This is the novel I am working on.. Please take a look and tell me what you think.
Standing out in the dead of night upon the cobblestone walk, these were the most memorable nights of all. Waiting for my nefarious convoy made me wonder if my lack of ethics would curse me one day. Before the mind started playing tricks of righteous, steady gallops of steed come marching from the mist. The carriage was black, roughly built yet strong enough to carry items of bulk and weight. When it stopped a man looked down and tipped his hat and smiled. It was Rodney Jenkins merchant by day, grave robber by night. “Good evening dear sir, I come bearing gifts” Rodney’s full face and brimming smile had a morbid way of misleading even the most suspicious fellow.
As the large jovial man awkwardly fumbled out of the carriage I glanced up and down the street to make sure no one was privy to our actions. “Come now Dr Hayden let’s get this cargo into your study” In back of the carriage stood a large cask tightly sealed and solid, far too heavy for even two men of great strength can handle more less my medium build. “What else does this cask contain Rodney? This can’t be just a body.” He looked at me and laughed with that innocence that sent shivers up my spine. “No no Dr, I collected these remains last evening, they needed to be stored and preserved thus they wouldn’t spoil.” When Rodney popped the seal and opened the lid the smell was over powering, it wasn’t the smell of decay but that of sweet oak fermented.
“What is this? It smells like Whiskey” He rolled up his sleeve and reached in, as he pulled back a head appeared. “I told you Dr. He needed to be preserved.” Harvesting the body out of the cask we carried the dripping wet heap of flesh into a hidden backdoor of Oxford University. The room was crude but efficient; it held various items for examination. “That will be thirty shillings dear doctor.” Rodney held out his hand with a brimming smile, a steep price but one that would deem the demand of his troubles. With a nod the large man walked back to his carriage, closing the door I turned and looked closely at this corpse. He was five foot two with perfect skin and a full head of hair. “A perfect specimen, my students will most definitely be pleased.” Rodney was always dependable about his deliveries, although he would do anything for currency, thus I shall stay away from the pubs for the next couple weeks. Those who thirst for the drink will be getting much more than they bargained for.
As I prepared the body for dissection I carefully read through my anatomic notations refreshing my own mind in the ways of the body. Drifting into the wee hours of the eve a dull ache started between the eyes which drove me to the office to lie upon the chesterfield for another lightly slumbered evening. Dreams had a way of affecting even the most arrogant soul, visions of corpses and cadavers reigned supreme when the eyes closed and mind darkened. This was my specialty, dealing with the dead, but never have my dreams invaded and induced fear as they have most recently. Many sweaty nights have followed me and I fear many more shall come.
The next morning I awoke listening to the miscellaneous steps of young men awaiting a most exciting discovery. Fixing my mass of dark hair, cleaning the spectacles and straightening this brown drab suit I prepared myself for the enticing venture, for I will teach these lads the human body. Pushing this laborious table from room to room gave me a quiver as if death himself were following me, something was happening, for I am no psychic but intuition reared its ugly head and it is rarely wrong.
The moment I entered the room all the men rose to their feet, their exciting expressions were more than obvious. “Good morning young lads” Settling the table so all could see the collective voices echoed through the room. “Good Morning Dr. Hayden” I turned and looked, all the young men sat in their white jackets with eager smiles. “Today we will be dissecting a body; I will show you every organ from retina to rectum. Keep something in mind dear students, this is not to be looked at with humor nor is this for those who lack intestinal fortitude. So if anyone here wishes to exit, now is the time. If you leave then don’t come back, for if you cannot muster through this then there is no reason for you to be in this class.”
I looked around the room testing them all with my eyes, waiting for one to stand and challenge my plea. Turning approaching the body, grasping the sheet, “Now students I give you the human body.” Dramatically pulling the sheet away there was a hushed awe among the students, who have all seen the naked form before but not displayed with such simplicity. There was a lingering smell of whiskey that intermingled with that of death.
“Now taking your scalpel in hand make your first cut from shoulder to sternum on each side, to form a V shape. Make the cut deep enough that your blade will glide against each rib until you come to the bottom of the sternum repeating on the other side.”
The flesh was tough; the alcohol shrunk the skin making tears as the blade sliced through. “Now comes the challenge, this takes feel and finesse. Cut straight down from the sternum to the top of the pelvis keeping in mind you have no bone to protect the organs. Cut too deep and you will perforate the bowel, there is no mistaking a slice in the bowel because it will emanate a putrid gas and leave any living patient more prone to infection in surgery.” Pulling the skin back, nailing each corner to the table the acidic smell burst in an invisible wave of sweet stench.
Looking over the crowed of students there were faces of fascination and repulsion. Those repulsed quickly shielded their fear when my eyes fell on them, I stifled a smile, and whispers started filling the room. With voices of wonder and horror the students attempted to wrap their eyes and minds around the example below for they saw the reality of what their text have taught them.
“Can anyone come down here and name for the class the array of organs that lay before you?” The room went quiet, you could feel the tension build. There were those like Charles Shaw and Maurice Miller who had their hands held high, they were my most eager and intelligent students in my class but lacked the heart to do for anyone but themselves. Most of the students sat there trying to be faceless, but there was horror in all of their eyes. Looking over the vastness of the crowd was one whom sat unaffected by this vision of horror.
“Aaron Morris, come down here.” He was the most quiet of my students, but contained an amazing curiosity without an ounce of fear. This lanky boy trimmed and propped came to the table and looked at me with an emotionless stare, his eyes overshadowed by the darkness. One by one he pointed out the organs using the perfect medical vernacular spoken with the tone that echoed well through the room. I walked about looking at the faces of those under my care wondering how many will overcome their fears and take this profession on nurturing those who cannot heal themselves.
With this meaningless thought, the visions of my dreams came back to me, the bodies, horror, and writhing screams in the blinding darkness of the mind. I did not understand what was coming too get me, it made one wonder if the past were catching up with me. It was then a laugh was conveyed in an almost audible tone. “A man of science cannot believe in such things” I whispered.
“Excuse me sir?” Aaron spoke as he handed me the pointer. “Thank you very much Aaron splendid job. Now I want everyone to come down here and take a closer look at this body. Gather around here take a good look.” All the students crowded close looking down pointing out the various corners and organs of this corpse. Some were surprised by the size of the organs and how well they fit. Others were fascinated with the look of a severed cadaver. Penetrating the crowd carrying a scalpel I quickly made a slice in the large and lower intestine their faces moved back. “Stop” I said. “You will all be doctors soon; you must not only learn with your eyes and hands but also with your nose, take a smell of this perforated bowel. This could mean life or death to a patient during surgery. Learn it, remember it, and use it. Do not be afraid no matter how horrifying it might be, too use your nose as a sign of caution. You are all dismissed; there will be an exam on anatomy this Tuesday. Good day students.” Covering this mutilated body leaving it for the advanced students to study from I turned and was met by Aaron.
“Excuse me sir, may I ask you something please?” He looked on curiously. “You may lad, what can I help you with.” There was a pregnant pause that left me patiently waiting. “Out of all the students with so many willing, why did you pick me?” That was a question no student would dare ask, but that curious look in his eyes amused me. “Follow me”
The boy watched as we walked down the empty halls, it was now my turn to lead with a extended pause. “When a student raises their hand they don’t just want to be heard, they want all the other students and the professors to see how smart they are. So it is not about answering the question more than it is gaining the attention. When I ask a question, it is not my job to feed the egos of those who deem themselves smarter than others. I am here to teach and make sure the students walk away with the knowledge I have provided, thus is why who is chosen is unpredictable. I chose you because of your silence and you did well.”
“Hmm, I think understand” his face still looked perplexed which gave forth a quiet laugh. “Listen lad, what you need to do is go back to your dormitory and study, the test is only four days away and there is much ground to cover, so go!” He nodded and gave a slight smile. “Have a good evening professor and thank you.” It was one of those small things that made the day worth its weight; those simple moments watching a young mind grow.
Taking the carriage through the Oxford streets gave a sigh of relief that I was in one of the less diseased cities in England. The streets were clear as the wheels bumped along past many buildings and merchants whose sole purpose in life was to make any type of coin. My abode lay on the north eastern side where many of the professors and educators lived amongst the upper crusted. Sitting in that carriage looking up that long narrow staircase, that large looming house harbored nothing but silence. The once joyful laughter left this world when my beloved ceased to be. It was upon entrance that I lit my darkened abode showing the simplicity of the bachelors life. Passing by all the dark hallways and rooms, I came to rest in my library. Two stories of books that covered a amass of history from the ancient world to the prophesized ideals of tomorrow. This was my sanctuary, and my life. A book lay open of myth and legend, living in a land full of such nonsense one cannot help but read the fictional exploits of those who believed in large wolf like creatures or men with fangs. These were books left by students and other professors who indulged in these stories in hopes that someday they would be real.
Scientist can not be blamed for such curiosities as I am standing here right now with this in my hand. It is most assuredly the mystery that binds us into believing such frivolous tales, men of science are suckers for legends and possibilities.
There was a knock at the door, checking the sterling silver pocket watch my wife once gave me, made my brow furrow, not only from the reminder, but the time. Opening the door a young lad barely past adolescence, thin freckled with a checkered hat and suit stood before me. “Good evening boy, do you realize the time? The sun has past the horizon, what do you here?” The boy looked at me anxiously. “My deepest apologies sir, this letter came and I was told it was of the utmost importance.” Reaching in taking the last two bits from my pocket I took the letter and let the boy run off. “To Dr. Thomas Hayden” The writing was exquisite it spoke of class, and those hairs started to twitch ever so slightly as I tore the paper away.
“Dear Dr Hayden,
My name is Mary Davenport I have been serving your father for many years. Your father has fallen ill and I fear he may not make it more then another day or two. He wishes you to come to London, there is something of great importance he must give you. I realize how difficult this might be, please abide by his wishes; I have never seen him so determined…
My father, a man I have not seen in years. It was not pride that drove him to wish my presence nor would it be an act of affection. It was believed by many he lost all hope and love when my mother passed on. He wanted something from me, a book or file or access to some information from the university. Being the most revered anthropologist in all of England and a master manipulator made him believe he was entitled anything through his whim. It would be no surprise if his illness was a mere ploy to be in the same room. Turning I caught a glimpse of my wife’s picture, her eyes showed something not even a scientific mind could pass, compassion.
With so many memories passing by I found myself packing directed by some strange force, maybe conscience or the simple act of possibility that illness had truly taken the one whose name I bore. Carriages were always at beck and call for doctors as we were the denizens of the people for their constant well being. With a wave of the arm I reached up calling down the next carriage a young man jumped down and helped me with my bags. “Good eve sir, where can I take you tonight?” These drivers were dedicated to the city and its limits only a lesser man to believe this boy was any different, casually reaching into my pocket pulling out a pouch of change.
“My boy, I must get to London immediately, there is a very rare case I have been called upon, I beg of your service.” The boys hat just barely covered his eyes though watching them turn from left to right extended a small grin on this unshaven face. “No problem sir, what part of London are you being called too?” Passing the bag to him under a dark leather glove, “Primrose Hill and please hurry.” The horse galloped gallantly these were the trots of a common cab ride through the city of Oxford, it was only when the city lines were broached that the gallops increased into a hastened charge to London.
© 2010 William C Stuckey