Daniel I. Russell is the author of Entertaining Demons, Samhane, Retard, Come Into Darkness, Critique, The Collector Book 1: Mana Leak, Mother's Boys and the huge collection Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem. Daniel is a HWA active member and represented by the Tobias Literary Agency, NYC. Daniel has also been the vice-president of the Australian Horror Writers' Association, special guest editor of Midnight Echo, associate and technical editor for Necrotic Tissue, and Shadow Awards judge.
IS IT A BIRD? IS IT A PLANE? NO, IT'S...AMAZON?
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Sunday, June 28, 2009Free fiction: Prosthetics
Yes, yes, I know I'm slack. Super busy here at Manji Towers, and I'm awaiting a few things that I wanted to blog about this week. So, expect (hopefully) a normal post next weekend, including a review of Shaun Jeffrey's The Kult, the first in a series of discussions about foreign markets (including an interview with a top German writer!) and the latest developments of Necrotic Tissue magazine, as we'll be back into a new reading period.
Which reminds me...if you haven't already, check out the interview of Necrotic Tissue Chief Editor R. Scott McCoy on The Odd Minds radio show at www.blogtalkradio.com/theoddminds . He talks of the magazine, the Malpractice anthology, his own great works...and yours truly even gets a mention at the end. Thanks Scott!
In closing, in apology for me being so weak this week (that's some bad hat, Harry), have some more free fiction:
There lies horror in the losing of a limb. Aside from the searing pain, loss of blood and crunch of bone, one loses a part of themself. But what if there's more to lose in the treatment? Which is the more horrific? The loss of a limb...or the gaining of a new one?
Ladies and Gentlemen...I give you...
Dr. Bowman met Jim’s eyes. He seemed nervous, but remained smiling.
“You ready?” she asked, taking his hand. She sat next to him on a plush sofa.
“I…I guess so,” he said.
“Good. Don’t try too hard. This should come naturally. Now…squeeze!”
Fingers clamped down on the doctor’s hand, and she cried out, pulling back. Jim held on, staring down.
“Jesus,” Bowman moaned and squirmed her fingers. She worked them free from the iron grip. Pain blared in her hand, like she’d trapped it in a door.
She slid free and massaged the skin, smoothing out the agony.
“Any harder and it would be me that needs a new one!”
“I’m sorry,” blurted Jim.
“It wasn’t your fault,” said Bowman. “It’s a new technology and needs a little fine tuning. Let me take another look.”
She held the prosthetic, now a tight fist, and ripped a Velcro strap free. The gloved hand fell away, revealing the fleshy stump beneath. She swallowed and pulled the glove off.
Jim snorted. “You must see this kind of thing everyday, yet this,” he held up the deformed hand, “this disgusts even you.”
“It’s nothing,” she said. “It’s the prosthetic I’m disgusted with.”
Jim’s injured hand turned her stomach. He’d been on the receiving end of meat slicer accident. The machine had taken most of his right hand, cutting from the base of the thumb up to the knuckle of his little finger. The injury itself didn’t sicken her, but the puckered pink flesh at the trauma site did. She knew she had a bad attitude, especially for someone in her position, but the disgust remained. She preferred nice, tidy stumps, not blood and scars.
“You don’t have to worry much longer,” she said. “Once I get this fixed, it’ll be like having your old hand back.”
Jim sighed. “I appreciate your…enthusiasm, doctor. But you can’t understand what this feels like to just…well, lose a part of you in a split second.”
Bowman pried the fingers of the hand open.
She reached down to her ankle and hiked up her trousers a few inches. Beneath, the silver head of a bolt glinted, embedded in pink plastic. She lifted her foot from the floor, and the hinge moved.
“Whoa,” said Jim, clutching his injured hand.
“Car crash,” said Bowman. “Twelve years ago. My leg was crushed, and they amputated below the knee.” She tapped her shin. It sounded hollow. “Why I got into this area of medicine.”
“I’m sorry,” said Jim.
Bowman smiled. “No problem.”
“But you don’t even have a limp!”
She winked. “That’s how good we are here at Bloom Memorial.” She studied the hand. “Ah, I see what happened. A fuse has blown.” She reached into the inner workings and snapped the offending part free. “Our engineer is in today, so he should be able to fix this right up.”
“You don’t build them?”
“Steve builds them and I fit them. Our system works.” She stood. “Make yourself comfortable, Jim. I’ll just be a minute.”
“Right,” he said, looking a little more reassured. “Thank you, doctor.”
Bowman crossed the pastel-toned patient suite and through the door at the rear. The temperature seemed to drop ten degrees on entering the workshop. The windowless room oppressed from the thick carpet and pleasant views of the patient suite. Underneath the bare bulbs, various limbs hung from rows of shelves. Legs stood in racks like umbrellas. Hands sat in rows, robot spiders waiting to be used. It reminded Bowman of puppet maker’s workbench.
“Steve?” she called. Her voice echoed. “Steve are you back there? I need a new fuse for a TN500.”
Silence greeted her.
“Damn. You on your lunch?”
She headed deeper into the room, passing more body parts. She had no idea what the building had been used for previously. The hospital had seen their work, offered positions at the facility and given them the use of the building, set within the hospital grounds. The workshop contained a small washing area and the remains of a small ward. Various bits and pieces had been left behind, the larger objects covered by sheets. Bowman had nagged Steve about shifting it all.
She approached the washing area. Steve had emptied the cupboard under the sink, and a black, leather bag stood next to the rusted metal sink. Bowman glanced at her reflection in the streaked mirror.
She opened the bag and peered inside, catching a hint of metal. She reached in.
She pulled out a scalpel, studied it and dropped it back. It emitted a small clunk, striking other instruments.
“Steve! I told you to get rid of all this!”
She turned away.
“Guess I’ll have to find the fuse myself.”
She walked down the old ward, scanning the cluttered shelves and work areas. Saws, drills, hammers and other vicious objects littered the place.
“Health and safety nightmare,” said Bowman, wishing for the comfort of the patient suite. She stopped. “And what the hell are you doing with this?”
A metal chair lay against the wall. Its seat, complete with head and foot rest, had been formed from a sheet of bent aluminium and polished to a dazzling finish. It sat on a short column, also fashioned from metal. An intricate pattern adorned its surface.
Looks like you’ve been renovating this. But why?
Something tapped her left foot. She looked down.
A fuse rolled and stopped.
Bowman picked it up.
Must have knocked it off something…Bit of luck. And it hit my left foot and not my right!
The wet fuse slipped within her fingers, and she wiped it on her blouse. The tiny cylinder vibrated in her palm for a second.
“Odd.” She examined it closer. Nothing out of the ordinary. “Must just be me.”
She glanced at the chair and shivered. She’d never claimed to have any sixth sense, but the chair inspired goosebumbs on her arms and back. She wondered if anyone had died in it…
Right, Steve. As soon as your belly’s filled, you’re getting rid of this chair. That bag too.
Turning her back on the piles of junk and the hideous chair, Bowman headed back through the workshop. She stopped, her heels scraping on the floor.
Something. Something behind her.
She glanced over her shoulder.
Nothing moved. The chair sat in the old ward, like a still life painted by Giger.
We need more lights in here. Place is getting to me.
Shaking her head, Bowman strode through the workshop, thankful as she entered the patient suite.
“Here we are, Jim,” said Bowman, joining her patient back on the sofa. “Sorry about the delay. Steve’s on his lunch, but I managed to find a fuse.”
Jim shifted forward, perching on the edge. “We trying it again, then?”
“One more time, at least to check the fit. We’ll make an appointment for next week so we can start your rehab properly.” Bowman flipped the prosthetic hand over and clicked the fuse into place. The fingers twitched, and Bowman nearly dropped the attachment. “Must have some discharge,” she said and ripped open the Velcro. “Don’t worry. You won’t get a shock!”
Jim offered a nervous smile and slowly held out his severed hand. Bowman slid the fixture over the torn skin and fastened it tight.
“There we go.”
Jim frowned. “It feels strange. All tingly.”
“That’s normal,” said Bowman, frowning. She glanced at the clock. Aware of her next appointment, she decided to cut the chat. “Just like before. Try to make a fist.”
“Okay,” said Jim. He closed his eyes.
“Ready?” said Bowman. “One…two…three!”
Thin blades shot out of the metal fingertips with a sharp ping!
“Did it work?” asked Jim. He glanced down.
The hand shot up, fingers closing in a claw. The five blades punched through Jim’s throat, and blood shot across the sofa.
Bowman screamed and jumped to her feet.
Jim gurgled, wide-eyed and falling back. Crimson poured down his chest, blossoming on his white shirt. The fingers embedded in his flesh jerked and flicked, trying to dig deeper. Jim clutched it with his good hand.
“Oh god,” Bowman moaned, retreating. “Oh god!”
Jim pulled the hand away for a second, but not to be denied, it surged forward in another frenzied attack. The force knocked Jim’s head back.
Bowman fled to the front door.
The sounds of Jim’s thrashing and the whirring from the hand stopped behind her.
The doctor froze, her hand on the door knob. She peered over her shoulder.
Jim lay back on the sofa, his body still. His head had tilted back, revealing the carnage beneath his chin. Blood trickled down his front from pulsating tissue, which hung from his throat like glistening candy shoelaces. The remains of a crushed, mangled tube poked out of the pulpy mess.
The hand had vanished.
“Oh shit,” said Bowman and covered her mouth. The carpet seemed to tilt, and her vision blurred. She blinked the patient suite back into focus.
“No,” she cried. “Oh no…”
She yanked the door handle.
The hand dropped from the ceiling and onto her arm. Bowman jumped away from the door and beat at the prosthetic. It clung on like a metal tarantula, crawling for her shoulder. The blades had retracted.
Bowman tripped on a rug and toppled onto her knees. Her leg cracked, and the fake limb came free. It hung loose within her trousers.
The hand crept along her collarbone, impartial to her thrashing.
She screamed and grabbed it. The metal throbbed within her grasp.
“No!” she yelled, prying it free.
It held onto her blouse, refusing to budge. Bowman’s fingers slipped, and the metal hand darted to her face.
She snatched it with both hands and pulled.
A finger, containing tiny pistons and wires, hooked towards her mouth. The tip brushed her lips.
“Get...the fuck…off me!”
The hand emitted a loud click and fell away. Bowman threw it across the room just as the detached finger slipped into her mouth. She clenched her teeth together, clamping the loose digit that squirmed like a swollen maggot. It curled, and the tail end flicked against her nose.
Bowman fell forward and coughed. She pressed against the probing finger with her tongue. It pushed further in, metal squeaking against her teeth. Bolts of pain shot through her tight jaws. She grabbed for the probing digit.
It slipped all the way inside and jabbed the back of her throat.
Bowman gagged and wailed.
The finger seemed to grow, and a sharp point pressed into the roof of her mouth.
Realisation fuelled her panic, and she hooked the metal with her fingertips. They slid over the saliva-slick intruder and failed to find purchase.
The flesh at the back of her throat parted, and the finger dug up toward her head…
Dan: Is that the end of the story? Be pretty bad if it were. I struggle the most with endings, but give me some credit! Like Dr Bowman, there's a piece missing. Pick up a copy of Malpractice from http://www.necrotictissue.com/ and step into Bloom Memorial Hospital to enjoy Prosthetics in its full, splattered glory!