should not speak about such things. After his departure, a Child Biochemist wandered in the next day and examined the machine cycling the nitrogen out of her body. He drew a sample from its nitrogen pack, examined it, and tasted it, and collapsed, screaming and thrashing, bleeding from his nose, and prompting more staff to invade the room and rush the man to an adult hospital before his throat froze. A Child Calendar Photographer then appeared and took various images of Ackley for a fundraising calendar. Then Ackley hid permanently under her blankets.
“Ackley, you’re being unreasonable now.” The Nurse said.
“I’m not coming out.” Ackley said, covered in her blankets like a ghost. “I can’t even imagine who is next. A Child Economist from the staff will come debate me about my austerity comments? A Child Zoologist will burst from the aether and declare me a new species of homynid before eating some of my pocket lint and dying? I’m done with you all.”
“I apologize about the photographer.” The Nurse said. “I thought that was a little creepy.”
“Your capacity to undertake social analysis is simply monumental.”
“Why, thank you!”
Ackley grit her teeth and clenched her fists. “That, too, was sarcasm.”
“I have some visitors for you, however! They’re friends of mine from the website Ragedit!”
“Oh, please no.”
From inside her blanket and pillow armor, Ackley heard the tramping of boots, and the shifting of body mass into the cramped doorway, and clicking of smartphone cameras. She heard belabored breathing and strange, alien chuckling, barely contained.
“Is that her? Is that Le Epic Deadpan Girl?” They asked.
“Please don’t call her that.” The Nurse pleaded. “Call her Ackley Hermes.”
“I’m issuing a vote of no confidence in you, Nurse.” Ackley said, bundling herself tighter.