Bernice Summerfield stared at Bungee the teddy bear.
Bungee stared back, his black button eyes twinkled dully in the tired fluorescent light that hummed in the recuperation room.
Benny shifted in her orange plastic seat and breathed a long, deliberate breath, her mouth sticky and deadly, laden with a dozen sugar-rich espressos.
Bungee didn’t flinch, his little sewn mouth remained perky and grinned despite the caffeinated onslaught.
Benny shook her head in despair. She should not be here, torturing helpless stuffed animals. After all, it wasn’t Bungee’s fault she was miserable. He was, after all, her only friend. Or at least that’s what Orderly Janice had said when she’d handed Benny the beige, fuzz-ridden toy.
Bernice knew she shouldn’t be here at all, not really. She stood up, tucking Bungee under her arm and winced as her bare feet touched the cold, tiled floor. She left the dry, crusty remains of her porridge bowl on the table for the staff to tidy up and went for a wander down the white, sterile corridors.
She eyed the tiny ventilation shafts and the shiny electronic locks that twittered and glowed by the many doors.
This was a complete waste of time. There was no escape. She’d tried all the exits, pounded on all the windows, and threatened all the guards- that were shorter than her- all to no avail.
There was no way out.
She’d been in prisons before of course, all throughout time and all across space, as she was fond of recounting in any pub she could find to anyone who would listen. But this was worse somehow. Much worse.
There were no clocks here, but Benny had that itchy feeling she developed twice a day that told her something dreadful was coming. Worse than the colouring sessions or the group nap time or the intro to mime classes she’d somehow found herself enrolled in. She pressed herself against the wall as her fellow prisoners began to clog the halls, every bowed head heading towards the main encounter room. It was as if they knew what time it was, without having to be told.
It was downright creepy.
It was Self-Affirmation Time.
Benny found herself caught in the crowd, pulled along in their wake and before she knew it, dazed as she was in her current condition (it was day eight, after all), she was standing before the mass of chairs which had all filled up, leaving her standing in the main space before the microphone, the dreaded space that she’d planned to never, ever, ever be in, caught standing the glare of the cheerful light and a thousand helpful faces.
Benny clutched Bungee’s paw tightly in her sweaty grip. The rest of his body dangled limply to the ground and for a moment she felt as if she were Wendy from Peter Pan, holding a drugged out child in one hand and facing the entire pirate ship unarmed in nothing but her blue pyjamas. She wished she were out of this Neverland with their salty porridge and forced restraints and chemical toilets. Wished she were back aboard the safety of the TARDIS so she could beat the living crap out of the Doctor and Roz and Chris (or at least hire someone large, armed and spiky to beat the crap of Cwej) for putting her here.
For admitting her into this hell hole. For drugging her and taking her out of the ship in the middle of the night, leaving her to wake up alone on a gurney, a saline drip in one arm and a flowery ‘Hope you get better’ card tucked under the other.
The microphone wailed with feedback as she swayed awkwardly before it. She wanted to step away, to run back to her room, but she found herself hypnotized by the lights, the stares and the large, knobby microphone.
There was no reason for her to be here. She had to do this to get out. She had to play the game to end this. There was no other way.
Grudgingly, Bernice stepped closer to the mike.
“Hi,” she said, far too loudly, cringing as her voice bellowed throughout the hall. She moved back a bit and lowered her voice, although when she spoke the vowels and consonants seemed thick and itchy in her throat. “My name is Bernice Surprise Summerfield… and…”
There was no reason for her to be here. She knew it. Bungee knew it too. She held the bear to her chest, knowing he’d understand. “And I’m… I’m an alcoholic.”
She smiled as the crowd responded in rote, smiled as she held the bear in warm hug and knew that she was almost out. Almost free once more. Just play the game.
Mind you, she mentally added to Bungee, I’d kill for a gin and tonic.