Several of the people in this room are dead. Their heads are shaved, their mouths open. Some have missing teeth, the lip collapsing into the gaping mouth, the chin bristles erect. Drained of blood, the flesh shows its true colours – cream, shell pink, beige, mauve, mushroom, taupe, yellow. A boy is slicing into an old man’s scrotum, his face intent, while a girl scrapes at the abdomen of a woman of ninety, the turned-back skin flap backed with creamy, fat-like, wet sheepskin.
|©Phil Date | Dreamstime Stock Photo|
I am Writer in Residence at this anatomy department, and at the attached pathology museum full of human specimens, and at a brain institute, and I’m privileged to be here among the dead and those who learn from their ‘silent teachers’.
I’m learning about the science of death. I am funded to learn, to write, to interpret neuroscience and pathology for the public, to understand for myself what death is, as far as I can.
There are different kinds of evil. Another side to the respectful students and professors of the anatomy department, and those who gave their bodies so that we can have surgery in order to live, is the suffering of the living, and that is much more gruesome in my view.
Doctors, surgeons, well-paid, respected: we find ourselves at their mercy when our lives are smashed up or in the balance. Sometimes they hurt us, and don’t seem to care if they do – what if a doctor was a clever sadist, who enjoyed hurting patients with broken bones, able to keep on doing it, be paid for it, be venerated for it? And what happens when someone strikes back at him, and others?
And so I’ve created the sadistic surgeon in my second crime novel (and twelfth book) THE OPERATOR, followed by a series of murders of surgeons left mutilated to mimic the operations they perform on others. The first book, THE ROTTING SPOT, focused on skull-collecting. I used to collect skulls, hack off dead heads of roadkill or dead beached birds, rot them, boil them in bleach. Some of them are looking at me now – a horse, a deer, a badger… A gruesome hobby some would say, yet to me bones are beautiful, my fascination with anatomy intensified by my own broken bones. And no creatures were harmed…
on surgeons, with fatal and bizarre results.
someone’s giving doctors a taste of their own medicine – murdering surgeons and
mutilating the bodies to mimic the operations they perform. This dark but witty
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instruments that lay neatly ranged beside him, and began to work the end of one
of the thin steel spikes that he had previously screwed into the skin, flesh
and damaged bone of the boy’s leg, one of many, each one creating a fresh
wound, each one fixed to metal rings bolted together, so that he could adjust
the tension between them in three planes, twisting, shearing, pulling. The
youth’s face was now grey-green, and his eyelids fluttered as if he was about to
pass out, strange moans burst from his mouth. But he tried to hold them back.
To please the man, to impress him. And the mother sat watching, unable to help,
unable to stop the torment, her eyes like her son’s, wide with pain. Neither of
them resisted, neither complained, they were docile, pathetic, accepting his
authority. This was better than punching and kicking, the cheap thrills of easy
screams and begging. Better by far the small, humiliated sounds forced out of
those who strove not to express their pain out of respect for him.’