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  Table of contents Issue Seventeen PROSTHETICS



indowless, with whitewashed walls, cotton swabs stuffed in glass jars, and black instruments hanging in their holsters; the exam room was like any other. Inside, the air swirled, cold, in a musty cloud of sterility. Overhead, fluorescent bulbs glowed as bright as eggshells.

One of the bulbs started to flicker, an incessant, irascible blinking. The man resting atop the examination table turned over, the stiff paper sheet below him crinkling, and glanced at the lights. He blinked, and dropped his eyes to a diagram of the human body taped to the wall across the room. The poster’s laminate reflected the ceiling’s luminescent blinks, branding green splotches onto his retinas.

Then the room fell away, and he saw instead a spotlight breaking a night sky. He turned from the poster so fast he cricked his neck, grunting, fists clenching, his johnny rasping against his skin with the tiniest movement.

A loud creak snapped him back to reality. The door opposite him opened. He thought of rifle fire and grenade blasts. Surrounding him. Enclosing him. He heard men scream--a memory like a faded photograph--heard them cry for their mothers and fathers, and for home.

A white-sleeved hand presented itself. Its owner grinned.

The flickering ceased. Catching his breath, the images whirling away, the man clasped the hand and shook it. He noticed its nails were buffed into perfect, sterile semicircles.

“How are you today?”

“Not well,” the man said. He sat up, the paper snapping and cracking, the rubber cushion beneath screaming. Everything screams, he thought, then gestured at his thighs. “They’re hurting again.”

The doctor pressed his hand against a thigh and probed a point above where the man’s leg tapered off, just above the knee. The man winced. Smiling, the doctor tweaked one of the stitches in his stump, as though he were tuning a guitar string.

“Looking good. Have you considered what we discussed last, regarding prosthetics?”

The man knit his brow and sighed. Above, the light flickered again, this time producing an electric hum. It reminded him of an engine—an army tank. His eyes found his stumps; patches of gooseflesh emblazoned his body like a rash. A tank, he thought; then, everything screams.

The doctor snapped his fingers, and the man jumped, sweat beginning to pour down his forehead. “Did you?” the doctor asked, and commenced applying pressure to a half-healed bullet wound near the man’s hip, still flaunting his teeth.

From the corner of his eye, the man saw rockets and fire and blood-letting wounds staring up at him from the place where men’s hearts used to be. Pain wracked him as would electricity off a live wire.

After a minute, he pulled away his stumps and said, eyes wide and red-rimmed, “Yeah, I want what you offered.”

The doctor seemed not to notice, and instead turned around, wrenched open a drawer, and withdrew a hypodermic. He flicked it with his finger; a single bubble gurgled up. He set it on the table. “Fantastic! Before we begin, I never asked, but was your wife pleased to have you home?”

“She was until she ran off.”


The man’s eyes fell onto what remained of his legs. “Couldn’t run after her, now could I? Not like this, at least.”

“Indeed. Fortunately, such trials are behind us now. Do you have the sum we agreed upon?”

He produced his wallet--green save for a star enclosed in a box at the center--and handed the doctor a bundle of hundred dollar bills. Their edges were weathered and crinkled; the scarlet rubber band binding them had long begun to molder.

The doctor thumbed through the money, then tucked it into his jacket. “There’s nobody in the office but us tonight. We can begin the operation if you’d like.”

“Please,” the man said; then his mind conjured, looking out through a window, the image of a body twitching, lying in a puddle of mud. Rain pelted the ground around it. Its skin was just beginning to lose its natural pink. A black halo of hair radiated outward, a few tresses obscuring a toothless, caved in face, others mopping up stray rivulets of blood. Its maw stunk of lavender. A man stood behind the body, a spade in hand. He was grinning. Indeed.

“Indeed,” the doctor said, and pulled from beneath the table a long, black bag. “With my work, I think you’ll be pleased, my friend. As I’ve promised, I believe your new legs will be the envy of all our homebound heroes.”

“Glad to hear it,” the man said. He pawed at his stubble. “It’s tough, you know. This.”

The doctor nodded, unzipped the bag, and set it on the edge of the table. He reached inside and extracted two legs. They had lost their color and were gray as marble. Their cuts--right above the knee--had been cauterized and sutured.

Hints of lavender filled the room--faint but present. Like a ghost.

“Isn’t she--?”

“Yes,” the man said, “she is.”




Jonathan Myers is a writer living in Michigan. His stories have featured in publications such as Echo Cognitio and Micro Horror.

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