[*Warning*: Human dissection described]
“You do the honors, Maddie," Rakesh said.
She weighed the scalpel in her hand. Its blade cut the light.
“I don’t really know what I’m doing . . . ”
Her lab goggles fogged. Three white forms hazed into ghosts.
“That’s okay. He’s dead.”
But I’m not.
Maddie licked her lips. Tasted fixative.
The scalpel sliced through the cheddar skin medial to the scapula. Easy. No blood.
Her hand stopped shaking at the third incision.
“Reflect the skin laterally to reveal the trapezius muscle,” Jeanine read from her nose. The formaldehyde claimed everything. Their hair. Sweat.
The salt of the tongue.
She pinched the skin flap between her fingers, and pulled. It resisted. The man had donated his body, but was stubborn about its secrets. She leaned back, squinting with effort.
And heard the dermis rip free.
Maddie caught herself on her heels. Yellow faschia drew into fibers, recalling the rubber cement she had played with as a child. The muscle underneath sat like expired meat.
Freckles collared his neck. She could connect the dots, but the larger picture would elude her. A plastic bag concealed his face and hair, but Maddie knew he was a redhead from the growth on the mortised legs and arms. She tried to forget that a redhead has a lower threshold for pain.
“Perfect. You’re a pro, Maddie.”
She shrugged, but was pleased. She liked Rakesh. He wanted his doctor dream.
She wasn’t so sure. That bag—
“Now detach the trapezius from its origin at the superior nuchal line, and reflect it laterally,” Jeanine instructed.
The manual contributed to the ritual’s careful distance. A body is a universal country. Reproducible borders and flags. Except for the sexual organs. They’d have to look at a female cadaver when the time came.
Her nose itched, too.
“It’s reflected,” she said.
Maddie handed off the muscle to Marcus, while the others scraped at the pearly scapula.
She lifted her goggles, searching for the clock. And counted the seconds until she might reach free air.
One . . . two . . . th--
"Awesome," Marcus cheered.
How many cuts until she nicked this dead man's heart?
“Maddie, check it out," said Rakesh, his teeth as brilliant as the scalpel. "Pretty wild, huh?”
The muscles of her face contracted into a smile. She replaced her goggles, her neck dipping toward the table.
Trying to accommodate this bag of her choosing.
[Photo courtesy of Travis Rhoades]