Written by Carl Malcolm
Art by Billy Lundevall

Jacob sat on a cold, metal stool dressed solely in a pair of flimsy, paper-like underwear in front of a large group of medical students, all of whom stood in silence. Some of them busied themselves, pretending to check their clipboards, but a lot of them seemed to be perfectly comfortable examining him from across the room.

He hated this–these rooms were always too cold, and the smell of antiseptic hung heavy in the air. The walls and floors were covered in white tiles, and the sterile lighting made it feel even colder than it already was. Goosebumps ran up Jacob’s back and across his bare chest as he looked at the medical apparatus arranged on the tray beside him, all brushed steel and gleaming sharp edges.

He started cracking his knuckles, a nervous habit. He pulled on his middle finger until he felt a satisfying pop. A couple of the students started furiously scribbling on their clipboards and watching him intently. He sighed and folded his arms over his chest. The only door in the room swung open and bumped against the wall, shattering the awkward silence.

“Finally,” Jacob muttered under his breath.

A doctor in a white coat walked in, checking his expensive-looking watch. His square jaw was clean-shaven, and his thick, greying hair was perfectly combed. He stood before the group of students with his back to Jacob.

“Good afternoon everyone, sorry about the wait.” The doctor spoke with a subtle accent, and his tone suggested he wasn’t sorry at all that they’d had to wait for him. “Please take note of the subject’s resting vitals if you haven’t already, and pay attention to the changes in blood pressure and heart rate.” He gestured toward a wall of screens, all illustrating one function or another of Jacob’s body with lights, lines, and beeps.

The doctor checked his watch again and then glanced over the students. “Ready?” He asked. Jacob went to answer but then realised he wasn’t talking to him.

The students stayed silent as the doctor pulled his gloves on. The sound of latex snapping sent a couple of the bright lines and lights on the wall flashing and spiking erratically. Jacob took a deep breath and sat on his hands. He hated this part the most.

Without ceremony, the doctor walked up behind Jacob, grabbed his chin, and ungently pulled his head back. With his other hand he grabbed a gleaming scalpel from the tray and cut Jacob’s throat open in one swipe.

Blood sprayed across the room, almost reaching the students. The lights on the wall exploded and an alarm started ringing. The doctor tutted and pressed a button, silencing the alarm. Jacob clutched his neck, then remembered he’d been told not to do that, but couldn’t help it. The room started to spin around him and he flopped sideways onto the cold, hard floor.

The students just watched him, not a scrap of concern on their faces. Some were scribbling on their clipboards, while others couldn’t seem to tear their eyes away. “How does it feel?” Asked one girl near the back.

Lying in a growing pool of his own blood, Jacob tried to suggest she try it for herself, but it just came out as a gurgled slur, and then the world went dark and very, very cold.