Warning: Contains strong language.
The champagne-hued Lexus slowed to a crawl as Dr. Eric Hill neared the security gates early that morning. The private security guard moved quickly to make his presence known. The usual suspects were gathered like frightened sheep on the public right of way: Two elderly white Caucasian females, a decrepit African-American man and a teen girl who was probably third- generation Vietnamese. She wore stylishly torn jeans and an over-sized hoodie bearing the name of some no-account Christian college.
Dr. Hill stared at them all defiantly as he drove past and into the parking lot behind the surgicenter. That little bitch will be making an appointment here any day now, he thought savagely with another glance at the young woman. Can't wait to see her sneaking in here when her 'friends' aren't looking.
Shutting off the engine, he pulled down the mirror on his sun visor and adjusted his bow tie. He had worn a bow tie for decades, believing its neat appearance would somehow imbue him with a more academic and trustworthy air. He ignored the rest of his reflection; the increasing gray in his thinning hair, the sparseness of his beard over his receding chin and advancing jowls. The bags under his nondescript pale eyes.
How dare Olivia file for divorce, he fumed dully. After all we've been through together. It was only one affair and it lasted barely a month. His heart sank at the thought of the amount of alimony his avaricious wife was likely to get.
Inside the clinic, the receptionist met him with her typical good-natured bluster. “Had to hack your way through a solid wall of cranks again this morning?” she asked laughingly.
He grunted in reply and made straight for his cramped office at the end of the short corridor. He was in no mood for Layla's jokes.
Calm down, he told himself. Can't go into the first procedure of the day so jittery. He briefly glanced at the schedule on his computer screen, hardly seeing the medical specs while noting the name of the patient he was about to meet with. Luna Stonehenge, he read with disbelief. Good God. I'll bet anything she's got flaming magenta hair, horn-rimmed glasses and weighs three hundred pounds. He added spitefully, And probably still can't believe a guy ever got close enough to impregnate her.
Leaving his office, he entered the surgery, pulled on a gown and mask, gave his hands a cursory rinse and tugged on his gloves, all without looking at the waiting figure on the exam table. He took his seat on the wheeled stool. “Good morning, Ms. Stonehenge,” he began brusquely. “This was a brave choice for you, but I'm sure it was also difficult. Hang tight for another thirty minutes or so, and everything will be taken care of.”
Drawing the adjustable lamp down and re-positioning it, he bent and peeked below the sheet draped over the figure's knees. Startled, he pulled back and glanced over at Candy, the pudgy assistant who stood nearby at the instrument tray and the vacuum device. She caught Dr.Hill's eye and shrugged, but her expression was otherwise blank.
Pushing the stool back, he snapped “Is this a joke?”
“What do you mean by 'a joke' ?” The patient's voice was throaty and groggy. Luna Stonehenge struggled to a sitting position and glared at Hill with a deep scowl. Her hair was long and loose, and a thick layer of foundation make-up could not conceal the heavy pattern of dark, closely-shaved hair on her upper lip and jaw.
The doctor said stiffly, “Candy—may I speak with you a moment in private?”
In the hall, he folded his arms tightly, his foot tapped restlessly as the mousey older woman stood awkwardly before him. He demanded, “What the hell is going on? Who scheduled this patient?”
“I don't know—ask Layla. Why, what's wrong?” Her uncomfortable glance roamed the dingy hall, the floor, her own finger nails.
“You know exactly what I'm talking about---this is a total waste of my time.”
Candy raised a shoulder. “You can't deny xher the procedure,” she pointed out matter-of-factly. “Xhe has a right to it. You want xher and her friends showing up out there with the other protestors? With a news crew?”
“Fucking hell,” he growled through his teeth. “I'm not a proctologist.” He sighed heavily. “Okay—I'll talk with xher. I think I know what to say.”
Affixing a counterfeit smile to his drawn and pasty face, he re-entered the exam room. “Thanks for your patience,” he said smoothly. “There seems to be something of a misunderstanding.”
Luna continued to glower defensively at him, her large hands resting on her bony knees. “What misunderstanding?”
Removing his gloves and pulling out his smart phone, Dr. Hill said confidently, “You need a specialist. And I would be happy to recommend you to a colleague of mine who I am fairly confident will be able to help.” Drawing a pad of sticky notes from his lab coat, he copied down the contact info, then handed the note to Ms. Stonehenge, who stared at it doubtfully. “Be sure and tell him I sent you.”
The bistro was one of the few remaining restaurants in the neighborhood. From its outdoor tables, a magnificent view of the city spread below the diners; on this sunny day, the mountain rose clearly above the hazy grid of buildings and bridges. Closer at hand, the blight of 'for lease' signs and graffiti-sprayed plywood had crept like an unstoppable fungus along even this most trendy of neighborhoods.
At Dr. Hill's table, a flimsy plexiglass divider separated him from his lunch guest. Pushing up his mask to take bite of his messy ham and Swiss panini, Hill remarked lightly, “How does it feel—being a celebrity?”
Dr.Bhandari made a non-committal sound and regarded Hill from under his beetling, dissatisfied brows. His own mask dangled uselessly and apparently disregarded from one ear. “Waste of time. I've got too many things on my plate to deal with fielding calls from CNN and MSNBC all day.”
“Just them?” With a chuckle, Hill picked up his phone. “You're mentioned in all the major papers and magazines, too. There's a rumor Time wants to feature you on their cover soon.”
Bhandari snorted. “Waste of time.”
Carefully setting his phone back down, Hill took another bite of sandwich and chewed slowly and deliberately. It wasn't nearly as good as what they used to make, when he and Olivia had come for lunch occasionally while dating. Things had really gone downhill lately. He wiped his mouth and said casually, “Still—it's a very impressive achievement. And it could be an untapped source of revenue. I hardly think the lovely Ms. Stonehenge would be the only person interested in this procedure.”
Bhandari's forkful of pasta was arrested half-way to his mouth. “You might be on to something,” he admitted. “Maybe this needs to be investigated.”
Checking the day's patient roster, Dr. Hill smiled to himself when he read the familiar name. Miracle of miracles, he thought grimly. It certainly took long enough. What's it been---eighteen months?
Entering the exam room, he said heartily, “Ms. Stonehenge—it's a pleasure to see you again!”
The patient grunted as before; the shadow beneath the make-up was not as pronounced as previously. Engaging the small ultrasound unit, Hill pulled down the sheet, applied the hot gel on the figure's abdomen and began to take some readings. Everything within looked totally normal; Dr.Bhandari's challenging womb transplant and carefully constructed vagina had been a resounding success, a medical achievement acclaimed and feted throughout the nation.
When the snowy image on the computer screen stabilized, Dr. Hill nodded at the blobby, indistinct outlines that made perfect sense to his practiced eye.
“Yes, I'd say between seven and eight weeks along.” Replacing the hand unit, he turned to the patient. “So---ready to proceed with the scheduled termination?”
“Of course,” growled the figure on the table. “It's my right. And you've kept me waiting long enough.”
(c) 2020 S.Kirk Pierzchala
If you enjoyed this little glimpse of the near future, check out my full-length cyberpunk techno thriller, Echoes Through Distant Glass, available here: ebook or paperback. I recommend paperback to avoid future issues of digital censorship....