Webcomic / Awful Hospital

How horrible can a hospital be?

"Back in the hall, you take a moment to reflect on what you've been through so far. You woke up mere moments ago in a strange place, full of strange things. Some of them want to hurt you, but they don't even sound like they're aware of it. Other things, apparently, are on your side. It feels too real to be a delusion, but it doesn't feel like the "right kind" of real. You can worry about what planet you're on later, though; some of the things here may or may not have taken your child from you and are going to do who the hell knows what in the name of some crackpot mockery of medicine."

"You're here because you deserve to be here.
It is a hospital.
And you are a very sick individual."
Jay's Journal

"Totally not a ripoff of way better things!"

Awful Hospital (also known as Awful Hospital: Seriously the Worst Ever) is an incredibly grotesque interactive surreal horror comedy webcomic created by web cartoonist and biology nut Jonathan Wojcik (also known as Bogleech or Scythemantis) of Bogleech.com fame. The webcomic first started in August 1st, 2014.

A woman's infant son inexplicably ends up with a terrible, unknown disease, and his unexplainable illness has gotten progressively worse no matter what she tried. After her latest desperate attempt at saving her baby, the woman suddenly awakens in a mysterious, twisted and apparently interdimensional hospital of nightmarishly cartoonish design, with the child nowhere to be found. Heading this hospital is the dangerously inept, insufferably egotistical and terribly hammy Dr. H.M. Phage, T.E., a giant talking virus in a multicolored bow-tie. With only the aid of countless disconnected voices running in the back of her mind, she must face insane monster doctors, the impossible physics of the hospital, and sentient, talking body parts who spout terrible puns in her desperate search for her child's whereabouts, and uncover the truths about something that has not only been attempting to overtake the entire hospital, but could also pose a serious threat to all of existence in the process.

Awful Hospital is ongoing and updated often. Similar to MS Paint Adventures and other Interactive Comics, the comic takes on a vertical panel format with descriptive text and dialogue from the characters appearing below, and viewers can use the comment section below to make suggestions not just for what the main character does, but what she can say to other characters as well - this manifests In-Universe as many disconnected voices she's been hearing since she woke up in the Hospital.

It can be read from the start here. Updates can be followed via Dr. Phage's twitter feed here.

It's worth noting that Awful Hospital's spawned several fancomics, Strange School, Sordid Zoo, and Bad Lab, and a text-based "fan adventure", The Watchtower.

Awful Hospital provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Hospital: Subverted — the Hospital in question appears to be abandoned at first due to how dirty and disused everything looks, but once Dr. Phage shows up it's clear that the hospital does have a working staff.
  • Adult Fear: Fern's child has a progressively worsening illness, and is being kept away from her in a shady hospital.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Crash's final moments tug on the heartstrings a bit.
  • Alien Geometries: During the conversation with Nobody Nose and later with Depressed Spleen, it's implied that The Hospital exists in another dimension separate from ours, and that the building is all that exists within its own dimension.
    • At least part of the hospital walls are surrounded by a fleshy mass that forms into a tunnel highly implied to be a giant urethra.
    • It appears that, overall, the hospital setting is a distinct place floating in an endless black void that is populated by at least hundreds of gargantuan Eldritch Abominations. According to Bogleech, this is The Abyss, the area between Zones.
  • All Just a Dream: Denied by Word of God.
    Commentator: I have a feeling that all this is either a coma/fever dream, or some kind of Silent Hill hallucination.
    Bogleech: Nope! As fun as fan speculation is I am willing to confirm this early that this is all really happening.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: The Grey Zone is definitely the "Rudolph" of the entire rainbow of Zones. The nicest non-Greys tend to regard the Grey Zone with the kind of patronizing magnanimity reserved for simpleminded imbeciles. The meanest want the Grey destroyed like a derelict building.
    Willis: I did hearda guy say it would be better if the whole zone would just unexist but... Mister Phage says "all of the zones matter! Probably! They might!"
  • Amazing Technicolor Battlefield: When fighting the Glumdroodler.
  • Ambiguously Evil: pretty much everyone and everything save for Fern. And Staph and Maggie.
    • The medical staff is just trying to do its job, but we still don't know why they're keeping Fern in the Hospital. Phage, however, seems Obliviously Evil thanks to his inflated ego, general incompetence, and his position as head of the Hospital.
    • The Mother Pissrock Is A Mommy, but is also pretty violent about this.
    • Dr. Man's alignment was debated from the very moment he appeared, thanks to seemingly being a human in a land of alien creatures.
    • Harmburger is pretty affable... when not "at work", that is.
    • In some cases, the voices of the players themselves. Some are legitimately trying to help the protagonist survive, but others are just trying to get her to fulfill their desires.
  • Animate Body Parts: The Hospital is full of them.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: The Hospital are full of these as well. Lampshaded by Fern at one point when a bloodied surgical table comes alive.
    Fern: Is there anything here that doesn't talk?
    Floor: I don't talk.
  • Apocalyptic Log: If the Junior Biovessel Explorers had valued self-preservation over writing journal entries, they'd have been able to write more journal entries.
    JBE 12837's Final Entry: 07683 is gone. Eaten alive by something with two dozen mouths and no teeth. Me? I'm being slowly asphyxiated by coils of stinking ribbon that WON'T STOP READING OVER MY SHOULDER, EXCUSE ME, YEAH, YOU.
  • Anthropomorphic Food: The hospital chef is Harmburger of Burgrr fame, a huge, rotting hamburger.
  • A Rare Sentence: Awful Hospital is rife with these!
    Fern: He turned into a dolphin and tried to eat the universe. Or something.
    Dr. Man: Mmmmm, yes, sounds rather like the sort of thing the brash lad might get up to.
    Fern: We'd found some… thing… some red thing. I don't remember what they called it, but I think it's what brought my corpses back to life. I can't believe I'm saying this.
  • Art Shift: Fern's design suddenly becomes Animesque for a few panels when the comic temporarily turns into a dating sim. Later, the strip takes on a slightly pixelated style when Fern is shoved out of the Morgue and into worm land.
    • Also, Jay's segments are drawn in an ever-so-subtly different style from Fern's. See the difference between the former's room from his own perspective and from Fern's.
  • Audience Participation: Reader comments help to determine what Fern will do next.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: The higher-ranking members of the Hospital staff are not to be trifled with. Fern has beaten down some ugly monsters in her time, but when she encounters Phleboto Mizer, he's so strong that combat isn't even an option. And Doctor Phage himself, in all his eighteen-inch glory, is even stronger.
    • The lowest-ranking member of the core hospital staff, Dr. Man, battles Fern at level 1; this person comes packing two party members, an attack that grows more powerful with every use, and a health total of 400 hearts.
  • Autocannibalism: The door to the Burgrr Zone tries to convince Fern to eat a sloppy joe made of her own body parts.
  • Back-Alley Doctor:
    • None of the doctors seem to have any idea what they're doing, or how the human body works. At one point a surgeon is performing surgery on Fern with a spork.
    • Played with in that while Dr. Circula Tori behaves as if she has only the faintest idea what she's doing (and even leaves her ID card in Fern's chest), she brings Fern back from the dead multiple times.
      • Averted, since it turns out Tori in fact operated on the baby-turning-edritch-abomination for almost the whole time. Restoring a crushed/dismembered/burnt/ground-up Fern quickly became the duty of her assistants.
  • Berserk Button: Do not mention Dr. Phage to Dr. Man, (or even allude to him!)
  • Biggus Dickus: One of the patients in the surgical ward (the one named Richard in the fedora who says he's "too short to ride the Doomsnake") is highly implied to be a gigantic penis.
    • One Slob (which Jay classified as "#066-No Comment") has a huge, eel-like tentacle growing out of its crotch.
  • Biopunk/Organic Technology: This webcomic features all sorts of "utilitarian" monsters, including shower monsters, train monsters, stepladder monsters… all of whom live to fulfill their respective functions.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: Several monsters in this webcomic possess senses humans do not share.
    Blindtrain Conductor: If you glemp to your right, you may catch the snail congress in full bloom for the sweeps season!
  • Bloody Hilarious: The blood-based monsters sometimes provide silly moments with blood!
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Pretty much everyone the protagonist has encountered, and most of the comments section, as well.
  • Body Horror:
    • The comic's absolutely overflowing with this trope, everywhere and everything in the Hospital is nothing short of gross.
    • The world beyond the Polyp. note 
  • Brick Joke: YEARS can sometimes pass between Fern picking up some silly item and her finally putting it to hilarious use.
  • Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": The creatures the Open Wound calls Siamese cats have "gel cores" and a habit of shedding their biovessels. Although, since it's implied that all concepts, including grey-zone ones, have gel cores and similar technobabble-y things, they may simply be normal cats that tend to die a lot.
  • Call-Back: When Balphin is almost defeated, in an almost identical fashion to BBQ Girll after the earlier encounter with the Glumdroodler, this exchange occurs.
    Staph: It's weakening!
    Maggie: Should we consider tubes?
  • Chain of Deals: With the patients at the hospital, the traded items ranged from bleeding skulls to malaria.
  • Chest Monster: The Chest Worm, as most Commentators feared.
  • Colorful Theme Naming: Some of the human patients; thus far, we have a green Fern and a blue Jay.
  • Continuity Nod: BBQ Girll mentions a periodic "grey zone harvest", which is most likely a nod to 2013's "Burgrr" story.
  • The Corruption: The Hospital never had the accommodations to handle Grayzoners, who are simply not equipped to perceive and interact with it. As a result, they grow increasingly violent and degenerate into Slobs. Fern and Jay are actually unusually resistant, but Jay still slobbers out from time to time and Fern's corpses do upon her death. For this reason, all of the other Grayzoners in the Hospital have been left buried, and Fern has been advised not to let them revive unless and until the Hospital can be restored to full capacity. What the Exvironator had to do with this is unknown.
  • Creepy Changing Painting: There's a creepy changing book cover, at one point.
  • Creepy Good: ALL of Fern's companions and the things she meets throughout her journey are completely unearthly in terms of appearancea nd personality but mean well in the end.
    • All Fern's Inert Vessel friends use Fern's corpses as a food source.
    • Willis is a Blood Sucker who once drank several humans to death unintentionally one time when he visited Earth.
    • The Eyeslob once clawed Fern to death, and can and will eat other slobs.
  • Critical Staffing Shortage: The Hospital is severely understaffed. Jay, and in all likelihood, The Parliament, have been sabotaging The Hospital by attacking staff members. They then Unperson them by burying them in the walls, causing the remaining staff to forget they ever existed. Many staff members are growing increasingly suspicious of their severe staff shortage, but the higher ups remain oblivious. The Hospital is now requesting emergency temps, but the bureaucrabs have been slow to respond and the temps that do arrive keep getting knocked out of commission as well. Fern eventually manages to bluff her way into the job.
  • Crossover: With the "Burgrr" cast. Although it and Awful Hospital are a part of the same fictional universe, their separate elements had never before commingled.
  • Dating Sim: Parodied very briefly after a mass amount of suggestions regarding a Crack Pairing.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Doctor Man has a diagram of a bacteriophage hung on the wall of his office absolutely bristling with darts.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Pretty much everything Depressed Spleen says is either sarcastic, depressing, or both.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: The doctors will happily fix you up, free of charge. Though there will be "accidents", to not talk about what happens if you die "outside of the hospital"...
  • Deconstructed Trope: Specifically, the Interactive Comic trope itself. The readers suggesting commands are not abstractions and are very real and powerful beings of an unknown nature according to Word of God. After so many people tell Fern to seduce Harmburger, it actually happens very briefly against her will, so when she snaps out of it, she completely ceases to let them control her and in fact changes the narration from second-person to first-person, blocking the involvement of the readers completely.
    • Explored again when a malicious door begins sending an excess of commands into Fern's head to control her, the very same kind of commands that the readers use.
  • Determinator: Fern, fighting her way through incomprehensible weirdness to get her kid back.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Did you just destroy the gateway to the Burgrr Zone and put the entire Zone temporarily out of commission... with a sticky note?
  • Disability Superpower: The protagonist perceives the comments people leave on her adventures as "voices". She was worried about it at first, but since they give her helpful advice and information she would not otherwise have, she seems to have gotten all right with it.
    • Until they started trying to get her to sleep with the giant, rotten hamburger.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Dr. Man's smile never waves. Same with Burgrr employee BBQ Girll.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Most everything in The Abyss is likely this. Depending on the in-universe nature of the readers, which will apparently not be revealed, they may very well be this too.
  • Elemental Plane: The Zones, with "element" replaced by "concept".
  • Enfant Terrible: Baby Heads Worm. Not only did it try to attack Fern and Celia, it succeeded in killing JBE 12837.
  • Escape from the Crazy Place: Fern's ultimate goal, after finding her son, of course.
  • Everything Talks: Anything has the potential for personhood in this Hospital, especially objects and fixtures which would definitely be inanimate on Planet Earth.
    Surgical Bed: Pardon me, but... if I may interject?
    Tile Floor: I don't talk.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The Hospital is not a pleasant place for humans and other living things as we know them. To put it mildly.
  • Eye Scream: How the protagonist defeats the Kidney Stone Mother.
Jay's transformation into the Eyeslob is made entirely out of this.
  • Fan Disservice: Harmburger flashes what's between his buns.
  • Fantastic Racism: The creatures treat Greyzoners (humans) like they're all stupid. Except for Bloodstain, who notes that "everyone is somebody else's dummy."
    • Celia, a mold spore, doesn't much care for bacterial or animalian life-forms.
  • "Fantastic Voyage" Plot: "Endoshifts" let people enter worlds derived from bodiesnote , shaped by the concepts they encountered during their lives. In the Inert Sub-Concept Vessel arc, Fern inadvertently stumbles into a zone spawned from the corpse of one of her alternate selves. It's also used as a diagnostic tool.
  • Fetch Quest: The protagonist is made to engage in several. In fact, she gains a companion named Celia because Celia wants to be on a fetch quest!
  • Fiction as Cover-Up: Though they aren't mentioned by brand name, it turns out Tamagotchi are actually remote infant-care devices, that secretly allow humans become caretakers to alien babies. In the Hospital, these devices are called "egglets."
    Fern: ...Ssssoooo....remind me again what happens if "egglet," um..."dies?"
    That childhood obsession...all twenty or thirty of them...would still be gathering dust in granddad's attic, long out of battery power.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Massively subverted right after Fern teams up with Harmburger and BBQ Girll to bring down the Glumdroodler. Then played straight as can be, starting with her companions in the Inert Vessel.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: Used plenty:
    • The X-ray skeleton looks directly at the audience and makes a "sshh" motion before attacking Fern.
    • The Double Doors vandalize actual reader comments. a hidden link in the next update reveals that the commenters trolled him right back, successfully enough to release Fern from his influence.
    • According to Word of God, the in-universe beings who the readers and commentators represent influence humans in our world, as in us, as well, it's just a lot less noticeable here.
    • A huge example of this is Crash after convincing Jay to turn against Fern, immediately goes into the comments section to mock the commentators and actually responds to a good number of them. Bogleech the following strip even muses that Crash ended up retroactively made the less active users an Un-person.
    • And THEN there's the Parliament. Between their Ottomen and possibly Fern's son, they have it out for the Commentators most of all.
  • From Bad to Worse: The Hospital and all its staff and patients are deteriorating. And it certainly shows, throughout the long course of this story.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration
    Bogleech: Some people prefer when it's just a story they can read and some people prefer the interactivity, so I'll probably always jump back and forth between the two. Even the non-interactive sequences are heavily influenced by commentary, and they give me time to flesh out ideas for actual puzzles.
  • Genre-Busting: Awful Hospital is something like a supernatural horror/surreal fantasy/adventure/sci-fi/fantasy/biopunk/comedy-drama tale.
  • Glamour Failure: Any Zone presents A Form You Are Comfortable With for beings within, even ones as distantly removed as a human and a fungus, to interact; enough of a shock causes the facade to crack.
    • During BBQ Girll's betrayal, holding the mouse over her face reveals a less friendly form.
    • When the Double Doors try to infiltrate Fern's mind, they stop looking even remotely door-like.
    • Celia, Maggie, and Staph look like a realistic bacterium, maggot, and fungus for a brief moment when they accidentally disgust Fern enough.
  • Going Down with the Ship: The native lifeforms of Inert Vessels seem instinctively predisposed not to care about dying out from when their world becomes uninhabitablenote . With the notable exception of Maya Celia.
  • Grimmification: The Very Hungry Gray Worm is like a grim reimagining of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
  • Gross-Out Show: Trust us; this webcomic eagerly wants to turn your stomach. You'll definitely need a solid tolerance for Nausea Fuel to get through it.
  • Healing Potion: Within the Biovessel, it's vials of mucus. Once back in the hospital, it's a concoction imported from same biovessel, created by Dr. Staph.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: Happens every so often between all the sapient lifeforms.
    Maggie: Hold yer horseflies, lemme buzz the place...
  • Honest John's Dealership: The Crooked Spine and his questionable wares.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Fern's HAMMERSPACE-brand Disappearing/Reappearing Compartmentalized Collector's Tote.
    When you look inside, you perceive ten compartments of infinite size occupying the same space simultaneously ... it sort of tickles a little.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: After all she's been through, Fern is only too happy to follow Balmer, Methanyll and Hyde when she finds out they have booze.
  • Inevitable Waterfall: A "pusfall", actually.
  • Infinite Canvas: Used effectively to convey the sheer scale of The Abyss.
  • Ironic Hell: Each of individual Zones. See if you can spot the motif of dreadful backwardness running through them all:
    • The Hospital has lots of doctors, yet many of them don't know how to treat the patients they bring in; it's a place where you're liable to get SICKER.
    • Burgrr, Inc. has lots of food, yet all of it is unfit for human consumption, and it's a place where you're liable to get EATEN yourself.
    • The Morgue has lots of cadavers, yet it's not a lifeless place at all. Indeed, the corpses are TEEMING with no end of lifeforms.
    • There's apparently two particularly vicious zones called The Direzone and The Gorehouse where Jay's mindset and proficiency at killing would've been wholly justified and appropriate.
    • The Cafe... is an aversion of this trope. Customers pick what they want to drink, and the Cafe workers serve it to them in exchange for money. Much like on Earth.
  • Interface Screw: At one point, the suggestion box's connection to Fern is hijacked so that the door to the Burgrr Zone can spam the page with his own command. The place where the command would usually go on that page is replaced with several pages' worth of >EAT.
  • It Makes Sense in Context: The Webcomic.
    Fern's Notes: Would call 911 if someone else told me this.
  • Jack-of-All-Stats: Conversing with Dr. Man implies that the staff at the hospital are trying their best to cure their patients; in fact, they're some of the most talented medical professionals inside their native zones. It's just that they deal with patients from ALL zones, and they're unfamiliar with the biology of most of them, making mistakes constantly in their attempts to treat them. Dr. Man likens it to a human neurosurgeon who has to operate on an octopus.
  • Journey to the Center of the Mind/"Fantastic Voyage" Plot: In both The Hospital and The Morgue, examination of both living and dead bodies takes the form of entering doors that cross over into metaphysical worlds which mirror what's happening to these bodies. Very much like the worlds accessible by the Psycho-Portals in Tim Schafer's Psychonauts.
  • Killed Off for Real: Jay has figured out how to invoke this in a setting where death is usually only slightly more permanent than a paper cut.
    • Averted; Fern discovers that she can simply retrieve the remains that Jay has buried and send them in for restructurating. However, it's implied that the Unexistentializer would have a much more permanent effect if the doctors were to actually use it.
    • Gettiing eaten by a worm also results in "unexistalizing".
  • The Kingdom: After defeating Balphin and sending Fern back to The Hospital, Celia founds a new kingdom, with herself as queen. It grows to be vast, indeed: encompassing every cadaver of Fern within the Morgue.
  • LARP: Celia is a fungus spore who treats running around a spooky forest killing worms as an RPG. She even makes Fern a character sheet and explains THAC0 to her.
  • Literal Metaphor: Not only are these frequently present, they have a curious tendency to serve as Weaksauce Weakness for numerous beings.
    • The otherwise-superpowerful Doctors are afraid of apples because "an apple a day keeps the doctor away."
    • What did Fern do when confronted with a monster cop? She "threw the book at him." It wasn't even a strong throw, note  but it still did him in.
    • As Jay can attest, you have to be careful of monsters who charge "an arm and a leg" for their services.
  • Live Item: The little kidney stone and the polyp.
  • Living Structure Monster: There's the Flesh Door, which is not just a door but an entire room.
  • Loss of Identity: Extensive use of someone else's identification can apparently lead to this.
  • Lovecraft Lite: Even though the series keeps its humor the entire way through, there are signs of this. For example, the mysterious illness Fern's baby has that no one seems to know the cause for, the Eldritch Location that is the hospital and it being tied to The Multiverse, and everything to do with the Parliament.
  • Mama Bear: Fern takes out a giant kidney stone monster after it threatens her baby. And that's just for starters!
  • Madness Mantra: The doctors' oath; CURE, CONTAIN, OR ERASE.
  • The Many Deaths of You: And some of them will be required in order to proceed with the story.
  • The Maze: Though it looks like a single room from the outside, the Morgue is a vast labyrinth on the inside.
  • Meaningful Background Event: Take a look at what's in the corner where the worm corpses used to be. It's a horribly mangled corpse of an alternate Fern.
  • Meatgrinder Surgery: Head surgeon Circula Tori operates on Fern with a spork and drops her ID card into her chest cavity... but nonetheless repeatedly restores her to life. In an unusually literal example, she once does so after Fern falls into a living meat grinder.
  • Mega-Microbes: They are abundant in the Hospital; Dr. Phage himself is a Mega-Virus. Also, the Inert Sub-Concept Vessel has a thriving community of "bacterians", such as the kindly, waist-high Dr. Staph.
  • Monster Adventurers: Everyone who joins up with Fern as companions.
  • Monster Clown: Gooey Pink Eyes is revealed to be suffering from a strange plague of tiny, flea-sized clowns.
  • Monster is a Mommy: After Fern helps Nobody Nose to get rid of his kidney stones, they are both attacked by the Kidney Stone Mother who wants revenge for the death of her children. Trying to politely inform her that kidney stones usually aren't living creatures does nothing to cool her down.
  • Mood Whiplash: Regularly switches between Surreal Humor and Surreal Horror on a dime.
  • My Name Is ???: Bogleech has been known to utilize this trope from time to time.
  • My Significance Sense Is Tingling: Fern obtains this ability in the latter portion of the Inert Vessel story arc. If only the sensation had been something as pleasant as a tingle...
    Fern: I... oh... ugh...
    Magatha: You felt it, didn't you? A juicy surge of nausea. Only you will taste it. That is your compass.
  • Naughty Nurse Outfit: The surgeon (based on nurse characters in a previous story) wears sexy, short-skirted scrubs... although her "sexiness" is debatable, seeing as how her outfit is stained with blood. And she's literally nothing but a humanoid cluster of blood vessels with eyes and a peanut for brain.
  • Neck Snap: Fern's death at the hands of the X-ray skeleton. This being the hospital, she gets better.
  • No Name Given: The protagonist, hence the Fan Nickname "Ms. Green".
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Dr. Man, at least from what little we've seen of him, is what appears to be a normal human doctor. He's a bit odd-looking for a human, but not unrealistically, and compared to everything else in the hospital he's incredibly ordinary. After all that's come before, being relatively normal is what makes him scary. As a commenter mentioned, "He's too normal. I don't like this."
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The Hospital has been requesting emergency temps, but the bureaucrabs have been slow to respond and the temps that show up tend to be uninformed.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Dr. Phage describes himself as the "chief physician, radiologist, surgeon, pathologist, pathogen, immunologist, urologist, gynaecologist, reverse gynaecologist, taxidermist, dentist, forensic entomologist, necrobiological reconstructionist, herbalist, fashionist and twin-core husk intersector licensed in all chromatic, material and hypothetical perception zones."
    Dr. H.M. Phage, T. E : Fine, fine. We'll check on it, since you know so much better than I do all the sudden. I'm ONLY the head practitioner around here, with the single most esteemed medical certificate I've ever invented, but what do I know, right?
  • Omniscient Council of Vagueness: At one point, Dr. Phage and a gaggle of unnamed, badly-lit colleagues of his convene to examine Fern's son. They don't know what to do with the kid any more than Phage does.
    ??? #3: Just fill its holes in. Or drill it some holes. Drill it some holes and fill them in. It'll be fine.
    ??? #4: Didn't it come in with it'ssshhh progenator? Why don't we jusht shtick it back where it came from? Problem ssssholved.
    Dr. H.M. Phage, T.E .: We don't even know what to call this problem yet, do we?
    • There are actually several of these, including the The Parliament, the Slab Council that runs The Morgue, the Interzonal High Council that is above Phage in some way, and the Preservators which defend the Grey Zone from the Burgrr crew.
  • Only Sane Man: Fern (although she does hear voices).
    • Unfazed Everyman: As Fern gets used to the casual morbidity and cartoon logic of the hospital.
  • Ontological Mystery
  • Organic Technology
  • Orphaned Etymology: Celia says that "a hungry Moldsucker slithers like lightning", although she would never have experienced lightning given that she lives inside a human corpse. This is promptly lampshaded in the following exchange:
    Fern: ...how exactly do you know what lightning is?
    Celia: Why wouldn't I?
    Fern: Becau...never mind. Don't want to know.
  • Our Monsters Are Weird: Glumdroodlers are photo realistic things who are weak to thoughts about tubes. The worms have shown up in forms such as a stack of baby heads, a boot, and a living bandage.
  • Our Souls Are Different: Everything capable of perceiving that other things exist has what is called a conceptual core. Conceptual cores manifest "perceptoids", which allow them to interact with others and effectively act as their bodies.
  • The Password is Always "Swordfish": The Maternity Ward password turns out to be Phage's own name. Although, Phage decided at the last moment that that password wasn't secure enough, so...
    Phage's note: Wait, no! I'm a genius! Now it's: DRHMPHAPE
  • Portal Door: The "out of order" door that leads to The Abyss.
  • Punny Name: Pretty much everyone, even the protagonist.
  • Puny Earthlings: According to BBQ Girll, grayzoners lack all kinds of basic abilities and perceptions that most other beings possess, making them particularly vulnerable to veiling and therefore easy prey. They would have been wiped out long ago were it not for the mercy of the preservators.
  • Rage Against The Commentators: Fern has the last word on viewers' suggestions, and she did not appreciate being ordered to do a Fetch Quest. Too bad that her decision to disregard the voices and exit the patient ward causes her first death.
  • Railroading: Happens whenever Fern gets fed up with the voices, as mentioned above. Thus far, this has yet to end well for her.
  • Recursive Reality: The Inert Biovessel is Fern's own corpse, specifically, the one that had its neck wrung by the X-Ray Skeleton.
  • RPG-Mechanics Verse: The Inert Vessel turns out to be this, especially after Fern teams up with Celia. Seems Fern has gotten used to it, as even when she returns to the hospital she approaches combat this way.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    Bogleech: As a rule, the central team of doctors are all embodiments of things used to improve health or combat illness, rather than either illnesses or body parts themselves.
  • Scenery Gorn: All the rooms in the hospital are filthy, poorly-lit and cartoonishly designed.
  • Schrödinger's Butterfly: Subjective perception is a pretty big theme in this comic. Different people will see the same things and places in different ways.
    Bogleech: You guys all assuming this is only there when Fern is gone after all this comic says about subjective perception.
  • Ship Tease: Subverted with Fern and Harmburger, being something the voices/commentators forced - he's taken aback by her advances, and she gets very angry that they made her do that.
  • Shout-Out: See the Shout-Out page.
  • The Unseen: The reason Bogleech chose not to show Fern's son's face is because he worried he couldn't make a human infant sufficiently adorable in his art style.
    Bogleech: I really can't make a baby look very cute.
  • Sinister Silhouettes: The emergency meeting of doctors and, later, the Revourer.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": No characters, yet,note  but a LOT of zones start with a "The". This includes the Hospital, the Cafe, the Library, the Morgue...
  • Sweat Drop: done with, of all things, an azure drop-shaped slug.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • The head surgeon is little more than an entire circulatory system and a gargantuan artificial heart given independent life. Her name? Circula Tori.
    • The receptionist is an amoeba called "Zoe". Her last name is unknown, but it's probably Plankton.
    • "To vent one's spleen" means "to complain at length". Spleonard is a spleen-person that never stops complaining.
    • The Hospital's suicidal Master Computer AI is named "Crash". In the sense of a massive software malfunction, although he insists it's because his favorite pass-time is crashing airplanes.
  • Talking Pest: Dr. Phage is a giant, talking bacteriophage. Maggie and Magatha are maggots, and Staph is a bacterium.
  • Terms of Endangerment: Characters keep using food-related nicknames (such as 'meatlet,' 'soupstuff,' 'morsel,' etc.), and it's not just a figure of speech, they really would like to eat whoever they're addressing.
  • Terrifying Rescuer: WHATEVER it was that saved Fern from being digested by Ora, by obliterating Ora into so much lifeless gore, and dragged the unconscious human right outside to safety, where she eventually woke back up.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: The alien zones don't always use "time" as we humans understand it, but something called "layers." Chronology can sometimes jump around on its own, via layers, without Fern needing to enter a time machine:
    Staph: As you read this letter, our kingdom will have undergone many generations of development... at least from our perception. Don't fret! In your own perception sphere, we are very much alive, and I'm certain you will have an opportunity to drop in and say 'hello.' Does that make sense? Sorry, we still don't really have a handle on how you experience the layers.
  • Token Human: Fern, her son, Jay; in fact, every human who happens to be featured. The ratio of humans to nonhumans in Awful Hospital is incredibly skewed in the latter's factor. There technically are several dozen other humans present, but all of them have been killed and buried to prevent them from turning into slobs.
    Chip: (when questioned on other human patients) I c-currently detect a number of active patients between zero and four with b-biosignatures notably similar to your own.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: Fern ends up buying one of these at a store in a village of bacteria. It's chained up.
  • Two of Your Earth Minutes: The entites from other zones measure time in "layers" (and scorn the concept of time altogether, apparently the concept is unique to Grayzoners and woefully misunderstood even then), and according to Crash, this is the time it takes to read an average page of this very webcomic.
    • In a less meta-sense, BBQ Girll's blog defines time as humans understand it as "a perpetual involuntary layer drift".
  • The Unfought: The Revourer, possibly because its maze gets overrun by the ravenous Slobs.
  • Unperson: This is an insidiously pervasive problem in The Hospital, thanks to certain areas that are "off the Hospital's grid." Should a person (living or dead) ever cross into these "off-the-grid" areas, everyone in the Hospital will promptly forget they ever existed at all. Fortunately, if the person re-enters Hospital grounds, note  the effect is reversed. Many people have been Unpersoned in this way, and it's left the Hospital severely understaffed.
  • Visual Pun: An apple in the hospital refrigerator is marked "DANGEROUS". Because an apple a day keeps the doctor away.
  • Vulgar Humor: Bogleech really has fun with his gross environments and the gross creatures which populate them.
    Bogleech: Look at that piss joke!!! And is that what you think it is!? I BET! And a fart!!!!!!! Majestic!!!!!!!! You should be popping open a champagne here in this classy joint we got goin on!
  • Waking Up Elsewhere: Fern starts out waking up not in her own bed, but the hospital bed. Bears some resemblance to Abandoned Hospital Awakening, but as previously stated, The Hospital is anything but.
  • Weird Currency:
    • The decomposers in Fern's old biovessel use Keratin Pieces, or "KP", which are essentially little slices of her hairs.
    • The spine started out accepting blood as payment, but has since switched to Used Bandages, "ub".
    • Term deposits in the Hospital's organ bank mature in a very literal sense.
    • The Parliment uses "waste crystals", and predictably uses a machine like the offspring of a biomechanical toilet and an ATM as a bank.
  • Wham Shot: During the section of the commentators controlling Jay, they make him ride a train going through the void, which during the trip the train lets him know they are passing the "Gray-zone" (which is what Earth is called in Bogleech's works). Only to find a city warped in flesh.
  • White Mask of Doom: Skull-like masks made of keratin are somehow in vogue among the bacteria who dwell in the Inert Vessel.
    • What makes their fashion choice even stranger is that bacteria have no actual faces behind the 'eye sockets' of their skull masks.
    • It's a Subverted Trope, because pretty much all the bacteria are very good-natured beings.
  • Wistful Amnesia: When entities get Unpersoned, the gaps will sometimes remain. Willis remembers that there are supposed to be more zones and the world is supposed to be bigger, but he cannot remember what they were like. Crash remembers that there was a single Hospital staff member that actually cared about him, but little more than that and has been unable to discover if or how they got buried.
  • World of Pun: You'll be hard-pressed to find a character in this webcomic whose name isn't a pun.
  • World of Weirdness: All the non-gray zones. It's not just that there are weird objects and beings, but the whole way the Awful Hospital universe exists is fundamentally odd compared to reality.
  • Wretched Hive: The "community" living to the east of the Horrible Ghastly Death Woods, at least according to Celia and Balmer. Subverted entirely once we meet them.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Fern appears with blue hair when the comic temporarily becomes a dating sim.
  • Your Mime Makes It Real: Maggie's "diptomancy". For instance, she has a "Flyreball" spell where her dipterites "embody the notion of fire" and "Flylighningbolt" where her dipterities "embody the idea of a lightning bolt". It doesn't even matter that technically they aren't even '''real''' flame or lightning. Anything she casts these at, alive or otherwise, will react as though they've been burned or electrified.