Sam thrashed awake, but the grinding pain did not dissolve in the face of fluorescent brilliance. The claws tearing at his eyes resolved into his fingernails, shreds of bloodied bandage clinging, entangled.
A door banged open followed by brisk tutting. Hands appeared in his pink-tinged vision adeptly wrapping fresh bandages into place, removing sight but not sensation. The howling screams continued in the depths of his brain and the urge to rip at his eyes was overwhelming. Even as his hands rose once more there was a sharp snick in his arm, fluid flowing, oblivion following. He didn’t feel the reassuring pat on his arm, the quiet words of Nurse Clarke;
“Dr Arthur says it’ll be a couple more days before those can come off, hon. Patience now.”
Sam slipped in and out of the next few days. He pain was constant, the urge to scratch his eyes so insistent they had to keep him fully sedated. When he tried to gouge in his sleep he woke to find his arms restrained, a nurse on guard on a chair at his bedside.
Dr Arthur, a bloody blur through gauze and soreness, decided they had waited long enough. The bandages were snipped away, cooling wash applied to the reddened eyes and they waited.
Sam came up out of his nightmares, blinking furiously. Wisely, they had retained the restraints. Nurse Clarke was on hand with a hypo full of sedative.
“Well, the big day, Sam. How is it? Can you see me?”
Sam closed his eyes against the constant pain and frenetic itch which raced back and forth across his transplanted eyeballs. Unwillingly, he opened them, squinting.
“Sort of. Everything is pink, and the itching. Why won’t it stop?”
His breathing became ragged, bloodshot eyes darting in panic and Nurse Clarke hovered closer, oblivion readied.
“It takes a little time, Sam. The body has a way of trying to throw out invaders. The drugs will help, so be patient.”
“What if the pain never stops? The itch? The screaming?”
“Screaming? I think you are a little disoriented, Sam. Rest and recover, patiently. All will resolve.”
The doctor nodded to Clarke who put Sam back under. Returned to his nightmare of howling, scratching and rending, Sam began to lose his mind.
Three days later they tried to bring him back up. Whilst four orderlies attempted to contain his thrashing limbs, to replace the broken restraints, Nurse Clarke caught a glimpse of the yellow irises in a face distorted by howling agony. She wasn’t sure these experiments with cross-species body parts was morally sound, but she had a job to do. Gently as she could she put Sam back under.
That night, as she sat beside his bed, reading and dozing, his eyes flicked open. No disguising the lupine origins of that stare. For the first time Sam lay still, bloody tears leaking from the corners of his eyes. She became aware of how hard he was holding against the pain, the urge to claw and rip. His voice was little more than a low rasp, from a throat ravaged by screams.
“Let me go, please.”
“I can’t, Sam. I swore to save life, not take it.”
“This isn’t living. This is two animals fighting for one body. He is scared, doesn’t understand what he sees. He is caged. I am never going to be strong enough to contain him. What happens when I lose? Put us down, please.”
Later, as she closed his lids of staring yellow eyes, helped prepare him for his final journey, Nurse Clarke made a quiet phone-call to the national press.