Penny Dreadful: The Surgeon’s Child

The scalpel dug in jaggedly to the lady’s cold flesh. It didn’t glide as it usually did with the live ones. She was a model subject, so demure in her nakedness. Her glazed eyes did not flash with wanton thoughts; she was pale, voluptuous and perfect. The surgeon drew another implement from the steel tray at his side. This one was encrusted with blood from his previous guest. His last guest was more vocal, she had been warm and fidgeting. Oh but she was complicit… they all were. A bulbous buzzing fly floated past his face landing on the work table next to his Madonna. He smashed it mercilessly with his cold steel saw before wiping the blade on his smeared apron.

“This won’t hurt a bit,” he whispered, gently caressing the angelic woman’s swollen belly. He dug the saw in with an uncomfortable crunching sound. The greying skin peeled back and a few black droplets of congealed blood flecked upon his forearms. Still he persisted. Such a pity to spoil such a perfect woman. Still the treasure lay within and he edged ever closer.

 

He prized apart the layers of skin, he could not help but remark upon the exquisite delicacy of it all, the mesh of tissues that had once teemed with life. Now the time had come for the more tender implements. He put down the saw and took up a glinting little silver blade, so small and keen… It was the sharpest in his copious collection. He had found the seat of the jewel, the filmy sac, purple and stiff with the vigour of death. He pulled the blade across its length and out poured the stagnant liquid. The womb had been the only home this little creature had ever known, but soon…soon it would become so much more.

 

He could almost hear what could have been, the sound of a new life wailing. This was not the first time he had to operate on a pregnant patient but it was certainly the first time he could still feel the faintest, the slowest pulse of a heartbeat as he dug his gloved hands in to the belly of the woman.

As his plastic mitts emerged from her stomach, soaked in a foul crimson liquid, he could see the remnants of a deformed creature. Oh what life this poor thing could have grown up to be. He could have been a teacher, a priest, a soldier. Then again he could have been another homeless tramp that litters the streets. As he put the fleshy mess onto the tray, he could hear a horde of crashing and banging from along the hall.

He flinched but didn’t panic. This couldn’t be rushed. He carefully lifted a syringe, filled with an ominous dark reddish brown liquid, and pulled the tiny deformed child towards him. His eyes gleamed, “This however,” he said wickedly “…this will hurt.” As he pushed the needle in to the child, pressing the plunger all the way down, the infant let out a terrible blood-curling scream. He dropped the syringe and stepped back, smiling serenely as the baby writhed and cried. The footsteps were louder now, faster, running towards him, but he didn’t care. And as several burly men burst in to the room, he simply laughed. And as his own knife sliced his throat there was a perverse happiness in his eyes. “It’s too late.” He gurgled, and the life left him.

The child was taken away, after being soothed and silenced. It was placed in the loving arms of a doctor and his wife, who for many years had been in want of a child. There were none who knew of the vile chemicals that had been forced inside the infant’s veins. None who knew the change they had brought to the fragile little body. The surgeon was dead and the records buried. The baby was safe and loved.

*******

Months passed. Red and golden leaves fell, then ghostly snow before the crocuses broke free and spring came at last. The child had reached his first year, unbeknownst of course to his adoptive parents who hadn’t taken up his care until the tendrils of summer had curled itself around the rosy blossom. So there were no gifts and no special tea prepared, as far as the child’s parents were concerned those arrangements were not needed for weeks. Yet the child felt it within himself, somehow within his tiny body he felt the advent of the cyclical date of his nativity. With only the first few teeth protruding and annals of communication not yet available to him, he was unable to make his feeling known.

That night the old grandfather clock in the hallway struck midnight and the child howled. The most bloodcurdling screech that rattled the windows of the old manor. The doctor’s wife sprung from her bed and ran to the child’s crib. As she reached her arms in to cradle her beloved son she felt a sharp sting on her forearm and fell to the ground lifeless. The child’s jaw trickled with blood. The surgeon’s final masterpiece was complete…

 

By Hayley Rutherford (& the homies)

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