Strange England

Strange England

by Simon Messingham
Strange England

AD1867, Scotland

            It wad dusk in Edinburgh. A red light bled into the city and its imposing castle. There was a weight in rhe light as if particles of the sun were digging in, refusing to be dragged down below the horizon. People on the streets blinked and stared up feeling the unwavering gaze of that ancient, burning eye. Somehow, the impressive architecture of the city seemed a fitting monument, a symbol of the power and majesty of the light now sinking into oblivion.
            The Doctor shook his head. He locked the door of his laboratory and made his way out of the hospital. It was impossible not to be moved by the contrast of city and sun but there was no need to be fanciful or maudlin. He placed his black hat onto his head and walked towards Rose Street. It was an important day, no wonder he was seeing significance in every littie occurance. He realised his heart was beating hard, a physical response to his emotional state. One day he might find the connection. One day...
            "Doctor, Doctor!" came a voicc from behind.
            The Doctor turned and saw the clumsy shape of Cameron running breathlessly after him. The young doctor was large and sweating. Around them, in the Grass Market, traders and beggars were giving up for the day, making room for room for Ediburgh's busy nightlife. The gallows, black and impressive, were burned into a silhouette by the sun's fading light.
            "Patrick!" wheezed Cameron, catching up with him. Doctor Rix stood quietly whilst the other leaned against him, snatching air back into his lung. At last, he could speak again. "I couldn't let you go without wishing you good luck, old man."
            Rix smiled. He had been so wrapped up in the events of the day that he had not realised that others might want to share his good fortune. It was only Christian to accept the good will of others.
            "Thank you Cameron," he said "but nothing has happencd yet. At least, I think not."
            Cameron looked a little sheepish. "It is to be today though?"
            Rix nodded and put his arm round the large man's shoulders. "Yes, today. Please, come with me. It would be selfish of me to kcep the birth of my first child a joy all to myself."
            "And your wife?"
            "She had some pains this morning. I was worried but have complete faith in Doctor Mackendrick. He is reputed to be the best."
            Rix led Cameron up the sane steps that led up and round thc castle. They did not need to go that way but again he could not help wanting to put meaning and weight into his actions. The castle provided a solemn backdrop to the day and its importance as a landmark in his life. Unfortunately, it meant Cameron would be out of breath again, very soon.
            Rix looked out over the city, past the long finger that was Princess Street, trying to imagine what was occurring in his small house somewhere below. Out to sea he could make out a small, struggling merchant ship, sails billowing in the breeze. He felt relaxed, up here. The scenery was a pattern, a design, a reassurance that God was keeping order in the world. He felt lucky, special. He hoped it was a boy.
            Cameron huffed and puffed beside him. Rix led him down the steps and into the park. Red-faced, mopping his brow with a handkerchief, his friend said "I heard your lecture yesterday. Very interesting."
            "If it is a boy, I shall call him Stephen. A girl... I don't know."
            "'Medicine and Morality'," Cameron continued. "Never thought of it like that before. Thought we just cut people's legs off most of the time."
            Rix allowed himself the discraction despite the urge to break into a sprint and get back home. "We need a philosophy, Cameron. Otherwise, how are we to progress? We must consider ourselves spiritual healers as well as physical ones."
            Cameron shrugged and Rix realised that his friend had not understood the point of the lecture. Like most doctors he was incapable of seeing the implict connection between the physical and spiritual. It was not enough simply to stitch problems up. Body and mind were not separact, they were one, they had to be treated as one.
            He knew he was right but aware also that his thinking was incomplete, he was searching in the dark for thr truth. "I am very interested in the developments with ether made by some of our colleagues," Rix said trying to make a link with Cameron, something he might understand. "We must tender science with mercy. Be aware of patients as human beings. If we treat the spiritual results of pain and illness as well as the physical then perhaps we are approaching the goal of making both mind and body healthy. I am convinced that if one is damaged then the other suffers."
            Cameron stopped and smiled. "Please excuse me Patrick. I am sure you don't want to spend the day explaining your theories to an old fool like me. Come on, let's get you home."
            They crossed to Rose Street and headed for the house. Too excited to search for the keys, Rix feverishly rang the bell. He barely noticed that Cameron was also caught up in the tension. He was hopping from foot to foot, dabbing at his sweating brow. It was now almost dark.
            At last the door was opened. It was the maid, Kathy. Rix noticed she was crying. His heart sped up again, his hands tightening into fists. He felt sick and dizzy. "What is it?" he asked. "What's wrong?"
            Kathy's freckled face remained downturned. She was unable to look at him. It felt to Rix as if a black dagger was piercing his body. He willed himself not to think the worst.
            "Patrick..." Cameron said, but Rix was in and dashing up to the bedroom. Upstairs the sound of a crying baby rang faintly round the house.
            Kathy collapsed into Cameron's arms and he held her as she sobbed, not knowing what else to do. He struggled to hear what might be happening.
            He heard the voice of an old man, presumably Doctor Mackendrick, say "Patrick, she went peacefully." Another scream from the boy and then silence. Cameron dropped his head, tears piercing his eyes. The maid sobbed against him.
            "My boy?" came Rix's anguished, hopeless voice.
            "Patrick it was..." said Mackendrick.
            Then a scream, this time from Rix. Cameron closed his eyes as he heard the desperate, lost words. "His legs! Oh God!" The house became silent.

Source: Doctor Who Magazine #215