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Webcomic / Awful Hospital

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And you thought your healthcare provider was bad... note 

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

An ordinary woman's infant son suddenly becomes extremely sick, and his condition progressively worsens no matter what she or other doctors try. After her latest desperate attempt at saving her baby, the woman suddenly awakens in a strange transdimensional hospital of nightmarishly cartoonish design overseen by the dangerously inept and insufferably egotistical Dr. H.M. Phage, T.E., an anthropomorphic bowtie-collecting virus. With only the help of countless unseen things whispering various instructions to her, she must face insane alien doctors of dubious qualification and stability, sanity-shattering worlds and beings, and rude, talking body parts who spout terrible puns in her desperate search for her son's whereabouts. Her predicament becomes even more complicated as she ends up discovering the dark secrets revolving around the hospital's deteriorating condition and the true nature of reality as we know it, and that her infant is connected to something that could pose a grave threat to the multiverse's very existence.

The fever-addled brainchild of one Jonathan Wojcik, Awful Hospital: Seriously the Worst Ever is an incredibly strange and astonishingly gross interactive Sci-Fi Body Horror Comedy webcomic that first started on August 1st, 2014.

Awful Hospital is ongoing and updated occasionally. 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. Readers 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, or from this archive of the comic's existing pages. Updates can be followed via Dr. Phage's twitter feed here.

Awful Hospital provides examples of:

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  • Achievements in Ignorance: Fern uses MacGyvering to assemble a "Computer". When Dr. Staph tells her to flip the power switch, Fern reminds her that she doesn't have anything to plug the computer into the power socket with. Dr. Staph then tells her " doesn't know that." Sure enough, it works just fine.
  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: The further along the comic goes, the higher merchants tend to raise their prices.
    Crooked Spine: TWICE THE PRICE for maybe TWICE. THE. QUALITYYYY!!
  • 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 revealed 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 empty space between Zones.
  • Alien Kudzu: This seems to be a commonly associated motif of the Parliament, more specifically, a kind not dissimilar to cancer.
  • All Animals Are Dogs: Apparently, the Dog is the be-all and end-all of the concept of "a pet." Dr. Fleagood considers all pets a sort of dog and considers it racism to call them anything but "[qualifying verb] dogs."
  • All for Nothing: Fern tries to negotiate with a living room, Ora, for an important item inside of her. Since it's pretty obvious Ora will eat her if she steps in, Fern offers Ora cafeteria food in her place. After going through an entire arc of massive effort for the sloppy joe, Ora double crosses Fern by grabbing her, sloppy joe and all, to digest her. Needless to say, Fern is pretty ticked.
  • 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!"
  • Almighty Idiot: The absolute highest concepts, such as Health, are not sapient, or least, not sapient in any way we can understand and meaningfully interact with. Marcie, with genuine respect, describes those as Blind Idiot concepts.
  • Alternate Self: Part of how the Hospital's respawning system works. There is an Alternate Self for every possible path one might take, but they don't become "real" until one's true self actually picks that path. When a person's true self dies in the Hospital, they take an Alternate Self that is about to die anyways and use the Alternate Self as a spare body to pop the person's true self's core into.
  • Amazing Technicolor Battlefield: When fighting the Glumdroodler.
  • Amazon Brigade: The Inert Subvessel gets rescued by an all-female quartet of heroes.
  • Ambiguously Evil: Pretty much everyone and everything save for Fern. And Staph and Maggie. And Willis. And maybe the Bloodstain? And probably Isaac. A lot of entities are pretty nice, actually.
    • The medical staff is just trying to do their jobs, 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 Kidney Stone 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 fulfil 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 to life.
    Fern: Is there anything here that doesn't talk?
    Floor: I don't talk.
  • Animal Motifs:
  • Anthropomorphic Food: The hospital chef is Harmburger of Burgrr fame, a huge, rotting hamburger.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Every concept that exists has an associated being.
  • Apocalypse How: The Earth effectively starts forming cracks in reality, with monsters and phenomena from other zones leaking in. People stop dying and get corrupted into slobs instead. Many of the slobs start combining into Meat Moss. The apocalypse is Invisible to Normals, but that doesn't protect them from getting killed by it and slobbifying as well. The people who are capable of seeing it start evacuating to other zones or are caught a daily struggle to fight back.
    Miss: Pandemonium. Goldfish storms and singing trees and literal sock puppet people, too many zones leaking in all at once through our proverbial roof.
  • 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.
  • Appearance Is in the Eye of the Beholder: Applies to everyone to varying degrees, especially when the people involved are from different zones. Everyone has a "perception sphere", which is basically the sum of reality they perceive, understand, and interact with. Outside the grayzone, and to some degree even inside, even when people see the same entity, their context for it can be very different. In Fern's eyes, Willis is tiny, while Isaac's eyes can see something bigger. When Fern sees an advertisement cardboard cutout, Isaac sees a fleshy version representing the Parliament's influence over it. All of their perceptions are accurate, they are just witnessing different aspects of the entity's existence.
  • Art Evolution: As the comic has gone on, Fern's design has changed in its details, from longer hair (that has also been changed to a darker shade of green), to having smoother lines and much more expressive faces.
  • Artificial Insolence: At one point, the players voted that the protagonist (later named Fern Green) should try to seduce a transdimensional alien who looked like a rotten hamburger. She becomes so incensed that she refuses to comply for the rest of that particular story arc.
  • 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.
  • Ascended Glitch: Page 850 accidentally included the characters "1[" before the web page's html tags. It was left in, and page 851 refers to it as one of the strange things that can happen when perception gets shuffled up.
  • 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: Almost none of the doctors seem to have any idea what they're doing, or how the human body works. At one point, Dr. Circula Tori, the Hospital's head surgeon, is performing surgery on Fern with a spork.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: Part of how the Abyss works. Almost anything can survive in it, because visitors aside, it is completely devoid of concept, including the concept of causes of death. Anything that needs to breathe can breathe just fine, because it also lacks a concept of suffocation.
  • Beneath Notice: Greyzoners have only five (or six) senses accross an extremely narrow band, so, while we're extremely vulnerable to perception filtering, it's usually not bothered with. Besides, even if a greyzoner can tell what's happening, what can they do? This has been both to the Parliament's benefit and detriment. The Parliament has weaponized this by moving humans and even a dog to where they would be able to cause the most damage to reality, but a few of said humans have also slipped the Parliament's leash and caused unpredictable disruptions to their plans.
  • Berserk Button: Do not mention Dr. Phage to Dr. Man, (or even allude to him!)
  • Big Bad Ensemble: The Parliament are the bad guys responsible for setting up the main plot, but they are not the only game in town, with the Dolphins being more dangerous and evil by far. There is also the mysterious rabbit that is enemies with the Parliament, but also poses a serious threat to Fern.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The Maternity Ward's Temp Office is slightly bigger on the inside than the outside. Fern notes that it would be less pathetic if it were logically the same size.
  • 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!
  • Bizarro Apocalypse: The Parliament's goal is to assimilate everything together into the Old Flesh and effectively reset the universe. They do so by messily connecting and severing zones, engineering their own carcinogen to infect everyone and everything, and setting up Perception Filters. Just like everything else in this comic, it's very Mind Screw-y.
  • 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: All over the gosh-dang place. Don't say we didn't warn you!
    • The world beyond the Polyp, appropriately referred to by the filename as the "youscape".
  • Brick Joke:

  • 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, and the bizarre organs are simply intangible to us.
  • 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?
    • Early in the story, Fern leaves a toy soldier on her bed to fool Dr. Phage into thinking she is still laying on her bed as opposed to meddling with the Hospital, which in its current state, would likely result in her being punished with permanent death. When a group of outcast dolphins kidnap Cheryl, mistaking her for Fern, they have a list of people confirmed not to be Fern. In the "maybe" section is that same toy soldier.
    • Cheryl tries to help the Blowhole Brothers assassinate Professor Lexicovermus using a box trap, exactly like how Fern managed to trap Dr. Phage for a while.
  • Cast of Personifications: This character embodies shady peddlers (Cobb). That character represents vaccines (Dr. Phage). Yet another personifies computer malfunctions (Crash). Another still is a soul-crushing job selling coffee (Chip). The list could go on and on, but it's telling that the aliens are a kind of lifeform called a "conceptoid."
  • Chain of Deals: With the patients at the hospital, the traded items ranged from bleeding skulls to malaria.
  • Character Level: An actual law throughout the zones. People can gradually raise them through various means, increasing their abilities. Character Level itself directly qualifies as their defensive abilities, making them more difficult to hurt. Creatures with a Character Level of 21 and above become completely immune to anything that isn't a Special Attack.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Humans are not as limited out in the Perception Range as they are in the Grey Zone and can become a lot stronger via Character Levels. When Fern enters her first battle, she notes that she barely feels human, can jump like a flea, and can still keep moving despite losing a lot of blood.
  • Chest Monster: The Chest Worm, as most Commentators feared.
  • Colorful Theme Naming: Some of the human patients; thus far, we have a green Fern, a blue Jay, and a red Cheryl (which can be shortened to "Cheri," which sounds like "cherry").
  • Common Tongue: Emojis are an old intrazonal tongue. While the language is imprecise, its simplicity makes it the most widely understood throughout the Perception Range, hence why Dr. Mizer and Harmburger speak in them.
  • Continuity Nod: BBQ Girll mentions a periodic "grey zone harvest", which is most likely a nod to 2013's "Burgrr" story.
  • The Corruption: According to Dr. Man, 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. The phenomenon eventually starts affecting the Grayzone as a whole, causing everybody who should have died to turn into slobs instead.
  • Cosmic Flaw: The villains are Invoking this trope by attacking the fundamental concepts of "sickness" and "health" across The Multiverse of the Perception Range. The Hospital, which embodies the concept of medical care, is falling apart, while Earth suffers a full-fledged Zombie Apocalypse. This turns out to be an Assimilation Plot to subsume the entire Range with an impossibly virulent "alpha malady", using the heroine's infant son as the main infection vector.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: The plot slowly unravels into this over time; it turns out the multiverse is technically broken. Why? Because it was originally a single, isolated living creature that died from crumbling into several pieces, the largest intact pieces eventually gained sentience and are scheming to fuse the Perception Range together to revert everything back to its original state. And they got to Fern's son first. And so Fern's biggest task kicks into action; besides saving her son, she must find a way to stop these entities and save the multiverse.
  • 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 appearance and 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 eats other slobs.
  • Crisis Point Hospital: While the Hospital is always weird, it is not always supposed to be awful. The Parliament's engineered virus has caused the Hospital's structure to break down, a severe understaffing problem, doctors to lose memory and become more incompetent, and more.
  • 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.
  • Deader than Dead: What unexistalization is. As everything that exists always has and always will exist, true Cessation of Existence is not a thing, but the nature of one's existence can change, and it is certainly possible to die beyond the Hospital's ability to resurrect if it loses track of your concept or if something happens to your core.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Zig-Zagged with "purging." It involves euthanizing the patient. Their current body, that is, paring them down to their Core, and then briefly returning their Core to their homezone to grow a fresh new body, like uninstalling and re-installing a finicky game off of Steam. They're then brought back to the Hospital for a checkup to ensure it worked. It is, however, an absolute last resort, and if it doesn't take, the only thing left is a merciful unexistualization.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Pretty much everything Depressed Spleen says is either sarcastic, depressing, or both.
  • Death Is Cheap: Zig-zagged. If you die within the Hospital, the doctors will happily fix you up, free of charge. If you die outside the hospital, you have no such protection.
  • 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 Immunity: Grayzoners are far more limited than the aliens from other zones and have a laughably limited perception of reality in comparison. However, there are times that this limited perception can also come in handy, because what you perceive also affects what you interact with. For example, the Plank Maze is a vast and everchanging maze for most beings, but grayzoners are only able to perceive the most stable and condensed aspects of it, making it safer and easier for them to navigate it.
  • 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... other than the time they started trying to get her to sleep with the giant, rotten hamburger.
    • Grayzoners are considerably more limited than the aliens from other zones, but this also ironically makes them more focused than bigger beings, which is why Crash chooses Fern as the person to give him a Mercy Kill.
  • Dissonant Serenity:
    • Dr. Man's smile never waves. Same with Burgrr employee BBQ Girll.
    • Also see this.
  • Disturbing Statistic:
    • 4000 humans have been treated or are still being treated by the Hospital. The number that have died permanently? 43003.
    • Tori is one of the most competent among the Hospital's staff, if not all of existence, and she has an unsurpassed success rate of 23%.
  • Double Entendre: Mentioned in strip 127, as a "hokey double entendre", referring to "We have important purposes for your meat" from the previous page.

  • Eldritch Abomination: Most of 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.
    • It's revealed that the multiverse as a whole is the greatly decomposed corpse of one that died a long time ago and eventually crumbled into many, many pieces that eventually formed the Zones.
  • Eldritch Location: It's not so often that the entire multiverse is one - there are many weird sights everywhere you go and reality works in many bizarre ways in this comic, to put it simply. The Hospital, the Endozones and the Abyss are shining examples of this.
    • The Plank Maze essentially consists of the skeletal remains of universes the Parliament has destroyed. It is unusual even by Zonal standards, operating on very different logic, making it possible to recover traces of what has been Ret Goned.
  • 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 filled to the brim with this.
  • Fan Disservice:
  • 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 entities enter worlds derived from bodies note 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!
  • Fictional Disability: Most beings throughout the multiverse have what is called an exo-spine, including us humans. The exo-spine is what allows a perceptoid to branchinate and perceive other aspects of existence, such as layers and zones. The reason the multiverse is Invisible to Normals is because a type of alien called a Furler usually eats our exo-spines before they can mature enough to defend themselves. Hence, most creatures in the grayzone have this disability.
  • 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 to 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.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: The party in Act II of the story consists of pretty rigidly-defined Fighter, Thief, White Mage, and Black Mage roles in Fern, Celia, Staph, and Maggie.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Fern teams up with Harmburger and BBQ Girll to bring down the Glumdroodler and is stabbed in the back in the most horrible way. Then played straight as can be, starting with her companions in the Inert Vessel.
  • Foreboding Fleeing Flock: When Professor Lexicovermus crosses the Godzilla Threshold to go One-Winged Angel, the Library's fauna starts running for it.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: Used plenty and with full throttle:
    • 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 unseeable 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 when Crash, after convincing Jay to turn against Fern, actually entered the comments section to mock the commentators and responded to a good number of them. Bogleech, in 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.

  • Gag Penis:
    • One of the patients in the surgical ward (the one in the fedora named Richard 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.
  • 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 surreal horror/adventure/sci-fi/fantasy/comedy-drama.
  • Giant Corpse World: The "Corpse World" story arc seems to be a "Fantastic Voyage" Plot to initial appearances, but it's eventually explained that Fern wasn't actually shrunk, but rather transported to a universe modeled after her own decomposing corpse, complete with Mega-Microbes citizenry and scavenger worms going about the business of decomposing it.
  • 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.
    • When the Library crosses the Godzilla Threshold, the local wildlife drops their friendlier faces into a more primal form in order to struggle for supremacy, reassert the Library's existence, and purge all threats.
  • Godzilla Threshold: When Professor Lexicovermus recovers enough coherence to realize the Library is about to be destroyed, he opens communication with Fern's buzzers using a method that has a dangerously high chance of imploding them, because he's desperate to get all the information he needs to fix the current situation before he loses his mind again. After communication breaks, he goes One-Winged Angel to kick out a Tantrum Throwing Willis. Likewise, the local fauna put on their Game Face and battle for supremacy so that they can reassert the Library's concept, kicking out the Parliament's influence. Aside from the Library becoming more generally dangerous, it also means that reality will destabilize due to various literary concepts and mediums gaining and losing prominence.
  • 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.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: The 46th strip:
    Even while watching, you are somehow unable to determine how the hovering spinal column hands you the tote bag or drops your purchase into it. When you look inside, you perceive ten compartments of infinite size occupying the same space simultaneously. You were under the impression the human mind either just wouldn't process that sort of thing at all or would go mad from the attempt, but it turns out, it just sort of tickles a little.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Fern and Magdolene interrogate an Old Flesh being about what it knows about the Parliament in such a fashion, with Fern being the bad cop and one of the images even being named "badcop.png".
  • 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 strong stomach to get through it.
  • Had to Be Sharp: By most metrics, grayzoners are inferior to the transdimensional aliens throughout the Perception Range and are largely considered a lower order of life. However, some would argue that rather than being lower ordered, we are differently adapted, because we actually do have a small number of advantages. One of them is the fact that we carry all the fundamental concepts necessary for our existence in one unit instead of scattering them across dimensions, giving us a more independent existence than other beings. This gives us two advantages. One of them is that it makes it easier for us to survive in zones that are not as connected to others as normal. Another is that if, for example, the Anthropomorphic Personification of the Circle of Willis decided to throw a temper tantrum, our individual Circle of Willises would be able to resist his influence better than those of non-grayzoners.
  • 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.
    • There's another variety of healing potion that was hoarded by Jay. It heals all HP, but causes drowsiness and tastes like garbage.
  • Healing Serpent: The embodiment of the concept of Health manifests as an endless serpentine creature wrapped around a column of bone like the Staff of Asclepius. In-universe, it's ambiguous whether this form is the origin of the trope or a result of it.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: The Morgue embodies the concept of preservation, which means that they are also the Preservators, who defend the Grey Zone from harvesting by Burgrr, Inc.
  • 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.
  • Horrible Housing: Celia, Bandit Princess!, tries to pretend that her ramshackle shack in the woods is "some wretched vagrant's filthy hovel". Fern isn't fooled, but lets the lie pass.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: On Easter Day, 2018: Good news: when Fern puts the egglet of a slob-infected infant in her son's old "boo boo bunny," the baby's saved because the slob disease transfers from the egglet into the toy bunny: the first-ever case in Awful Hospital of anyone being CURED of the slob condition! Bad news: the toy transforms into a giant slob-bunny monstrosity, and heads right for Fern and her friends. And Bogleech ONLY did this BECAUSE it happened to be Easter!
    Bogleech: I really, genuinely, did not plan for this to fall on Easter, or in fact even plan for this ahead of time at all. Timing like that has always proven impossible. But I decided the bunny suggestion had to be the right one for exactly that reason, and I decided that today's date is the only reason it worked to heal the egg. Bunnies are extra powerful right now!
  • 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'm Having Soul Pains: Every once in a while, other-zonal phenomenon will hurt what you instinctively recognize as your core. For example, when Willis and Isaac drink grultch, which is safe for alien children but not for grayzoners, a mere whiff of it is enough for Fern to feel like her... "core"?... Is about to explode.
  • Immortality Field: Anyone who dies within the Hospital can be fixed up and restored to life by the staff, no matter the damage to their physical bodies, because the Hospital protects their concept cores.
  • 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 the 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 normal. Customers pick what they want to drink, and the Cafe workers serve it to them in exchange for money. Much like on Earth. Which, in turn, is the antithesis to the Hospital's weirdness, being (relatively) normal.
  • 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.
  • Invisible to Normals: A type of alien called a Furler usually eats the part of a human that would have allowed them to branchinate out into the Layered World before fully grown, and as such they can only perceive the everyday world we know. If they do encounter other-zonal phenomenon, their core will interpret it in the closest way it can. For example, Fern has been to the Cafe Zone before the events of the comic, but only perceived it as a normal Cafe because she hadn't branchinated yet. People that are capable of perceiving other-zonal phenomenon are usually those who were lucky enough to avoid getting their exo-spine damaged before it could mature enough to defend itself against Furlers. There are also a few who were able to branchinate after catching the Parliament's disease.
  • 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.

  • Kaiju: The trope is directly referenced when Willis and Professor Lexicovermus both go One-Winged Angel and engage in an epic battle between two Eldritch Abominations.
  • Killed Off for Real: Jay has figured out how to kill people completely and retroactively in a setting where death is usually only slightly more permanent than a paper cut.
    • The Unexistentializer is a weapon of last resort against incurable pathogens. We don't know exactly what would happen if the doctors were to actually use it, but it would not be pretty.
    • Getting eaten by a worm also results in "unexistalizing".
  • The Good 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.
  • Layered World: More or less the nature of the Zones. Rather than going through Alternate Universes, zone travel consists of branching out and perceiving different aspects of existence, all of which are capable of impacting one another.
  • LARP: Celia is a fungal mycelium 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 Bookworm: Professor Lexicovermus is a hyperdimensional bookworm who lives in a book who was once a man.
  • 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.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Fern's child has a progressively worsening illness, and is being kept away from her in a shady, unsanitary hospital — more specifically, one that constitutes an entire dimension.
  • 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 many 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.

  • MacGyvering: The different zones are basically different aspects of reality, often with their own personal equivelants of things in other zones. For example, if you wanted to build a computer, then with the right skills, you can make it out of anything following the general idea of a computer, since even parts that don't connect or qualify as a computer in your zone still will in an appropriate one.
  • 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.
  • Meat Moss: Most Parliamentary beings percieve the entire world around them to be coated in bright pink, putty-like flesh, and at the Burgrr counter, Miss tells Fern how she saw it on Earth during its last days, describing it as "ground beef kudzu."
  • 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.
  • Messy Maggots:
    • One of Fern's allies is Maggie, a maggot wizard that is encountered in one of Fern's own corpses. She is able to conjure swarms of flies as her spells.
    • A later ally introduced is Magdolene, made to be an Anthropomorphic Personification of Biodebridement Therapy, also known as maggot therapy. Instead of being a single maggot, her body is made up of a swarm of maggots wrapped around a skull with flies for hair.
  • Metaphorically True: Phage's understanding of human reproduction develops into only being ironically wrong — believing "maileds" inject spores into "fleamaileds" via a "probobscis" to produce a "piglet" that consumes "blood, tissue, and moneys".
  • Monkeys on a Typewriter: One character references it, saying that infinite dolphins with typewriters are bound to eventually type something that isn't a fetishistic death threat.
  • 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 - now has an official name: Fern.
  • 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."
  • Nothing Personal: More or less how the decomposers and Balmer feel about one another. Even if they have conflicting needs and have fought one another as enemies before, both of them are just fulfilling their fundamental reasons for existence.
  • Number of the Beast: Averted on the six hundred and sixty-sixth page.
    666: Sorry I didn't come up with anything extra special for page 666.

  • 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.
  • The Only One: Fern and her companions are pretty much the only ones capable of dealing with the Parliament's schemes, and what functionality in the Hospital has been restored has been due exclusively to their efforts. The Hospital's staff, which should be in charge of fixing this mess, are suffering a Critical Staffing Shortage and Sanity Slippage thanks to the Parliament's sabotage. Fern's fellow patients either aren't completely sapient, naturally helpless, suffering from illness, or unable to escape their quarantines. Other zones don't even seem to have noticed that there is a problem in the first place. Most importantly, there is also the fact that the Parliament's Perception Filter makes it difficult for most people to even notice that anything is wrong.
  • Only Sane Man: Fern, although she does hear voices.
    • Unfazed Everyman: But she slowly gets used to the casual morbidity and cartoonish logic of the hospital.
  • Ontological Mystery
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Dolphins are an Always Chaotic Evil race of sadistic, Ax-Crazy parasites. So when Cheryl meets a group of dolphins that make a genuine attempt at friendliness, it leaves her flabbergasted.
  • Organic Technology: So many examples a-plenty, but this is in full throttle in slob-o-vision.
  • 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: 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. A perceptoid is able to able to exist in multiple places at once across the multiverse through a process called branchination, and their different selves may be radically different depending on the zone they exist in.
  • 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
  • Perception Filter: Entities throughout the Zones can do this deliberately. Grayzoners tend to be particularly susceptible to it, allowing Burgrr Inc to carry out "gray harvests" without resistance. The Parliament has also been carrying this out against the Hospital's medical staff. Among them, only Dr. Man, and to a lesser degree, Dr. Mizer, are even aware that there is an enemy that is preventing them from perceiving it.
  • Pieces of God:
    • Once upon a time, the original being, the Old Flesh, was the only thing that existed. Then one day, it became very very sick and started breaking down into the reality we know. The most intact surviving pieces, the Parliament, are determined to revive the original being in a way that will assimilate the current reality out of existence. While their experiments have not yet achieved success, echoes of what once were, called Slobs, have been known to appear when things become so sick that reality itself breaks down, effectively taking their place.
    • Some of the bigger Anthropomorphic Personifications throughout the zones are subdivided into multiple individuals representing different aspects of themselves.
  • Plaster Cast Doodling: Kyle is a minor character who's a disembodied lower leg bone with a cast. His "face" is a doodle on the cast, and there are other scrawlings and doodles around it.
  • Portal Door:
    • The "out of order" door that leads to The Abyss.
    • The Hospital and Morgue use these to access Zones that are generated from a being's "endosphere", like when Dr. Phage diagnoses a patient by traveling "inside" it and when Fern enters the Corpse World of one of her own dead bodies.
  • Powers That Be: Fern has been "lucky", almost as if her path is being directed by fate. Dr. Man can detect mysterious forces guiding her other than the Parliament, almost as if part of some Cosmic Chess Game.
  • Psychic Link: A parent has a strong and special type of connection to their child, especially one that was only recently formed by their parent. Fern, as well as the other parents of Parliament infected kids in the Hospital, occasionally get a strong impression of their child's current status, especially when they sleep.
  • Punny Name: Everyone's name is a pun, even the protagonist's.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • "Reading Is Cool" Aesop: An inversion is one of the things the Parliament is using to sabotage the Library, a cool flashy poster urging kids to never read again. Willis manages to take it down.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Official Fan-Submitted Content is intrinsic to the comic, but one reader suggestion involving an egg and a toy bunny to save a juvenile from succumbing to The Corruption and becoming a Slob succeeds specifically because, by coincidence, the climax of that interactive sequence took place over the Easter holiday.
  • Recursive Reality: The Inert Biovessel is Fern's own corpse, specifically, the one that had its neck wrung by the X-Ray Skeleton.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Fern herself will flash these when she gets angry enough. Despite being a typical Puny Earthling, she's proven that the threat behind her warnings is very real. As of the time of this writing, all instances of Fern's red eyes preceeded a fatal battle for whoever made her angry.
  • Red/Green Contrast: Fern appears with a vivid green overlay, while red is associated with The Corruption of the Old Flesh that's consuming The Multiverse, which manifests in things like feral Plague Zombies and the Great Red Blight.
  • Revolting Rescue: The Moldsucker extracts Fern's group from a dangerous situation by swallowing them whole and vomiting them up in a safe place later. Not only do they get a short bath in her stomach contents, but they don't know beforehand that she's trying to help them.
  • Ridiculously Long Phone Hold: The Parliament manages to incapacitate Magdolene for a second time, but by the time Fern gets there, the agent containing her is alone. When it tries to call for help, the assistance channel responds that all security units are already assisting others and to please wait while listening to relaxing vibrations.
  • 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.

  • Sanity Slippage: Happening to almost everyone in the Hospital to varying degrees due to the Parliament's sabotage.
  • Say It with Hearts: Blaphin ends his final line, with an ominous message, that itself ends in a red Heart Symbol.
  • Scare Quotes: In comic 637, Scissie and Scissane use winks along with scare quotes to indicate that they know "Tori" is not really "Tori":
    Scissie: [winking] Oh, of course, "Tori" really oughta be more careful with that stolen I.D!
  • 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.
  • Secret Message Wink: In comic 637, Scissie and Scissane use winks along with Scare Quotes to indicate that they know "Tori" is not really "Tori":
    Scissie: [winking] Oh, of course, "Tori" really oughta be more careful with that stolen I.D!
  • Self-Deprecation: While "gassed", Fern comments that her current actions will save 10 pages, several months worth of updates at "this jerk's current update rate" at a time when the comic was updating slowly.
  • Sheathe Your Sword:Crashslob is defeated by Fern blocking for six turns straight while talking him down as he slowly breaks apart.
  • Ship Tease: 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.
    • A more straight (but less straight) example is when after defeating the Glumdroodler, BBQ Girll uses "babemousse" as the next in her several bizarre ways of addressing Fern. Before kicking her into a meat grinder.
    • Joe and Flair sure are teasing some kind of ship.
    Joe: YES FLAIR.
    Flair: Yes who?
    Flair [to Fern]: You must excuse him, he rather rudely forgets how much we want all your money. Don't worry, he'll be disciplined extra rough later. [winks]
  • 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.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: A recurring theme. When regular doctors couldn't treat her son or even notice that anything was wrong, Fern resorted to quack medicine. The comic's "sponsor" is an obviously fraudulent product, and a mysterious Dr. "P" has been vending them. The Parliament has been spreading them around to weaken the concepts of Health and Medicine until the boundaries between health and illness fall apart into the original being.
  • Speed Demon: The Broken Skull "wants to go fast"... which, for it, is somewhat slower than a snail's pace. Being carried by a sprinting human is almost a religious experience.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • Super Gullible: Compared to most perceptoids throughout the range, even the worst human liars are practically masters of deception.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: According to Magdolene, if a creature from the Abyss takes an interest in you, you need to kill it, not run away, because it will continue to stalk you until one or the other is dead and it will likely be stronger the next time you cross paths.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The Fetch Quest arc seemingly has a very simple and straightforward solution: just give every patient an item that they want. Unfortunately, it turns out giving patients what they want instead of what they need is a terrible idea, and almost everything Fern does during this arc only makes things worse.
  • Sweatdrop: Done with, of all things, an azure drop-shaped slug, for Harmburger:
  • Swiss-Cheese Security: The Hospital has security, but they have completely failed to notice countless threats, presumably due to the Parliament's Perception Filtering and the Hospital's deterioration.
  • Tactful Translation: When Fern gets transferred to a slob body, causing her to speak a different language, Celia translates everything she says to Balmer, minus the sarcasm.
  • Tactical Suicide Boss: Final Jayslob has an exorbitant amount of HP, but is so unnatural and broken than merely moving around hurts it. It also can produce bombs, but does not have the facilities to aim them, or control their production, or any protection against them, and they constantly just fall at its own feet, damaging itself.
  • Talking Pest:
    • Dr. Phage is a giant talking bacteriophage virus with a huge ego and an obsession with tacky bow ties.
    • Maggie and Magatha are maggots.
    • Staph is a bacterium.
  • Tantrum Throwing: After seeing all of his hard work fixing the Library get completely undone by an apparently ordinary Earth dog, Willis starts throwing a reality breaking temper tantrum, one bad enough to force Professor Lexicovermus across the Godzilla Threshold and deal with the situation personally. On the bright side, the threat Willis poses is dramatic enough to finally trigger the Library's defenses, including against the more insidious Parliament influence.
  • 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. Cause is not perfectly linear with effect and can even have effect retroactively.
    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.
  • Title Drop: Subverted.
    Celia: Staphie, what's a word for something "full" of "awe," in a bad way?
    Staph: "Sucks."
  • 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.
  • Too Awesome to Use: Why Fern and her Buzzers are reluctant to use the Danger Apple when confronted by hostile doctors that are increasingly suffering from Sanity Slippage. It is the ultimate weapon against the Hospital Doctors (save Dr. Man, who is close enough to human to be immune to Literal Metaphors), but she has only the one and it is implied to be single use.
  • Too Kinky to Torture: The Commentators try to direct Jay to take a shower before he finishes slobbifying and hurts someone, but the shower turns out to be sapient. The shower describes Jay's weapon as kinky, and, even as she is cut into pieces, says that she is still loving it.
  • Too Strange to Show: Fern's inventory is depicted as a Video Game Interface Element, but she perceives it as a tote bag with ten infinitely large interiors occupying the same space.
    You were under the impression the human mind either just wouldn't process that sort of thing at all or would go mad from the attempt, but it turns out, it just sort of tickles a little.
  • Translator Microbes: The exact details haven't been given, but Fern is able to communicate with a decent number of the other-zonal aliens she encounters. From what Magdolene says, as long as you and another being share enough context for what you are communicating, it'll go through, if an alien you can otherwise communicate with mentions something you don't have context for, that concept gets interpreted as Wingdinglish. The effect doesn't work if your zones are too different, meaning Fern does occasionally need translation for Starfish Languages.
  • Two of Your Earth Minutes: The entities 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.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Burgrr, Inc have contributed greatly to Parliament operations, but it is eventually made clear that they are not witting allies and have been infiltrated with moles.
  • Visual Pun: Waaaaaay too many to count.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Worm in an Apple:
  • Wretched Hive: The "community" living to the east of the Horrible Ghastly Death Woods, at least according to Celia and Balmer. But they are lying liars that lie.
  • 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.