When I knock on the half-open door to his study, he glances up from his notebooks. I shut the door behind me, approach his desk slowly, and hold out Lillian’s hand.
“Oh, Victoria,” he says, shaking his head. “I had hoped we were past this. This configuration is as close to perfect as I could hope.”
I bite my tongue. Victoria is not my name, simply a construct.
I asked him once why he had done such a thing; he called me an ungrateful wretch and left his handprint on my cheek. I wonder if he even knows why. Perhaps the answer is so ugly he has buried it deep inside.
Without another word, he leads me to the small operating theater, unlocks the door, and steps aside to let me enter first. The room smells of antiseptic and gauze, but it’s far better than the wet flesh reek of the large theater. My visual memories are vague, but the smell will not leave, no matter how hard I try to forget.
I sit on the edge of the examination table without prompting. His face is grim, studied, as he inspects the wrist, and even though his touch is gentle, I watch his eyes for signs of anger. I know the rot is not my fault, but innocence is no guard against rage.
He makes a sound deep in his throat. Of sorrow? Condemnation?
Lillian weeps, then begs, then prays. None of which will make any difference.
The rot binds us to him as the stitches bind them to me. A prison, not of bars, but circumstance. I have entertained thoughts of the scissors and the thread, the undoing to set us free, but I have no wish to die again, and neither do the others. While not perfect, this existence is preferable. And what if we did not die? What if our pieces remained alive and sentient? A crueler fate I cannot imagine.
He scrapes a bit of the rot away, revealing a darker patch beneath. When he lets out a heavy sigh, I note the absence of liquor on his breath.
He busies himself with the necessary preparations, and Lillian begins to cry again. The others remain silent. He paints the wrist with an anesthetic, which surprises me. My tears have never stopped him from his work. I close my eyes and feel pressure. Hear the blades snipping through the stitches. Smell the foul scent of decay as it reaches out from beneath.
He places the hand in a small metal tray, then coats the remaining flesh in an ointment that smells strongly of pine and wraps it in gauze.
“We shall know in a few days.”
– Damien Angelica Walters, “Sing Me Your Scars”