In the beginning, there was cold. Absolute, everywhere. Then the world divided itself between outside my skin, which was warm, and inside, which was frozen and I thought 'I'm cold.'
I couldn't move, my body was lead. I felt a surface, hard and flat and pushing against me. I tried again and opened my eyes. The world swam, grey, incoherent and I shut them.
Humming faded into the world, picking up until it came through the very surface
I was on. Then there were other sounds, but those made no sense. And then:
Clear. I opened my eyes again and this time I could see -- it took a while to recognise it as a face. It was bent down to the floor, right down to my level so it was nearly all I could see.
"Dr. Kelly?" it repeated, then I knew the face. It belonged to Mark. All I could do was blink. He noticed and took it as encouragement. He said, "I'm truly, truly sorry sir."
Even without the pale expression on his face, he didn't need to tell me. I found I could speak, but each word took its time: "I. know. Dying."
Mark looked even more sorry. "No. I'm afraid you're going to live."
I would have laughed, if just thinking about it hadn't started me coughing.
"I expect you're going to start feeling better in a bit."
And he was right: I didn't feel as cold and words came more easily. "What...happened?"
"Well, you're still under the drill bit and we're heading to the surface now. I'm afraid you're mostly, um, non-existent from the waist down."
I tried to raise myself, no luck. But I could feel my fingertips scrape along the floor, that was improvement. "How?" How did it happen? How am I still alive?
How come there's no pain?
"We gave you a little pick-me-up. You know how surgeons work from the outside in? This works from the inside out."
"What do you mean?"
"You're going to keep on feeling better. Don't worry, we'll take good care of your pet. And Dr. Kelly, I'm really sorry." He stood up -- his face vanished and all I could see were his boots and then those too vanished, becoming a fading set of steps and then he was gone.
I may have dozed off: I woke when my toes started to itch. I reached down to scratch and this time I had no trouble moving my hand. It met a wall of steel.
The itching feeling got stronger, became supplemented by a prickling from every part of my legs at the same time. It pulsed: with every heartbeat, it was as if someone was poking them with billions of pins: first lightly, then softly, then firmly.
And then they stabbed.
And I couldn't pass out.