• Cassandra L. Thompson

Theatre.

Co-written and inspired by Spyder Collins

Talia woke in a fog. She lay still. As the haze threaded, she spied many eyes staring down at her. Then a few more as she looked around the room. Their terror was unfounded, she thought. That is until the pain caught her.


It was silenced by a rush of what could only be laudanum, soothing both discomfort and alarm with a sloppy kiss. Soon the slow drip of blood falling from table to sawdust became a rhythmic, lulling tap that distracted her. It was accompanied by the sound of rustling parchment as the long, looming shadows with their faceless eyes adjusted to see her better. The room stank of rotten meat and sweat, and when she turned her head, she saw the blurred shapes of men in aprons crusted by blood splatter. Silver tools laid out on the table glistened in the dim gaslight.


Is this hell? she wondered.


A rat scurried beneath the table she laid on, one of the men stomping it away. When he leaned in to inspect her, his breath smelled of rank tobacco.


Another man, tall with white hair examined the sharpness of his knife. “Take your positions, gentleman,” he said when satisfied. “We have four poor souls today.”


“Have you ever seen one of his amputations?” one of the assistants whispered to the other. “‘Tis pure artistry.”


Talia blinked, still trying to find her way out of the fog. Where was she?


Then she remembered. She’d fainted on the steps of the Howard Manor after months of ignoring the persistent pain that had settled in her bowels, the Howard children screaming in fright. She hadn't wanted to see a doctor, but Mr. Howard insisted she been seen by his friend, the head surgeon at St. Thomas Hospital. She was afraid to lose her employment with the family so she complied, riding in the carriage with her heart racing and clammy hands. She was terrified of doctors.


Wait, she tried to whisper, it’s my stomach, not my leg.


“I require silence in the theatre,” the wizened man ordered, wiping the long blade across his rust colored apron for good measure.


Dear God, no…


They were already holding her down when she began to scream, realizing what was happening. Their fingers dug into her skin as she thrashed, forcing a stick into her mouth as the surgeon took a deep breath and brought the blade down.


There was no pain, but she heard a loud thud before she fainted, as what could only be her perfectly sound limb hit the straw covered ground.


Food for the rats.

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