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How long has it been since he had flesh under his fingers?

Too long, that much was certain. This cell was small, too small by far. He did not much mind being alone, that was not the issue. He had long since pulled out from himself those parts which required company. No, what bothered him was that he had nothing at all to do. His jailers would come and speak to him from time to time, certainly, but if he ever even suggested that he may improve them by means of his craft, they'd get all in a huff and leave. Silly, ignorant creatures, all of them. But what else could be expected of them? Truly, it was not their fault. They were simply very ill. A shame they would not let him cure them.

Well, there wasn't much he could do about it at the moment. Might as well return to his work. He laid down on his narrow bunk and covered himself with his robe. He was especially proud of the robe. His jailers asked about it multiple times, but whenever he tried to explain it to them, he could tell they didn't believe him. What was so odd about a robe grafted from your own skin? Wasn't that what skin was for in the first place? But all they did was moan and complain about how it wasn't possible, how no one could remove so much skin from himself and still live, that no one even had that much skin in the first place. Showed what they knew. Was he not a professional? It was so difficult getting people to show the proper respect nowadays.

His mind was wandering again. What was he doing? Ah, yes.

With long, well-trained fingers he began digging into his abdomen. The flesh there was yielding, properly porous, neatly organized. Now, where did he leave his bone saw? Oh yes, the liver cavity. Reach about over there and… ah, there it was. Hrm, the thing was getting dull, and he had no idea where he was going to get a new one. Never mind that for now, he reminded himself. Next, the scalpels. The long ones were stashed within the bones of his pelvis, and he had a devil of a time getting them out of there. He really needed to find a better place for them, but his body only had so much room, and any size-increasing modification were bound to be too easily noticed in his current surrounding. Perhaps a second cranial compartment? Something to consider after he was finished with this procedure.

He was forgetting something, he was certain of that. But what was it?

He dug out his dwindling supply of adhesives from within his left eye socket. This required the temporary removal of the eye, which did not make the task any easier. Still, when it was done, he had all he required to continue. Spreading his robe more evenly on his body and positioning the hem of it to support his neck, he began the operation proper.

This one was going to be difficult. In order to reach that part of his brain that he wished to remove today, he'd have to bypass some rather essential segments. Failure to do so may result in severe harm to his memory, which would obviously be catastrophic, considering he had no access to his old fallback brain anymore. Not that he would switch to that one anyway- he had modified this new one over a period of at least three decades, and he was not about to let all that work go to waste. No, he would simply need to be very careful, and that was all there was to it.

"When it comes to a lady whose merit is not sound, but who makes you sniff and bray like a hound…" he hummed to himself as he used the bone saw to slowly remove the top of his skull. He wasn't quite sure where he learned that little ditty, but it soothed him. He hummed on as he laid the saw to the side and brushed off the bone dust from his shoulders.

"Kindness and beauty will do you no good…" He reached for his long scalpel and maneuvered it around to that part of his brain he hated.

"It will not matter if you're polite or rude…" Carefully, he dislodged it from the surrounding brain matter, hoping that his incisions were precise enough. It would be good to have a mirror.

"If success is what you wish, and to gain good health…" He finished with the scalpel and grabbed his tweezers, which he previously retrieved from a pocket of empty flesh around his ankles.

"All you need to show her is a good bit of wealth!" A righteous pluck, and he was done. He stopped himself for a moment. What did he feel?

He considered the notion of color. Did he have any preference? He remembered he was always oddly fond of yellow, and despised orange with all of his heart. Strange, was it not? The two were so very similar to one another, after all. There was no sense in it, none at all. He remembered the day he finally found his solution. When he finally realized the source of his problems, of all of their problems. This senseless preference, and all that was similar to them… those were the key. So, did he still like yellow?

"Yellow… yellow… I…"

"I don't care about yellow! Aha…ahahaha!"

Capital! He had done it! It was gone! Another wretched part of him cleansed, another remnant of the life he once possessed removed for all time! He was about to rise and perform a merry jig, but then remembered the top half of his skull was still missing, and reconsidered. He carefully replaced it and applied the remnants of his adhesives to it, making sure to also reapply it to the seams that firmly attached his mask to his face. It would not do for it to come off. Not ever.

Do not get distracted, he reminded himself. Gathering his wits, he sat down and considered the new composition of his brain. What new insights did the removal of the offending sentiment allow him? First, he should revise the conclusion he had already reached, to figure out if those were still sound. Yes…

So, what did he know about life?

That it needed curing. This was his first conclusion, the foundation of all that came after, and it remained as solid as ever. His siblings, fools that they were, thought him mad for this realization. They were created to preserve life, they claimed. But they were wrong. He knew the truth. He figured it out all by himself. Hehehe.

Life was a burden on those who carried its loathsome spark upon their souls. A bundle of contradicting impulses, cruel desires and nonsensical emotions. Life was an ever-multiplying beast, and in his profession, such creatures had only one name. A surgeon he was, the Surgeon he was, and he was the one to figure out what life was, what it was really all about.

It was so obvious, he thought as he caressed the skin grafts that connected his face to his long-beaked mask with slim, delicate fingers. Life was a cancer. Life murdered the soul.

It was his responsibility, as a medical professional and a moral being, to excise it.

He remembered his first operation of the type. His patients screamed and moaned, for the Anesthesiologist was not there to assist him, as he cured them from their mortal coil. The suffering was lamentable, but necessary, for once they died, their true soul was revealed. This was what made him confident of the righteousness of his cause. Once they rose again, cured and whole, all they desired was to help their fellows reach the same… enlightenment. The soul, he found, not only desired death for itself, but for the world as well.

To see the dead emancipate the living… that made it all worth it. All the mockery, all the hatred and loathing, all his solitude.

He was the c-

He was not alone anymore. Two figures stood in his bare cell, staring down at him where he laid. The first was tall, gaunt, dark and pale. He knew him well.


"Surgeon. It has been too long."

The Surgeon did not understand. "Too long? We are never apart, Lord. I am the instrument of your will. I am with you always."

His lord said nothing, only smiled. The Surgeon turned his gaze to the other figure, a short, stooped man who refused to look at him directly. Even without his mask, the Surgeon knew who he was.

"Brother Diagnostician."

"You are no brother of mine, beast." The man turned to his lord. "Let's get this over with."

His lord nodded, then turned to the Surgeon once more. "I have a task for you, most loyal servant. Your expertise is required."

"What… what do you desire, Lord? What can I do for one so mighty?"

The Small Death grinned, showing teeth like a row of tombstones.

"Why, dear Surgeon, I have a world for you to cure."


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