IT KEEPS US WARM

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Sarah and her friend Paula found him lying in a gutter one Saturday night. He was extraordinarily pale. Not a down-and-out: a brown corduroy suit, thick hiking socks, spats, a muffler, gauntlets, gloves, a balaclava, a Sherlock Holmes cap with the ear-flaps down. All this was rather warm for July. They tried to rouse him, tried to get him to talk. “I’m cold, I’m cold”, he said.

They called the ambulance and in time it came. Only one person could accompany him, and so Sarah climbed aboard, leaving Paula rather forlorn on the pavement. She watched the paramedics at their tasks: temperature, heart, blood pressure. They were frowning rather. One of them shook the thermometer - “that can’t be right” - and the other squeezed the blood pressure monitor, as it seemed to be malfunctioning. The stranger’s heart was beating at the rate of once a minute.

When they got to A&E, Sarah was asked to wait outside the cubicle. She was soon joined by Paula, who had run all the way to the hospital: she was a girl who was hungry for excitement. A nurse asked if they knew him: why was he wearing hand-knitted underwear, why was there no ID, why did he have six fingers on each hand, why did he have a tail, why were his feet webbed, why was he wearing a wig? They were admitted into the cubicle to see if he responded to their voices. When they bellowed “hullo, stranger!” into his ear, he seemed to flinch a little, and opened his eyes. The whites and the irises were silver. When he opened his mouth a little, his teeth were silver too.

He was indeed very cold, and the medical staff wrapped him in blankets and foil, but to no avail. Finally they decided to try a blood transfusion. After a while they all agreed that as he had had two pints, they could test his levels. There was no improvement, and so they tried again. And again. And again. He had the full eight pints. And then Sarah noticed something odd. Every orifice started to ooze liquid silver. He cried silver tears. Silver snot cascaded from his nose. His ears grew their own silver earrings. Silver peas clattered from his mouth onto the floor. Paula (ever the down-to-earth one) said; “for God’s sake, Sarah! Will his sperm be silver too?” Perhaps this was a kind of alchemy that Sarah had not heard of.

He sat up, dislodged the ECG stickers, and pulled out the drips. He swung his legs off the bed, and walked stark naked from the room. As he turned his back, the girls could study the little tail. It was pert, tufty, and wagged a little. He strode down the corridor, leaking silver as he went. Sarah bent down and touched one of the little silver pools. It was warm. He had been able to transmute the blood into silver, and make it hot.

All of a sudden Sarah knew that she would never get another chance like this. Paula hung back: but Sarah rushed after the stranger, hoping that he would explain things to her. She wanted to be cold, she wanted to be able to change blood into silver, she wanted eyes that saw everything and reflected nothing. She ran down the hospital steps after him, looking and feeling rather like Marilyn at the end of Some Like It Hot: “Cooee! Wait for Sarah!”