I was dying. Or at least I really hoped I was.
During the operations, I often screamed for my own death, begging them to just hurry up and kill me. They didn’t, though. They planned on keeping me alive for as long as they could, dissecting me over and over again.
I wasn’t even sure what they were looking for, and honestly, I didn’t think they knew either. From what Dr. Daniels told me, the doctors and scientists at the quarantine were no closer to finding a cure for the lyssavirus, despite all the examinations and tests and vivisection they’d performed on me.
Daniels was the doctor I dealt with the most. He did the day-to-day things – drew blood, occasionally gave me shots – but nothing too terrible. All the truly gruesome experiments and surgeries were left to a nameless, faceless mob of butchers.
Even though Daniels repeatedly assured me that they were surgeons, some of the finest that had ever practiced medicine, I wasn’t convinced. Any doctor who had taken the Hippocratic Oath wouldn’t act like they did.
In the night, they would come into my little white room – a windowless cell that was a cross between a lab and a prison. The surgeons always came when I was sleeping based on some theory I was more complacent when I was drowsy, but I don’t think I was ever really “complacent.”
Two or three large men would come to get me, their faces blocked by surgical masks. They didn’t need them, not yet, so I could only assume they wore them to keep themselves faceless. They wanted to make it as impersonal as possible. To them, I was just a lab rat, and they didn’t want to humanize the situation with introductions.
I tried to fight them when they came, kicking and hitting as best I could, but I was growing weak. Everything they did to me, it was killing me, even if the process went much slower than I’d have liked. Almost all my bones were visible, and my veins popped bright blue through my nearly translucent skin.
As often as I could, I attempted to work out – doing pushups, curl ups, jogging in place, anything I could think of to keep my muscles from atrophying. But I was barely eating, I hadn’t seen the sun in I-don’t-know-how-long, and I was constantly losing blood and occasionally an organ.
When I’d first started getting carted off to these surgeries, they’d sent four men, and they could barely hold me. But this time, they’d only sent two.
Lately, I’d been considering not fighting them, because it was a waste of energy. I never prevented anything from happening. I only exhausted myself. So last night, I attempted to not fight, to just let them take me away.
But as soon as I saw the operating room, I couldn’t help it. Just the sight of the cold metal, the ultra-bright lights, the scent of the disinfectant, it flipped a switch inside me. It filled me with an all-too familiar terror and a wave of intense nausea passed over me.
The men had each taken one of my arms, so my bare feet were still on the ground. As soon as the door swung open to the operating room, I bucked against them. I tried to pull back and wiggle out of their grasp, and when that didn’t work, I tried kicking them.
But it didn’t matter. They were stronger than me, and I knew the only reward I’d get for my troubles would be bruises on my arms and legs.
By the time they dragged me over to the table, I’d given up on fighting them. I resorted to begging, trying to appeal to their humanity, even though that had never worked before. Anything I said – tears, prayers, bartering, pleading – it all fell on deaf ears.
They took off my shirt, and then they laid me down on the cold metal table. They held me down until the leather straps were secure. A strap ran across each ankle, thigh, wrist, and either over my ribs or my hips, depending on where they planned to cut. Today, the strap went over my ribs, so that meant my abdomen.
After that, the two men left, and I waited. Sometimes I’d wait an hour, maybe even longer.
But eventually, the operating team came in. Five men, all dressed in white, their operating masks on, their hair in surgical caps, plastic gloves on their hands. It all appeared like any normal surgery save for one thing: The patient was completely lucid without any pain medication.
All their surgeries were performed while I was wide awake.
“Please,” I begged them. I strained to lift my head, as if it would somehow be better if I could see what they were doing, if I knew exactly what tools they were using to slice me open. “Please. Don’t do this. You just did this a few weeks ago. I need time to heal. Please. Let’s postpone this.”
But they didn’t talk to me. They never even acknowledged me. They’d talk amongst themselves in low whispers that I couldn’t understand.
“Okay, if we have to do this, can you just give me a warning?” I asked. “Just let me know before you cut me. Give me a second to prepare myself. Okay?”
When nobody said anything, I laid my head back, staring up at the light above me. It was so bright, it nearly blinded me.
Then, without warning, I felt the blade, cold metal slicing through my flesh. I gritted my teeth and squeezed my eyes shut. This wasn’t even the worst of it. Cutting through my skin was the least painful part of what they did.
It was when they were inside, playing with my organs, taking biopsies, squeezing things, investigating, that it was impossibly brutal. Sometimes I’d pass out from the pain, but not often enough.
I winced as excruciating pain began in my abdomen. I couldn’t see what they were doing, but my skin was stretching as they pried open the incision they’d just made. In a few moments, they’d be cutting into some organ I probably needed to use to stay alive.