I was born with a knife in my hand.
I was a big baby, and when the doctor decided I was holding his evening up, he attempted to assist my arrival.
My mother was rushed to the OR, and the anesthesiologist decided to perform general anesthesia.
The doctor readied himself and was poised to cut into my mother's tender flesh when I slid headfirst from my mother's vagina.
My tiny hand collided against the surgeon's thigh. He startled, and the scalpel fell from his hand and into mine.
As I screamed my lungs out, my hand grasped tightly around the blade.
My mother was in a different world, and the blade was my only comfort against the bright light and stunned faces in the room.
Throughout life, I gravitated towards blades. My parents clapped in wonder when I grabbed the dull baby knife at seven months old and expertly cut into a freshly peeled banana.
In high school, I spent hours cutting fruit thrown into the air with two swords I bought on Craigslist.
After high school, I took a gap year and worked in a butcher's shop, perfecting the meeting of flesh and blade.
Being a butcher takes so much skill. It's veritable wizardry to beautifully cut a 300 hundred pound animal into beautiful, manageable pieces. I learned a lot.
I struggled with what I wanted to study in college but settled on neurosurgery. I graduated at the top of my class and was renowned for my precision.
My career was a bullet aimed in the perfect direction. These days I was highly sought after and highly selective.
Despite this, I was bored. With all the new advances with nanobots, lasers, and cranial drills; It was becoming rare for me to cut into a skull, to avoid brain matter narrowly, or to cut a tumor from a soft, sad brain.
I volunteered all over the world, but my blade wanted more.
It wasn’t a surprise then that I found myself on the dark web looking for new ways to satisfy this need.
My search proved fruitful, and I accepted my first job; precise facial cuts to a college student who’d assaulted the daughter of a mob boss.
The cutting was the easy part. Getting close to my patient, shall we say, was the hard part.
Despite my education and accolades, I had to switch to primal basics and use my attractiveness for this particular surgery.
My bedside manner was impeccable, and soon Mark’s face was expertly carved.
I’d always been a good doctor, Primum non nocere. In my side gig, I decided to keep that ethos I only operated on worthy patients.
It was a scalding hot day in NYC, after grueling surgery the month before on a special visit to a Romanian orphanage,
I was happy to be back in the city that made my heart sing and my blade drip.
A city where there was never a lack of patients.
I had the month off, and I planned to do everyday things for once.
I stopped at my jeweler on 5th Ave and picked up a necklace I had commissioned. A simple 18K chain with a scalpel encrusted with rubies at the tip.
It was perfect, and I slipped it around my neck in the store before I headed out into the blazing summer heat.
I walked across town, and I was soon in Central Park’s sheep meadow. I spread a blanket out and removed my linen tunic. Clothed in a strappy black bikini with gold hardware, I settled back onto the blanket with a sigh of pleasure.
The sun was at its zenith, and I was baking beneath its golden haze.
It was always at the extremes where I felt most human.
In the Operating Room, I was a goddess. I had to deign, condescend, be the savior. Under the harshest suns or the atop a cold, windswept mountain, I was forced to accept that I, too, was a mere human.
My thoughts were interrupted.
I shifted and looked up.
There standing over me was Morgan House. I knew Morgan from med school, but I hadn’t seen him in years.
We were on the same debate team and therefore knew each other casually.
“Morgan, It’s been a while,” I said
“Ages,” he responded, smiling. “I’ve read quite a few articles on your work. Really impressive stuff.”
“Thanks. What have you been up to”
Well, I’m primarily in philanthropy, Doctors For Hope, and slowly giving away my trust fund. You know, making up for the sins of my father and all that jazz.”
In our third year of med school, it had been revealed that Morgan’s father Gerald House had earned the bulk of their obscene wealth through his tenure as CEO of one the world's largest arms dealer.
This had come to light after an expose on the specific bomb dropped on a school, killing 100 and wounding more. The bomb was lovingly named the Morgan-B4183.
Morgan was persona non grata for quite some time, and a few people tried to proverbially cancel the House family.
The thing is real, serious money like that can’t be canceled.
Morgan dropped out of the debate team, and I hadn’t spoken to him since.
I didn’t really care about his fate. With that amount of money, he could’ve bought an island and disappeared or had a face transplant for all I knew.
The Morgans of the world bored me even back then; I liked people who had a sense of hunger and those who were more intelligent than me in some way. Morgan was neither.
“Fathers have eaten sour grapes, and their children's teeth are set on edge.” I shrugged in response.
“You could always quote all the quotes and all the studies and all the philosophers,” Morgan chuckled
“Well, I was the debate queen for a reason” I smirked
“I mean, I occasionally contributed, ” Morgan, his face darkening. “Who knows what would’ve happened if my father's occupation never went public?”
I shrugged and sipped my matcha tea.
Occupation seemed like a very trite word, given all the death that came with it.
I fingered my necklace and squinted against the sun.
“Anyway, ” Morgan sang out, “Your bikini will make some interesting tan lines; wanna show them off?”
“I'm having a small gathering at my place later tonight. I'd love to have the great Rhiannon Blase t who was the head of a popular in my mind; I was on vacation. The most pressing things on my agenda were deciding which charity case I would accept next and preparing for my next patient: a female pedophile who was the head of a popular tech company.
Unfortunately for her, she’d ruthlessly acquired the wrong startup, and I was hired. I was really excited to operate on her, but the meeting details slowed me down as usual.
I sighed. “Sure, I’ll l drop by, but I can't stay very long.”
“Great,” he said, handing me a card, “My address is on here.”
I took it waved goodbye, and returned to my ruthless lover, the sun.
That night I prepared for Morgan’s gathering and decided on a matte black, short silk dress. It was backless, and the tiny seed pearls that held the fabric together at the neck gave the illusion of the dress simply floating against my body.
I wasn't trying to impress Morgan, but I was intrigued by his little “sins of the father” spiel. I wanted to see if the apple did indeed fall far from the multi-billion dollar tree.
I took an Uber to the address on the card and was surprised to see it was a beautiful, upper east side mansion. The building was architecturally stunning and reminded me of a French Renaissance chateau.
Ok, Mr. Doctors With Hope, I thought. I wasn't entirely at the point of judgment, but I was close.
My eyes wandered over the ornate double wooden doors for a doorbell but found none.
I reached for my phone to text Morgan, but the doors swung open almost magically.
Morgan appeared in a dapper black suit. He greeted me with a peck on the cheek.
“I didn't realize it was this kind of party I said, giving him the thrice over.
“No, no, you're good,” he laughed, ushering me into the most elaborate parlor I’d ever seen, and I had been to Versailles.
“Wait, you actually live here?”
“I do, “ Morgan responded in what looked like a pretense of sheepishness.
“I inherited it from my mother's side of the family, there's so much history here, and you know how crazy NYC’s real estate market is.”
This mansion was worth somewhere north of 60 million; I couldn't even imagine the taxes. Doctors With Hope wouldn't cut it. His trust fund must be out of this world huge.
“So this is gonna sound crazy,” said Morgan. “But can you please put this mask on?”
He thrust a black lace mark interspersed with what looks like gold in my direction.
“Is this some crazy, eyes wide shut kinda party?” I asked, turning to leave.
“No,” he said, grabbing my arm, “This is nothing of the sort. It's simply a safe place for meetings of the mind.”
“A meeting for minds who understand that there is more than we are told by the six o clock news, for those of us whose talents shall we say move the world, those of us whose eyes are open so the masses may sleep well and not see the ugliness that stains almost everything in our societies.”
I was captivated. In some way, I had sought a fellowship like this over the years. I would never tell anyone of my second life, but I wanted to hear how others lived theirs.
“You have my attention” I put the mask on and turned back towards Morgan.
He led me to a ballroom that also rivaled Versailles's. Eighteen other masked party-goers were waiting in the room.
They seemed at ease with each other. I was the apparent newcomer.
Morgan took center stage and welcomed everyone.
“Strange bedfellows we make,” he began
“Well, maybe not so strange. After all, aren’t we the ones who’ve seen the light?”
“Aren't we the ones who should decide the fate of those whose time here makes no difference but instead robs the planet of precious resources?”
His voice grew louder. “Aren't we the ones who should decide how many children these people should have?”
Lower he said, “Aren’t we the end who should decide who lives and who dies?”
So he was like his father after all. Sour grapes indeed.
“My father did a service to those children in Kosovo. What lives would they have lived, had they been spared?”
“Death is a gift. It is a mercy, mercy, I tell you!”
“In my work with Doctors With Hope, I have freed so many! I have sterilized women and men who have no business procreating. Imagine they would dare bring a child home to a hut!”
The group chuckled.
I may have my special patients. Nevertheless, I wasn't like this psychotic group. Every patient I've operated on was vetted for their surgery by my most stringent moral standards.
“Listen,” Morgan continued, “This isn't about race or gender or sexuality. It about progress and what's best for this planet. I’ve killed and sterilized as many people in South America and Africa as I have done in Eastern Europe. African American educator W.E.B Du Bois even spoke of the talented tenth. What should we do with the remaining dregs? Should we not eradicate them as we strive for the betterment of society, for perfection?”
Morgan is sick! He is really continent-hopping to play God.
He was never that smart. He shouldn't get to decide who lives or dies. I am an exception to this. I have no family history or grudges. I am entirely impartial.
I sighed. This was getting boring. I was tempted to grab the knife that lay in its leather sheath against my thigh and slice an artery on each of them. This was not because of their audacity but rather the incredibly boring waste of an evening.
After what felt like eons, Morgan was finally finished with his speech. We all clapped and moved closer to shower him with praise.
I patted him on the back.
I knew you would understand. “Rih,” he said earnestly, “You can do much good, and we will guide and support you.”
I laughed on the inside, keeping my face remained bright, open, and eager.
“I am so grateful Morgan, you’ve always been a leader, but this is beyond anything I could imagine.”
I widened my eyes and stared intensely into his “I can't wait to learn more from you all. We’ve always been servant leaders. This will be a continuation of our brief partnership.”
The rest of the evening dragged on. I stayed longer than I had intended to. I was rewarded with the identities of everyone there.
When it was all over, I went home with a headache and an incredible amount of information to analyze.
I wrote the names of all the attendees down and eventually won the battle against my mind, finally falling asleep.
After what felt like a minute, my work phone rang and then rang again. I grabbed the cell. It was 3:00 in the morning.
“Hello,” I said groggily.
“Dr. Blase, so sorry to disturb you, but there has been a terrible accident. We need you, the patient is in grave danger, and he is one of our biggest donors. We need you here now!”
It was Dr. Persaud on the line. He had mentored me and never overstepped his boundaries. This must be serious.
“I'll be there” I hung up and threw on clothes. I called a taxi and was soon at the hospital.
A nurse handed me a file and brought me up to speed.
“38-year-old male work traumatic brain injury, he was in a car accident and seemed fine, but his condition has rapidly declined, he had been losing conciseness. Preliminary tests indicate swelling of the brain. GCS score of 7. CT scans indicate hematomas.”
A craniotomy was in order. I would not use a knife, but the cranial drill would go a long way in cleansing my mental palette after Morgan’s “party.”
I walked into the OR room. The patient lay seemingly lifeless under the bright white lights. I was awake and amped up now. This was my domain.
I walked over to the patient, and there lay Morgan House on my table.
I momentarily paused with the drill above his shaved head.
In times of great feeling and great uncertainty, I've always thought of life as a video game. The pain, the pleasure, the metaphysical feedback, I think of these as data points—pure information to get to the next level, until Game Over.
Was this level the one right before the end? Was Morgan House the final boss to defeat before achieving whatever nirvana waited on the other side of the screen?
I wasn't really a killer, more of an artist. Morgan was right about one thing death could be a gift. The perfect way to escape consequences. No, he wasn't good enough to be killed. Additionally, the Morgan family could come after me if I killed, even under the current conditions.
I would simply nudge his brain in the right direction. I would cut communication to his muscles. He would become trapped his body nothing but a shell, a cage, never able to communicate or move.
I began steadily making burr holes. It was just Morgan and I on this level.
The knife pendant felt cool against my chest. I was simply a goddess meeting out justice. Morgan may have been born with a golden spoon in his hands, but I, I was born with a golden knife.