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The tablets marked a sundial for disease

He used to live in an old Victorian house, the type of house hidden by trees, with sash windows and granite lintels and rainwater dripping iron stains down the brickwork. No-one ever knew he was there because he lived alone, behind the blinds. 

When he finally passed away his twin brother came and started to slowly sift through his things. The garden was wild with nettles and hid the bones of a car and the downstairs rooms were piled high with magazines. There were old newspaper clippings, journals, books and articles spilling out of drawers, boxes and bags.

He picked his way through the eviscerated trash and came across his brother’s snug. It was the only orderly room in the house and its walls were lined with mahogany cabinets. Behind their glass doors were thousands of pills, categorised according to size and shape, pills that had been prescribed over the years. A ledger recorded each section of the cabinet, he recognised the handwriting, it was just like his own, another quirk of being a twin.  

There were tablets here for blood pressure, lots of them, and tablets for the kidneys. There were tablets for sticky blood and fatty blood and sugary blood, and tablets to prevent stroke. He recognised all of them: he was on exactly the same medication. His own life could be weighed out in the same way, except he’d swallowed all of his drugs along with his doctor’s advice.  

The tablets marked the passage of time, the evolving illnesses and advancing age: a sundial for disease.

He was upset and kicked back a chair. Why had he not helped his brother more? He could have lived a longer life – twins were supposed to have a special bond after all. He felt his chest tightening and he tried to unscrew his own box of pills but they fell to the floor, the capsules scattered and rolled under the wooden cabinets. As his own life and colour drained his eyes became mirrors. Outside it was cold, so cold, a bird perched and pecked at the lintel before flying off.

Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Aberdeen.