The good doctor
Updated: Nov 17, 2020
In the beginning, there was the sensation. The dread feeling hanging on to my throat like a passionate lover before train leaves the station. Its warmth suffocated me, lack of oxygen making the dirty tile spinning around at incredible speed. Not only the walls, but injured people, beautiful nurses, and a lot of green stars were dancing together.
I’ve been hating hospitals since I was a child suffering from needles phobia and whining crowds. Yet, here I was, dragging my feet along hallway in a makeshift hospital. The containers’ floor was unstable, and so were my temperature and patience.
“Make way, make way,” a man yelled at my left. I couldn’t see him but I sensed fresh blood coming towards. War made us all hypersensitive. What happened to „see the enemy, aim, and shoot?” We were “smell the bastard, follow tracks, bite the motherfucker’s neck”. Wild dogs, that’s what we’ve become. Wild dogs with guns.
My leg started to pulse as if a new heart was being born inside it. I finished my trip in the waiting room, passed out in a chair. I’ve been delaying as much as I could the encounter with these butchers determined to chop us, but this morning the wound forced me to leave the shelter. The night before had come with nightmares, fever, chills, vomit, the whole nine yards. If I wanted to survive, I needed to come here and pay a visit to a doctor.
So, here I was, sitting on a dirty chair, with a serial number in my hand - my bloody leg was not an emergency - staring at a black dot on the wall, and for a thousandth time reflecting on recent events.
Terror in the 21st century was symbolized by asteroids that hit Earth and bring us to the ground, or by outbreak of World War III with chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. But terror came in the most fantastic way ever thought, as they presented in SF movies, B category. The way nobody believed. Their ships had appeared grey and silent out of nowhere, and until NASA, SETI, UNO and other acronyms established the DEFCON stage, they already had positioned their troops in attack position.
Among few things we knew about them was they could change their skin colour depending on the environment. Therefore, we called them simply - chameleons. Bipeds, solid, with ridiculously developed muscle and superior visual acuity, they were some formidable opponents.
It had been almost a year since their first appearance in the sky. We had losses in millions, they, in thousands. The war propaganda sowed hope but gave no fruit. Those who haven’t lost their minds in the panic world and still had a cold judgment knew there was only a matter of time until extinction. The planet seemed lost from the moment their first shuttle hit our first building, in Tokyo. The rest ... well, the rest remained for historians to untangle. World became chaos where no rules applied while no government could bring victory in the battlefield.
First weeks were the worst. Terror has covered the planet, and there was not a single island to escape on. For some, the mountains surrounding our town seemed to be the last chance to hide. As a former rescue worker, I knew every single cave in those woods, so I brought together my family and some neighbours and hid.
Their devices have found us before we could unpack all things. They took one shot and three-quarters of us have died under ruins. I was the only survivor in my family. Just because I'm a prude and I went to pee behind trees, several meters away from the group. That angered me terribly but made me see things more clearly. I had no one to care for but me, and it really wasn’t the right time to establish another stable relationship. I went out of the forest and stopped at the first military outpost, asking to enlist. They fully dressed and equipped me to the highest speed. There was no time to refuse any local hero, although in my early youth I had skipped army because of flat feet and prematurely weaken heart.
After three months in battle, I could fight with Rambo, Batman and Speedy Gonzales altogether. These space creatures had worked me to death. Not because I was kind of exemplary soldier, but I was an extremely lucky human being. Until one day, obviously. Chameleons possessed energy weapons whose functioning principle gave physicists headaches. We were happy if we managed to find a shuttle with a defect cloaking device so we could bomb it from distance. At 30 meters behind such a craft, my luck deserted and went over to the enemy. Two more inches and my femoral vein would have been severed. My leg stood numb for a few seconds, then pain burned the flash as blood was feeding ground. Supine as I had fallen, I emptied the charger into the chameleon.
I went through all stages of such an event. I don’t think I followed the order in the book but I was all panicked, angry, indifferent, dreamy, crazy. Then turned to optimistic. Hence the courage to stand and wait in this nifty hospital for anyone to notice me.
I think I had fallen asleep, dreaming my thoughts. I woke up dizzy when someone shook my shoulders roughly.
“He didn’t die, look! He opened his eyes,” I heard as in a vision.
Of course I wasn’t dead. I just said that my luck had deserted two days ago.
During the following days, I had other episodes of pain, hallucinations, paranoia and a few sensations I didn’t have a scientific name for. I cried as werewolves in the moonlight when my nurse who was administrating morphine delayed at the side of another sufferer. I wept like children lost by their parents in hypermarkets. I cursed as the lamest witch cooking her swill by the river, but in the end, I won.
After two weeks of nightmares, a hot shower and an almost plentiful meal, I was ready to respond to my doctor’s invitation. The one who had fixed my leg. I found him in a tiny room, with glasses on his nose, buried in a pile of papers, indecipherable to me.
“Ahhh, there you are, you’ve come to your senses.”
I smiled sadly.
“Yes. Thank you for all you've done, I...”
“Sshhhh. That’s not why I called you here. I want to show you something new. My garden.”
“Garden? Do you have time for seeding?”
He laughed loudly. I didn’t feel like making a joke.
He pushed aside a rough rug on the wall, revealing a dark opening, without appreciable size. He lit a powerful flashlight and poked me to follow him.
“Wow, we’re playing Indiana Jones.” I smiled, convinced that was a joke.
He turned to me with such a sad look, that wiped out the smile on my face for two years.
I silently followed him through the tunnel until he stopped in front of a metal door. He had to use a plastic card, retinal scan and voice identification code so we could enter. Only now he set my curiosity agog. Had to be something wonderful behind that door to need such security.
He rushed into the room, and before allowing me to go, he held out a plastic bag.
“What am I supposed to do with it?” I asked.
“90% of you vomit in the second they view the garden. Please use the bag I gave you. I care about my garden antisepsis.”
“I'm not sure I understand everything you said, but if I feel the need...” I couldn’t finish saying what I was thinking. I entered the room, and the bag instantly filled. I’m a sensitive guy. I also think I’ve passed out for a minute. When I woke up, slapped by my doctor, I felt relieved, but still was hard for me to adjust.
The room probably served as a cellar for storing wine. Instead of raster for Bacchus bottles, there were cylinders made of transparent material, covered tightly. Numerous pipes were passing through the metal covers, connected by bends, reducers, and measuring and control devices I haven’t recognized. In the cylinders, floating in liquids of different colours and viscosities, I could see deformed human bodies pulsating in unison.
“Why did you want to show me these horrors?”
“There are no horrors, my dear. Look beyond these flashes and let me explain.”
I took a deep breath and tried to quench my poor heart to no longer struggle.
“Shortly after the chameleons’ invasion, doctors concluded the war we were fighting couldn’t be won with traditional methods. Our international organizations, UN and NATO agreed. See, they prepared for everything except this,” the doctor said. “Their species is physically superior to human race. The degree of their fatigue strength, extreme heat, and physical pain are at least 10 times higher than ours. Recovery rate, as well. Radical solutions must have been found as soon as possible or we could just all surrender. What you see now is one of the measures approved, unofficial indeed, to maintain the number of active soldiers on the battlefield. That is until they find an extinction solution for these aliens. After completion of the war, in case of victory, we’ll stop growing them until will put the process to an international vote and it will become legal.”
“Growing? You’re growing people in these capsules as I would grow tomatoes in the garden?”
I talked fast and hectic, and I showered my gardener-doctor with saliva. He wiped his face gently with a towel, dripped disinfectant solution on hands, but didn’t seem affected by my gesture. Perhaps it wasn’t the first time someone reacted as I did.
“We don’t grow the whole person. Only organs. Human bodies are the medium where we plant and grow the organs we need. Look! Here we’re growing lungs. You can already see four mature lobes we could collect tomorrow if we need them.”
I felt sick watching. I swayed slightly on my feet, but the doctor held me firmly by arm. I looked again, and saw a grown man's body, without a head, mounted inside the cylinder. His body slit and emptied of everything had been there before. It looked more like a spacesuit meat. I saw myself entering it and pulling zippers on legs, hands, abdomen and finally stuffing a helmet on my head. To my surprise, I felt no longer sick. My mind so challenged in the last year quickly accommodated to any fresh thing, no matter how unreal it seemed at first. The doctor continued explaining.
“In each body I can plant up to 50 pieces of the same type organs, depending on their size. Heart, liver, lung, pancreas, whatever it takes. The bodies are interconnected and during organ development, they exchange information at cellular level. I solved the rejection problem by the complete organisms. You see, breed this way, they are universal. All size. Unisex, commercials said once. Fit for everybody.”
He was really enjoying the moment. Teacher presenting his recent book to students. Salesman at the door of a housewife showing the fabulous multi-cooking electronic device. I could imagine him continuing, “See, everybody wants one of this. Hurry up, it’s a must!”
Instead, he said, “some bodies are reserved for bone formation, glands with their enzymes, and here comes the tricky problem…”
Even if the faint feeling left me alone, that didn’t mean I could understand the nature of the things explained, so I stopped him in mid-sentence.
“I still can’t figure out why you brought me to see these things.”
“Ahh, I was getting to that part. Sorry I detailed my explanation, it's a professional fault. First, I want to give you a new heart. As a gift. The one you possess will not be profitable for long. I'll take care of the transplant. You’ll be like a newborn. Then, I'll hire you in my courier service. You see, dozens of soldiers cannot be saved in time because we can’t find compatible donors. Not to remind you, we are slaughtered by chameleons in large numbers every day.”
“What happens to soldiers who will be saved this way?”
“They'll be back on the battlefield. Nobody can burn daylight during the war.”
“Actually, they gain a life that is possible to lose in battle again.”
“It's true. But they have an extra chance to survive the war. If they are injured, we may transplant them another organ.”
“And sent into battle again.”
“What if they are shot in the head?” I asked. I felt restless. I was never good at deciphering solutions to social problems.
“We tried growing nerve cells, but it was a total failure. Also, there is a risk that the entire system to form a single brain, a single consciousness, which could destroy everything if it doesn’t agree with our methods. It was too risky, and we stopped research on this matter. When they are injured in this manner, their bodies are brought here, gutted and transformed into containers for new seedlings. Just as you see now. Their bodies are useful even when death occurs.”
“And mankind has an extra chance of survival.”
“That’s right. The only things that still hold back investments in such gardens are morals and religious ones. But I assure you that...”
I stopped him again. Moral lessons would follow, and I didn’t want to hear. Instead, I wanted to carry the war with as many chances on our side. So, I made a sign that I agree.
He took me in front of the hearts cylinder.
“Choose the one you want,” he said.
Last time I had picked something out of an aquarium, was in a Chinese restaurant, and the chef had prepared me the fish excellently. This happened in a world that no longer existed, but I hoped for it to return. I chose one that I liked, and I showed it to him. He placed a hand through a conduit and carefully picked it as a ripe and juicy fruit.
It has been 15 months since the event. I changed, besides the heart, a liver, a lobe of a lung and I have one green eye and one brown. I was blond with blue eyes. Meanwhile, my good gardener-doctor built a biological weapon that should destroy the chameleons. Tomorrow at dawn is the first field test and I have neither sensitive nor weakened heart.