By Catherine Bell
The Doktor sits with tools in hand,
A magician of sorts, though his humour is bland.
Two boxes are settled atop his desk,
One containing relief while the other’s grotesque.
Place your hands into the holes,
Your ailment will leave you. And you are exposed;
It’s the luck of the draw as to what happens next,
There’s everything to choose from: what will you collect?
Close your eyes and pray for the best.
For you could be host to a most unwanted guest.
For swapping ailments is a risky business,
Consider yourself lucky if you make it past Christmas.
Once a year the Doktor opens his doors,
To the injured, the dying, the sick and more.
The Doktor just sits, with a beam on his face;
“Tell your family you love them…just in case.”
A knock at the door.
“You may enter.” A thick drawl escapes the thin lips of the Doktor. His mouth cracks into a secretive smile as the patient cautiously enters the dimly lit room.
“Good evening, Sir,” the patient begins, voice quivering slightly. “I have heard you may be able to help me.”
The Doktor’s smile widens, as if the patient has said something amusing.
“Perhaps,” is all he answers.
The patient takes a moment to take in the imposing man reclining in the chair in front of him. A tall and terrifying looking gentleman; tanned skin cracked with age, as if animal hide were pulled loosely over his skull. He wears a suit: black, with deep purple paneling. A cane leans casually against his chair.
“Please. I need your help. I…I can feel death coming.” The patient squeezes his eyes shut momentarily, before rubbing them vigorously, and focusing again on the man before him.
“Then you have come to the right place, my friend.” The doctor’s smile expands into an enthusiastic grin, stained teeth bared in a most unsightly manner. “If you would care to place both of your hands into the vessels you see before you.”
Two wooden pots stood on the desk. The patient had been so focused on the Doktor he hadn’t even noticed them.
“What are these?”
“Oh, my good man! Surely you know what it is I do?”
The patient pulled back his hands, both of which he had begun to extend towards the now sinister looking containers.
“Well, I have heard things. But I wasn’t sure; some of them can’t be true.”
“Oh, dear boy. It is all true. My treatment is…unique. If you accept, you simply place your hands into the casks before you, and your aliment - the progressive stages of Malaria by the looks of things - will simply disappear. Now here, you see, comes the exchange. In return for releasing you from the plague you were afflicted with, you will have to take on something else. It could be better, it could be worse. It is all down to luck. Do you feel lucky?”
The horror on the patient’s face said it all. He most certainly did not feel lucky.
The Doktor shrugged. “You do not have to continue. You can walk back out of that door right now, and say nothing more of it.”
“…But, but I’ll surely die!”
“Then, my friend, you have nothing to lose?” The Doktor extended his arm invitingly, but the patient was still unsure.
“Could you not just remove my illness and let me leave?”
“Now now. Those are not the rules. If you play my game, you must follow my rules. Now enough of this. Make your decision.”
“Then…then I must agree.” The patient stepped forward again and placed his hands decisively in the wooden vessels. The illness streamed out of his palms like an evil mist, and seeped over the sides of the containers. The patient found himself holding his breath, desperate not to ingest any of the villainous poison back into his system.
And then; a sudden and beautiful relief. The patient sighed in gratitude. His eyes appeared to function much better. His blurred vision was gone.
A quick thought passed though his head: I could just remove my hands and run…
But no sooner had he thought, this, a new sensation came over him. A feeling of invasion.
The patient could feel his cells desperately trying to ward off this new, foreign entity, but to no avail.
“You may remove your hands.” The Doktor stood up, and the patient saw for the first time a pair of legs, much thinner than they should have, and suit trousers that flared at the bottom. The Doktor snatched up the cane from its resting place, and used it to assist himself in navigating forward. The thick carpet muffled any sound of footsteps as the doctor strode towards him.
The patient stood stock still, wide eyed, praying to a God he did not believe in, as the Doktor inspected him.
“Haha, what delight! You certainly are a lucky one!”
“What, what is it?”
“Oh! Oh thank you Doktor! Thank you!”
The doctor smiled once more and returned to his seat. The patient shook his hand vigorously and made for the door.
“You know,” he said, looking back, “They said you were a demon!”
The Doktor raised an eyebrow “And I said… It is all true.”
Catherine Bell is the author of The Children of Manson, and the Sick & Sombre Tales of Sinister Town. She was born and raised on horror movies, reading R.L Stein and Stephen King. She is a Manchester, UK based BME horror author chasing the next scare.