He stood in the hallway having stolen away from his cubicle. The doctor leaving the resus bay recognised him as the man from cubicle 23 awaiting a psychiatric review. The doctor altered course so that their paths would intersect.
The man’s eyes were a cold blue deeply set above a bedraggled beard. Scarred knuckles at the ends of tattooed arms hung from a bare torso that bore the stigmata of a lifetime of violence – teeth marks, cigarette burns and various healed gashes and punctures. In another time he might have been seen leaping from a longboat onto frozen foreign sands or gnawing on a shield in a berserker frenzy.
The doctor had come to a stand little more than two arm-breadths away from the lost Viking. The doctor gently smiled, “Hey there, where are you off to?”
The Viking responded, “I want a cup of tea.”
The Doctor was calm, “OK then, how ’bout you wait in your cubicle and I’ll bring you a cup of tea.”
“I don’t want to go to the cubicle, I want to get a cup of tea.”
The doctor nodded in understanding, but explained how things were going to be, “Look. I’m sorry but you can’t wander around the Emergency Department. I can bring you a cup of tea, but you have to wait for it in your cubicle.”
The two men still stood face to face. Although the doctor was no Norseman, his body spoke with a non-negotiable force. The Viking sensed this and understood,”OK, I will wait for a cup of tea.”
But as he dropped his shoulder to turn towards his cubicle he reached across and quickly pressed the doctor’s wrist between his own thumb and forefinger. As he did this he gutturally announced, “‘The Mark of the Beast’ is upon you!”.
The doctor stood in quiet thought for a few seconds as the Viking strode away.
“Hang on… You’re not having a cup of tea until you remove ‘The Mark of the Beast’…”