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Everyone living on the surface had been told to wear them, so he put on his thick tinted sunglasses and made his way purposefully across the forecourt. It was only seven in the morning but the heat was stifling, and the sun, red and heavy in the sky, beat down on his neck and shoulders.  

As the doors slid open he made his way into the lobby where the man-made air was as cool and as smooth as the corporate marble. It was quiet except for a screen which played the company’s advert over and over.

‘We offer instant access to expert medical opinion, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For peace of mind for you and your family why not join Open Access today and begin your free thirty-day trial? Terms and conditions apply.’ 

He’d set up Open Access over a year ago and had marketed it as a workable solution for society’s demands. The Government was delighted and patients couldn’t be happier.

At the click of a button or the swipe of a screen they could instantly access a medical opinion at any time of day or night. Nobody knew how he’d managed to do it but the results spoke for themselves.

But then things started to go wrong. At first the replies became a little strange, a little wayward and in the night he’d received a call to say that they’d stopped altogether.

He made his way down a short flight of stairs and swiped into a small room which sat directly under the lobby. This is where it all happened, this is where all the decisions were made.

In the middle of the room was a tank filled with glaucous fluid, its sides curved up to the roof and it glowed with coppery light. As he drew closer he expected to see the quick movement of limbs, but there was nothing.

She was dying, he could tell, and as her body listed to one side he could see the wiring which had connected her to the machine. She was his first volunteer, a doctor brave enough to donate her body to the continuous and relentless demands of her patients. She’d revolutionised medicine and now drifted lifelessly in the dim confines of the chamber.

Patients’ emails and questions poured in, eagerly queuing to be answered, but in the faint amber light he switched off the machine. Her eyes, exhausted and distant, gently closed. 

Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Aberdeen.