By Ian Creasey
Read by Nick Popio
The alchemists just did their job; they had no personal spite, and they understood the limits of their human material. She — whoever she was — had no such dispassion. At first she barely understood the apparatus, and turned dials at random to see how I reacted. When she experimentally tweaked one control, creating a mild throb that I estimated at 0.25 pangs, I yelled as if agonised, to make her think she was delivering more pain than she really was. It was a mistake. Now that she knew the dial did something, she turned it up, and up, and up. For a while I screamed in earnest, until she turned me down to take a call on her crystal.
“Hello?… I can’t tell you…. It’s the secret lab, silly!… Well, what else is there to do?… Oh, all kinds of stuff. Listen!” With one firm twist she turned the dial to maximum.
My shriek must have registered on all the seismic monitors in Wyke. The pain was beyond agony, so much so that a new word was needed — or an old one, like hell. It lasted a few moments, a few years, a few centuries.
“Just a prisoner,” she said in the stretching silence. “No, I’m fine…. Yes, of course I’ll be at the party. I’ll see you later.”