I’m strapped down horizontally on an operation table in the middle of a room filled with medical equipment, dressed in a yellow hospital gown covered in smiley faces. I look at the leather straps holding my wrists and believe I can rip my arms out, but I’m too worried to do so. Such a violent motion could cause further injury to my broken neck, so I lay there like a frightened rabbit, paralyzed, at least, with fear. Nurses walk by importantly with clipboards, looking down at their paperwork as they hurriedly pass. I feel cold rushes of air on my cheeks and an involuntary shiver runs through me.
I now look down at myself from 10 feet above as a blind surgeon approaches my motionless body, strapped to the green operating table. Empty eye sockets, filled only with darkness, gaze absently at an array of tools on a tray next to me. Drills, assorted razors, scalpels, and gleaming silver hammers with picks. He chooses an eight-inch blade with a curved tip like a pirate’s sword and brings it to my ear.
“My name is Your Doctor,” he says smiling. “And this is where we enter the spinal cord.” He delicately presses the blade into my ear canal. It enters easily. Slides in with no pressure or effort at all, like cutting into jello. He rotates the blade circularly as he presses deep inside my skull, coring my brain out as he begins to hum Mary Had A Little Lamb. He extracts the blade and places it on the metal tray from which it came, exchanging it for a long set of cold metal tweezers. The tweezers go into my year and he pulls out the sludge and chunks of my brain and scalp that are left behind from the coring.
“Excellent consistency,” the surgeon says. He leans his head backwards and opens his mouth wide before raising the tweezers and dropping the bloody gray tissue into his mouth. “Brain food. Sorry, bad joke but I need to stay sharp for this next bit,” he says with true concen, looking down at me has he chews. Brain spittle shoots out from his mouth onto my face and into my slightly open, gaping mouth as he he tells me, “I’ve only performed this next procedure successfully one time before. It was on a Lemur who contracted epilepsy afterwards. Sad.” I noticed at this point that the surgeon had dyed blond hair, combed over an obviously balding scalp in a nasty, messy wave. “China,” he says for no apparent reason, and then begins vomiting wet, bright-green dollar bills onto the floor. A nurse walks into the room with a newspaper and throws it on the mess to cover it up, then exits the room.
Realizing that something truly horrible is going to happen, I strain against the straps that are holding my arms and legs down, only to find that I’m completely paralyzed after all. Panic. I concentrate and put the entirety of my will into budging a toe, a finger, but I’m not able to move. My heart races and thuds in my chest, yet despite the fear and sense of doom I wonder why they’d both strapping down a quadriplegic.
Defeated, I groan and try to say “get on with it,” but I find I also cannot speak. “I know, I know,” the surgeon says with compassion, and lays the tweezers back down on the instrument tray. “That part of your brain is gone.” Next, he picks up a long, thick straw that I hadn’t noticed before, and carefully inserts it into my ear hole. Like an 8-year-old’s juice box, it is equipped with an accordion-like joint that allows it to be inserted straight into my ear before making a 90-degree bend, where it slides delicately down into my spinal column.
After pushing the straw down at least a foot, I expect the blind surgeon to place his lips around it and start sucking, but instead he reaches into his white coat pocket and nervously pulls out a small glass jar. Inside the jar, an enormous black centipede is wrapped around itself in circles. The surgeon unscrews the lid and quickly places the open jar up to the metal straw. Fearful that the centipede might brush against him, he holds the jar, arm fully extended, pinched with his thumb and index finger, grimacing. The centipede stretches towards the opening, revealing its full length of six inches, fangs dripping dark yellow poison, and after a moment’s hesitation, the creature scurries into the straw.
I hear all 142 of its sharp legs scrapping and tapping on the inside of the metal straw as it scuttles through my ear and brain. It then drops into my spinal column, where I feel it moving about, pushing my damaged bones aside. There is a crunch, followed by a nauseatingly intense shock of pain that radiates outwards through my entire body, and I understand that the centipede had taken its first bite. The intensity of the pain takes all of my breath away so that when I open my mouth to scream, no sound comes out. My arms and legs lay motionless like dead fishes as I try to strain against the straps. The crunching of my bones, tendons, and spinal cord continue for minutes that turn to hours, until it finally comes to a sudden stop.
“All done. You may rise,” the surgeon says. I open my eyes to find two nurses unstrapping my arms and legs. One holds a black cattle prod to my temple and pulls the trigger before I have time to react. The shock jolts me upright and I spring to my feet in pain, which is followed immediately by joy that I’m able to move my limbs.
The surgeon points to an X-ray slide lit up on the wall. “Better than new, though you may have lost a few dozen IQ points,” he chuckles. On the slide is a terrifying image: the centipede is stretch vertically up to the base of my skull from the center of my back, forming my new spinal cord and vertebrae. Horror sinks into the pit of my stomach, which must show because the surgeon says, “Not to worry. Hop on the trainer and give the new neck a spin,” gesturing to a stationary bike in the corner of the room.
I make my way over to the bike in a haze, feet seeming to walk by themselves, and throw a leg over the saddle and take a seat. I see that I’m now somehow dressed in a full kit and bike shoes. Not having any choice, I clip in and feel my legs begin pedaling by themselves. I notice a bike computer a moment later on the handlebars. It reads 250 watts. Not bad for riding easy. I put some pressure on and the number jumps to 274, then 298, then 333. Encouraged, I push a bit harder and the computer shows 371, 387, then 407. Nearly effortless. I look up at the surgeon with excitement. His arms are crossed and he has a satisfied grin on his face. I smile back with enthusiasm, not noticing the long thread of drool dripping from my gaping, idiot mouth. “I knew you’d think it was worth it,” he says. But now when he speaks, all I hear is gibberish, so I shrug my shoulders and look back down at the bike computer. 445 watts good. Kenney push harder. 489 watts gooder. Kenney HAPPY. Push more pedals more harder. 524 watts even gooder. Even happy more more. I reach into my back pocket for ride food and pull out a handful of live spiders and wriggling, bloody mice tails, jam the mess into my mouth, and crunch. Centi-spine happy too.