Polly’s mother lay small and still underneath the covers of the bed. The bedroom was dark and stuffy and smelled of mold. Aside from the ticking of an old clock, the only other sound was her mother’s wheezing breaths. Beside her stood the old village doctor, taking the elderly woman’s pulse. Polly tried hard to control her tears.
With a smile, the doctor patted the sick woman’s hand and said some pointless words of comfort. With a nod of his head, he indicated to Polly he wanted to talk to her outside in the hall.
Sniffling, Polly followed the old man and when the doctor had closed the bedroom door behind them, he turned to face Polly, his smile replaced by a grim expression.
“My mother…” Polly whimpered. “Is she going to be well again?”
The doctor shook his head with a frown. “I’m so sorry, my dear. I fear I can give you no hope.”
Polly forced back the tears and tried to bring some semblance of control to her voice. “What…what is Mother suffering from? She was fine yesterday, but now…” Polly’s voice crumbled into muffled sobs.
The doctor put his hand on Polly’s shoulder and she could see the deep compassion in the old man’s rheumy eyes. “It’s the worst disease in the world,” he said. “One I see quite often.”
“What is it?” Polly whispered.
The doctor sadly shook his head. "Your mother is dying from a bad case of Plot Device.”
Polly froze. “Wait… what? Plot Device?”
“Yes,” the doctor nodded sagely. “I see it often. Hack writers are the usual carriers and be glad. It could have been worse.”
“Oh, yes. She could have been eaten by ogres, carried off by bandits, or simply vanished in the woods. Sadly, regardless of what form it takes, Plot Device is 100% fatal.”
Polly’s body was racked with fresh sobs. “But what happens to me?”
The doctor sighed as he gathered his thoughts. “Depends. I suspect your life is going to get far, far worse, but don’t worry. Most times it all works out in the end. I suspect you’ll end up marrying somebody nice and wealthy.”
From behind the close door, they heard Polly’s mother cry out. “Ferd! Ferd! I’m coming home to you, Ferd!”
The doctor winced. “Oh, heavens. This author’s more of a hack than I thought.”
“I’m coming to the light, Ferd!”
The doctor rolled his eyes.
“I hear angels, Ferd!”
“Just kill the poor woman already!” the doctor shouted to the empty air.
From behind the door came a death rattle and then silence.
There was a loud knock on the front door.
“Open up, Miss Purity! It’s your landlord! I’ve come for the rent!”
The doctor checked his pocket watch. “Yup. Right on time. Such a hack.” The doctor put his hand on Polly’s shoulder. “I’m grateful I’m not in this story any longer. You’ll be homeless now, but just don’t lose hope.” He took his hat from the hook on the wall and put it on. “In about two hundred pages, everything will be just peaches and cream.”
(Two hundred pages later.)
Nurse Polly Purity stood over the hospital bed of her fiancé, Edward Manly, knowing he would be well. A plague of Plot Device had wiped out their entire village, but the worst had passed and Edward would live. Everything was going to be just peaches and cream.
Unless, of course, that idiot writer decided to create a sequel.