There are thirteen people in the hospital ward. All display inconceivable blemishes and monstrous deformations; slaves all to rare illnesses, condemned to a life of suffering. They have been living here for some time, most likely will never leave.
There are no letters, presents, or visits for them; that’s the way it is. Still, the outside world does not entirely forget them. From time to time they think of these victims of vile crimes and terrible injustices living in a state of fear and feverish insomnia. Atoning for their guilt. Having abandoned the human condition and accepting without struggle their part in the arrogant lineage of monsters, they are trapped, as if in a magic circle.
Yet to be a creature of fantasy, of almost mythic origin and to be, by some devious order, chained to a bed, or a tripod, or an IV bag, while daily receiving the respect and understanding of one’s equals, is not so intolerable. It is easier to accept than being a lunatic or leper or beggar, or object of normal people’s sickening pity and unconcealed fear. Better than being a starving petty thief at the mercy of justice. Or depending on the doubtful goodness of religious fanatics and virtuous women, or incompetent governments bent on protecting outcasts of the human herd.
They are really isolated, these thirteen. Safe in a warm world of their own where, though tormented by their suffering, they still experience the strength of sure love, transparent and unchanging, bound by generous friendship tighter than knots, without shameful envy, fear, or tearful jealousy.
All the men are a little smitten by Ada the Needle. She has no hair, and her translucent skin clings tightly to her bones; but her