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What It Means To Be Human

By Our_Brightest_Stars

Drama / Romance

The Limits of Human Nature

[...] the individual can understand his own experience and gauge his own fate only by locating himself within his period, that he can know his chances in life only by becoming aware of those of all individuals in his circumstances. In many ways it is a terrible lesson; in many ways a magnificent one. We do not know the limits of a man's capacities for supreme effort or willing degradation, for agony or glee, for pleasurable brutality or the sweetness of reason. But in our time we have come to know that the limits of "human nature" are frighteningly broad.

-The Promise, C. Wright Mills (1959).

She didn't notice anything amiss at first. Some of the blame could be placed upon the fact that she was in a foreign country, mostly blind without her thickset glasses, and, like the majority of the human race, was too absorbed with her own life, needs, and goals. A large portion of the remainder could be rested on the fact that the changes were so small, it would be a wonder that anyone had noticed at all if they were just another, mostly blind, human foreigner.

But possibly, the biggest and most obvious reason of all that she didn't notice, was because it happened when she was sleeping...And when she woke up, she was in a pasture that looked nearly identical to the one she had been in previously. The only difference was that the sheep, which had originally been surrounding her and sniffing her curiously, were on the opposite side of the fenced pasture and that she couldn't find her purse anywhere.

The woman adjusted her photochromic prescription lens, blinking owlishly around her in perplexed confusion. It had cost her a small sum to get said glasses in the first place but worth it. Being born visually impaired because of a lack of melanin to protect her retina, was unfortunate, especially since her vision would continue to decrease with age. Not to mention her increased risk of eye cancers because of UV damage from the lack of melanin as well. Really, sunglasses and prescription glasses were a must for her, this way she could have the best of both worlds.

Currently, however, her prized glasses were doing nothing to help in the way of her search for her purse, which was still suspiciously absent. She mused to herself that it was a miracle that whatever villain which had taken her purse missed her vintage camera. It used to belong to her grandmother and was still in surprisingly good condition from being over three decades old. Perhaps that was why it was missed, who would want an old X100S when so many more advanced models were available? Still, she held a fondness for the old ways of printing and developing pictures, not to mention that this camera held much sentimental value from being passed down from mother to daughter for three generations if she included herself. She found herself grateful that this camera might yet make it to being passed down a fourth generation.

A sense of irritation at herself, for having fallen asleep in the first place, developed from her sorrow over her lost purse. She wouldn't lose any money since she had a debit and you needed a code to access that, but it would undeniably be a hassle to get it all straightened out. A new debit card, driver's license, phone... Not to mention a new hotel key. Damn, she mentally cursed, hoping that the villain of a thief would only take the meager few pounds that she had left over from getting lunch and then dump the purse. If he was clever enough to use the key to find the right hotel she was staying at and got into her room...

What a disaster.

Letting out a long-suffering sigh before letting out a small cough, she turned to gaze speculatively at the flock of sheep which had taken to huddling on the side of the pasture opposite to her, as if they perceived a threat somewhere while they bleated plaintively. "Why...?" She murmured to herself, unsure as how to finish her question. Intrigued, she began to approach them only to stop when the sheep proceeded to retreat away from her whenever she went near them. Previously, it had been all she could do to get some personal space from the animals. What would cause such a change in behavior?

"Oi!" A man's voice called, causing her heart to leap in her chest and breaking her from her puzzled thoughts. The young woman whirled around to see a tall man hurrying over to her, waving his arm in the air to get her attention. "We need to talk."

Well, it wasn't as if she hadn't expected this to happen at some point. She was just happy that this didn't happen while she was sleeping... Although, on second thought, if he was here earlier, he might have prevented the robbery of her purse and the thief would have inadvertently become her alibi. As it was, however, she would simply have to get creative, as she really wasn't supposed to be here. At all.

"Yes, we do," she asserted in an authoritative tone, forming her expression into a frown. The man seemed surprised by this, as if he hadn't expected this particular response. His surprise only grew more pronounced by what she said next, "I am Gilly Hopkins, the Livestock Inspector." The woman, now so-named Gilly, made a move as if to reach something before making her expression even more sour and crossing her arms. "I would show you my ID, but your ram decided to try it on for size," she stated dryly before covering a cough with the back of her wrist and clearing her throat.

"Er, what?" The man blinked.

"Your ram ate my ID," she clarified. "I suspect by now it has made its home in his stomach."

"What?" He choked, likely shocked, in the young woman's opinion, that his ram would pull a move that most would expect of a goat.

"That was what I said too, followed by a few expletives. Now, we have a problem. Besides my lost ID, your sheep are behaving rather strangely. I would suspect this to be a case of animal abuse, since they had only begun to act this way around the time you had arrived—"

"What?! You're making a big mistake, I'm not—"

"However," Gilly interrupted the man loudly, continuing on her previous train of thought before he had cut her off. "From the specimen that I have examined, this does not appear to be the case. They are well fed, uninjured, properly maintained, and have, until recently, displayed no outward sign of any untoward treatment. As this is a surprise inspection, I have to say this had bode well for you until, of course, this new behavioral pattern developed."

"Look," the man started, his eyebrows furrowed deeply. "I really think you've got the wrong impression here. I'm not—"

"Oi!" Another voice called, this one considerably more angry. "What do you think you lot are doing on my property, eh?!" The two of them looking up to see a large, bear of a man come down the hill towards them, looking suspicious and furious. He had a gun. Gilly grimaced, it appeared things had just gotten a lot worse. Still, she wasn't beaten yet.

"Ah, so you are the real owner, then?"

"I bloody well better be!"

"Then you should know that this man here has tried to commit a crime by impersonating you and is trespassing on your property." She gestured with an awkward cough to the gaping man beside her.

"What?!" He cried out in horror the same time the owner shouted it in outrage.

"Is that really all you can say?" The young woman directed in an irritated manner towards the first man. "Honestly, for a criminal, you are pretty daft." She was finding it difficult to talk and act like this, but it was quite fitting for the image she was attempting to project: confident, self-assured, and the slightest bit arrogant.

The tall, slender man could only sputter while the much shorter and bulkier man demanded, "Explain yourself, who are you?"

"Gilly Hopkins, Livestock Inspector. I would show you my ID, but one of your rams ate it."

The owner narrowed his eyes. "It's not breeding season, the rams are being kept separate from the ewes."

The woman raised her eyebrows in a disbelieving manner. "Yes, and? It is my job to inspect everything, not just this one pasture, sir. However, to insure security, it would be best to identify yourself. I cannot be sure that you are not like our friend here, otherwise."

"I'm Ralph Dunbar, the owner of this property," he growled irritably. "You know, this inspection you're claiming of wasn't expected. How can I be sure that you're not in league with this bloke? 'Seems too convenient with your identification noticeably absent.'" He was mocking her with his last sentence, derisively mimicking her posh word choice.

She sighed, thankful that her lens were currently tinted to counteract the bright sunlight, otherwise both men would have seen her eyes widening in alarm. As it was, they only observed her clenched jaw and raised eyebrows, likely they would think her a mixture of indignant and incredulous. "Because," she started forcibly before coughing once again and taking a moment to clear her throat of any tremor. "In that case, I would have declared him to be my associate if we were indeed working together. More likely, I would have been his understudy or assistant so as not to rouse suspicion by working against expected gender roles. Furthermore, all inspections are to be unannounced as per company policy to ensure that our clients are following regulations and are legitimate in their claims. Not to say that we are doubtful of your genuineness, Mr. Dunbar, sir, but it is insurance against others who may not be as forthcoming in their work."

The owner was still unconvinced and suspicious, for good reason. "And you expect me to believe that a company from the UK hired some American to carry out these inspections?"

"I am Canadian, but I lived near the border, so I suppose it is an understandable mistake to make. I was transferred here some time ago, along with a select few others, to continue to work in the Sussex branch of the company. However, if my being a foreigner offends or unsettles you in some way, I am positive that a 'native' replacement could be arranged."

The tall man was floored by this, completely in disbelief. He spoke for the first time since he had been insulted, "You have got to be kidding me."

The young woman replied in a rather cheeky manner, "If you want me to be a midwife for your goats, it is going to cost you."

If the situation had been different, the taller man might have laughed at the clever quip, but as it was, he could only frown, put off by how the conversation had derailed, crashed, and burned. Honestly, he hadn't expected it to take this direction at all. He had visualized many responses but never, in a million trillion years, could he have foreseen this result.

Meanwhile, however, the shorter man had quickly become exasperated with the whole situation and decided to throw in the towel. It was too much trouble at this point. He just wanted them, whoever they were, gone and fast. He stored his handgun in its holster with another irritated growl, not wanting any part of this idiocy any longer. "Look, Hopkins, is there anything else you need to inspect?"

Relieved that a way out presented itself, Gilly seized it, carefully. "Hmm, I suppose not," she drawled, as if she didn't want to bolt first chance she got, as if she wasn't scared out of her mind with a good dose of panic, as if she wasn't an imposter with no clue of what she was doing. "You can expect a report and an analysis within the week, sir."

"Yes, yes," he snapped waving his hand in an agitated fashion. "Just go, both of you. I got a job to do... And I don't want to see either of your faces again. Make sure 'the company'-" his tone had become sarcastic "-sends someone with an actual ID next time."

She many have been pushing her luck, but Gilly told him, "Right, but before I go, I would warn you to watch that ram of yours. He will likely be experiencing indigestion soon enough. I am sure you know as well as I do which one I'm speaking of..." She smiled before coughing slightly. "He is a bit forward. Good day, Mr. Dunbar, sir." Then, quickly, before the surly owner could change his mind, she strode away as fast as she could manage without giving away her ruse. As soon as she was over the hill and out of sight, though, the façade dropped, and she was sprinting back the way she had originally entered the pasture in the first place.

Hopping the fence that was running parallel to the dirt road, Gilly exhaled, muttering to herself, "That was a close one..." Fiddling with her camera, she let out a sigh and began the long walk back to the nearby town, since she was unable to call a taxi with her cell phone located inside her currently missing purse. "Bugger," she swore, borrowing a curse word that she had heard many a person use on her long stay in the United Kingdom.

"Oh, don't swear," a voice groaned behind her, causing the girl to jump. It was the tall man from before. He had somehow managed to seemingly materialize behind her without alerting her of his presence until he spoke. Discretely, she glanced down in a bewildered manner at his feet. Despite the road being gravel, his footsteps were almost indiscernible underneath the sound of her own footsteps. She had feeling if they were on a different surface, say grass, carpet, or tile, his footsteps would be completely inaudible. The art of soundlessly sneaking around was obviously something he was well versed in. Maybe her fib of him being a criminal wasn't actually that far off the mark after all. He continued, oblivious of her internal analysis, "What happened to that posh, if snooty, dictation from before?"

Oh, he was trying to take the mickey of off her, likely revenge from the insult and sassy comment from earlier… Plus throwing him to the wolves. Not to mention, he was probably unconvinced of her performance, either. Well, as the British were fond of saying, 'in for a penny, in for a pound.' If she was going to lie like she did earlier, she was going to keep that lie alive for as long as possible until either this man gave up or it was impossible and useless to keep the lie going. Whichever came first.

"I have good reason to be upset," she told him. "My superior is not going to be happy with my report."

The taller man rolled his eyes. "Are you still on that? We both know it's complete rubbish."

"I have no idea what you are on about…" She declared airily.

"Oh, I believe you do, 'Miss Hopkins'," he said her name with sarcasm, not believing it to be her real name. "You're not really a Livestock Inspector, are you?" He pressed, his longer strides effortlessly keeping up with her quick, yet shorter ones.

"You are mistaken," she insisted. "How many Livestock Inspectors have you met before me? Do you have anyone to compare me to?" At his hesitant expression, she nodded. "I suspected as much. Stop following me or I will report you, criminal."

"'Criminal'?" He sputtered before muttering under his breath darkly. Louder, he said, "Look, just – just stop for a moment, eh? I really do need to talk with you, imposter."

Huffing, she turned around, finally deciding that the ruse was likely up. "What? What do you want, huh? Look, I'm sorry I used you as a scapegoat, I just…needed to get out of there. I'm having a bit of a bad day right now, and I doubt you wanna be on the receiving end of it…"

He blinked, surprised at how quickly her accent became more pronounced and less pretentious than before. Likely this was how she normally spoke. Just as he suspected, the person from before was all an act to weasel out of trouble, a bluff. He smirked inwardly at her clever ploy before growing serious once more. Appearance wise, his expression only grew more intense. "I'm afraid your 'bad day' is only going to get worse."

The young woman looked shaken by this, letting out a small hiccough, "Is that a… Is that a threat?"

"No," he assured her. "It's a fact." When the girl retreated fearfully away him several steps, he realized that he was going about this entirely the wrong way. "I'm sorry," he apologized. "That came out wrong…" He sighed before smiling and holding out his hand. "Hello, I'm the Doctor."

"Uh, I'm… Gilly Hopkins," she stated, cautiously taking his hand and giving it a small shake before dropping it as if it was hot.

'The Doctor' looked surprised. "That's your actual name, not an alias?"

Gilly flushed. "Well, my full name's Glenda, I just go by Gilly. Besides, lies are more convincing if you have a bit of truth woven in."

"Well, Glenda, I'm afraid to say that your life is in danger and that you're going to need more help than clicking your heels three times," he told her regretfully, making no move to approach her as she retreated another couple of steps back.

"Wh-What're you trying to say?" Her voice wobbled, heart beginning to pound double time as an all-consuming sensation of dread enveloped her.

"You are irradiated with dangerous levels of chronon radiation. Right now you're in the beginning stages of radiation sickness. If you don't trust me, you are going to die a horrible and painful death in under forty-eight hours."

She let out a weak laugh. "I think the joke is supposed to go, 'you're going to die in seven days.'" She was referring to a famous line of an old horror movie. The Doctor's face was grim, and he didn't join in her tense laughter. The dread that was beginning to pool in her stomach became more pronounced. "Oh, God," she choked, feeling ill. "You're serious."

"I would never joke about something like this," he informed her before extending his hand out to her once more. "Come on, we don't have much time before the radiation sickness really begins to set in with you." She didn't take the proffered hand, didn't even so much as twitch. Her face was frozen in an unreadable expression, the tinted glasses covering half of her face the main cause for it being so indiscernible.

Internally, she was torn between believing him out of fear for her life and deciding that he was a complete lunatic out to kidnap unsuspecting women by calling himself a doctor, preying on the very fear of their mortality. Besides of which, who was to say that this wasn't a sick form of payback on this tall man's part as a revenge for almost getting him incarcerated? The more Gilly thought about it, the more the odds were against that the man in front of her was speaking the truth. He really wasn't inspiring any confidence in her based on her impression of him thus far.

She wondered how likely it was that she would be able to outrun him, if she would be able to sprint close enough to the town to be within hearing range and be able to scream loud enough before he caught her… The odds were decidedly not in her favor. Gilly most certainly couldn't fight him, not with her delicate and nonathletic frame against his lean and likely muscular one, especially if he was used to apprehending women on a regular basis.

Anything that would be useful in her plight was contained in her absent purse and, therefore, not of any use to her. This was a ghastly no-win situation. Her only choice would be to play along and hope for an opportunity to present itself where she could conceivably escape with any degree of success. As soon as she did get away, of course, she would go to the nearest clinic for a checkup. Just in case.

Reluctantly, she asked him with a cough as her stomach clenched uneasily, "Not saying that I believe you, but how do you know?"

The Doctor's expression shifted between irritation and impatience before he let out an exasperated sigh. "Humans, always asking questions, even when their life is in peril," he muttered without nearly as much bite as the words themselves suggested… among other things. While Gilly was not going to let one odd little comment distract her, she still absently filed away that information for later. The man continued, "I first found out by a massive spike of chronon energy coming straight from the Rift, which triggered nearly countless alarms on my TARDIS, especially after the first time it opened… I usually have Jack to watch over the little things, the misplaced beings, random bits of technology, and the occasional Weevil leaking through the scar, but this was on a scale unheard of since the Rift itself being widened by a Slitheen! At some point, the Rift must have fractured, considering that I find you in Brecon instead of Cardiff proper…"

The young woman could only look at him rather helplessly, precious little of what he said made any sense to her at all. From what she did gather, he seemed to be more of a scientist or a technician watching the monitor for any unusual deviances. Likely he was someone from the government come to collect her because she was irradiated with this chronon energy. Somehow, she found herself liking the idea of him merely being a kidnapper more than him being a government agent, because then at least she had a chance of getting away.

The Doctor was still talking. "…got within ten meters of you, my sonic short-circuited! But by that point, you were close enough that I could literally smell the artron energy being produced by the chronon radiation. Still can, actually, it's taken some getting used to, especially with the amount increasing the longer we stand here. But more tangible evidence for you being able to see for yourself would be to remember how the sheep reacted around you, how their behavior suddenly changed to avoiding you completely. They were detecting the dangerously high amount of energy being emitted from your person. And, most incriminating of all, you've been coughing."

"'Coughing'?" Gilly parroted back numbly, the fear that she had been barely managing to keep at bay returned full force. Her stomach, churning with what had to be nerves, took a bad turn, and she felt like throwing up.

"It's the first sign of radiation sickness," came the somber reply. "And it's only going to get worse from there, if you don't trust me."

Despite herself, Gilly took a couple of steps towards him and his still outstretched hand before she realized what she was doing and, once again, hesitated. His gaze on her was intense, watching her every movement with great scrutiny. She would not even be able to turn around to run before he would be upon her and cutting the escape short. She swallowed thickly, trying to quell her nausea that had to be stemming from her fear but was finding it to be an impossible task. Gilly winced from a twinge of pain before she doubled over and threw up everything she had for lunch mixed in with drops of red.

Red? She wondered in a dazed manner as she stared at the puddle of sick in shock. I didn't eat anything red, and it's a primary color, anyway. She swallowed again, tasting the acidic taste of sickness and the metallic taste of —

Her eyes widened in realization, and she threw up again in revulsion. There was more blood than before. Gilly began to tremble in fear. He was telling the truth. Oh, God, he was telling the truth. I'm going to die. She began to collapse to her knees but was prevented by strong arms grasping her. She didn't find the strength within herself to struggle. I'm going to die.

The Doctor lifted Gilly into his arms and began to run back to where the TARDIS was parked. He thanked his lucky stars for not ending up parked back in the pasture, as precious time would have been wasted trying to climb the fence with the ill human in his arms. He didn't try talking to Gilly to keep her aware because he knew more than anyone else that in her condition, if she fell unconscious, none of the words in the world would work to keep her awake.

Not to mention, it appeared that her mind was so delicate at the moment, that even the simple hypnotic suggestion of trusting him was too much for her body to handle. The onset was always quick, he remembered having been told in the academy. That if there was a cure, it would have to be administered very early, within the first twenty-four hours, before the damage that was done was irreversible. As soon as there was enough artron energy manufactured by the chronon radiation to start changing the antibodies, hope for a cure was completely snuffed out.

Gilly had the fortune that he found her within the first quarter of an hour. However, she also had the misfortune that a cure for acute chronon radiation poisoning, let alone one for artron poisoning, was unheard of. It had never before affected a human and with Time Lords, the window of opportunity was nigh impossible to pinpoint since exposure was over centuries and built up over time. The latent period stretched over so long, it was too late by the time anyone found out what was happening to the afflicted Time Lord in question, artron poisoning would have already set in.

The Doctor's mind whirled at high speeds as he raced to his time-and-space ship. Trying to come up with an idea that might yet work to save this human's life. He didn't know her, but he didn't want her to die. He had already lost so much, had willingly given up everyone that meant something to him. Mickey, Jackie, Martha, Donna, Jack, and Rose… The level of wretched loss not necessarily in that order. He felt as if he had failed them, failed her, in what he had been forced to do to his best friend. Rose would have been so furious with him, for not being clever enough, not quick enough, not strong enough to find some other way to help Donna.

He would carry that guilt with him until the day he didn't have any more regenerations in him and finally died. Somehow, he felt as if that day was closer than he thought. He was in what was his twelfth regeneration, if he included that one regeneration that he dared not call 'the Doctor' and the Metacrisis.

He wouldn't fail this human, refused to. If she died under his care… Well, the Doctor didn't want to think about what might happen to him, what he might do, if she did.

Once he came to the door of the TARDIS, he had trouble trying to readjust the barely conscious woman his arms to get at the key in his pocket. Feeling frustrated and impatient, he snapped the fingers on one hand that he managed to free enough for the act before he strode inside, the doors closing behind him. He wasn't quite sprinting down the halls, but his pace was noticeably rushed and urgent.

The Doctor realized that he would likely have to synthesize a remedy himself, a sort of anti-radiation pill designed to target chronon radiation specifically. Unfortunately, that would take too much time, precious time he didn't have unless he found a way to buy himself more time. In the back of his mind, he was darkly amused that he, a Time Lord, would be strapped for time of all things.

He considered using an emergency cryo-charge on her. It would lower her body temperature to absolute zero in about half a second, literally freezing her on the spot. It was an effective safety measure when someone's life hung in the very balance and time was needed before assistance could be readily available… However, the Doctor realized that even if she was frozen solid, the chronon energy wouldn't be effected by this and would continue to increase. The moment she would be unfrozen by the time the Doctor had synthesized a cure, because he would create one, it would be too late. Death would be nearly instantaneous.

He also couldn't place her within the Zero room, as the type of treatment she needed was not covered by it. A cellular regeneration vault would not work either, as while it treated almost all cases of radiation poisoning by absorbing said radiation from the patient… This was one of those cases where it would not be of any use. Chronon radiation was one of the few types of radiation unable to be readily absorbed by the device. It wouldn't even slow down the effects long enough to be worth an attempt.

After a further moment of consideration, the Doctor decided that her best bet for survival would be under the influence of a stasis field. The artificial force field kept the effects of time and other outside influences from affecting the area within it, so it would be as if no time had passed at all for her, a state of suspended animation. Gently placing her on a gurney, the Doctor began to securely strap her in. She would need to remain within the field's boundaries at all times for it to maintain temporal equilibrium. Even one finger outside it would 'pop the bubble' so to speak. He would be taking no chances.

A quiet moan of protest drew his attention over to his half-conscious patient. She was clearly afraid, her tense body silently screaming at him. Whatever specific message her body language was trying to convey, however, was lost in the translation. She was in pain, the Doctor deduced, and likely afraid for her life. It was all the motivation he needed to continue.

The first to go was her camera, a model considered very high-tech for the mid-2010's, he noted absently before setting it aside. He carefully removed her floppy sunhat revealing colorless hair, and removal of her glasses, which revealed grey eyes. These two things added with her pale, colorless skin hinted toward albinism, an interesting fact that he stored away for later thought when he had time, when he knew for certain that she would live. Loose objects successfully removed and the girl snuggly strapped down, the Doctor rolled the gurney over to a wall where there was a metal door in the middle of the wall.

It appeared much the same as one of the cold chambers that cadavers would be placed inside while they were being stored at a morgue. This was actually not that far from the truth, as that was the main function of a stasis field in a TARDIS sickbay. It would prevent the corpse from decomposing and stop any natural degradation until it was ready for burial or incineration. For the most part, though, it was to keep the body preserved so that their Bio-Data Extract and mind of the deceased Time Lord could be uploaded into the Amplified Panatropic Computations Network of the Matrix, as per his people's custom. But, that wasn't to say that it couldn't serve other uses, such as it was now.

The Doctor disconnected the mat of the gurney that Gilly was strapped to and started to slide her in, feet first, when she once again gained his attention. "No," she breathed. "No… not… dead…" Her voice was faint, but he heard it nonetheless.

"I know," he assured her. "But you will be soon if I don't initiate this. I'm sorry, but it will be as if no time as passed at all. I promise." Then without further ado, he slid her inside the strongbox and sealed the door. Making adjustments, he set the interior so that air flow would be recycled continuously within the stasis field. With that task done and the field active, he left her alone to go to the laboratory within the TARDIS to attempt to create a remedy.

It was to Gilly Hopkins's misfortune that the Doctor didn't take into account the possibility that she would be aware the whole while she was in the stasis field. As it was rather uncommon for the stasis field to be used this way and most Time Lords put in the same position were unconscious through of the whole duration. To make matters more unbearable for her, she was a mortician, of all things. It had been her job to handle the dead and prepare them for burial. She knew a mortuary drawer when she saw one, and there was no doubt in her mind that was exactly what she was inside of.

Never before had she been claustrophobic, but this was as good an opportunity for it as any. Gilly couldn't move or talk, she could only breathe and lie there in terror, wondering when her air could finally run out and she would suffocate. A coffin has about two hours' worth of air, she recalled. So does that mean I only have two hours to live now instead of, what was it, forty-eight? This struck her as unfair, but further consideration proved it to be unlikely. No, if he wanted me dead, this is hardly the most effective way to go about it. There's got to be something I don't know about. He said he didn't want me dead… Or, well, at least, he implied as much since he had been going through all of this effort so far.

It was hard for her to know what to think anymore, especially in the given circumstances. There was an upside, fortunately, the agonizing pain that had stolen her voice and ability to stand originally had disappeared, cut off as if it had never been or someone had found a figurative pause button. Gilly was hardly going to question or scrutinize it too closely. She wasn't a superstitious person, but even she knew the danger of certain key words or trains of thought that always seemed to jinx the heroes in all the stories she had read throughout her lifetime. She certainly wasn't going to tempt fate with this.

Still, even with the hope that she might not die within the next two hours from asphyxiation, a cold feeling of an innate sense of fear settled upon her. A primal fear of being trapped in an enclosed space in the dark was hard to fight, especially if one was immobilized and, therefore, unable to fight or run. Not that she would have been able to if she hadn't been strapped down, but it was the concept that really mattered to her at the moment, the principle of the thing. She was liking this tall man less and less.

Him and his perpetual tussled brown hair. It looked as if he had never been introduced to a hair brush or comb in his life. He probably rolled out of bed, smoothed his hair down with his hands, and called it a day. Somehow, Gilly felt, even that much was more effort than what he really did each morning. His mother would probably be horrified at its state of untamable wildness. She most certainly would never let her hypothetical child go around the house like that, but it would have been excused as young children don't know any better. Now, if they were talking about Greg, a very fine specimen of man who was the corner, and if she were married to him, she doubted that she would ever have to worry about his hair as it was finely cut. If she did have to, though, she wouldn't let him go around the house like that either.

Don't even get her started on those shoes. They were so very impractical, her honest opinion, and she should know since she had used to own a pair of her own until she found out, exactly, how unreasonable they were. You could hardly run in them for very long unless you wanted to gain blisters and sore feet. Despite being nicknamed 'sand shoes', they were hardly appropriate for walking on the beach with. And they were extremely time consuming to lace up or untie, whereas proper sneakers could be easily slid on and off.

And that pinstriped suit of his. How on Earth could anyone expect to do honest work in that thing? The pants he could maybe get away with if he took off the suit jacket. Surely, with how tightly it clung to his tremendously skinny frame, it would be hard to reach for something or stretch too far without worry of it tearing. Not to mention all the bills from the dry cleaners, especially if the suit was worn on a daily basis for work.

If this doctor was important enough to have an assistant named Jack, why was he not aware of these things that made him look somewhere between a homeless man, someone with no fashion sense, and someone who was merely a professional paper-pusher? It would imply work experience and getting his hands dirty to rise to that position of power while somehow still maintaining the status of man-child. Unless, of course, he was one of those people who, when they got into positions of power, they began to delegate everything unless it's something really important or would benefit them in some way. Didn't he say himself that 'Jack' usually took care of the 'little' things? She wondered why this Jack didn't complain about his superior before eventually deciding that the pay must have been lucratively good.

Gilly usually wasn't this scathing in her summation of a person that she just met, but, then again, she usually wasn't placed within a morgue cold chamber after being told that she was going to die in a very unprofessional manner. It screamed of someone who was making up everything as they went along. Improvisation was the father of vulnerability. If you had no clue of what you were doing and made up everything as you went along, how were you supposed to prepare for upcoming difficulties or avoid future failure? Future failure or difficultly that would result in her death.

Gilly hardly thought she was overreacting, likely she was underreacting if anything else. She was just one step away from being buried alive by being placed inside of a cold chamber. Perhaps her original assumption of him being a kidnapper wasn't too far behind, but now Gilly had elevated him to the status of 'serial killer', assuming that he's done this with multiple women before who followed her general type. Frail-looking, short, foreign, and eye-catching in some manner or another. Her fatal mistake of garnering his attention had been from calling him a criminal and somehow fooling a sheep breeder into thinking she was the livestock inspector. She was striking more in the sense of being utterly strange and novel than being stunningly beautiful or anything like that. But, perhaps, being an albino had somehow added on to her worth of being his next victim in his eyes.

She found it amusing that coming from the one state in America most famous for its cheese and serial killers would in someway increase the likelihood of her being the victim of one, whether by a limited sense of irony or the dark sense of humor that she occasionally possessed. And then when you added on to the fact that she was a mortician who dealt with dead bodies on a weekly basis and was currently sealed inside of a mortuary drawer…

Gilly tried not to smile. If she did, she would probably start laughing and wouldn't stop. Which would be bad, considering how limited her air supply likely was, especially considering that she was in a cold chamber, which she was most certainly not thinking about and didn't find it at all funny, and no, those giggles were definitely not coming from her. The only way this could possibly get any worse, would be if the 'Jack' that her kidnapper had referred to was Jack the Ripper…

She howled with mad laughter, the sound of it echoing around her in the cold chamber she was trapped inside of, and she was supposed to be the perfectly sane one.

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1. The Limits of Human Nature
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