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He lay on the operation table, silently corpse-like, wishing he could sleep. Just wishing; no will. He knew it was useless to try.
“He—that—is not normal! It’s unnatural!” A hushed voice reached his ears. Logic told him it was a doctor (sterile smell, brightness behind his eyelids, high-pitched beeps with equal intervals). Fear told him it was a threat. He tried to move away from the sound, now too low for him to decipher, but he found himself unable to.
Some part of his mind kept repeating the question; it had for a while, he knew. Why was the sky blue? Why was grass green? Why couldn’t he move, or sleep, or even think properly?
“I should just kill it. It’ll only suffer.”
The voice was back. He stiffened.
“No!” A new sound. It was irksome and high-pitched, but it wanted to help him. Don’t kill me…
“And why not? Look at it!”
“He’s human too!”
“It’s a monster! It’s killed people! With those… that…”
I can’t kill. I can’t even speak.
“He’s a child!”
“Then we can put it out of its misery before it goes crazy and kills someone else!”
“It’s not his fault—“
White. White walls, white sheets, white clothes, white machines… White ghosts.
No. Those were bits of dust that settled on his eyelashes.
His whirling primal mind scanned the room with his photoreceptors, uploading new data like an ambitious droid with all the GB in the world. It sorted and stored what he deemed important (the miraculous lack of windows) and discarded unimportant details (two humanoid figures in the southeast corner of the room).
One of the latter walked toward him briskly; male, human, fifty Earth years or older; doctor. The doctor scowled.
“Sandra, it’s awake.” The other turned out to be a woman of similar species and age dressed in civilian clothes. She smiled at him.
“My, his eyes are pretty.”
The doctor narrowed his. “They’re unusual. Like the rest of it.”
“Robert!” she exclaimed, elbowing the doctor. She kept smiling at him.
“I’m sorry about him. He’s an intolerant bast—“
“Highly intelligent man of medicine!” the doctor roared indignantly. The doctor pushed the woman to the side and latched his fingers onto the other’s hospital gown, pulling him closer.
“Now, you listen and listen well. You’re abnormal, unnatural, a freak! You don’t deserve to live and you don’t want to, but Mother Theresa here insists I don’t kill you, and without proper clearance I could go to prison for it. Alright? You’re absolutely worthless to me and to everyone else. You’re a monster.”
Had he said that aloud?
Doctor Robert laughed mirthlessly, and let go of his shirt. Sandra stood by the door, frowning.
“Why? You ask me why you’re a worthless, disgusting, atypical freak?”
“That!” Doctor Robert was dissolving into hysterics now. “You hardly ever speak, and when you do its always something weird, alien. You seem to have no emotions, no ambitions, and no thought. You’re of unlimited intelligence and you while the day away with a bloody book—I don’t know how you can even hold one with those hands of yours!”
He looked down at his hands, which were resting on the lap prior. They were long and spidery, with webbed veined showing through his skin. They moved when he told them to, they were the same colour as the rest of him. Why did they separate him?
“I don’t see why my hands are any different.”
“Look again.” Doctor Robert sidled up on the right side of the hospital bed and laid his hands over the other’s.
Oh. That’s it.
His thumbs—in fact, all of his fingers—were in the wrong place. His left hand resembled the doctor’s right, and vice-versa.
“Well. That’s no reason to call me a monster, doctor, if I’m just different. I assure you, my hands are fully functional.”
“Fully functional! They’re on the wrong arm!”
“Perhaps yours are the ones on the wrong arm.”
“No!” the doctor raged, face red. He let go of the other’s hands and went over to Sandra, ignoring her flinch and dragging her over to the hospital bed.
“See?” the doctor said. He lifted Sandra’s right hand and put it next to his. “See? Both of our hands are the same! Yours are the wrong ones!”
The other sat back, staring at his fingers. “That is irrelevant to my being a monster,” he said, slightly subdued.
“Aha! But it’s not! Do you want to know about your past? Do you?”
“When you were born, your mum threw you away. Parliament found you after some time hiding in the alleys, and sent you here for research. You’ve been here for ten years, in which you’ve made it a personal mission to drive me crazy by making me do everything for you, claiming you couldn’t use your hands apart from turning the page on an electronic reader.”
“But I can—“
“But you could! I took sonogram after sonogram of your bloody hands, trying to find where the connections went wrong. I went mad looking at your ugly hands! And then I let my friend visit, a fellow doctor, and he wandered in here and you killed him! You said you couldn’t control them, but you could, you could! You strangled him; I know, I did the autopsy!”
He stared at the seething doctor, confused out of his mind. When had he killed someone?
“Of course you don’t remember!” Doctor Robert shouted. “I was so angry after I found out you could use your hands that I delivered the only partially legal retribution—I drugged you. You were on a high for weeks… It’s a shame you don’t remember the murder, though. I would’ve loved to see you suffer with the guilt.”
The other, eyes wide with shock, said quietly,
“What happened to you?”
“’W-What happened to me’? What happened to me? You happened to me! You’ve driven me mad! I knew you were trouble, worthless trouble, as soon as Sandra walked through the door with you. The fool was already attached. Reason wouldn’t work with her; she insisted we keep you, if only for research. You were five at the time but you didn’t say a word, and I thought, ‘What the hell?’ But then you started talking and your words truly showed how utterly alien you were. You asked me to read you the dictionary each night, then the thesaurus, and then the medical dictionary! You were always either making me read to you or moaning and groaning about how your hands hurt, how they never moved where you wanted them to, how you couldn’t even type on a datapad to do your own research. You treated me like I was some kind of shrink!”
“And how does this result in my… allegedly killing your friend?”
The doctor had taken to pacing now, clasping his hands behind his back and walking briskly across the room. “I don’t know. I can’t know, until you tell me; then I can turn you in to Scotland Yard and into a penitentiary, where you belong!”
“I see.” His voice broke a little as the doctor’s words sunk in. And then he realized: “Where does Sandra fit into this?”
“Yes. Earlier, you said it was her fault I killed your friend.” He was getting better at saying it now. “Why?”
“She was supposed to watch over you while my friend visited. She decided to take the night off, leaving you open you do what you will.”
“I did not!”
Both males jumped in surprise, having forgotten the woman of question was still in the room. Sandra sat in a corner curled up in a ball and looked at the two of them with semi-wild eyes.
“I was paged by another doctor who wanted me for an emergency! I was extremely busy; how do you expect me to keep track of a child when I’m up to my elbows in blood?”
“Then you should’ve called in a replacement!” Doctor Robert bellowed, whirling to face Sandra. “If it wasn’t for your incompetence, I might still have a colleague and friend!”
Sandra stared at the doctor’s crimson, livid face, her momentary courage collapsing. Tears sprung from her eyes, but they had no effect on the doctor’s rage.
“’Up to my elbows in blood’, you say? With John’s death on top of it, I was up to my eyebrows in blood! You stupid, daft, impertinent… bint!*”
Sandra’s visage was one of shock and hurt, replaced by fear when Doctor Robert let out a mighty roar and struck her across the face.
Silence. Shock. The sound of the slap reverberated in the air long after its execution. Sandra’s cheek must have been smarting like a beast, but she never took her eyes off of Doctor Robert. The man himself looked no more remorseful than he’d been before he’d hit her.
“What you’re feeling now is only a fraction of the pain I feel every day, you—stupid—“ The doctor screamed in the most primal sort of way and lunged towards her again, this time punching her jaw. The other nearly cringed at the resulting sickening crack, feeling a knot twist itself into his abdomen and spine; he couldn’t identify it quite yet. Instead, he kept watch with a sick sense of curiosity.
“And that! That is only a miniscule portion of what I suffer!”
“Belt up!” The doctor kicked her hard in the diaphragm, causing Sandra to spit out blood, and the other finally knew what put the stone in his stomach—anger.
It was a deep, burning fury which threatened to swallow him whole, which made his fingers twitch and his eyes narrow. He understood the doctor’s rage from this point prior, but found himself with a better reason.
Logic told him murder would only lead to more trouble.
Humanity told him pitting the doctor against a frail woman like Sandra wasn’t fair, and why shouldn’t he attack when the doctor was attacking her?
The stone wall of logic crumbled from the impact of true anger. The other rose from his bed, vaguely noting the weakness in his legs but disregarding it, and attacked the doctor from behind.
Luck was with him. He caught the doctor by surprise, halting his pursuit of Sandra’s immediate suffering. He wrapped his backwards hands around the doctor’s trachea by instinct and clenched tighter and tighter. The doctor let out an awful screech and clawed at the other’s hand, but found no purchase. Within a minute he dropped to the floor.
Doctor Robert was dead.
“I’m sorry you had to see that, Sandra.”
“It’s okay. Really. I know you were just trying to protect me…”
“Was I? I don’t even remember you.”
“I’m sure some part of you did, and acted accordingly.”
“Is that to be my plea in court?”
“I don’t see why it can’t be.”
He sighed. He let the telephone drop to the counter and leaned against the glass separating them.
“It won’t be good enough. Two murder charges, and both have ample evidence to convict me. I’ll be incarcerated for life…”
Sandra tapped on the glass and gave him a smile.
*bint: A rather unflattering word for ‘woman’ used primarily in the UK.