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October 23, 2017 / hbrowne4

Fluorescent Noon by Stephen Brady

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“Remember, the scariest moment is just before you start.”
That’s what he said.
“I’m sorry…” I had to make an effort to speak. “Are you… are you talking to me?”
“No. I’m talking to myself.”
“Oh,” I muttered. “That’s alright then…”
I was lying on the operating table, under the ferocious light of six flourescent lamps. Apart from the man in the white gown, the theatre was empty. I was sure there should have been someone else there, a nurse, an internist, someone – but there wasn’t.
There was just me, and him.
“Wait a second,” I said. “Let’s… let’s talk about this first.”
He looked down at me, and it was impossible to read the expression in his eyes. The lower half of his face was concealed in a surgical mask. I noticed he was sweating. That wasn’t good, was it? The surgeon wasn’t supposed to be sweating.
“What’s there to talk about?” he said off-handedly. “Just try to relax. We’re almost ready to begin.”
I was sretched out on the table, my wrists and ankles bound with leather straps. I wasn’t sure why that had been necessary… after all, I’d be unconscious for the acutal procedure.
Wouldn’t I?
Anyway, I was strapped down, completely immobile. My stomach was bare, exposed to the merciless light. He was staring at it, my stomach. Then he poked it with a rubbergloved finger.
“Does that hurt?”
“Yes!” I hissed. “A very fucking lot.”
“Good,” he was nodding, and again, I wondered who he was talking to. “Good, that’s good. That’s progress.”
He turned away from me and began rifling around, setting off a cacophony of clatters.
I blinked sweat from my eyes and tried to remain calm.
Routine. I repeated the word to myself like a mantra. Routine. This was a routine procedure. Surely, they must do this ten times a day. Fifty times. A hundred! Nothing to be worried about.
Nothing at all.
The surgeon turned back to me.
“Here we go! Thought I’d lost it.”
He held up a long, silver knife with a cruelly serrated blade. It must have been nine inches long.
“What’s that?” I asked stupidly.
“It’s the instrument. You didn’t think I was going to use my bare hands, did you? This isn’t the dark ages, Roderick.”
“My name is Phillip.”
“Is it?” He blinked. “Well, whatever. Now.” He came over and stood beside me. That long serrated blade hovered over my exposed midsection. It winked in the damnable flourescence.
“Wait,” I said. “Let’s talk about this first.”
“Nothing to talk about.” He hiccuped. “So, Simon, tell me. What is it that’s troubling you? Pancreas? Liver? Intestines?”
I was flabbergasted. “Are you serious-”
“Please don’t say kidney. I haven’t done that one.”
“Wait, wait! You don’t know what you’re operating for? Jesus Christ, don’t you have… I don’t know… clinical notes, or something?”
He shrugged. “I may have done. I appear to have misplaced them.” He hiccuped again, and for the first time I noticed he was quite unsteady on his feet. “Why don’t we just have a go, eh? We’ll find out what it is, sooner or later. What do they call that? Process of elimination!”
“Doctor,” I said, making a great effort to keep my voice calm, “are you drunk?”
He thought for a moment, then nodded. “I’d a few glasses of vino at the golf club. What harm? In this profession, you need something to take the edge off.”
He laid his cold rubber fingers on my exposed stomach. He raised the cruelly serrated knife, which looked to me like the avatar of all the Inquisitorial torture devices ever employed throughout history. He began to turn it left and right, as if judging the correct angle from which to take that first, all-important slice.
“Ana.. ana… ana…” I stammered.
“Who’s Anna?”
“Anasthetic!” I finally managed to say. “A-a-arent’t you gonna give me any anaesthetic?”
He tutted at me. “We’ve none of that. Cutbacks.”
“Cutbacks?!” I hollered.
“Good God,” he said, “where do you think you are? Hollywood California?”
He put his hand on my torso, and leaned his full weight on it, pinning me to the spot.
“Now!” He said. “Here we go. Try to hold still, Francis.”
And so saying, he began to lower the knife.
“Jesus Christ!” I hissed. “Stop! Talk to me. Just talk. Stop! Stop! Oh God have mercy will you please stop!”
But he didn’t. The blade came down and sliced into my belly and dark blood shot up in an astonishing spray and hit the lamps suspended from the ceiling.
I screamed and thrashed, whipping my body like a stabbed fish. Blood and stomach fluid sprayed this way and that in marvellous, unholy trajectories.
“Such a fuss,” he mumbled. “Remember, the scariest moment is just before you start.”
“Well you’ve started!” I howled. “And it feels pretty fucking scary to me!”

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