Dissections logo scissors body by Deena Warner

 


Dissections logo pterodactyl by Deena Warner


 

 

 

 



Photo Finger Food by Alex Nodopaka

Artwork: Finger Food by Alex
Nodopaka

Professor Browning’s Cure for Rabies
Douglas Ford

The professor simply dropped dead, just like that.

That much we learned days after the online notifications stopped.

Until then, we didn’t know what to think, me, Hannah, and Lauren, all of us first year college students trying to eke out a college degree while working in the local supermarket. I bagged groceries most of the time, stocked shelves when they let me, while Hannah and Lauren, both a lot smarter and more motivated than me, ran the cash registers. Three kids, basically, barely out of high school, chasing the American Dream in a break room with laptops, trying to figure out our assignments in World Literature.

We each chose online classes for different reasons: Lauren because she didn’t have a car to get to campus, Hannah because she didn’t have the patience to sit in a classroom, and me because I could get away with a little more that way. I’m not proud, just honest.

Then the professor died—and for nearly a week, we didn’t even know. No new assignments, nothing graded. Everything just stopped, a situation fine by me, but it drove Lauren and Hannah crazy.

“I’m going to write an e-mail to the department chair. Who’s this guy’s boss?” said Hannah. She chewed her nails all the time, a habit I would consider annoying if I didn’t otherwise find her breathtakingly beautiful. I would have dated Hannah if I could. But she just thought of me as a friend. So okay.

But Lauren took an attitude closer to my own, which I would summarize as let it be. No new assignment notifications, no new work. I had a C. I could live with that. But I noticed that Lauren checked the course just as often as Hannah did. I ate an apple that I’d stolen from the produce department and watched them both sitting there with their laptops. I took an apple every day before break. An apple a day, they say.

Lauren found the announcement first.

“Holy shit. Look.” She turned her screen toward Hannah but not to me. I leaned back in my chair as Hannah’s gorgeous eyes grew wide.

“Dead?” said Hannah. “Ah, shit, ah, fuck.”

I stood up and looked over their shoulders.

Sure enough, old Professor Browning dropped dead in his home office, presumably at the very desk where he sat grading our assignments. I say “old” because it turned out he was pretty goddamn old, well over eighty by the looks of the picture on the college’s website. The announcement included information about a memorial service and how the college anticipated that students from several different generations would likely attend.

“Who knew he was that old?” I said.

Lauren and Hannah both regarded me as if they expected me to justify the remark.

“I mean, online teaching. Isn’t that something for young and energetic professors?”

They kept looking at me.

“It explains a lot,” I said. “It was a boring course. Who knew the Egyptians wrote so much? I couldn’t understand the material half the time.”

Was?” said Hannah. “Fuck was, it needs to be is. Someone’s taking over, right? I mean, they’re going to let us finish, right? I have a fucking A.”

“I heard,” Lauren said, doing what she did best, namely calm down Hannah, “that when a professor dies in the middle of a class, the students get an automatic A.”

“So I work my ass off and Donovan here gets the same grade I do?” Hannah said.

“I work hard,” I said, lying. In truth, I copied most of my work from online sources and otherwise did as little as possible, usually scanning summaries of the readings. “Plus, I’m pretty sure that the automatic A only happens in universities with dorms, not little community colleges. It happens when your room-mate dies. Then you get A’s in all your classes.”

Hannah looked stricken by that information, and Lauren looked a little worried, too. For a moment, I felt empowered and went on.

“But the rest of the course will be a cake-walk. You’ll see. It’ll get re-assigned to some adjunct working a day job in Starbucks, and they won’t have time for us, so we’ll get to skate by. Just chill. Wait for them to make contact.”

Neither of them seemed to share my willingness to just wait. Lauren and Hannah started talking about the memorial service, how going to it would probably work to their benefit by showing how seriously they took the course and keep them in good standing. I leaned back and ate my apple, listening as Lauren made arrangements for Hannah to pick her up. Then they talked about what they might wear and how they needed to request time off work.

“But you’re not going?” they said to me.

I shook my head. “I don’t do funerals. But tell me how it goes.”

“We’ll keep all that good juju for ourselves,” Lauren said. She smiled and winked to show that she meant that as a joke. As far as I knew, I had okay looks, and perhaps she noticed. If I could just work the charm a little more, I figured Hannah might notice too and date me eventually. With that in mind, I nearly gave in and said that I’d go to the service. But nah. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I avoided funerals in general. Death and I didn’t get along. And I just couldn’t see myself doing that for a professor I didn’t even know.

So they went and told me all about it—how weird it was with hardly anyone there. Not even a sign-in sheet, Hannah said, with genuine irritation. See, I told them, not even worth it. They related how they couldn’t even tell if anyone from the college’s administration bothered to show up, limiting attendance to a handful of people, which put them on the spot and made them super visible. The guy had a widow, apparently, an old lady who smelled strongly of pipe smoke and cat urine. Hannah conveyed how that old woman kept hugging her. Now I can’t get that smell out of my hair, she said. She took a handful of those beautiful locks and held it out for me to sniff.

I took a big snoot-full of it, trying to smell all of her, and I nearly gagged. I didn’t want to her to see me do that, but she did. She frowned and smelled her own wrist and made an awful face. I worried I made a big mistake showing her that I could smell it, too. A major set-back to my plans of dating Hannah someday. Lauren interrupted that by describing how the old woman took Hannah by the wrist and led them to the casket, where they had to look at the professor’s dead face. It was drawn and blotchy with these weird areas that looked full of pus. We couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it.

Dead people always look like that, I explained. One of the reasons I don’t go to funerals.

But no, Lauren insisted that it had something to do with a cat. When the professor died, he sat locked away in his office for a few days, his wife not having the presence of mind to check on him. And locked away in that room with him was a cat that apparently took out its frustrations by biting and scratching the professor’s face. Based on what they told me next, it sounds like that marks went deep.

She did the thing with the rolled-up paper, Lauren said, right Hannah?

Apparently, when they came in, they had to write down something on a tiny scroll—a wish or a memory about the professor.

How could we not do it? Hannah said. We had to write something.

It turned out that Lauren just wrote something along the lines that she would miss the professor. That sounded safe. But Hannah? Hannah still couldn’t believe that she might have to start the course all over again and lose her precious A. She wrote something along the lines that she wished he hadn’t died before the class could end and that he could still finish teaching it.

And that’s when she did the thing, Lauren said.

When the widow walked the two of them over to the casket, she took the tiny scrolls, rolled them up tightly, and sucked on them. Practically fellated them, getting them good and wet and tight. Then, she stuck the scrolls through the cheek of the dead professor. It just went through, Hannah said, genuinely horrified, like his skin was made out of putty. I guess it was mortician’s wax or whatever, but it went right into his skin and disappeared. All these little scrolls, going inside his face. And she just used her finger and smoothed it over afterwards, like that would keep you from seeing a serious indentation.

All that made me think of the one thing in the course that stuck out to me, simply because of how stupid it sounded. The professor made a big deal of how poetry worked like magic, with the most ancient writings in the world basically functioning as spells or magic formulas. In old times, people would write out charms, and the example he used sounded ridiculous. In England, people supposedly would deal with a rabid dog by writing out the spell against rabies and make the dog eat it. I imagine that didn’t work out well, and I suspected that Professor Browning just made that up because it sounded good.

Either way, it did suggest that maybe I learned something after all.

#

In the days that followed our conversation, Hannah, obviously mad that I agreed with her about the smell, quit talking to me. Only Lauren would speak to me in the breakroom, where I continued to eat apples and poke around on my phone while the two of them kept waiting for a course notification to show up. For the longest time, only silence, all communication just dead.

It turned out that I would receive something first—not a pinging sound indicating a new assignment or announcement, but a text from the college, weirdly all in block letters, like they knew they would need to yell to get my attention. MAY WE SEND YOU AN IMPORTANT CORUSE NOTIFICATION? It spelled course that way, a strange thing for a college to do. I sat in my car, staring at my phone, waiting for a rainstorm to pass so that I could clock in to work with dry hair. A few minutes late didn’t matter. I typed YES, but then I erased that and replaced it with SURE. For kicks, I added a question mark before hitting Send.

I waited to receive this all-important notification. Instead, my phone rang. That startled me. I never actually talked to anyone on my phone, and I didn’t recognize the number, but I answered anyway.

“Yellow,” said a muffled voice. I didn’t know who the voice belonged to. I looked at the phone and almost hung up. Good thing I didn’t because the voice, still muffled, went on.

“This . . . is . . . professor.”

A whole speech followed. I couldn’t understand everything, mainly because of a lagging delay between each word, as if the very act of speaking required great effort. As if to confirm this fact, there was coughing. I held the phone away from my face until it stopped. Then it went on:

“I . . . been . . . way . . . feel . . . treble . . . no . . . Internets . . . bullshit . . . finish . . . coruse . . . my . . . way . . . in . . . you?”

I didn’t know what to say. For an instant, I imagined that Lauren and Hannah decided to play some kind of prank on me.

But then the voice clarified what it meant by the question at the end, louder this time, demanding an answer.

“You . . . in . . .?”

“I’m in. I mean, I think I’m in?”

“You . . . think . . . ? You . . . want . . . grade . . . ? Done . . . internets . . . bullshit . . . my . . . way . . . take . . . out . . . pen . . .”

I didn’t think I’d find a pen anywhere in the car. Miraculously, one turned up in the glove box, probably the property of the car’s previous driver.

The broken voice continued on, barely getting out an address before it finally gave out. The line went dead, but I continued to hold the phone to my ear as I scribbled what I heard on to an old receipt. My eyes went from the phone in my hand, to the receipt, then back to the phone. “You want grade?” the voice had asked me. I did. For a brief moment, I thought about Lauren and Hannah, wondering if I should go in the store to tell them about the call. The rain began coming down harder though, and Hannah didn’t want to talk to me anyway. Fuck them, I thought. I drove off.

#

The address took me to an old commercial district and a monolithic structure of dying businesses called the Brickyard. The downstairs consisted of a disreputable Mexican restaurant better known for its strong cocktails than for its food. Through the open side door of the restaurant, I received the scowl of a bartender, but I bypassed him and walked to a stairwell that led to the second level. The stairs smelled heavily of urine, and they let out onto an outdoor balcony and a series of doors that led in to shady-looking personal injury law firms, massage parlors, and diet pill companies. Near the end, I found my destination, where I saw an old metal plaque that, interestingly, identified it as belonging to the college. I knocked on the door. When no one answered, I tried the doorknob. It turned, and the door opened, so I walked in.

The air inside smelled stale and musty. The sound of something scurrying past my feet made me jump back, my rear end hitting the door, which had slammed shut behind me. I tried a light switch, but it didn’t work. The only light came from a window in the back, so I walked down a short corridor that took me into what looked like an old classroom, complete with about twenty desks and a chalkboard.

At a desk in front of the chalkboard sat the dark outline of a person, with a bald, completely white head, surrounded by a haze of smoke.

“Professor?” I said. I still wondered if I’d walked into a practical joke. The atmosphere in the room made me uneasy, the air carrying a strange scent—pipe smoke combined with something else. I couldn’t identify it at first, but then remembering Hannah’s complaints helped me identify it. Piss. Cat piss to be exact. Just like the smell in the stairwell, only worse.

“Yellow.” The voice came from the figure, followed by a fresh plume of smoke. It had a pipe, I could see that now, and it showed no sign of movement. Cautiously, I stepped closer.

I saw then why the head looked white.

White gauze wrappings completely covered its features. Not even a single strand of hair stuck out. I could barely make out two holes for eyes as well as one for the mouth, where the pipe stem went. The cheeks moved as the person underneath sucked furiously on it, like it fed him oxygen. Closer now, I could see yellow-brown stains on the forehead and cheeks, as if something leaked through. A similarly stained dress shirt and blue pants completed the ensemble.

“Hello?” I answered.

“Yellow . . . chew . . .?” it said. An arm ending in a hand also wrapped in gauze tapped something on the desk nearby: a bag of candy. Charleston Chew. Then the arm lifted and pointed to the chalkboard, where I saw these words scrawled in barely-legible writing:

CLASS IN CESSATION. PROF. BROWNING

TAKE OUT PEN!!

I looked at the board, then back to the professor. Once the arm returned to his side, the only sign of life came in the form of the smoke plumes from his pipe. I must’ve said something, for he repeated that word of his. “Yellow.”

“Hello,” I said.

Once more, he pointed to the words on the board, this time managing to put a little more fluidity and authority in the movement.

I understood and took a seat in the front row. Not normally where I would have sat. Normally, I would sit further away.

Then I heard the greatest lecture I’d ever heard in my entire life.

#

I came to work the next day buzzing from everything I heard in that classroom. It turned out that the college used the Brickyard as a de-facto campus decades before they broke ground on the real one. The professor taught for so many years that he actually remembered those old days and he preferred to work in his old confines. He told me as much.

Or I think he did.

Maybe I heard some of that from the bartender in the Mexican restaurant, where I went for a margarita after listening to the professor’s lecture. I needed a drink after hearing all of what I heard. The bartender who scowled at me earlier now served me a drink without even asking for an ID, listening while I tried to explain everything I just learned.

“Man, you’re crazy, going on and on about spells and love and rabies. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t get it, but as long as you pay your bill, I ain’t judging you.” He wiped the counter, which somehow made it look dirtier than it was a second ago. “I’d serve you some chips, but it looks like you got plenty to eat already.”

He meant the bag of Charleston Chew I kept next to me at the bar. The professor gave me the entire bag because I answered so many questions right. I’d never even heard of Charleston Chew until then, but I couldn’t stop eating them.

“They look old, though,” said the bartender. “I’ll be honest with you, the chips might be older, so you might be better off. I knew an old guy who used to eat those the same way you do. Who knew they even still made that candy? But that old man, he taught for the college way back when.” He pointed to the ceiling. “Up there.”

I slapped the bar. “That’s where I was. Up there. Incredible lecture. I literally see everything in a new light.”

He closed an eye and crossed himself. “No, man, I mean he’s dead. If you were up in that old classroom, I don’t know who you were talking to. Nobody uses that old classroom but Linda.”

He pointed toward the end of the bar, where a woman anywhere between the ages of forty and eighty in heavy makeup sat hunched over a shot of tequila. She winked at me before turning her body to face us directly, wobbling just a bit on the bar stool before managing to catch herself. She uncrossed her legs, which opened up her skirt wide enough to show me that she wore no underwear.

The bartender said, “Put that thing away, Linda. No corrupting the college boy. He’s going somewhere in this world.”

But I already began gathering up my Charleston Chew and taking out money to pay for my drink. The sight of Linda reminded me what I learned and what I needed to do. After a brief reflection, I left a little extra on the bar. “To pay for hers,” I said, indicating Linda, who began opening her legs again. Only that didn’t matter at all to me.

I was in love. I knew it for sure. With Hannah.

#

As usual, Hannah and Lauren had laptops open during breaktime. Unlike the other day, they typed furiously on them and barely noticed when I came into the breakroom. In my hand, I held the bag of Charleston Chew. Unwrapping one of the candies made a sound that caused both of them to look up.

“No apple today, Donovan?” said Lauren.

I almost forgot to answer. The sight of Hannah had me transfixed. After a glance at me, she went back to her computer while Lauren kept staring at me.

“No,” I said, “I got these instead. Do you want one, Hannah?” I remembered how the professor said I should offer her one. Only her. Not Lauren.

“What?” she said, still typing, not looking up.

I repeated the offer. Finally, she looked up. Both of them stared at me now.

“You don’t look so good,” said Lauren. “What up with your cheek? You breaking out, or is that herpes?”

With no idea of what she meant, I touched my cheek and felt something sore and upraised. I worried what Hannah might think of it, but she’d gone back to typing while Lauren continued to stare.

“You get those assignments done already?” she said.

“What assignments?” I said.

Still typing, Hannah answered. “If you don’t know, you’re already fucked.”

Lauren said, “Better check your notifications. We have a new instructor, and this one’s a ball-buster.”

“My balls are busting as we speak,” said Hannah. “So much fucking work, man. I can’t believe that old man had to die. I’m going to fail now.”

I didn’t understand. The only notification I received was the phone call. Besides, it had all been a mistake. “He’s not dead,” I blurted.

Hannah immediately stopped typing, her face filled all at once by hope and confusion, as if I just might hold the answers to her prayers. That brought back the professor’s words. All poems are either prayers, spells, or curses. A spell to cure rabies. A curse to banish your enemy from the afterlife. A prayer for eternal love. We practiced writing all kinds on yellow slips of paper, and he had me put some of them into his mouth, just as he fed me Charleston Chew.

“No,” Lauren said quietly, “He is most certainly dead. Me and Hannah went to his funeral. We actually had to look at him in his coffin.” She nudged Hannah. “You still smell funny.”

Hannah said, “I know. I shower and shower, and I can’t stop smelling like the litter box of a cat who smokes a pipe.”

“It’s especially ripe right now. You ought to bathe in vinegar.”

Typing again, Hannah said, “I tried that already. The smell killed the vinegar.”

“I believe it. I just got a strong whiff.” Then Lauren looked at me, as if she’d just considered something. She got up from her chair and approached where I stood holding the Charleston Chew I still hadn’t managed to get into Hannah’s mouth. Lauren leaned in closely and sniffed the air.

“It’s Donovan,” she said.

Hannah stopped typing. “It’s what?”

“The smell is Donovan.”

“Well, thank the freaking lord,” Hannah said as she got up and stood close to Lauren. The two of them leaned in. The presence of Hannah so close made me breathless. It didn’t matter that she recoiled and wrinkled her nose.

“That’s death,” Hannah said, “the smell of death. I think it’s stronger on him than me. Lauren, you agree, right?”

“It’s bad on both of you,” said Lauren. “What’s your excuse, Donovan? You weren’t at the funeral.”

I couldn’t smell anything. I unwrapped another Charleston Chew, and the two of them watched as I ate it in two quick bites. Then I reached into my pocket and pulled out a yellow piece of paper, the one I used to transcribe what the words of the professor. I began reading them out loud.

#

Minutes later, I sat in my car outside the store and watched the door, waiting to see what would happen. I didn’t ask for anyone’s permission to clock out early. I just did it, leaving Lauren and Hannah there in the break-room, their mouths hanging open as they tried to process what the words meant.

The professor warned me not to expect immediate results. The words need to bond with the molecules in the air to do their work. They need to interact with the digestive juices. It’s not like pouring water on an electric outlet, but more like the time it takes to eat several pieces of Charleston Chew. In the meantime, keep your tongue slick and moist.

But as he promised, Hannah eventually appeared in the doorway of the store. Her head moved around, as if surveying the parking lot, until she finally spotted me. Then she began marching over to where I sat in the car, her laptop hugged against her chest. She walked with a purpose, with a confused anger that made her even more radiant.

She didn’t ask my permission to open the passenger door and climb in next to me. She didn’t even look at me when said, “What did you do? No, scratch that, I know what you did. How did you do it?”

She refused to return my gaze, instead fixing her eyes on the entrance to the grocery, her anger like a living thing she kept stored in the laptop clutched to her chest.

“First,” she said, “my log-in wouldn’t work. I tried it three times and couldn’t get in the course. Then the Wifi went out. I couldn’t get it back. Then all the lights went out and my computer just died. Nothing in that store works, not a single cash register. All in a few short minutes.” Finally, she turned to me. “Don’t smile. I know you did it. With those words, that nonsense you spouted. You did it.”

I tried to explain, but now I found myself fumbling for the right language. The piece of yellow paper contained the words I needed to read out loud, no other notes that I could refer to and explain why I did what I did. I was a terrible note-taker. Always have been.

Finally, I gave up, instead saying, “I need to take you to the professor. He can explain. He can put it in ways I can’t.”

“He’s dead,” she said. Then she waved the air in front of her face. “God, between the two of us, the smell in this car. How can you stand it?”

“Let me show you,” I said as I started the engine.

#

Thanks to another rain-shower, the Brickyard looked even more dilapidated than before. The door to the restaurant was closed this time, a yellow piece of paper taped to it. Funny, I thought, but I felt too impatient to stop and read it, instead hustling toward the stairs while Hannah followed at a cautious distance, still carrying her laptop. In the distance, a siren.

“I have pepper spray,” Hannah said, but curiosity, I suppose, kept from getting too far behind. I carried the bag of Charleston Chew, and for the fifth time I offered her a piece. “No, thanks,” she said. During the car trip she kept looking at my face, which felt increasingly sore, and judging by my reflection in the rear-view mirror, bore the physical evidence to show it. More blisters appeared. The biggest one looked fit to burst, and I prayed it would at least wait until Hannah wouldn’t see it happen. At one point, I surrendered to the temptation to touch it. My finger came away moist.

Hannah didn’t follow me into the stairwell right away. When I turned, I saw her standing there, her nose wrinkling.

“It’s ok,” I said, “keep following.”

Her grip on the computer tightened, and she didn’t budge. I wondered if I would need to do something.

“You won’t need that,” I said concerning the computer.

“What I need,” she said, “is an A.”

“You’ll get an A. I promise. Just follow me.”

That did the trick, and in my heart, I meant it. I believed it. The professor told me I needed to believe what I said for the words to do their work. But maybe I felt some doubt, or at least some fear that she would consider me a liar if it didn’t come to pass. Yes, I cheated in my classes, I stole fruit, I clocked out early without telling anyone, but I didn’t lie, not really, and based on what the professor taught me, words were the only thing that really mattered in the end. Words shaped the world. They survived us, made death pointless.

After a momentary hesitation she followed me past the doors leading to massage parlors and law offices until we came to the classroom door.

“This isn’t the college,” Hannah said.

“It used to be,” I said, tapping on the nameplate by the door. “Are you ready?” I waited for her go-ahead to open the door. Under my skin I felt something trying to force its wait to the surface. I hoped it would wait—

—but wait for what? asked a voice in my head.

“Just wait,” I said out loud.

“What?” Hannah said.

“Nothing,” I answered, and I opened the door.

Just a darkness even denser than before, the desks hardly visible at all. Though Hannah didn’t seem to notice him, I could see the professor, his form where I left him in front of the chalkboard, the stained white bandages still around his head. He sat there, waiting patiently, knowing I would come through. Eventually, bodies would occupy all these seats, a whole class of us hanging on his every word.

Not just idle speculation either, because as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see someone new there, sitting at one of the desks.

The same desk I sat in earlier.

Jealousy filled me. That desk there in the front row, it belonged to me.

I moved forward as Hannah detected the person, too. “Who’s that?” she asked, and rather than standing by herself in the shadows, she followed me. I didn’t answer because I didn’t know. Not until I got close enough to see.

Linda. The prostitute from the restaurant, her head back, eyes open. Something glistened on her face. I used the light on my phone to better see.

Running sores covered her face. Inside her mouth a wet glob of chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla in her mouth. Something made of paper, too. I reached in and pulled it out. A wrinkled Charleston Chew wrapper, wet with saliva. More wrappers littered the floor, along with another glob, apparently what she vomited up before she died.

Behind me, Hannah made a glugging sound, as if she wanted to cry out, but couldn’t. I turned to the professor, who no longer sat in his seat by the chalkboard. Instead, he appeared behind Hannah, who continued to glug. The professor’s movements seemed more defined now, smoother, the effect of the poem he had me write out earlier, using the saliva in my mouth to tighten into a tiny scroll that would slide through the bandages into his face. Those bandages had come lose, beginning to fall away to reveal back lips that he struggled to open all the way. “Yellow,” he said, no longer so muffled, his hands reaching out for Hannah, who upon hearing his voice turned and saw him. She backed away, only to bump into me because I had no room to retreat myself, my butt running into the desks that held the body of Linda, who apparently could answer so many questions that he wouldn’t stop feeding her candy.

Except for Linda, all this proceeded as we planned, the beginning of a class that would begin with me, then Hannah, and eventually others.

But I only cared about Hannah. I loved Hannah. I had the words written out, not on a scroll like the professor instructed me, but a whole sheet of paper torn from a yellow pad.

I reached for that paper inside my pocket where I kept it folded. A single scroll couldn’t contain all the feelings I felt. I had so much to say.

As Hannah looked at me, her face filling with confusion, the professor took her by the arms and held her. Her laptop fell hard to the floor, useless and obsolete.

The moment had come.

I fed the whole page into her mouth. I couldn’t simply tear it into pieces so it would fit. That would ruin the spell.

I waited for its effect on Hannah, watching as her eyes grew wide, her arms held firm by the professor’s grip so that she couldn’t stop me. The page needed to go all the way down so that the words of my poem could form bonds with the cells of her body, creating the magic I desired. I pushed and pushed the page into her throat, even as her eyes bulged and her mouth began to foam. Had the room enough light, I might have seen a likeness to a dog mad with rabies, forced to take its medicine.

When I finished and pulled my hand from her mouth, she no longer moved. She no longer squirmed and fought. I watched for an effect, for a light to come on in her eyes, for acknowledgment and recognition for what I’d done and what my words meant.

Instead, the professor let go of her arms, and we both watched as she collapsed onto the floor and didn’t move.

Now, I move her to the desk in the front row. I open the computer, though it no longer works, and place it before her. I lift her wrists, positioning her hands on the keyboard, just the way she would want to have them when she wakes up, though she can expect no more communications, no more notifications. I sit next to her, the body of Linda on the other side, and I begin writing the words that will awaken her onto tiny scrolls that I will feed into her mouth. Not a whole piece of paper like I did before.

The professor has taken away the bag of Charleston Chew, and he keeps it near his place in front of the chalkboard. He smokes his pipe and watches me write. He will return it once I fix my mistake.

But he doesn’t need to watch me like he does now. I maintain concentration even as the pustules on my face break, the fluid sometimes getting into my eyes. I use some of the professor’s discarded face wrappings to keep them covered.

This time, I will follow his instructions closely.


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Dissections logo pterodactyl by Deena Warner
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