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Two days seemed to go by almost painfully slow.  Two days of quiet – of no record player, and no books, and no Beschützer.  All that Fleischer had to do was circle in his little pool – to pace, and to stew over everything that had happened, and was going to happen.

He was going to die.  Not permanently, perhaps – but, when the gurney was wheeled into the room, flanked by Davis and his six guards, he knew exactly where he was going.  He knew exactly what was going to happen.  He also knew what would happen if he didn't cooperate.

Fleischer pulled himself out of the pool.  His tentacles splayed across the floor, as much as he tried to get them to exert some downward force so he could 'stand'.  His legs, when he had them, had aided in making him quite tall.  He wasn't used to people looking down on him – not physically, at least.

Two of the guards stepped forward to help him up.  They received a growl in response, and quickly backed away.  Fleischer still had some small shred of pride, and he wanted to keep it, even if it amounted to all but clawing his way up onto the gurney.  He at least had enough control over his tentacles that he could wind them around the gurney's supports, instead of letting them drag the floor.

"It will be quick," Doctor Davis said, walking next to the stretcher as it was wheeled into the airlock.  "I'm sure you're aware of what potassium chloride does when injected into a human body.  If I recall the reports correctly, that was your drug of choice in your syringe gun."

Yes, Fleischer knew exactly what potassium chloride did to a human body.  He had used it a number of times on and off the field of battle to snuff out the lives of his fellow man.  He had never imagined he'd be on the receiving end.  Perhaps, he thought, not for the first time, this really was some sort of karmic hell.

He cooperated, though.  He remained lying on his back, sharply aware of the white lights and the tiles passing overhead.  For the very first time, Fleischer got a good look at the operating room as they entered it.  It was only just outside the airlock, probably for easy access.  The very thought made him shudder.

The room was nothing but stark white tiles and gleaming stainless steel.  It was completely immaculate.  There were X-rays up on the light boards and. One plate showed a skull with teeth that that were far too sharp.  Another showed a pelvis that almost could have been human, but wasn't quite right.

Fleischer knew they were his, and quickly looked away, not wanting to see the other plates – not wanting to see what he'd become.  Instead, he focused on forcing his tentacles to release the gurney, so he could be moved to the operating table.  It felt freezing cold against his back, but that wasn't the only reason he shivered.  He couldn't stop himself from trembling as the guards started to fasten the leather restraints over his upper body.

There was no point in resisting.  If he resisted they would shoot him, and he would Respawn.  If he didn't resist, they would give him the potassium chloride and he would Respawn.  Fleischer laid there quietly, his hearts pounding, and his tentacles (unable to be strapped down, much to Davis's fascination and disappointment) curling tightly around the supports of the table.

Fleischer jumped a little when Davis offered him a little pat on the shoulder.  It was a sick sort of comfort, the Medic thought, for a patient the man was about to kill.  He couldn't turn his head to see, but, he could hear the quiet sound of a syringe being uncapped, and the needle piercing the membrane over the top of a vial.  He did catch just a brief glimpse of the syringe as Davis approached him.  The syringe had been filled to the brim, and the needle was at least ten centimeters long.  That was no shock, given its contents.

The leads of an EKG were carefully positioned on Fleischer's body.  He wasn't surprised at how quickly his heart – his hearts – were beating, and how fast, in turn, the machine was beeping.  The chill of alcohol being wiped over his chest made Fleischer shiver all the more; it seemed a pointless gesture – protecting against infection when he was going to die, anyway.

"Breathe in deeply and hold it, please," Davis said.

It was an easy enough command to follow.  Fleischer was practically holding his breath, already.  He grimaced when he felt the needle sink into his chest.  It went far deeper, slipping between his ribs before piercing his heart – his main heart.

The stab of the needle was almost unbearable.  The pain as the syringe's contents were injected, though, was enough to make Fleischer feel as though every muscle in his body was tightening.  A sharp pain shot through his chest, and down his left arm.  He gritted his teeth and let out an agonized, inarticulate groan.  The beeps of the EKG began to blend into a high-pitched screech.

The sound was unbearable.  The pain was unbearable.  The bright light overhead was unbearable.  Fleischer's hearts were faltering, and he could feel every erratic, struggling beat.  It wasn't long before the bright lights faded, consumed by calm, merciful black.


Fleischer sat quietly on the desk chair in his 'apartment' with a painfully neutral expression on his face.  He opened his mouth when Davis told him to, and didn't resist as his upper lip was pushed back for a proper inspection of his teeth.  They were still mostly human, barring the sharp points that adorned their cusps.

"Mouth looks good," Doctor Davis said, clicking his pen to take a note.

Fleischer had grown to hate that sound.  The click of the pen seemed to be sharper each time.  He didn't bother looking at the notes that Davis was taking.  He had seen himself in the mirror – he had seen the sharp points, and the almost purple color his gums, and tongue, and the inside of his mouth in general had gained.  He had seen the faintly blue tinge his lips had taken on, as though he was some kind of drowning victim.

At least he had been able to actually stand in front of the mirror on his own two feet.  At least he didn't have gills, or tentacles.  His eyes were the same, though – strange, almost alien, really.  They were, of course, checked by the older doctor, as well.  Those third eyelids blinked, naturally, when the light was first shined into Fleischer's eyes.

"Pupil response is normal," Davis said, clicking his pen to take another note.  "Tapetum lucidum still present – reflecting blue," he added speaking his notes aloud as he jotted them down.

Fleischer swore that he twitched, or maybe even flinched a little with each click of that pen.  He didn't say a word about it.  He simply followed Davis's commands.  Things were easier that way.  He remained silent as the older doctor listened to his hearts.

Fleischer wondered if he had not been good enough to get all of his things back.  His desk had been waiting for him when he was returned to his 'apartment', along with its books and journals.  The record player was there, too, along with a selection of classical music.  He had not, however, seen his son's bear.

He hadn't seen it, but, he could smell it.  He could smell where it had been placed on the desk just a few weeks before.  It was a scent that taunted him.  He hadn't seen Nurse Hayes, either – not since the day he'd pulled Doctor Kent into the pool and bitten him.

The pen clicked again.  "Hearts sound strong and steady," Doctor Davis said, "as does your breathing."  He smiled, then – smiled like a parent who had just learned that their child had received high marks on their homework.  "Let's have a look at your hands."

Fleischer couldn't help but fidget just a little at that.  He didn't like looking at his hands.  He didn't like seeing the short, sharp claws that tipped his fingers.  He raised his hands anyway, offering them up for Isaac to see.

The pen clicked again.  "They're starting to get just a little too long," Davis murmured as he jotted down another note.  "I'll send someone in later today to file them down, a little.  Now, your feet."

The order was followed silently.  Fleischer lifted up one foot, then the other, to be inspected.  His toes, unlike his fingers, had not developed claws.  Apparently that was satisfactory.

The pen clicked again.  Davis smiled at Fleischer once more, that same proud, almost patronizing smile.  "Everything checks out, Nicklaus."  Not 'Doctor Fleischer'.

It had happened slowly – and it had started with Fleischer's Respawn three weeks before.  It had been 'Doctor', at first, and then 'Mister', and now…

The pen clicked again.  "Do not growl at me, Nicklaus," Davis said, almost casually, not even looking up from his notes.  "That isn't polite."

Had he growled?  Fleischer didn't remember.  His body looked mostly normal, but, his brain remained altered, at least slightly.  There were still urges and instincts – things that manipulated his actions beyond his conscious control.  They were frightening.

"Sorry," Fleischer murmured, his tone just as flat and lifeless as his expression.

The pen clicked again.  This time, it was clamped back onto the older man's clipboard.  "That will be all, then," Davis said, offering a little nod.  "We'll be drawing blood again, tomorrow, as well as a new venom sample.  Your dinner will be along in just a couple of hours."

Fleischer felt a small sense of relief when the older man and his guards had left.  He wasn't looking forward to dinner.  Not consciously, at least.  His meals had grown increasingly raw.   Lunch had been a fresh, gutted fish.  There was a part of his brain that had craved it – that had bypassed table manners, and the use of cutlery.  He had devoured everything but the bones.

Davis had told him his digestive system could handle it.  "There's quite an advantage," the older man had assured him.  "You can eat these things without getting sick.  You don't have to spend the time or energy to cook anything."  Less energy pulled from a base's power grid, a better ability to survive on what could be found if what was supplied ran out.

Fleischer didn't want to think about it.  He didn't want to think about much of anything, really.  Davis's plans for him kept rolling around in his head, though – plans that stretched at least months into the future.

"We'll have to do intensive studies.  We'll be recording data for months!  Years, maybe!"

He'd even clicked his pen, again, and Fleischer flinched at the sound, imagined though it was.  He collapsed into his bed.  At least the sheets didn't stick to and dry out his skin the way they had, before.  He didn't care, though.

It was getting hard for Fleischer to care about much of anything.  He had gone through almost every book and journal in the desk.  He had listened to the records a dozen times.  He had felt no joy in doing so, either.  It was difficult to find any joy in a life that wasn't his own.  It might as well have belonged to Davis, at least – the old doctor could control what  happened to his 'patient', and when.  He controlled his living space, and his food supply, and the very genetic makeup of his body.  Doctor Davis had also made Beschützer disappear, and Fleischer had no idea when or if the man intended to give it back.

In the absence of the bear, Fleischer hugged his pillow tightly to his chest.  It was a poor substitute, but, it was the best he could do.  He pulled the covers over himself and tried to go to sleep.  He had no idea what time it was, but the artificial light that usually shone through the frosted window had gone dark which meant it was time to sleep, according to his captors.

Fleischer wanted to sleep so badly.  He wanted to fade into that warm, calm nothing, but it seemed as though Davis controlled even his dreams.  Fleischer had been haunted by blurred and warped visions of the operating room, and voices he usually couldn't make any sense of.  They had started to appear even when he was awake.  The backs of his eyelids were like a movie screen, playing back the sights, and fear, and pain whenever he allowed them to stay closed for too long.

Fleischer's nose caught the bitter scent of anesthetic in the air, slowly growing thicker.  He didn't resist it.  There was no point in resisting.  He could only hold his breath for so long, and the guards would be in to collect him once the air had cleared.  

The pillow was hugged just a little closer to Fleischer's chest.  He didn't fight the anesthetic.  It at least afforded him a temporary sense of calm, as though everything was right with the world.  It was fleeting, he knew.  It would usher him to the visions of the operating room and back, again.  There was no stopping it, though – so, he simply let it take him.

This story is actually a couple of years old. I was feeling very nostalgic and decided to pick it up and re-read it, and I wound up realizing that it had actually been very well-written. This was also my first real attempt at a horror/thriller piece. I'm posting on here, now, because along with being nostalgic, I would also appreciate any thoughts or critique on it. I wrote this not too long after I published Bedside Manner, and haven't really written up anything particularly longer than drabble, since.

Post-Modern Prometheus is a sort of alternative/hypothetical sequel to First Do No Harm… and Comorbidity…

If you want to delve into the back story, I would definitely recommend reading FDNH before Comorbidity. Both of those stories are relatively old, though, and I feel like I have improved my writing and characterization a great deal since then. As a result, if you do like Doctor Fleischer, or my writing in general (which, if you do, thank you very much - my main hope when I post my writing is that people will get some enjoyment out of it) then consider picking up my book, Bedside Manner, in paperback or on the Kindle…

Fair warning, though, this being a horror/thriller piece, expect some disturbing content, though I am not really prone to using a great deal of blood and/or gore.

As a final note, the thumbnail image is in the Public Domain, and was downloaded from Pixabay…

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Submitted on
September 28, 2014
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