Today we will be joined by Dr Charles Prinze and social worker Gloria Gilbert, both of whom work for an oddities and anomalies hospital. I'm not entirely certain what that is, so I am hoping to find out more in this interview.
The couple arrive, late and fairly breathless, to the cafe we are meeting at, still dressed for work. Dr Prinze is in his white lab coat and green scrubs trousers. He looks too young to be in charge of of an entire ward, despite his three day stubble and the hint of grey at his temples. Ms Gilbert is in head to toe blue scrubs, and she has several pens sticking out of her afro. I'm not sure if she is aware they are there or or if she has forgotten. Dr Prinze looks serious, tired, like he has just come off a night shift. Ms Gilbert is his opposite, bright smile and a bounce in her step like coming here is is the highlight of her day. I get the immediate impression that her smile is as much a part of uniform as her scrubs.
I have been pre-warned that their time with me is short today, so as soon as they sat down and coffee has been ordered, we dive straight in.
Tell me about your job?
Dr Charles Prinze: Well, we work in a very special hospital called-
Gloria Gilbert: Wait, are we allowed to say the name of the hospital?
Charles: You don't think we should?
Gloria: Best to err on the safe side, I'd say. You know what they're like.
Charles: I thought the rules had been relaxed for this interview?
Gloria: Well obviously. But still, we don't want to break any confidentiality rules or anything. Perhaps it's safest to say that we work in a hospital that deals with aliens, supernatural beings and other oddities and leave it at that.
Supernatural beings? Aliens?
Gloria: Oh yes. Take Malcolm for example. Lovely lad, more humane than any human I have ever met, but he definitely comes under the supernatural umbrella, being a were-fox and all.
Charles: And then there's the ETs. All aliens that want to seek political asylum on earth have to be quarantined first. It's our job to look after their health care and screen them for obvious signs of disease or parasites before they can move into the asylum centre.
Aliens seek asylum on earth?
Charles: All the time! Aliens that come from Earth-like planets can generally pass as human or as other animals and can integrate easily into our societies. Some aliens can't though, particularly gaseous aliens, and they have to settle permanently in bio - domes with purpose built atmospheres.
Gloria: That isn't really our area, we aren't politicians. We deal with their health care, including their mental health care. A lot of those people are fleeing unimaginable horrors, war zones, dying planets, all kinds of things.
Charles: Gloria is quite right, that isn't our area. We are straying into territory we don't have security clearance to discuss.
Fair enough. I'm not sure I have ever heard of a were-fox, can you tell me more about them?
Gloria: They aren't very common, as far as we'd know. They were hunted to near extinction in the early eighteenth century and few survived. We are working on finding the remaining wild ones now.
Charles: Don't panic though, they don't pose a danger to the public or anything.
Gloria: Oh yes, don't worry Honey. Like most wild creatures, they are far more afraid of you than you are of them. We are hoping to find them to preserve and learn about the species, and help them to integrate with their human sides more fully. Many were people are ostracised by their families and feel excluded from society. We hope to remedy that.
Charles: Inclusion is a big part of what we do.
I'm a bit thrown by this revelation, and I feel my interview is going a bit off track so I do my best to stick to my pre-prepared questions.
So how did you get into this line of work?
Charles: Well, everyone in our hospital was headhunted, even down to the cleaning staff and caterers. Our workplace requires a certain skillset not everyone has.
I was working in a private clinic when a man named Jones came and offered me the job. I thought he had mental health problems at first to be honest.
Gloria: I was the same. I was working as a social worker, helping out a young girl who turned out to be possessed. I think the fact that I took her seriously when she said there was a magical cause for her behaviour is what led Jones to me actually, although I don't know how he found me. It wasn't until he took me to the training academy that I realised he was being serious about the job offer.
Charles interrupts: You know I can't bear that word.
Gloria: Which word?
Charles: Magical. There's no such thing as magic, just science we don't understand yet.
Gloria: It's same thing.
Charles: It's not the same thing.
I can tell this is an argument the duo have had a lot of times before, so I decide to move things along.
That all sounds so interesting! So what's the best part of your job?
Charles: I think for me, the best part is the variety. When that klaxon goes off we never know what is going to come through the door. Will they be Alien, Supernatural or Other? Will they be happy to be here, or here against their will? Are they just passing or will they stay a while? Every day is different.
Gloria: I really like the human side of things. Everyone we encounter is struggling somehow, usually when we first meet our patients they are grappling with their identity, their place in society, challenges within their family unit. I like helping them come to terms with the changes they are facing and build their self esteem back up again.
Charles: And there is the small matter of getting to save the world every now and then. There's a certain amount of job satisfaction in that.
Gloria: That's a pretty big perk. The money is very good too.
That does sound like a dream job! Are there any downsides?
Gloria: Well, like Charles just said, we never know what's going to come through the door. We often have to make split second decisions that affect another person's life. That's a lot of pressure sometimes.
Charles: It can get a little lonely too. We aren't allowed to discuss work, as a rule. It would be nice to be able to vent after a long day but in our line of work that just isn't possible.
Gloria: Yes, we can be very bound by procedure in that way. Sometimes you'd rather use your own methods to help a patient out but your hands are tied. It can be frustrating.
Charles: Not that that always stops you. I've noticed you always seem to find a way to get your own way when it comes to patient care.
Gloria: Well most laws do have a loophole if you search long enough.
Charles: That's true. I can almost always find a way out of doing most of my paperwork to be honest.
Gloria: Yes, you usually dump it on me!
She gives him a playful shove on the arm and they both giggle. It's quite clear that as well well as being work mates, these two are good friends.
Working so closely with long term patients, you must build a relationship with some of them. Are there any inmates you feel closer to?
Charles: I tend to try and keep a professional distance from all of our patients, but you can't help but end up being friendly with people you work with every day for years. Doing my daily crossword with Porker, chatting to Croaker each day, keeping an eye on the phases of the moon for Malcolm - those things have become little highlights of my day.
Gloria: Yes, you become close with all of the long termers. You'd have to be made of stone not to. I have a slight soft spot for Malcolm. He is only young, and he has no family. He doesn't seem to mind, but I think he must be lonely. Foxes are solitary creatures, but teenagers aren't.
And what about your love life? Is there a special someone in your life?
Both Ms Gilbert and Dr Prinze seem uncomfortable with the question, shifting in their seats. Gloria seems intent on studying her nails and Charles appears suddenly fascinated by the carpet pattern, his face slowly turning a shade of fuschia.
Gloria: Well, work takes up an awful lot of time, you know. It can be hard to meet people in our line of work.
Charles: And like I said before, we aren't allowed to talk about how we spend our days, so it can be hard to be close with someone. Working in the hospital takes up a lot of our lives.
So what do you tell people you do if work comes up in conversation?
Gloria: I just say I'm doing social work. My mum knows that social work involves dealing with confidential information, so she tends not to ask too much. My sister is in a similar field, she works with an agency we work closely with, so I can be a a bit more relaxed with her.
Charles: We are told to say "I'm not at liberty to discuss my job". I find that makes people even more curious, they think you are a spy or something. I just say I'm a lab geek nowadays.
So what is next for the two of you? Do you have plans for the next few years?
Charles: I've worked my way up to a fairly high position in the hospital now, I'm in charge of one of our biggest wards. I think if I stop feeling challenged there I would consider a move into field work.
Gloria snorts, and shakes her head a little.
Gloria: I just can't quite picture you in the field is all. Getting your hands dirty isn't really your thing.
Charles: Are you saying I'm soft?
Gloria: Not at all! I've done field work though, remember? You do a good job at the hospital, I can't quite picture you in another setting is all.
Charles: What about you then, Miss I've Worked In The Field You Know? What will you be doing in five years?
Gloria: Still mopping up your disasters I should think, Honey!
But seriously, I like the hospital, it is just starting to feel like home. I'm in the process of becoming a fully qualified ET doctor, but I do enjoy social work. I'm hoping to improve our inclusion strategies within the hospital. A lot of our patients are at least partly human, but when they come to us, or just before anyhow, they have lose their old lives and their families. I would like to work on ways to make them feel more in touch with their human sides, reconnect with their families and start to feel included in society again. If-
Gloria is cut off then by the piercing shriek of her pager, just as Charles' starts wailing at the same time.
Charles: I'm ever so sorry but we are going to have to cut the interview short. We have a level 4 situation back at the the ward.
Gloria: I don't understand how they can possibly have let the imps escape again! We have four magic sigils on that door, and it was triple charm locked!
The pair rush out of the cafe and I watch through the window as they sprint across the street to their car, leaving me with more questions than I started with.
You can see Gloria and Charles in action in A Tale Of two Princes by Victoria Pearson. Some longer stories featuring Gloria and Charles are planned.
If you would like to keep up with Victoria Pearson's other books and stories you can:
check out out her website: victoriapearson.co.uk
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And you can read some of her flash fiction and poetry free on her blog: strangenotebook.blogspot.co.uk