His expert fingers probed her upper arm firmly. He was being rougher than he usually was. He was nervous. It wasn't supposed to be like this.
She winced, growing more and more afraid with each press of his fingers. When he touched the lump, she could feel it too, and she became more afraid. But not afraid of the lump.
He walked out of the room to consult. She touched her arm gently, concentrating. She could sense it there. She reached out for a moment, then pulled her fingers away.
The doctor returned, and again pressed his fingers to her flesh. And again, the lump was gone. He searched carefully, and found it again in her lower arm. She was trembling with fear now. She knew what was next.
He looked at her. "Sarah? There's something strange here. I think you have a right to know."
She smiled nervously back. The corner of her mouth twitched. "Of course I have a right to know. I'm a doctor as much as you. Maybe I can help. What is it, Dan?"
"It ... well ... I thought it was an embolism, at first. That was when it wasn't in your arm, but you're shoulder. Not an air bubble, but a clot of some sort, much larger than ..."
"I know what an embolism is!"
"Yes, of course. And you know it's moving. Fast."
"I know. It does that."
He gave her a questioning look. "Does it? It moves up and down. That shouldn't be possible. It's swimming upstream. What do you mean, it does that?"
The fear was overpowering now. She could barely speak. "It's going to ... it wants to ..."
"Sarah, what's going on? It was a lucky accident I touched the thing in the first place. You know what a clot that size could do! We have to operate!" The fear was starting to infect him too. But there was purpose, too. And excitement. He wanted to see what the thing was, and how it could move upstream. He pulled out the scalpel.
She didn't notice it. She stared at the wall, listening. "No," she said, "it's not fair. It's only been a few months. You promised!" She realized she was saying the words aloud, and looked at Dan. Fortunately, he was too busy cutting into her arm to notice.
He cut carefully, but quickly, two rubber tubes tied around her arm to keep the foreign matter from escaping. It didn't move. With a finally, not at all careful cut, he exposed the thing. He had a hard time seeing what it was, what with having to hold the wound open and the blood and all.
It was the size of a pea. It had seemed smaller. He realized he had to grab it with his bare fingers. Strange, but it made perfect sense to him. She cried and thought her goodbyes.
He touched it, and a very tiny stinger poked his finger. He felt a bit of flesh scrape off, and pulled his hand back. Then he reached in again, and it stung him again. This time he passed out.
When he woke up again, he saw Sarah holding a lump of gauze on the wound. His head hurt. "What happened, dear? What's going on?"
She smiled, the fear gone. "He didn't like you after all. He decided to stay here. Could you sew this up for me, please? I don't think I could do well by myself."
He got up and did so. He felt the embolism slide by occasionally as he sewed. It was not a professional job.
When he was compelled to get the scalpel, he'd felt the glorious power the thing had, joy that was now lost to him. He tried to make the stitches hurt as much as possible, out of spite. He doubted that she even felt them.
- Jeff Vogel Spiderweb Software, Inc. http://www.spiderwebsoftware.com
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