The first time I saw the doctor, my dull gray world became a little more colorful. I’d laid in a medical bed for so long that I had almost forgotten anything else existed. He was breathtaking, with his slightly scruffy dark hair ruffled above his head and piercing blue eyes that seemed to penetrate my soul. He came into the room like this was the highlight of his day, with a spring in his step and a scalpel in his hand. That mesmerized me, and I drifted into a reverie for a moment, imagining him pressing the steel blade against my flesh, opening me to him.
“Hello,” he looked down at my e-paper chart, a thin transparent slip of plastic, across which my medical details scrolled, “Isla… that’s a lovely name.” His words set my heart fluttering and I tried to smile, but my muscles didn’t work so well at the moment. “And I see you’re not pregnant, yet. Don’t worry, we’ll get that remedied soon.” His voice seemed to waver for a moment, his expression became fixed, but then he regained control. “And you’re twent—oh. You’re twenty.” The light in his eyes definitely darkened, then. I wondered what was wrong with being twenty, but he didn’t seem to dwell on it. Was I getting too old to be here, now? What would they do with me once I was past it? I doubted there was a cute retirement home for women from forced breeding centers. It had been too long since I was last pregnant; the end had to come at some point soon.
“You’re twenty, and you’ve carried two babies already.” He looked sad, now, and his eyes glistened. I wanted to speak, to reassure him that it wasn’t as bad as it sounded, but truth be told it hadn’t been the best years of my life so far, and anyway, my mouth wouldn’t move properly. I stared at him. With the exception of the guards, I’d never been this close to a man before. It made a nice change from the machines.
“I need to examine you, now,” he said, and I don’t really know why he was telling me this. I guessed it was like when I was a child and I used to speak to a pebble that had dimples that looked like eyes and a mouth that I’d found outside in the orphanage’s lightless yard.
It was my only toy, until Krista Stubbings had stolen it then told the warden-bot it was hers. The injustice of losing that pebble still got at me, even though I knew it was ridiculous. I always wondered how the face had been imprinted on the pebble, because I knew they didn’t get made like that. Anyway, it figured that my life had degenerated from being a lonely impoverished orphan growing up to being someone else’s pebble as an adult. All through childhood, I’d been told I was a burden to the state, a reprobate because I existed. By being born, I had killed my parents, a crime with a lifelong stigma in Telona, my city. I didn’t mean to do it, but there were no mitigating circumstances here.
I waited for him to do whatever it was that he was here for. After all, I didn’t have any say in the things they did to me. I couldn’t speak, for a start. He reached his hands around my neck and pressed his fingertips against the base of my skull. It was wonderful. No one had ever touched me there, before, and pleasant sensations glimmered down my spine when he did it.
“Good girl,” he said, and although I had no idea what I’d done that was good, the brief praise made my heart soar. He moved his fingers down my neck, keeping up the pressure as he explored down to my shoulders.
“You’re seizing up from being motionless for too long,” he told me, then gently massaged my neck and shoulders. I sighed as his fingers worked on my muscles, manipulating my body into a more comfortable state. The ache of not moving was constant, and I appreciated what he was doing more than I could ever convey.
He seemed to massage me for ages, but somehow it was still over too soon, and I missed his hands as he withdrew them. Next, he opened my eyes and shined a light into them. I don’t know what he expected to find but I waited while he looked. When he turned the light off, big black dots obscured the center of both eyes.
While I waited for my vision to clear, he fastened a cuff around one of my arms and pressed a button on a device he’d brought with him. The cuff inflated, and I realized he was taking my blood pressure. The cuff was so tight that my pulse thrummed against it, then it released, and I didn’t like the discord of blood flowing back into my hand after he removed it.
“Blood pressure is a little low. That’s nothing out of the ordinary, though, considering they have you on blood thinners to avoid clots while you’re in this bed.”
They could always let me out of the bed. I wished I could tell him how much I wanted to be free from this place. Was I being ungrateful? Lord Francis might punish me if I thought that. I hastily apologized in my thoughts. A lot of the time, I was fairly sure he couldn’t hear me. If he did, then why didn’t he help me? In any case, where would I go? I spent a lot of my brief moments of wakefulness dreaming of getting out of this place and yet, I didn’t know what I would actually do when I got there. With nothing left in the rest of the world but toxic wasteland, the city of Telona was a sanctuary that protected all of us. I should be grateful that the city had found a way to make me productive, but… I wasn’t. I didn’t like this at all.
Some people got to be astronauts, or skydivers, or volcanologists. I got to lie in a breeding center and let machines use my body like I was a human eggshell. I also didn’t get paid. It was almost certainly a bum deal, but there wasn’t really anyone to complain to about it. The machines were mindless drones. The guards were sadistic fucks and I’d kill every last one of them, given half a chance. Or, at the very least, I’d put too much sugar in their coffee and hope they got diarrhea.
Mostly, though, I slept. I disliked sleeping my life away, but that was also not something I got to choose. I preferred the dreams. I don’t know why the guards made me sleep most of the time, but they didn’t seem to know I was ever awake. Almost exactly three hundred ‘bleeps’ of the heartbeat machine after I awoke, the guards would come in with machines on wheels. Beyond this dingy room in the near-dark, the rest of the world might not have even existed.
Except, it must have. Because the man who examined me had to have come from somewhere. If he had worked in this breeding center for very long, I was sure he would have seen me before, and he seemed so surprised about my age that this had to be our first encounter. It was the first change to my life’s routine in however long I’d been here. Two years, if I was twenty now.
He finished doing something with my chart, then he pressed my fingers and toes, still testing something, before making notes. It was the closest I had come to being held by anyone in my entire life. The emotion overwhelmed me and tears escaped from beneath my lashes. He didn’t see, and I wasn’t sure why, but part of me wanted him to know how strongly I felt about this brief contact.
Replacing the chart, he turned to leave. Panic flooded my thoughts. I didn’t want to be alone again. I’d been alone for so long. During school time at the orphanage, the computers had taught me to expect to grow up, be matched with a man, and have one baby. Instead, at eighteen, I’d been brought here. I wanted my man. I wanted my baby. Was it so unreasonable to want these things out of life? Needing to stop him, I summoned every ounce of energy in my sedated body.
“Gooo… uhhh…” was the best I managed. He looked at me in surprise, then frowned. Before I knew it, he peered into my eyes and waved a hand in front of my face.
When I couldn’t react in response, he shook his head and moved away again.
“You know, it’s funny. I know I must be mistaken. But I could’ve sworn you just tried to say something,” he remarked.
I sighed. Only, I really just breathed exactly the same as I normally did. He left. It wasn’t long before I went to sleep. At least it passed the time better than counting the bleeps of the heartbeat machine.
Since the first time I saw the man, I awakened several more times but he never came. Perhaps I’d imagined him. He had been very handsome, and really it didn’t make sense for him to exist. Now, however, I felt a little silly that I’d believed anything would change.
Every day was always the same. The guards came, they pressed buttons on machines, they left. Alone was what I knew. Alone, and half awake. Before that, I remembered dreaming. So many dreams. My imagination took me to faraway places that were nothing like Telona, my city. Women in my dreams wore colorful clothing and walked outdoors on their own. Conversations buzzed everywhere, as people spoke freely without fear of retribution. It was an amazing, magical dream world. I wished I could live there.
It wasn’t real, though. Reality was that I lay in a medical bed, beside a machine that never ceased to bleep at the same speed as my pulse. I perpetually waited until another machine impregnated me. Then, day after day, it would test my blood. If I didn’t conceive, it would do it again. Shots in my ass. Shots in my cervix. Shots to draw blood. I hated the machines. Relentless, strong, dead. Insistent on turning me into a sieve with so many shots. They terrified me. I do not know why they did the things they did, but they were impervious to the pain they caused. When I’d first started awakening, my heart almost broke with sorrow from the loss of my dream world. I’d truly believed in it until then.
It made sense that, now that I knew the colorful world wasn’t real, my brain would invent a man who might illuminate this place. As the days passed, and I still wasn’t pregnant, I decided he wasn’t real.
Then, he returned. Like a god of life and warmth and all that was good in the world, he came back. I couldn’t tell him how much I’d missed him, so I thought it really hard and hoped that somehow it got to him, just like praying to Lord Francis.
Like the first time he’d come, the doctor was chipper, and reassuringly three-dimensional, and now that he stood at the foot of my metal bed, I didn’t know how I’d possibly believed he was imaginary.
“Good morning, Isla. I hope you’re having a wonderful day. I’m sorry I couldn’t get back all week, there are so many women here.” A momentary flash of darkness crossed his features. I’d never really thought about how many women were here. “Anyway, I want to check on you every day and run some tests until we can identify why you’re not pregnant yet.”
My heart soared. The idea of spending more one-on-one time with the doctor was thrilling.
“First, I need to run blood tests. This is going to pinch. The guards say none of you can feel anything, but I’m never really sure. Studies have shown that’s not always the case with people who can’t respond to pain. So I deeply apologize if this hurts, but I need a good sample so I can run tests on a wider range of things than what the machines usually check for.” He stepped toward me with a needle. I wanted to back away, but I couldn’t. Staring at the metal tip in morbid fascination, I watched him press the thin point against my arm. The skin flexed into a little dimple, then the needle pierced it with a sharp bump, and a moment later, the syringe was filling with blood. Once it was full, he unsnapped it from the needle, and filled a second, then third vial with the dark liquid I was full of.
Finally, he removed the needle and I stared at the place where it had been. He had been far gentler than the machines usually were, and despite the fact he’d taken much more of me to study, I felt less violated and far less sore than blood tests normally left me. His bedside manner was clearly excellent.
“I hope I didn’t hurt you.” He turned to put the vials of blood in a metal pan. My eyes overflowed once again. In my entire life, this was the first time anyone had put together those specific words and said them to me. It was the first time anyone had ever been so considerate. When he turned back, however, the tears were gone.
“Next, I need to look inside you. I’m going to have to shave your pussy to get the best view of everything that’s down there, because some of the other women have had odd irregularities.”
For the first time since I got there, I was ashamed. Something was wrong with me down there, and he was about to see whatever it was. Maybe I was one of the women with irregularities. There was a loud swooshing sound, then something cold and foamy was massaged all over my pussy. His hands were incredible, and his fingers seemed to move with a firm precision that made me feel like I was safe. He knew what he was doing, as he expertly caressed my pussy lips and swiped the foam all the way back to my rear hole, then turned to the side and wiped his hands on a towel.
He took up a scalpel, and I remembered the first time I saw him. He’d walked into the room holding one. The blade was so small and thin, yet it looked designed for perfect precision. The doctor pressed something on the bed, and my legs began to part.
My heart caught in my throat as he pressed the blade against my bikini line. I was suddenly very afraid that he might decide I was in a good state for him to do some exploratory surgery. Then I remembered what he’d said about the needle. He’d apologized for hurting me. It didn’t make sense that he’d apologize for a teensy needle then plunge a scalpel into my vajayjay. I tried to breathe. The cold metal moved across the surface of my skin in short, purposeful strokes. Where it had traveled, my pubic hairs tugged then air moved against my skin. He bared me, just as he’d said he would.
Every so often, the doctor would push or pull against my outer pussy lips, and the gentle attention was divine. He occasionally turned to rinse foam from the scalpel, before returning his attention to my sex. I was almost positive that this shouldn’t be making me feel tingly, and that it was wrong to hunger for him to touch me more deeply, but all the same, I ached and yearned to be filled by him.
Immobile, I sank into a peaceful reverie as he gradually worked his way either side of my opening, before scraping the side of the scalpel blade against the skin surrounding my ass. The blade’s thin surface was the most sensual thing that had ever stroked my body. By now, my clit throbbed for attention and I wished I could ask him to make me come.
He finished by pressing a hot, damp towel across my pussy and ass, and applying firm pressure. I wanted to melt into a puddle of goo around his hands, so he might lick me up. Then I would never have to watch him leave again.
When it was over, he removed the towel and shined a light into my opening. After a moment, he frowned, then picked up something that looked like a metal duck’s bill.
“I’m going to open you up a little more with this speculum,” he said, looking uncertain once more. “Sorry, but you’re very tight.”
I wondered if tightness was another personal failing, like being an orphan. Then, pressure made me try to gasp, as he inserted the duck’s bill into my vagina. I’d experienced plenty of these before, but they never seemed to get any easier. For the next few minutes, he was busy looking inside me, and occasionally inserting things into me, or pressing things, while the too-stretched feeling continued to make me try to cross my eyes. Eventually, he removed the speculum and stood upright.
“I can’t see any problems. Sometimes, these things just take time. I don’t think this environment is helping you. I’ll think on how I can improve it for you, since I doubt the guards would allow me to do most of the things that would normally work. However, I can’t completely rule out a medical problem yet. I’ll return tomorrow once I have the results of your blood test. In the meantime, try to get some rest.” He winked at me, and I laughed inwardly at his joke. All I ever did was rest. Even now, I was exhausted from my short time awake. It felt strange to meet someone who was slightly aware of how this situation would affect me, even if he didn’t know I heard him. All the men I’d met so far in life thought ‘perspective taking’ meant forcing everyone else to see things their way.
As he left, sorrow stabbed deeply within my heart. I wanted him to stay, but there was nothing I could say or do. Sleep dragged my eyelids lower, then I dreamed once more.
Hardly any time passed until the next time he came. He looked as chipper as ever, and his dark hair was still a mess. Perhaps he just had the sort of hair that didn’t behave itself. Or maybe he was far too busy to care about his appearance. His lab coat was clean and white, although I found it hard to believe he hadn’t gotten it dirty since he was last here. When he stood close, I inhaled his masculine scent, and I cherished it. For some reason, he vaguely smelled of cinnamon, which was both an enticement and a warning.
“Isla, good to see you again,” he greeted me, and I didn’t respond. There were so many things I wished I could tell him, though. Like how much I’d missed him. He wandered around the bed, plumping my pillow, tucking in my blanket and generally taking care of me. I liked that he looked after me when I couldn’t do any of these things by myself.
“I think you have a blockage. Are you hungry? I don’t think your food has been going in properly today.” I didn’t feel especially in need of nourishment. I must have, once, but it had been so long since I ate solid food that I didn’t remember when the empty feeling had evaporated. On reflection, I had probably slept through it.
He checked the feeding tube that traveled down my nose, then cried, “I knew it! It’s a home run for Weston!” before slowly sliding it out. I tried not to gag or sneeze as it moved through parts of me that should never have been touched. Rather than the guards, who roughly handled me and forced the tube into my body when it got stuck, the doctor gently worked a fresh tube into me, allowing my muscles to relax as the line found its way into my stomach. Once it stopped moving, he stroked my hair and I wanted nothing more than to lean into it and sigh as his fingers caressed my scalp. My heart glowed with reassurance that, despite all evidence to the contrary, everything was going to be okay.
Then, he examined the smaller tube, the one that traveled down into my left arm from a big bag of liquid beside the bed. When he touched it, it was tender.
“This needs changing before it gets infected,” he told me. “It’s the one that keeps you sleepy, because all your special medicines go inside you from the drip, up there.” He pointed at the bag of colorless liquid above my head. It looked so innocuous. Was that really the only thing making me fall asleep all the time? For some reason, I had imagined my tiredness stemmed from a big vat of lurid green gloop that was being blended into the food, perhaps with a giant skull-and-crossbones on the container.
The doctor pressed the clamp against the tube, and I watched the drops of liquid slow down, then they stopped altogether. He carefully removed the tube from my left arm and put it aside, so it dangled impotently beneath the IV bag. Then, he peeled back the tape and slid the needle out of my inner elbow. For some reason, just seeing him do that made me hopeful that perhaps he’d let me live in a world where I was awake all day.
He turned to a trolley and hunted around, then looked in a cupboard, before sighing heavily.
“Don’t go anywhere. I need to go find you a new cannula.” He turned and left, and almost instantly, loneliness enveloped me once more. While I waited for him to return, I drifted off to sleep again, and dreamed of him holding me in his arms, as we sat together in one of the colorful cities of my dream world.
When he returned, I awoke, and this time, some of the ever-present cotton wool had disappeared from my head. Focusing my eyes was easier. My arm was still free. How long had I been without the sedatives?
“I found a fresh cannula. I’ll put it into your other arm, this time, to give poor leftie a break.” He held up a sterile, sealed packet to show me. I didn’t think it was worth being happy about. It was going to mean the poison would resume filling my veins soon.
He swabbed my right arm with a cotton ball covered in something cold, then he inserted the needle. I watched in fascination again as the metal point punctured my skin then slid into me. A moment later, he had taped the cannula in place. It itched slightly, but that subsided within seconds.
My heart sank, and I felt like I was on the execution block as he slowly walked around the bed, grasped the IV stand, and wheeled it around to its new position. When he attached the tube to the cannula, I hoped he would forget that it was clamped closed, so then no liquid would get inside me, but he was too meticulous to miss something like that. He flipped it back on, and I watched the tiny droplets of liquid make their way down to my arm.
“Your blood tests showed nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe a slight vitamin D-three deficiency, but that’s only to be expected because you haven’t been outside in a long time. With that in mind, I’d like to do another pregnancy test today.” He went to my catheter and unfastened the bag, replacing it with a new one. “I love when you ladies leave me presents,” he quipped, then he raised his other hand and touched an imaginary cowboy hat before turning to leave.
This was my last chance. I didn’t want him to go. If he walked out of the door, I was sure my heart would break this time. My helplessness infuriated me. As he stepped to the door, I did something I hadn’t been able to do in a very long time.
“Wait!” I said clearly. He froze, like he’d heard a ghost, then his shoulders tensed and he turned around. For several seconds, he just stared at me.
“Who are you?” I asked. He frowned, and for a moment, I wondered if I’d grown a second head, but then he was back to his normal, pleasant demeanor.
“I’m the doctor. They brought me here to take care of everyone,” he said. “I have to go, sweetheart, but I’ll be back tomorrow. That’s a promise.”
As he left, I began to cry from frustration. That wasn’t how it was supposed to go. He should have realized I was a real person, then scooped me up and taken me away on a flying unicorn. Or at least clamped the sedative.
Annoyed and tangled in a bunch of medical tubes, I very cautiously sat up and reached out a hand. My entire body protested and nausea tried to drag me back down, but whether it was anxiety or a side effect of sitting for the first time in ages, I didn’t know.
I pressed the white clip, just like the doctor had when he changed my IV. The drip stopped. The amount of energy it had taken to make my body move was surprising, and I lay back on the bed for a moment to rest. Clearly, he wasn’t going to help me. My heart ached from rejection and another shattered illusion. If he wouldn’t save me, at least he’d inadvertently given me some means to save myself.