Looking Through Fresh Eyes: Afternoon tea with Igor.

(Tying up a dangling loose end left loose at the end of Nature Studies)

I'm lying in a hospital, I'm pinned against the bed,
A stethoscope upon my heart, a hand against my head;
They're peeling off the bandages, I'm wincing in the light,
Igor's looking anxious, the nurse is quivering with fright!
I'm looking through Madame Two-Swords' eyes!
I'm looking through Madame Two-Swords' eyes!
I'm looking through Madame Two-Swords' eyes!
I'm looking through Madame Two-Swords' eyes!

The doctors are avoiding me, my vision is confused;
I wait for things to settle down, I catch up on the news.
A killer bioartificed, she donates her sight to science;
I was booked into a private ward, I realise that I
Must be looking through Madame Two-Swords's eyes!
I'm looking through Madame Two-Swords' eyes!
I'm looking through Madame Two-Swords' eyes!
I'm looking through Madame Two-Swords' eyes!

With apologies to the Adverts for what I have done to their song, "Looking Through Gary Gilmour's Eyes",

Prologue: During the recapture of loose wild animals in Hide Park (covered in my fic Nature Studies) student Assassin Catherine Perry-Bowen lost both eyes and suffered serious facial damage when attacked by a rogue baboon. She was taken to the Watch Igor and the Guild's Matron Igorina for medical attention. She has awoken from deep anaesthesia to realise, to her surprise and joy, she has not been blinded for life. The teachers who sent her on the mission where she was grievously wounded are pleased and reassured. Until Igorina drops the bombshell that there just might be unpredictable side-effects of the read on:-

Madame Deux-Epées frowned, thinking of the Perry-Bowen girl, and the dreadful circumstances that had led to her injuries. It was only right that the Guild should do all in its power to remedy the situation and help restore her to normal. A discreet donation of several thousand dollars had been paid to the Lady Sybil in recognition of the medical treatment given. As Catherine had been part of a working party sent out to perform a mission in service of the City under Guild direction, she understood Lord Vetinari had contributed a sum of money to her treatment costs, insisting on discreet silence. He had requested to be kept fully informed concerning the new and largely unproven Igor technique of bio-artificing replacement body parts. As Johanna Smith-Rhodes had been leading the mission, and she, Emmanuelle Lapoignard les Deux-Epées, had been in immediate charge of Catherine and others during an attack by maddened and enraged baboons wanting to play catch-up for indignities inflicted by the human race, both Assassins had contributed large sums to the pot. Nobless oblige, after all.

At least the girl has received a miracle, she thought. I saw her face after that accursed creature attacked her. To have the damage so skilfully repaired leaving only bare traces. And of course to receive new eyes. Formidable! Surely the benefits will far outweigh any little problems that may arise?

Emmanuelle sincerely hoped so. She looked across the Black Widow House office to where the stuffed baboon stood, one she had slain herself on that dreadful day. Johanna, out of some robust Rimwards Howandalandian sense of humour, had retrieved the body and sent it to a taxidermist with instructions to pose the preserved creature appropriately. Now it was forever frozen in an attack posture, jaws gaping and fangs bared, facing the door through which students entered, by invitation. It was a useful educational tool and reminded students that the potential hazards of a career in Assassination took many forms. And a reminder that their Housemistress was a woman not to be trifled with or made angry. Bon.

She made a mental note to cover it up when Catherine returned to the school, lest the sight of it provoked unfortunate reactions. Such a creature had nearly killed her, after all. The child could be warned, and acclimatised to it gently. It might, in the right circumstances, be good therapy.

She recalled her sense of horror and alarm when the Watch Igor had asked her – with diffident and self-effacing charm, certainly – if he could take tissue samples from her eyes. Emmanuelle had hit the roof, a reaction only partially assuaged when Igor had explained that from a few living cells, he could replicate exact, living, copies of her own eyes so as to transplant them into Catherine. Reflecting that this might well mean the girl's sword-drills could only get better, she had agreed, and steeled herself.

The actual process had been anti-climactic. Igor had dipped a cotton bud into some nameless clear fluid that, by the smell, might have begun its life as surgical alcohol. Other fluids had clearly been introduced to the alcohol and had started a party. She did not inquire. Forcing herself to keep her eyes open, there had been in instant of slight discomfort, repeated once as Igor diligently dropped each swab into a seperate bottle, marked with her name, the date, and either "Sinister" or "Dexter".

"This is important, madame." Igor had said. "Instal the wrong eye on the wrong side and the patient is instantly rendered cross-eyed. That will not do."

"Assuredly."she had replied. Igors were scupulously careful about these things. A man who had fallen feet-first into a sawmill might get totally mismatched feet. But at least each would be on the correct leg. Idly, she speculated on the other thing people said about Igors, which was either whispered or hinted at among well-brought up ladies, or else loudly and shriekingly speculated about by the same well-brought-up ladies, after the seventh quaff of something strong when on a night of minge-drinking.

Zut alors, it makes great sense. If all men were like Igors and could replace or enhance body parts at will, we would live in a world where stallions would look at men and express envy.

She filed the thought away for consideration at leisure later – the same thing was whispered about concerning dwarfs, and she was not in a great fever to sleep with one, at least not just yet(1) – and went back to the job she had to do.

Several weeks later, after a delicate and emotional discussion with the Perry-Bowen parents, who had given informed consent to further Igor operations on their daughter, Emmanuelle had visited the Watch Igor. She was grudgingly allowed access to the Watch House by Commander Vimes, who still could not reconcile himself to the fact the Watch had failed narrowly to detain her for multiple killings, and that she had obtained immunity from prosecution by joining the Assassin.(2). That a former criminal suspect could walk into the Yard with impunity grated on him, but Vimes had also been present at the Urban Safari,(3), where Watchmen and Assassins, uniquely, had co-operated for the common good. She suspected Vimes, one of whose Watchmen had also been injured, in this case gored by a bewildebeeste, had also given generously to Catherine's hospital treatment. He was that sort of man – although he loathed Assassins on principle, he was not above quixotic gestures of this sort.

Emmanuelle smiled at her reception by the Watch, and let herself be escorted down into the cellar by Sergeant Littlebottom. The dwarf chatted cheerfully as they descended to what was definitely the Watch Igor's department.

"Don't be put off by anything you see." Cheery reassured her. "Some of it is actually quite interesting, if you can get past the pancreatic glands."

"Isn't the phrase usually get past the pineapple, Cherie(4)?"

The dwarf shook her head.

"Not with Igors." she replied.

Cheery showed her to a door marked "Forensic Department and Mortuary". She knocked, announced a guest, and they entered into a place of gently bubbling, steaming, fermenting, and often disconcertingly mobile, things, not all of which were in jars. Emmanuelle froze in front of wire cages in which recognisable rats and mice were running around. Some of the mice were pretty near bald and had...ears... grafted to their backs. Human ears.

"The line is breeding true now." Igor said, from behind her. She jumped: she hadn't heard him move. "Genetics is not as deterministic as people think it is."

"They are born with those ears?" Emmanuelle said, surprised.

"They are now, yes." said Igor. "Attaching them to living mice keeps the tissues warm and alive until they are required."

"So I perceive." she said. Emmanuelle had heard Matron Igorina had been allocated a lavish cellar at the Guild, a couple of floors underneath the School Sanitorium. This was an accepted fringe benefit to offer an Igor working for you. She had never been down there and now had no immediate plans to do so.

"Tea or coffee?" Igor asked. Emmanuelle looked at Cheery, who grinned.

"It's perfectly safe." the dwarf assured her. "That's all you'll get in the cup."

"Or I could do some splot?" Igor offered.

Cheery shook her head.

"Whatever you do, do not drink the splot." she advised the Assassin. "Stick to coffee."

Emmanuelle stuck to coffee. She'd heard about splot. Doktor von Graumunchen, a Überwaldean teacher at the Guild, referred to it a the sort of heroic remedy you treated with respect, and only employed to drag the last few ounces of strength up out of a failing body in desperate circumstances. Mr Mericet treated it as a poison, pure and simple, and stressed its deleterious effect on a weak or ailing heart.

It was actually surprisingly good coffee. The three made incongruous small-talk for a while, made surrealistic by the location – a deep cellar under Pseudopolis Yard, lined with jars and iceboxes full of nameless and possibly independently sentient things. It didn't help, Emmanuelle reflected, that they were sitting round a mortuary slab which had thick leather retaining straps just where you'd expect someone's wrists and ankles to go. In the background, a mysterious large black metal box with dials on the front gently crackled and sizzled, occasionally emanating a clear blue flash like a scaled-down lightning bolt. Emmanuelle watched it warily, noting it had a great big red lever on one side, currently set to the OFF position. A large thick cable led off into the ceiling. Incongruously, a doiley'd tea-tray bearing a china pot, milk, sugar and perfectly normal teacups currently sat on the makeshift table.

Finally, they got round to Catherine Perry-Bowen's treatment.

" I have conferred with Igorina and with Igor at the Lady Thybil." he said. "We are agreed that she will benefit from new eyeth. This ith, of courthe, a highly experimental prothedure and hath only ever been performed oncthe before. But the previouth patient recovered completely and I foresee no complications. Let me show you."

Igor stood up and lurched very slightly to the shelves. He paused, selected two large jars, and brought them back to the slab. The jars seemed to have the strangest goldfish she had ever seen in her life swimming in them.

"Allow me, Madame Deux-Epées, to introduce you to your eyes."

She had a strange moment of appalled fascination as the globular white things in the jar, streaked with red and trailing some sort of grey-brown tail, seemed to recognise her presence and swam to the side of their jars nearest to her. There were about ten in each jar. And as one eyeball, they each turned a perfect blue-green iris up to her...

"Ah. It'th a wise child who knows who her mummy ith." said Igor, contentedly. Emmanuelle felt queasy. Very queasy.

Igor had called it cellular memory. It did not mean they were sentient as we know it. The stuff of which the bioartificed eyes were made had simply been attracted to the larger biomass of which they had once been part, from which their parent cells had been seperated. That was all and nothing to be concerned about.

But Emmanuelle could not help but think of a congregation worshipping the Goddess who had created them. An image of the eyeball-peoples' creating a religion and a creation myth about the Creator rose in her mind. Part of it made her smile. It was interesting to be a Goddess, albeit a small one, the Goddess of Bioartificed Eyeballs.

She wondered, uneasily, what the Great God Blind Io thought about humans replicating eyeballs at will . Igors counted as human, just about – or maybe too human. The last thing she wanted was to be the recipient of a gift-wrapped bespoke thunderbolt. And Io would surely have an opinion. Eyeballs were his thing, after all. And a newly-minted Goddess of the Eyeball people, especially a self-proclaimed one, even ironically so, would certainly attract divine attention. She would ask her colleague Alice Band to wangle an appointment with her uncle, the Chief Priest Hughnon Ridcully.

Emmanuelle returned to the Guild, lost in thought.(5)


And Catherine Perry-Bowen was discharged from hospital and returned to the Guild School. She tried to discreetly sign in at the Porters' Lodge, where the duty porter asked about her health.

"I'm perfectly well now, thank you, Mr Maroon." she assured him.

Maroon nodded.

"Igors are amazing, aren't they. Miss? I'm glad to see you back. I know some of the other young ladies and gentlemen were concerned for you and asked if I'd heard anything."

Then he looked into her face, and reflexively stepped back, his eyes widening.

"Is here anything wrong, Mr Maroon?" she asked, suddenly feeling self-conscious about her scars.

"No, miss. But looking at your eyes, I could have sworn just for a moment I was looking at.."

He composed himself. "No hurry, but Madame Deux-Epées asked if you could drop by and have a word with her. When you've settled back in, that is."

Catherine smiled and acknowledged him, then went up to her dorm in Raven House. School was in session, and few people were about, mainly Guild servants. Wondering if she ought to be in a classroom and feeling oddly disorientated, she sat on her bed in the empty dorm and took stock. She noticed the bed had been stripped and all her possessions had been packed away, as if Mrs Spiracule the bedder had been instructed she was never going to return. To while away the time, she unpacked her things and put them back where she wanted them, then went to find Mrs Spiracule's bedding store. Expertly picking the lock, she helped herself to sheets, pillowcases and one of the duvets that were only ever issued as privileges to Sixth Form girls.

Making her bed and ensuring the contraband duvet was hidden under a top blanket, Catherine wondered. She was usually fairly law-abiding and respectful of the School Rules, wasn't she? So why had she just broken up to five school rules at once? And why wasn't she feeling in the least bit guilty about it? She was only making sure she was comfortable, after all, and winter would soon be here. You had to look to your own comfort first.

She sighed and went to the Black Widow House senior common room. She made coffee – again a senior privilege – and waited for the school day to end. There was no point in going to the office to see Madame Two-Swords just yet; she was probably taking a class. Catherine had heard about the new City Zoo and Miss Smith-Rhodes part in establishing it. She knew student Assassins were already going on working parties there. Again she wondered. Before the... event... she'd been a keen volunteer at the Animal Management Unit and had loved her lessons in Nature Studies and zoology. Right now she just felt, well, indifferent about it all. She picked up a long practice sword somebody had left. She struck a fencing pose and dummied a few thrusts and parries. Now this was what it was all about!

Later on, her particular friends in the Fifth Form returned to the dorm. There was a moment of stunned silence, and then there were cheers and hugs and tears. Catherine shared a small dorm with the eleven other girls from Black Widow House who had elected to stay on after the end of the fourth year and take Black. It had stunned and shocked the others that one of their number had gone so early on in their training to become Full Assassins. The mood had been low and morale had fallen. But they had come to realise their training was for real and people would inevitably flunk out – and flunking out of Assassin School at this stage was no small thing. They had speculated, gloomily, on how many of the original twelve would still be there in three years' time, when they came to do the Final Run.

But they were now twelve again, at least for now.

Catherine basked in the warmth ad the adulation and "welcome back!" hugs, even from people she normally did not get on with all that well. And then Chaka N'Golate looked closely at her as if she was puzzled by something.

"Cethy," she said, uncertainly. "I em certain your eyes were brown?"

Catherine shrugged.

"Maybe the Igors didn't match the colours properly." she said. "I'm just glad they're working!"

A worrying thought intruded.

"Chakkie" she asked the Howondalandian girl, "Please tell me they're both the same colour?"

Chaka laughed. "They're both a nice shade. And the same shade. It isn't quite green and isn't quite blue. I think only Madame Two-Swords has eyes that colour, it's quite rare!"


Some Weeks Later.

The Book of Common Prayer, Uncommon Prayer, Downright Strange Prayers, and Just Plain Screaming For Help.

(Extract)

Approved for use in all Temples of the Orthodox Worship of the Great God Blind Io. (Excluding the Kerrigian Reformed Church of Io in Rimwards Howondaland)

Imprimatur: Bishop A.G.M. Band, D. Div., ., of the Diocese of Quirm

certificatae sine pecado His Holiness The Chief Priest of Ankh Morpork, the Extremely Reverend Hughnon Ridcully, D.D, , B.C.C., B.S.S.

Service Of Octeday Worship, (excluding All Fallows, Soul Cake Day if it fall on an Octeday, Hogswatch).

Celebrant: We may now sing the great hymn of praise unto Blind Io.

Congregation: Blessed be the name of Io!

(Musicians present may take up the tune by Grimond, or the variant anthem attributed to the Rev. Roeser and the Rev. Bloom).

Celebrant: (spoken) Thus speaketh the word of Io.

Congregation: Blessed be the name of Blind Io!

Celebrant: (sung)

Harvester of eyes, that's me!
And I see all there is to see;
When I look inside your head,
Right up front to the back of your skull...

Celebrant and Congregation: (sung response)

Well, that's my sign that you are dead!
My list for you checks off as null!
I'm the harvester of eyes!

Celebrant: (sung) Harvester of eyes, that's me;

Congregation: (sung response) (harvester of eyes!)
Celebrant: (sung) And I see all there is to see!

Congregation: (sung response) (harvester of eyes!)
Celebrant: (sung) When I look inside your head;

Congregation: (sung response) (harvester of eyes!)
Celebrant: (sung) Right up front to the back of your skull !

Congregation: (sung response) (harvester of eyes!)

Celebrant: (sung) Harvester of eyes!

The celebrant priest may now don the Ceremonial Rubber Apron and move towards the Ritual of Sacrifice. Altar servants (male or female) should be standing by with the Offering of Eyeballs unto the God. (Whether or not at this point they are still attached to the sacrifical animal is at the discretion of the Celebrant Priest). Solemn music may play...

Catherine Perry-Bowen turned her own eyes away from the hymnal and looked moodily out of the Chapel window. Octeday Service was compulsory for all School students. At least, with so many approved religions to fit in, it only lasted for three-quarters of an hour; the Omnians got the chapel first, and the Offlerians immediately afterwards. It didn't leave "Black Mass", the School Chaplain, very long to fit in a service and a sermon, but Canon Clement was adept at keeping it short and meaningful.

She had heard that human eyeballs had been the approved offering in the really old days. But things had moved on since then. The Chaplain usually got a pair of fresh-ish sheep's eyes from the kitchen meat store and made do with them. She looked over to where Miss Band was sitting, swinging the foot of her crossed leg as if displacing something, or at the very least displaying imatience to be somewhere else. Alice Band looked deliberately unreadable and slightly irritated. Catherine reflected that as the daughter of the man who wrote the Ionian Order of Service, she could hardly claim not to be of the Ionian faith. She wondered what it was like to be daughter of a Bishop. Probably really grim.

Catherine speculated about eyes for a while, tuning out the sacrifice and the sermon. It had been a few weeks now, but people still tended to look her in the face and seem worried or consternated, as if they were seeing something strange they couldn't work out.

What is it about these eyes! she wondered. Something had changed. She was not certain what. But strange things had begun to happen to her...


To be continued in part three in which the mystery further deepens...

(1) Human women only became really attractive to Dwarfs if they were over seventy, had allowed their bodies to re-smould themselves into a comfortable shape, and for preference had developed the right sort of old-lady wispy beard. Refer to Casanunder and Nanny Ogg's courtship. Emmanuelle had heard of this, and had decided it was a treat to store up for her old age when she had lost her appeal to human males.

(2) See my fic The Graduation Class, which tells Emannuelle's backstory.

(3) Refer to my story Nature Studies, to which this is a sort of sequel.

(4) In this case the capital letter and no italics are gramattically and strylistically correct.

(5) Normally being lost in thought and self-absorbed on an Ankh-Morpork street is a surefire way of committing Suicide. But people in Assassin black who carry swords and look as if they aren't there for decoration get a bye.


More Bonus Lyrics

The other meme that came to mind while writing this short; I've already adapted part of this song as a part of the religious order of service in the Temple of Blind Io.It's from the Blue Öyster Cult's 1973 album,Secret Treaties. (Old rocker. Showing his age.)

Harvester of eyes, that's me!
And I see all there is to see;
When I look inside your head,
Right up front to the back of your skull...

Well, that's my sign that you are dead!
My list for you checks off as null!
I'm the harvester of eyes!

I'm the eyeman of TV;
With my ocular TB;
I need all the peepers I can find;
Inside the barn where you find the hay...

Just last week I took a ride,
So high on eyes I almost lost my way,
I'm the harvester of eyes...
[ Lyr
Harvester of eyes, that's me; (harvester of eyes!)
And I see all there is to see (harvester of eyes!)
When I look inside your head (harvester of eyes!)
Right up front to the back of your skull (harvester of eyes!)

Harvester of eyes!

My-my-my-my-my
My-my-my-my-my
My-my-my-my-my-my
I'm the harvester of eyes
I'm just walkin' down the street
I see a garbage can, I pick it up
I look through all the garbage
To see if there are any eyes inside
I'll put 'em in my pink leather bag
And take all their eye balls
And I bleed with 'em
As I plead with their eyes all night
So if you see me walkin' down the street
You'd better get out of the way
And put on your eye glasses
'cause I'm gonna take your eyes home with me