For this interview, we’re finally getting a glimpse inside Ascar’s notorious Keep. However, we’re not going to see where the scientists work or where the evaluation of those with curses takes place. Nor do we visit the mysterious machinery in the basement or the blimp launching pad and bird coops on the roof.
No, today we’re visiting the second floor, which accommodates laboratories and the infirmary. My escort hustled me past a corridor with padlocked doors, muttering “Training and assessment rooms” when I asked him where it led. It seemed odd, since there aren’t that many scientists or medics working in the building that they’d need an entire wing for training and assessment. And why would the doors need secured? Declining to answer any further questions, he left me in the infirmary corridor.
The corridor smelled and sounded like any other hospital. Disinfectant, clanging noises, running water and so on. I was surprised to see pairs of guards in brown uniforms by each door. As I gather, they are essentially city police. Before I could say hello to them, the Chief Infirmier came out to speak with me. His name is Louis, and he looks nearly as old as the Keep. Only joking—it’s been standing for some three hundred years.
IC: Louis, thanks for speaking with me today. I’m very curious to learn what you do here. To start with, this isn’t Ascar’s main hospital, is it?
Louis: You’re quite right. This infirmary cares for injured guards as well as civilians who’ve suffered beast attacks. Other ill folk attend the clinic in the outer city.
IC: It seems odd to have such a mixture of patients here.
Louis (shrugs): That’s the way this place was set up, and it works well enough.
IC: Is that why there are guards outside the rooms? Other, er, places I’ve visited might have nursing attendants instead.
Louis: Some of our detainees—I mean patients—can be dangerous, and it can require physical rather than medical intervention. Of course it’s not their fault if they’re cursed, but we need to assure the safety of all.
IC: Uh, what happens to patients who are cursed?
Louis (peering over his glasses): People may be afflicted after they suffer a beast attack, but we deal with their physical injuries first. Stitch them up, make sure there’s no infection, sometimes more major chirurgery if it’s a particularly bad wound.
IC: And after their physical injuries heal?
Louis: Unfortunately, if they manifest signs of being cursed, they must be detained upstairs permanently. The curse is incurable, and we can’t risk them causing further damage when they succumb to its effects.
IC: Oh, that’s sad.
IC: That said, I hear that people do occasionally recover.
Louis (takes off glasses and polishes them): It’s true we sometimes send patients upstairs by mistake, and they turn out not to be cursed after further testing. The thinking is that some beast attack victims might throw off the effects of the curse. Personally, I think it’s more likely that they were never cursed in the first place. Medicine isn’t completely a science. There’s an art and an element of judgement to it as well.
IC: I see. Thank you for your time.
I must say, I was quite relieved to escape the Keep. Nobody was overtly unfriendly, but I had a feeling of being observed. And a sense that if I did the wrong thing, I might not get out again.