Teaser: “Blind Eye”
HOSPITAL. She must be in hospital.
Through eyes still bleary with sleep, Alison Cheney found herself staring at a shield of gleaming glass just beyond the tip of her nose. And light. White light. There was a white light, as if the chamber around her was lit from within. The impulse to cover her eyes only served to demonstrate that she could not move her arms. There were heavy straps at her wrists and ankles. And it felt like hospital, the air cold and antiseptic and strangely still. Something must have happened. Something must have gone wrong. She must be in hospital.
Alison coughed, her throat sore, mind struggling amid a fog of uncertainty. But how could she be in hospital? She and the Doctor had been in ancient Babylon. She had begged for ancient Greece, and the TARDIS had brought her there. They had been looking for Herodotus, the Father of History. The last thing she remembered was standing at the Ishtar Gate, arguing with the Doctor over the bogus map he’d been foolish enough to buy from some Persian Del Boy.
“Doctor?” she murmured. Straining against the straps at her wrists, she coughed, cleared her throat, and called out again, shouting into the glass. “Doctor!”
She would have given anything to hear one of his condescending quips, to hear him speak out with that haughty voice that was reserved and superior but also reassuring. Instead, her own cries rang in her ears, and when the sound fell there was nothing but the rattle of her own ragged breaths, rising and falling against the soundproof glass.
Twisting her neck, Alison looked to her left, and at once she understood the precise size and scope of her predicament. Just a few meters away was a sort of high tech chamber lying parallel with her own. It was long and relatively narrow, just large enough to encapsulate a prone body, a tube of thick glass augmented by blinking bits of kit and a metal frame anchored to the floor. Inside this oversized test tube was the body of a man, a set of stubby horns protruding from his face, his exposed skin marked by livid green scales. A lizard man. A sample of a lizard man preserved in a test tube! And she was the mammal.
As she watched, the scaly figure struggled against his restraints, thrashing about behind the glass. Just above his belly was a thin metal pipe protruding from the glass. With a gasp Alison realized that she, too, had the barrel of a strange metal cylinder pointed at her stomach.
Blinking in desperation and disbelief, Alison frantically searched the edges of her vision. There was another reptilian specimen in a tube to her right, though its body lay still and lifeless. And beyond the three great test tube chambers waited a sort of classic anxiety dream, a childhood nightmare brought to vivid life.
At their feet, just beyond the glass tubes, were two rows of desks. School desks. They were perfectly ordinary classroom desks, their wooden legs scratched and their surfaces worn by years of neglect and abuse. There were at least two dozen of them. At these desks sat the kids. They couldn’t have been more than fourteen or fifteen years old. They wore school uniforms of the sort you’d find at any comprehensive, lapels done up in cheerful yellow piping, pockets bearing an embroidered crest. Their faces terrified Alison. They were looking to the front of the classroom, though none of them deigned the test tubes worthy of a glance. Instead, their eyes were glazed with something like apathy, even as the desperate lizard man beside her writhed before them in blind panic.
Where there were students, there was a teacher. Alison let loose a grunt and, twisting her neck, took in the rest of the scene. There he was, standing at the head of the tube to her left. A stiff, severe-looking man in black robes and a mortar board, a cane in his hand. He was lecturing, though Alison could not hear his words.
She did not need to hear him to understand the day’s lesson.
The instructor reached for his chalk and, as she watched with wide and disbelieving eyes, he began to scratch letters out on the blackboard as his students reached for their notebooks: “DUMB ANIMALS… FEEL NO PAIN…”
Alison shut her eyes to it. For a moment she tried to concentrate on her breathing, but the amplified sound of it in the glass chamber was only making her feel helpless and claustrophobic. In a fit of panic, she tensed her body and screamed.
No one could hear her, of course. And even if they could hear her, she knew they would not care. When she next looked to the blackboard, hopeless and terrified, she saw that the teacher had finished outlining the day’s assignment: “DISSECT THE ANIMAL AND REMOVE THREE MAJOR INTERNAL ORGANS.”