The clock had struck ten and the study room in the faculty was dimly lit, fallen silent from all the hustle and bustle of the day. A sudden tap on the shoulder had wakened Steven. He looked up in a daze, still confused, wiping the drooling from the opened textbook page.
“Hello? Anyone there?” He said gathering his notes. Something or someone must have woken him up. But no one answered. He had been left amongst the voluminous medical textbooks and the dimmed lamps. He went past the corridor and stairs to reach for the main door but it was locked. He was stuck, how could the porter have missed him?
He sighed and then thought to try the fire exit. He had seen it by the Anatomy Demonstration room so he retraced his steps down the corridor. At the end, he pushed the door opened, greeted by the clinical coldness of the dissection room and the overpowering smell of formaldehyde. There was always something fascinating and mystical about this room and it looked even creepier at night. As medical students they gathered in groups of four per body every Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Steven always stood in awe of the retired surgeons and teachers who skillfully navigated the surface of the human body. He still remembered being told not to be afraid and to touch the dead body. A few in the class went a colour resembling pale green at the time. He had a few nerves at the start too but it is remarkable how quickly one adjusts to something as surreal as dissecting a body and accepts it as normal.
Steven was actually quite fond of the body he had been given to practice, an old lady who had died of old age and blocked arteries. Even the body, which lay next to their group, had a pleasant rose aroma and a coin was found in his right antecubital fossa just last week. They did put it back as it had obviously been there for a reason and clearly wanted to take it with him to his final resting place.
However there was something about the deceased man across the room. Steven just could not bare the putrid smell as soon as he approached when summoned by the lecturer. Perhaps it had been cancer or even the mark of a lost soul? Nonsense, he thought, he didn’t even believe in that kind of stuff. He needed to find an exit before he lost his mind too.
He went through a narrow entrance and tried a door to his right, which easily opened. He flicked the light switch on and his eyes immediately caught the two large steel freezer compartments standing side by side and a faded three quarter length white coat. He suddenly felt this urge to try it on and could not explain it. He had seen plenty of white coats; he had a medical student one himself. Perhaps because it wasn’t his? Curiosity and impulse got the better of him so he tried it on.
“It’s a perfect fit.” A firm man’s voice said.
Steven jumped on his feet; a man was stood right behind him just a few inches away.
“I suppose you have come for the body?” The stranger said, his breath bitter and stale, his grin old and broad. He was no more than five foot, his hairline receding into a patch and his eyes dark and impenetrable.
A bewildered Steven tried to speak but no sounds came out.
“Well, which parts were you looking for?”
“Well, you are a student doctor, aren’t you? Which part have you come for?” the man asked
“Oh, of course, sorry. For a moment there…” Steven said, still trying to work out who the man was.
“Well I don’t have all night, come on” He proceeded towards one of the freezers and opened it for Steven.
“We have got upper and lower limbs over here. Now here, are the more delicate specimens such as the brachial plexus and the branches of the inferior aorta.”
“Wow, they are incredible, almost textbook like. How come we don’t see these in class? “ Steven said moving closer to examine them
“No son, not almost, they were precisely cut and measured. I am constructing the missing parts before it is ready to be shared. Want to see where we get them from?”
“Constructing, I am confused? But sure!”
“In a moment, yes…. I see you are wearing my white coat.” The man said pondering.
“Oh so sorry, just could not help it. Here, please, let me give it back to you” Steven said.
“It suits you, as I said earlier a perfect fit. Plenty of memories, you know, it seems to bring me good luck. It seems to bring me exactly what I need when I ask for it”
“Oh? It does?” Steven said in a dubious tone.
“Yes, you see. I am the Anatomist.” He presented Steven his right hand and shook it.
“Steven Trousseau. Pleased to meet you. How come I have not seen you before?”
“Ah, the department keeps me working at night, no distractions from the likes of you. But in your case I shall make an exception. You see you have the most perfectly structured hands. Dare I say, hands of a surgeon?”
“Well, thank you. Not sure what to say to that. I hope I can do them justice one day.” Steven replied.
“Well my boy rest assured they will take pride of place. Follow me and I will show you how it’s done”
As Steven followed him into an adjacent room, the temperature dropped abruptly. A tray of finely set sharp blades and different sized saws set neatly on a silver trolley. The Anatomist closed the door behind and click was heard. He stared at Steven for a few seconds, which made him uncomfortable.
“So where are the bodies?” Steven asked.
“We are a bit short at the moment. You see random bodies won’t just do. Oh no, if you want perfection you have to find it first. This is my life’s work after all. But I am sure you will do just fine.”
Steven stood frozen, confused, thoughts racing through his head. Everything inside him told him to run and when he tried to reach for the door, it was locked. Again he was stuck, but in a far more dangerous position with a man holding a knife and wearing a horrific grin.
“Not so fast son, I have been waiting for you for a long time, now. The door locks on itself, didn’t you hear the click?”
“Why?” Steven barely managed to utter the words as the Anatomist had already crossed the room and blood was pouring from the right side of his chest.
“Easy now, don’t fight it. Your right lung is punctured, the air will run out soon. Shush don’t struggle. You see, you will be remembered for eternity. I will make sure you are my finest work. I promise.”
Janete Cabral Copyright 2003-2011