Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Friday, February 27, 2009

Eternity Burning: Chapter 13, Part 1


Doctor Alexander Tennett looked up as soon as he heard the ruckus going on outside. He dismissed it at first as the rantings of some of his patients (since most of the people he treated were drunken or mad and homeless). But soon the intermittent screaming set off a warning buzzer in his head. Reluctant to leave a patient in surgery, but seeing no other alternative, he gently placed the scalpel on the table and peeled off his gloves.

"Monitor his vitals," he said to the nurse who had been assisting him.

She nodded her acknowledgement as he walked out of the sterile surgical area. He took off his mask as he stepped through the door. The sounds of disturbance were growing nearer and nearer. Finally, he reached the source of the apparent turmoil, the waiting room.

Alexander was stunned to see half a dozen Oxen in his waiting room. (Members of the Fellowship had earned the informal nickname "Oxen" because of their symbol, the blue Ox.) His astonishment quickly turned to fear as he saw what the Oxen were doing. They were all holding weapons and were picking off his patients one by one. There were bodies all over the floor.

One Ox, a huge blond fellow, leveled a Colt .45 at Alexander. He was so dismayed by the gory horror scene around him, he only noticed the weapon trained on him out of the periphery of his vision.

"Wait! Put down your gun!"

The shout brought Alexander's full attention to the blond giant and the man next to him, a smaller, bearded man. The bearded man, who was apparently the leader of the group, had let out the yell. An unswerving loyalty apparently existed between the two, because the blond immediately and without hesitation obeyed the other's order.

The bearded man slowly, purposefully made a circuitous route over to Alexander. His unhurried motions disturbed Alexander more than anything else. Murderers, even sociopaths, tended to be nervous and fidgety after committing a crime, but this man was perfectly calm and collected. The only explanation for it was that he had no conscience.

The man gave Alexander a quick, cursory survey when he finally got near to him. He grabbed Alexander's lab coat and read the pin which contained his name. He then held the lab coat so that he could take a look at the rest of Alexander's clothes. He took particular notice of the quality and apparent expense of his shoes, shirt, and tie. He still seemed indecisive, but had apparently reached a conclusion about Alexander.

"Are you indeed Alexander Tennett, head doctor of this free clinic?" the bearded man asked.

"The only doctor," Alexander said, "So yes."

"So you do make money, although probably only nominal earnings?"

Alexander straightened out his posture into a dignified Hippocratic stance.

“The fact that I am saving lives is more important than any monetary reward.”

“You’re saving useless lives, in fact, lives that are a drain on society,” the man said, without a second’s hesitation.

“All lives have meaning,” Alexander said.

“A very noble sentiment. Well, Doctor, you may be forced to ‘do no harm’ but I have never taken such an oath. I have no scruples about cutting the dead branches off a tree in order to save that tree. In this case, the tree is society, and the branches are your patients here.”

“You’re out of your mind,” Alexander said in a quiet, disturbing voice, which was scarier than if he had screamed in anger.

The bearded man smiled maliciously.

“It’s funny. You probably live in a tiny, one-room hovel, either abandoned by all your loved ones or unable to support them and so they resent you. The reason for that is that you work here, wasting your precious gift on these worthless bums, rather than in a hospital, where you can save decent, hard-working people as well as be able to make good money. You could probably be rich, happy, and prosperous. But no. These bums have dragged you down into their bog.

"It's ironic. You help keep the poor healthy. But you can't keep yourself from being poor," then, filling himself with an actor's melodrama, he quoted the Bible, "'Physician, heal thyself!'”

"You're deluded," Alexander said, "You've convinced yourself that you're righteous. All of you! You're all so ignorant, you've managed to justify for yourselves murder," then he turned on the bearded man to show that he could give as well as he could take and said, "'Forgive them, Lord, they know not what they do.'"

"Someday you'll appreciate the good we've done here," the bearded man said, then he turned to his followers and said, "Come on, let's go."

The Oxen began filing out and the bearded man smiled, pleased with the terror he had wrought. Alexander fell to his knees, and for the first time, lost his composure. He began sobbing, overwhelmed by the sheer loss of life. He lamented how worthless all the work he had done to patch these people together had been when only a few moments later it had all been undone. When all the Oxen except for the blond giant and the bearded leader had left, the leader turned to follow them out the door. The massive hand of the last Ox fell on his shoulder, stopping him in his tracks.

"Adrian," the blond addressed him in a thick German accent, and for the first time Alexander knew the monster's name, "What about him?"

The blond, filled with loathing, jabbed one thumb over his shoulder to indicate Alexander Tennett. Adrian looked over at the broken doctor.

"What about him? He works, so we'll leave him alone. We're not savages."

"Yes!" Tennett suddenly exclaimed furiously, "You're very discriminating in who you murder! You're bigots!"

"Bigots?" Adrian scoffed, "Hardly. We come from all places, all castes, all backgrounds, all persuasions, all religions. We are a perfect rainbow of unity and tolerance."

"Yes, united in the destruction of a scapegoat!"

His patience waning, Adrian said, "We hold the guns, Doctor, so watch your tongue."

"Sir!" the blond hissed, injecting himself back into the conversation, "I say he's just as bad as any bum. He heals them. He keeps them alive, so they can keep on loafing."

A glimmer came to Adrian's eye because the idea had struck him as brilliant.

"If we want to end homelessness," Adrian said slowly, "We must destroy not just the bums, but the people who perpetuate the bums. Yes, I agree, Duke. Shoot him."

"Gladly, sir."

As the weapon was raised and the trigger pulled, Alexander was swamped with images. He could hear the screams of every patient he had been unable to save. He saw the mangled, bloody bodies of the slaughter which had just occurred. He could see his late wife in her casket, looking so peaceful, so at ease. So much death... But the last thing he saw before he died was his daughter, Sally, who would now be an orphan. He only hoped that she, at least, would live.

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