Compulsion: A Short Story

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Compulsion: A Short Story
(Los Angeles Times/MCT 2012)

Expressions Editor

Dr. Watson put on the all too familiar blue disposable rubber gloves, his operating team already waiting by the table.


“She’s already sedated?” He asked one member of the team, standing over the woman’s peaceful looking body. The surgeon nodded.  

“Alright, let’s begin.”


A deep breath followed by an engrossed glance took a nostalgic Watson back to moments dissipating without goodbyes; the way she slept, silent and pure, her breath undulating and rolling, blending with the wind. Now, however, the deep sleep that took her away was different. It was too artificial for his liking, too mechanical for him to see beyond the barrier that masked her drained, colorless lips. Interesting, how despite the countless orchestrated surgeries, he had never so bitterly despised the mask until it clamped onto her face. Funny, how a love he never believed in erased his name as a surgeon and bestowed upon him the title of butcher.

She was an acquired taste, a distinct beauty, if you will. Hardly noticeable amongst the crowd of gold diggers surging through the rooms of the hollow house that night. Arriving reluctantly, dressed in the cliché suit, one sleeve cuffed, the other abandoned, Watson played the part – however poorly – regardless of the fact that he had no idea what his script was. He floated through the night, a misplaced ghost, constructing a path of bad jokes to test them, the women, that is, who returned the favor with fake laughs reeking of political correctness. Only one woman passed the test. She didn’t laugh, hell, she barely humored him with her slight chuckle. She didn’t grant him the satisfaction of pretending. After that there was the countdown, darkness, kisses and a subtle smell of coffee mixed with perfume.

What they had was nameless, lacking of title and plagued with finiteness, but, nonetheless, it proved to be the siren that never failed to draw them closer every single time. He understood her. He understood her mysterious coded expressions and he hoped one day she could understand him the same, but just not yet. Nobody, not even she, could begin to understand this thirst, triggering the constant string of vengeance…


As he watched her now, he took note of her now shielded warmth, entirely unreachable as a drapery of blue enveloped her, engulfing every last bit – save a small square right above her breast. He made the first incision.


“Vitals?” he asked the interning surgeon next to him.

“All normal,” replied the young man.

Watson’s fingers lightly brushed his apron’s pocket and he felt a tiny square bulge. It shocked him, knowing instantly what it was. What pained him, though, was the relentless reality of his constant habit of lying to himself – Why would I even think of bringing it? Maybe if there were no artificial barriers, no mask to hide her face or blanket to hide her body, he wouldn’t need to lie. If she were there right next to him instead, awake, telling him not to do it, then he would even put the chip in his own heart to make her happy. Yet the devil’s advocate always seemed to taunt Watson the loudest of all:

Nobody questioned it when the cold war spy who convicted his mother collapsed from a spontaneous heart attack a year after his operation. Watson wasn’t there for the heart attack; he was in his room, holding the little box that triggered a tiny electrical surge from the chip he had placed into the spy’s heart a year before. He had kept it, cherished it, since the day he convinced his co-worker to let him have this operation because the spy was was his “friend from his past.” The death didn’t necessarily satisfy Watson, but the blood on his hands made him feel powerful. Later, he decided to expand his realm of control and make more of the chips he used on that spy. His reputation was growing, important people were flooding in and he couldn’t resist the temptation of controlling their every move. Who would’ve thought that such a small chip, such a light push of a button could yield the such destruction. A painless death…

Each chip amongst its countless companions dwelling in his underground basement had its own switch. Always growing, the accumulated collection symbolized the utter irony Watson frequently found himself wading neck high in: a heart surgeon using chips to cause heart attacks—one for the books.


He adjusted his mask, moving it slightly higher over his nose.

“Scalpel.” Watson put his hand out, itching for the feeling of familiar cold metal handle.

“How much lower would her heart rate have to be in order to have to give another adrenaline shot?”

“Around 20 beats per minute lower I think, that would take another shot to get up to living conditions, right?” The resident surgeon looked unsure.


Thoughts roamed frantically across the plains of Watson’s mind throughout the course of the surgery. Today was different—it had to be.  It took all in his power to convince himself of his dominating devotion. He loved her. He had to love her. And yet, why did it still seem that there was never an opponent rivaling his unwavering obsession with the surge of power crowned upon him with every chip. What’s one more heart?


“Doctor, are you feeling okay?” The resident surgeon tapped Watson’s shoulder lightly.

“Yes, I’m alright.” He awakened from his daze, startled.


He truly loved her. He truly loved her. He thought over and over back to the party when he met her and to their time together in his home, hoping the memories would convince him not to do it. But he couldn’t shake away that the sterile smell of the surgical room was stronger than the smell of coffee and perfume.


Everyone was exhausted as they began to exit the room-it was done. He truly loved her, Watson thought, a small tear rolling down his cheek. His fingers lightly brushed his apron’s pocket, but he no longer felt the tiny square bulge.

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