by Justin Chu
Art by Christine Cheng
Issue: Scintilla (Spring 2019)

The operating table shone dully under the cold, harsh lamp. Nearby, a tray of bloody scalpels, saws, clamps, and scissors lay on a steel cart.

“MMMHHHMHM!” The patient writhed against his restraints to no avail, screams muffled by an oily cloth gag. This one, like the rest, was a weaver; a being who performed the dark arts.

“Scalpel.” The nurse handed me the sharp instrument. I needed to focus on removing its magicranum, a heart corrupted by magic.

Ten minutes of broken wails and unpleasant cutting and sawing passed before I finally reached it. I quickly lopped off the fist-sized, twitching organ. Most magicranum pulsated with an intense purple and reddish glow, but this specimen was hardly brighter than a charcoal ember.

I nodded to the nurse, and she lowered the patient from its vertical position. It lay limply on the table, occasionally giving out a muffled gurgle. I undid the gag, and it tried to retaliate, screaming some horrid incantation. I quickly gagged it again, muffling its evil and feigned sorrow. Its words were to no avail though; its eyes had lost their luster, their life.

I turned away and got to recording data:

Color: Red, faint glow
Estimated Time Since Magic Acquisition: 1-3 weeks

I scratched my head. Something struck me as odd about this patient. I turned to look at the dead weaver. Short, black hair, lightly tanned, and tall. Was it one of my neighbors? An old schoolmate? A memory surfaced, but I suppressed it, shuddering at the thought that it was anywhere near me previously.

I reached into my filing cabinet and pulled out a stack of folders among the meticulously organized mass. Flipping through both pages old and new, musty and fresh, I discovered the oddity: many of my most recent patients had acquired magic very recently. Their magicranum were always still heart-like, barely glowing.

This was incredibly puzzling. Logically, people with underdeveloped magic are very unlikely to get caught. They weren’t able to control their weaving well enough to perform any large scale spell. So, why were all of my recent patients fresh weavers?

“I need to talk with the Bishop,” I called the nurse. “Take care of the rest for me.”

“Hello, Dr. Eve” a warm, honeyed voice spoke from the altar. A man in a handsome gray three-piece Italian suit stepped forward. His lightly graying hair was slicked back but his harsh bloodshot blue eyes betrayed his soft expression.

“Hello Bishop Christopher,” I gave a shallow bow. “I hope I’m not intruding on your time. Did you just finish a public sermon?”

“Ah, yes,” He looked down at his suit. “It’s the only occasion I wear this stuffy thing. I much prefer the ceremonial robes of the private sermons” He glanced up at me with his piercing eyes. “Did you have a question for me, Doctor?

“Yes,” I squirmed slightly under his gaze. “I was reviewing the files of my recent patients, and I’ve noticed that they were all immature weavers, hardly powerful enough to put on anything more than a light show.”

“Oh, really.” He turned to light a candle. The flame burst forth, hungrily reaching out. “And your question is?”

“Why has this been happening? I am a man of logic, and this simply does not make sense.”

“Well, the answer is quite simple, really,” he smiled. “Your research has allowed our hunters to be much more efficient at their job”

“Really?” My eyebrows knitted together. That didn’t seem quite right. It usually took years for the hunters to implement my research.

“Also, I have another question.” I shook my head. “Why don’t we use anesthesia?”

“Because they are heathens.” His nose scrunched up. “That thing that you just operated on? It dared to go against God, to go against everything right and well with the universe. Does that sound like a creature who deserves mercy to you?”

“No,” I chose my next words carefully. The Bishop was known for being…frightful at times. “However, it can be…difficult to concentrate with their screaming.”

“Then let them scream. They have turned their backs to God, and we shall thusly turn our backs to them. There is no heathen that is deserving of any sort of kindness. I’m sure you understand.” He raised an eyebrow. “Don’t you?”

“Yes,” I responded, happy. The talk had cleared my head, as if a thick fog had been lifted. I must go on, and collect more magicranum.

A surgeon clutches a bloody heart in their hand.