Hourglass [Dr Waltham]

It took fifteen months, two weeks, six days and three hours for me to escape, but every day that passed was just a grain of sand in an hourglass. I hardly even noticed that time was passing, since I was numb with the pain and shock of the parting. I was convinced it would pass but the days flew by and it never lessened. "Shelley," I used to whisper every night as I lay on the hard bed. "Shelley..."

For the first two months I wasn't even conscious of anything -- no emotions, no self-awareness. I did not know who I was. And the pain of the knives and the thorns; that was nothing compared to the pain inside me. I relished it because it made my internal agony seem slightly less intense.

And every day I lost a little more of my sanity. I was positive that if I ever got out it would only be to end up back in the hospital I'd once treated people in. Of all the irony.

They almost tore me apart. I hate to look back on it but when I finally got away, my left hand had only three fingers and my back was laid open by scars and whip-marks -- but these weren't caused by whips. Oh no. I would have counted myself lucky if a strip of leather ever appeared in their armoury.

Once I tried to talk to them. "Tell me, where is Shelley? What have you done to her?"

They never replied, never told me anything. I began to wonder if she was dead, or if she thought that I was. I couldn't get a message to her no matter how hard I begged and pleaded, and even bribed, though I had precious little to bargain with. "Just tell me if she's alive," I would say. "Tell her I'm still here." They would laugh in my face.

Once, when I was so close to death that I was sure it would be only minutes before I slipped away, they sent a doctor to me. Of all the things! I was a doctor myself, but I could not treat my own wounds. And when I wanted to die ... that was when they healed me. He brought me news. News I had been waiting for, but it was not enough to make me stay.

But my escape was easier than you'd expect. We weren't in space then, you must understand that. We'd come down onto the Earth several months ago, because it was pointless just hovering around without going anywhere. Somewhere in the Arctic, we were, although I was never entirely sure where.

And I just slipped away, thin enough to pass under their arms and fast enough (strength lent by desperation and a sense of 'the final chance', no doubt) to outrun the unwieldy creatures. I ran and ran and ran, across the ice and snow and hard-packed ground. My feet were torn to pieces. When I stopped, they were blue and frostbite was sinking in.

But I was away from the Voices, returning to humanity after so long. I was coming home.

The End

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