Short story: “Nurse”

by look i have opinions

“Nurse,” by Thomas Kearnes

First appeared in issue #9 of Wicked Hollow (edited by Jon Hodges, now defunct) in November 2005; anthologized in True Dark (edited by Mark Anthony Crittenden, Red Skies Press, 2013); featured in Pseudopod episode 419, January 2nd, 2015

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(Several spoilers ahead.) Wonderfully unsettling. I love the small details: the narrator’s unwarranted resentment about being lied to, her open coat.

I listened to the end twice and I think the nurse did deliberately plant an overdose in the smoothie. The way she departs, the blender still whirring, makes me think that on some level she wants to get caught. She admits to envying Helen’s certainty; maybe she identifies, despite herself, with Helen’s self-destructive impulse.

Edited to add that I’m always pleased to see writers who work in both literary fiction and genre. This story has a literary subtlety that makes it work better as horror. I wish more literary fiction were so entertaining, and I wish more genre fiction were so beautifully written and multilayered.