I’m on a posting roll…Another short story…
Its called the Remains of the Devil. Its about a reporter who interviews a hacker, whose decapitated head has been chosen to undergo a radical procedure to revive him….
The Remains of The Devil
“So I understand this is the first time you’ll be doing this procedure,” she said to the older doctor.
The Doctor scrubbed his hands, mask over mouth, breath reflected hot and regular against his face. He ignored her as he washed his hands, ablution before prayer, clean and resolute, a holy practice for him.
Once he had done that he found the time to give her the look he had given to countless other new nurses and medical students.
It was a furrow where eyebrows bridged into singular disdain, suspended by crevasses of deep skin where crows nestled their feet. To her, he seemed more a vulture, a bald head if the head scarf were removed.
He motioned to the tank that reminded her of a coffee pot, only larger, large enough to hold a human head. She didn’t believe it at first but as she followed him the murkiness of the water revealed what it was large enough to hold. She couldn’t decide if she wanted to gasp or vomit.
She swore that the eyes moved, but the articles she had read to prepare herself for this visit clearly mentioned that the head had no biological function until after attachment. Within the neck were tubes that kept it alive.
Flanking the doctor were three nurses, catering to his every move, at times almost predicting his next. The three girls worked in sync, a well-oiled system in which she felt she her own redundancy.
What brought her here today was not really the procedure but who was the recipient of the procedure. Her tablet showed the list of his crimes, when scrolled it felt a mile long, but she was not here to judge, she was only here to report.
One was inclined to believe cyber crime would involve just hacking and nerd or geek stuff, not violence, but Aldrich Chandler was a cut above geek, a slice above nerd. When he was alive, as in, head not in a tank, he was a man that coordinated hackings, (as in the physical kind), beatings, beheadings from the comfort of a cafe, his ear ring glinting raw from sunlight piercing against a glass wall. He was a hacker supreme, young, brilliant, a genius beyond his years, now a head beyond its body.
Upon his death, a laptop was found with detailed files about a new experiment, a radical procedure dated five years ago. What Aldrich Chandler couldn’t foresee though, was how public this procedure, and his imminent revival would soon become.
The redundancy in the room exorcised herself away just seconds before one of the three nurses did the same to her. She observed the rest of it through the glass wall, and even in the artificial fluorescent light, Aldrich Chandler’s earring shone within that murky head tank, almost reminding the world that his spirit still glints against the light, that his presence casts shadows.
She turned away, closed her eyes. She couldn’t look at the rest of the procedure, she knew she would throw up. She also knew there were cameras to record the entire event. Belittling herself, she thought, “I am just a web journalist,” before she left the room, and went down to the hospital cafeteria.
With coffee in hand, her fingers trembled as she raised it to her dry lips. She didn’t like the taste of it, but continued sipping its bitterness into her. A text message buzzed, and the phone rattled against the table. It was a number that began with the numbers +1 628.
She unlocked the message with the tip of her slender index finger, pink nail polish dull against the ceiling lights.
The message from the numberread: How are you doing, Mimi?
Like I want to throw up😷🤐😿.
😜… How long you gotta wait?
A few hours, I guess. They said they won’t attach the head to the donor body just yet. But they said the subject, well, he can regain consciousness today. That I have to see.
She put the phone down, and before she could catch a breath, a nurse tapped her on the shoulder, a nurse she reckoned was part of the doctor’s entourage of three. They all looked the same to her.
She turned to face the the nurse, foot of one chair dragging and creaking against the linoleum floor. She said nothing.
So did the nurse, until almost a moment later. “Doctor Chiang wants to see you. He says its urgent.”
She followed the nurse, who was now not quite as fast as she was in the operating room, prepping for this operation. She couldn’t really say she enjoyed this pace, but it agreed with her. She needed to calm down, take in the enormity of this event.
As she followed the nurse back to the operating room her mind began sifting through the articles that she had read about the upcoming procedure as they related in theoretical terms. She also wondered how wide was Chandler’s network that he could in some way, arrange for this hospital in Singapore to operate on him. Were the authorities just wanting to revive him, then charge him and arrest him proper, make him live out some kind of life sentence? Or worse, would they want to revive him only to kill him, and make their version of his death a final one?
Rumours, unfounded, she reminded herself.
As she followed the nurse inside, there was another thing that she was not yet ready for. The donor body rolled along, pushed by another team, this time of what she presumed to be male nurses, arms defined, chests buff, hair short projecting an air of discipline. The wheels beneath the slab squeaked and sidled alongside the tank that held the head.
She turned her head away, and thought she had to stay outside and observe what was going on through the glass wall, but the nurse beckoned her inside. She saw the donor body, pale, cold, emptied of blood, the hole in the neck not filled with flesh but replaced by some mechanical appendages. It reminded her of the rear end of a computer, full of ports waiting to be plugged in.
Running along the donor body were other minor mechanical parts, like an exoskeleton of some kind. She assumed these would help him stand and move when the head was attached.
After she turned away her mind flashed and she recalled how Chandler lost his head. He was in San Francisco, it was late at night, laptop in hand, earring presumably glinting under the street lights. He walked along close to Powell Station, inhaling the stink of weed, hash, vape, fermented for decades in the air. It drizzled then rained, and it was assumed he was to meet a black market client, but got played, because the client he was supposed to meet was a rival who had had enough of him.
Chandler was surprised that the rival was there. The surprise was enough of a distraction that one of the rival’s killers for hire slashed a machete against his neck. The rival and the killer left, and at the scene were essentially three articles: his body, his head, and his laptop. The laptop was soon found missing from the SFPD impound.
Through a convoluted series of events, the head found its way here, in southeast Asia. She guessed Chandler’s people had somehow arranged for this. At first, the hospital was proud of its procedure. It made headlines in which they immediately regretted when they found out who the recipient was. Receipts and financial transactions related to this procedure, hacked, come and gone. Money in executive bank accounts as hush money.
She then wondered, where were the authorities? Wouldn’t his transfer involve international extradition laws of some kind? Sure she never liked authority figures much, but right now, their presence would be very much welcome. She also began to wonder the concept of a donor body. Who would donate their own body? Why was this body then without its head? Another story she didn’t want to know, probably. The body was fit, and she could only imagine Chandler’s people orchestrating this, cutting some person’s head off so they could carry on this procedure.
The three nurses, maidens of the ancient doctor, began to pump blood into the cold body, warming it as the blood course though the veins again. They pumped it in careful amounts, too much, too little, and the body was of no use.
The water in the head tank was extracted, and the nose plugs removed. They pumped the head full of blood too. His eyes twitched and she could hear something akin to a gasp, but knew it was impossible, he had no lungs to suck air from.
The old doctor turned to her. “Miss Tan, please look at the monitor here.”
Amy looked at the monitor beside the head as the male nurses placed a helmet littered with electrodes over Chandler’s head.
MY NEW BODY IS NOT READY YET, BUT THE GOOD DOCTOR CHANG HAS KEPT MY BRAIN VERY MUCH ALIVE. I AM SURE YOU HAVE PLENTY OF QUESTIONS.
Amy turned to the doctor, asking him directly, “Is this even legal? Shit.”
NO. NOT LEGAL. BUT NOW THAT I’M BACK ALIVE, THE WORLD WANTS ME, WELL, NOT DEAD.
“What if I pulled the plug?” Amy’s hand and fingers were trembling. She took her other hand to stop it.
IF YOU DID, YOU’D FIND YOURSELF IN PRISON. I AM INTERPOL PROPERRTY-T-TT-T-TY.
The male nurses rushed to check the connections when they noticed the glitch.
“So did Doctor Chang give you my name?”
“Then who did?”
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU SAW YOUR BROTHER?
“What has he got to do with anything?”
HOW ARE YOU DOING, MIMI?
LIKE I WANT TO THROW UP 🤔😶😔…
Amy placed her hand over her lips. Her eyes began welling with tears. “What are you going to do to him?”
NOT MUCH WORSE THAN WHAT HE DID TO ME…
Outside a cheap motel in the outskirts of Nevada, a SWAT team begins to surround a particular room. A chopper shining its blinding headlights into the room. A loudhailer calling out the occupier’s name.
HE SHOULDN’T HAVE MISSED HIS LITTLE SISTER, the words on the screen said.