"Anmia, I don't need this," I groaned, before the nurse clasped my jaw and forced my mouth open. She shone her torch around my blackened uvula and tonsils.
"Just sit still," she said, and her voice was uncharacteristically stern. "My grandfather worked in the mines, and he only lived to be 542."
"Your grandfather was 542?" I asked, once the nurse had pulled her grip from my jaw. The nurse then began shining the torch under my gills. Her touch made me react, and I coughed violently.
"I 'aven't barely touched 'em," she growled, ferociously, shoving her fingers back into my neck.
I tried to hold back another coughing fit as a rasped out the words, "Didn't your grandfather own a shady clap shop?"
"Clapping is a noble work in the lower sectors," Amnia said, "and he never got flak for it."
The nurse stepped back and put her hands on her hips.
"I hate to break it to you, but your gills looks like the stuff they feed prisoners."
"What do you want me to do about it?" I asked.
The nurse held out a short metal cylinder with a red button on one end and a small hole on the other. She held it up to her own gills, pressing the red button. The end with the hole glowed for a second, then flashed orange.
"Respirer. On both gills, once a day."
"What?" I scoffed. "For how long?"
"For the rest of your life, hun. You're not going live for much longer with gills like that. Come on."
She tossed the respirer onto my lap and beckoned my towards the door, where a young man with a bloody napkin wrapped around his left hand stood.
"She was kidding, right? Anmia, I'm not good with commitment," I held the respirer towards Anmia as I chased her down the hall.
We stood beside the grand windows, which gave us a view of the space outside: There was nothing but darkness. So much darkness, that on a normal day, our eyes couldn't cope with the sense of pure loneliness.