Eyes flicker open and I blinked in confusion at the blurry, swirling mess that was my vision. I stayed that way, lying still as I could until the cloudy haze cleared and I was left staring at a tiny crack in the faded panels of the ceiling.
Where was I?
How was I there?
I was suddenly aware that the bed (I assume it was a bed) that I was lying on was rock solid, almost like a table and the pillow was thin and barely offered any comfort from the solid surface beneath me. I could hear a soft beep of what sounded like a heart monitor in the distance but this was accompanied by the tick of a clock or cogs moving.
Curious to see if I could move, I hesitantly flexed my fingers and felt them scrape against rough cotton. Very slowly, I moved my hands, my wrists, my arms until the tingling, numbness of lack of use disappeared. Pushing myself up onto my elbows, it took a moment for me to focus on my surroundings as I felt the rush of getting up too quickly.
As the white lights popped in my vision, I was aware of a disgustingly clinical smell stinging my nostrils and thick heavy air clogging my throat. The lights danced away and I was finally able to study my location. I was greeted with an empty ward.
Why was I in hospital?
The ward was everything that I would have expected. Six beds in total. Two to my left and three opposite me with various pieces of hospital equipment hanging from hooks on the wall or the beds. A sink at the far end of the room had a small mirror above it and the standard white tiles holding it to the wall. Along this wall were three large windows, almost taunting the patients on the ward with freedom that was just out of reach. One was open but barely allowing enough of a breeze in to circulate the stale air that suffocated the ward. However, from my position on the bed, all I could see was the smoky grey sky and the occasional tip of a building protruding from the window frame. My only companion was a small girl of about 11 years old, skeletal and sleeping on the rigid mattress in the far bed opposite next to the windows. Yes, a typical 21st century hospital.
Looking closer, I realised that something was a little off. The bed posts weren't the usual flimsy plastic frames but robust, metal supports that were almost prison bar like in appearance. What I originally thought was just electronic equipment and scanners were joined by various brass tubes, charts and clipboards of information that swung slightly in the breeze from the open window. The tiny washbasin was nothing but a bowl with a dented metal jug resting on the table next to it and the small mirror was cracked and tarnished, holding to the wall about as well as the mismatched, chipped tiles. There were patches on dirt staining the clear glass of the windows and I frowned when I realised that what I thought had been the polluted sky of London was actually moving. The clouds were swirling, twisting and blotting out the pale clouds in the sky to be replaced with angry grey smudges of smoke.
Sitting up to get a better look at what was producing this pollution in modern day London, I caught a flash of Big Ben before I felt a tug on my arm and hands to find thin, pale needles pricking my flesh and feeding some sort of liquid into my veins. The sudden movement had shifted one of the spines in my hand, causing it to sting and a drop of blood to bubble to the surface. I rubbed at the crimson bead, wiping my hand on the cream night dress I wore.
Something in my brain screamed, 'This is just getting weird....' I felt uneasy and a prickle of fear ran through me.
The girl across the ward shifted and the rough blanket fell away revealing her leg. What used to be her leg I should say, for it had been replaced to halfway up her thigh where skeletal grey skin met shining brass and heavy leather straps tightly bound the two together. My eyes travelled down her artificial leg to her ankle and foot where more leather straps and wooden casing bound what was left of the ruined limb into a working appendage. She shifted in her sleep, flexing her leg and a hiss of steam escaped the delicate knee joint, rocking the needle on a small gauge melted into the brass further up her thigh.
'Steam?! Her leg... It's running on steam?!'
That was about the point my brain blew and I slumped on my mattress, dumbfounded in the heavy, near silent air of the ward. I felt like I'd been thrown into Wonderland. Modern day or possibly Victorian, I had no idea but definitely London atleast.
Where the hell was I? And more importantly... when?