Today’s creepy flash fiction comes from Jeff Seymour and a teaser from his dark fantasy story, Chirugeon. Enjoy, if that’s the word.
The fighters are bleeding when they bring them to me.
White, black, Almacian, K’tarean, Thaelmian, it does not matter. By the time they get to me, in the cool, wet shadows beneath the arena, they are bleeding. Profusely. By the time they have gone, they have bled a lot more, and the sand beneath my operating table has bound to itself in little dark clumps, and I have to call a slave to remove the dirty clods and spread a fresh floor before the next one comes.
The fighters are also unconscious, incoherent, or new to the arena.
All the others prefer to take their chances elsewhere.
The arena hired me because I am the best chirugeon in the Dusty Steppes. I can find a severed artery even if it has retreated halfway up a leg. I can take a limb off and seal up the wound before a body bleeds out nine out of ten times. I know the anatomies of all the major species. I can determine, for instance, whether the green fluid leaking from a Thaelmian’s enormous chest cavity is blood, spleen, or gall. And moreover, if I have a reasonable idea of his age, I can deduce which organ it is leaking from.
The key lies in the taste, actually. They teach that in medical school, but most chirugeons don’t have a knack for it.
My job, as it is laid out in my contract, is simple:
2.When possible, save limbs.
3.At the very least, preserve organs.
It is not as humane as it sounds. When a fighter loses a limb, he or she gets demoted to the Pararena. The organizers there have discovered a certain segment of the population that particularly enjoys watching the maimed and crippled murder one another. On festival days, they bring in big, six-legged K’tarean Lions and enormous Dalbaran Spiders and set them against teams of injured fighters.
I rarely see casualties from those matches. At least not sentient ones. Occasionally, a spider will lose a leg or two before it fills the cripples with venom, or a Lion will lose an eye before it drags them to a corner to feed, however.
They want to keep the gladiators alive because a living slave is more valuable than a dead one. The limbs they want because a whole fighter brings in a better price than a maimed fighter. And the organs they preserve because most races will pay well to eat of the others. Alms will offer half a golden drael for a well-preserved Thaelmian heart, for instance, while a certain sect of Steppelords believes that eating the red, porous brain of a deceased Alm contributes to virility.
It is all poppycock, really. I have tried the organs of every race, and aside from the standard nutritional benefits and a surprisingly pleasant saltiness in the flesh of the seafaring K’tar, they offer nothing.
I mentioned, earlier, that the arena hired me because I am the best chirugeon in the area. That is true.
It is also true that I was available because I am somewhat unpopular amongst the less violent circles of society.
But I only take a piece for my project occasionally.
And I am building something glorious.
Author, freelance writer and editor Jeff Seymour has been creating speculative fiction since he was a teenager. His writing covers a variety of genres, from magical realism to science fiction to young adult fantasy. His first book of short stories, Three Dances, is due for release in late 2012. Jeff presently edits for Harlequin’s digital-first imprint Carina Press, and in his free time, he blogs about his writing and editing, climbs mountains near his home in Colorado, and dreams.