Seven - Ira

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By the time I finished throwing up on the floor, another doctor had joined Doctor A in the lab. She stared at me with concern as Doctor A tried to regain her composure. I almost said sorry to them both. "What's her name?" the second doctor asked. She was looking in the cupboard for whatever would make my arm look less like it was mauled by an alien. I didn't want to check the swelling again.

"Irina Konstantinov, room sixty-eight," Doctor A answered with a tight smile. She looked at me, reaching for the door. "I'll see you later, Ira."

A heavy weight lifted as she exited the laboratory, but I already dreaded our next meeting. The new doctor examined my arm as if it was damaged glass, her gloved fingers barely brushing my skin. "My name is Nita. Tell me if it hurts anywhere," she said pleasantly.

I shook my head as she pressed her thumb lightly against the swelling, even though I was hurting everywhere. Nita sighed and looked at me with dark blue eyes. She was tall, lean, and blonde, and had a sweet voice.

"You just knocked the needle out of the vein, and the drip got into your muscles instead," she explained. "I can give you an ice pack to reduce the swelling, but really, the only thing you can do is wait." I offered her a grimace as she led me out of the lab. "We'll put you in the infirmary for a little while to make sure nothing goes wrong."

My eyes widened; I hadn't expected the infirmary. Doctor A had said that whatever she did to constrict my pupils was only temporary, and I didn't know how long it would last. "My eyes," I said to Doctor Nita, unwittingly looking around at the compound. There were fluorescent lights neatly lined up every couple of metres, outside every pair of rooms on either side of the corridor. Each door had a number etched into it with laser precision. 31, 33, 35.

"What about your eyes?" Nita asked me. "Do you want me to have a look at them?" She quickly inserted her face too close to mine, trying to have a peek at my symptoms. I waved her away with my good arm, wanting to roll my eyes at the lack of communication between staff here.

"No, no. There's nothing wrong at the moment, but Doctor A only gave me a temporary fix. My pupils are normally too dilated to let me handle light comfortably." I bit my tongue on some blame I wanted to spew, but Doctor Nita seemed quite pleasant.

"Oh, you're the night-vision troublemaker that gets everyone in a pickle," she said, amused. I stopped in mid-step. I had never been outright called that before, even though I supposed it was exactly what I was—what I had become.

"I see how it is," I muttered, and carried on walking.

By the time we got to the infirmary, a cloud had formed over my brain. I wondered whether this was a side effect of whatever Doctor A had given me; any attempts to map out the way there had vaporised. I could only follow my Nita's instructions like a sedated mute: sitting down when she said so, sticking out my arm when she ordered, and finally, lying down on the bed. The infirmary was a soft glow around me as Doctor Nita placed an ice pack on my arm. I didn't have enough energy to look around, but I felt that I wasn't the only patient here. Whoever the others were, though, seemed to be asleep.

I squeezed my eyes shut, attempting to clear my hazy vision. Nita asked if there was something wrong with my eyes, and before I could respond, our conversation was interrupted by the abrupt opening of the door.

"Oh, someone's here; thank god." I heard the rolling of a gurney's wheels along with the familiar voice. It was ever so calm, despite the words spoken. "Help me a bit here, Nita."

"Stuart?" Nita was just as surprised to hear him as I was. "What's going on?"

I could hear Stuart rummaging for something. Metal clanked against metal. "This boy from the surface developed a strange eye condition. No pupils, no whites. Just all iris." His diagnosis made every hair on my body stand on end. "I don't suppose you've checked up on the patient in ward sixty-eight..."

The room seemed to spark with electricity. I could see Stuart's face now, gazing at me in alarm. "Ira," he muttered, trailing off. "Jaysen's condition is a bit like Ira's, reversed..."

The doctors pushed the gurney next to my bed, and lifted onto it with practised coordination. The poor guy groaned, only able to rely on touch, hearing, and balance. "Where am I?" he finally asked. Everybody had to ask that question when they first got here.

Stuart didn't seem to register the fear in Jaysen's voice as he pulled the hospital blanket up. Instead, he hissed to Nita, "Why is she here?"

"Doctor A gave her some meds for her eyes, and it ended in a bit of a scuffle, as far as I know," Nita replied. "Why?"

"Just..." Stuart began and failed to form the rest of the sentence. As he shook his head, I remembered Doctor A telling me that he never recorded his sessions with me. I closed my eyes, hoping that he'd secretly be on my side, but not having much faith in the idea. "Nothing," Stuart concluded. "You mind if I take over, Nita? Ira's condition is a little... bizarre."

"Thanks," I said, but no one heard me.

"Sure," Nita chirped. I may be mistaken, but I thought I heard a little relief in her voice. "Ira just needs to rest, anyway, and keep her arm el-"

Stuart waved her off. "I know. Thanks for your help, Nita." The other doctor gladly scurried away, and Stuart turned his attention on Jaysen once more. "Jaysen, can you hear me alright?" He looked at me and said quietly, "Sorry, Ira." I didn't know what he was apologizing for, exactly.

Jaysen sniffed and replied, "Yeah, Stewie."

"How are your eyes? Do they hurt?" I saw a blurred Stuart grabbing a torch from his white coat pocket. "Can you open them for me, Jaysen?"

Jaysen's breathing quickened, and he squeezed out an answer before the fear overwhelmed him. "They don't hurt, b-but I still... I still can't see a thing. What are you doing right now?"

"I'm trying to see if your eyes respond to stimuli at all, but we might have to do a scan later to see what's really going on," Stuart explained patiently. "Let's see how your vitals are. You've been through a lot, but you're going to be okay."

My heart dropped to my stomach. I knew for a fact that things would only get worse at this facility. I almost said something. Stuart pulled out a sheet of paper and switched on a machine next to me. "So, what happened to your eyes, Ira?" he asked as he prepared the device for Jaysen.

What an odd question, I thought. "I, um, I don't know. You'd better ask A." Somehow, I was grinning. "I could handle normal lighting for a while, but now it's getting a bit... hazy... again."

The machine gave a long beep, and Stuart scribbled down the numbers. "You're all good, Jaysen; don't worry," he said. "I'll just go and get those tests organized. Oh, and Ira, do you want a mask for your eyes, just in case?"

Before I could consider his offer, Stuart pulled some eye shades out of a drawer and placed it by my pillow. I had to wonder why they kept such things here. Eye masks seemed too comfortable for a cold lab. I thanked Stuart nonetheless.

"Take care, Ira," he said simply before leaving the room.

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