“Mr and Mrs Dalton? The doctor will see you now.”
The voice of the nurse snaps me out of the chemical sleep I’ve been fighting all day. The wheelchair I’m currently occupying is uncomfortable and squeaks when my parents push me towards the doctor’s office. “I’m here against my will!” I want to shout to people crossing our path, but I’m not strong enough. We enter the office, and my parents sit as far as possible from me. Both of them can’t really hide the fact that they are scared of me.
“Thank you for receiving us so quickly,” says my mother.
“I’m happy to oblige. I know this case is urgent,” replies the doctor, a tall red bearded man. “Is this…?”
“Justin,” she confirms. “He’ll be eighteen tomorrow.”
“The procedure needs to happen today before we lose control of him,” adds my father.
One more day and I would have been free of their rules and their judgment. Instead I’m here, trapped in a medicated body and waiting for the verdict.
“Let me explain what’s going to happen then,” says the doctor cheerfully.
He moves his computer screen towards us and starts a slideshow entitled “Behavioural Surgery.” The first image shows a sketch of a brain, with some areas highlighted. On the next slide, an animated picture shows a drill being applied to the skull.
“Our emotions are governed by a part of our limbic system called the amygdala; therefore, most bad behaviours are directly originated there. For this procedure, we pierce a hole at the basis of the skull and introduce a needle to reach the amygdala. A sample of stem cells is gently squeezed in and immediately attaches to the host. After a few hours, the cells will have replicated enough to hijack the function of the amygdala and disrupt the impulses that we want to suppress. When the patient wakes up, the undesirable behaviour will have been totally erased.”
“What’s the success rate?” asks my father.
“It varies, but we reach ninety percents for pathological liars and procrastinators. We have excellent results with chronic whiners, as well as anarchists and feminists. I must say that this case is a little special, however, and Justin is older than most of our subjects. We’ll have to up the dosage drastically.”
“Is it gonna hurt him?”
As if they are really concerned by that! They have stopped caring for me a long time ago.
“Not at all. The procedure happens entirely under anaesthesia. I can testify of this myself: I’ve had removed some unpleasant ethical turmoils when I joined this practice. Totally painless.”
I see my parents nodding, relaxing with every reassurance. This is going to happen; nobody is going to interfere for me. My own parents are going to let this doctor meddle with my brain, just because they don’t like who I am. The unfairness of the situation makes me want to cry, and I don’t listen to the rest of the conversation. I briefly rebel when I feel the sting of a needle in my arm, but the previous medication is still potent enough to render me powerless. After that, I blackout.
When I wake up, my head feels like it’s been carved out like a pumpkin at Halloween. The room around is lit enough for me to infer that I’m alone. My parents didn’t bother to be here.
Curiously, I’m not sad or angry about it. It’s weird: I can’t feel anything at all. No relief at having survived this barbaric act, no hatred at what these adults have done to me, no rebellion, nothing. The surgery has worked, I realise. They have removed my emotions, all my emotions. I’d like to panic right now, but even fear is refused to me.
I don’t have time to dwell on my situation as the door opens, and the doctor lets himself in.
“Justin, you are finally awake! You’ve been out for almost two days, but the scans indicate that the procedure has worked. One of my finest jobs!”
A cough prevents me from replying, and I reach for a glass of water on the bedside table, but my wrist is stopped by a handcuff. I hadn’t even noticed I was restrained.
“I’m sorry about that,” says the doctor, coming closer and grabbing a key to free me. “We had to take precautions before we knew it had worked.”
I throw myself at the glass and appease my throat with quick gulps. My cough recedes, and I can think clearly again. The doctor is still by my side, and it only takes me a second to grab him and put him in a headlock. I break the empty glass, collecting the biggest shard, and I hold it under the doctor’s throat.
“But…” he whines, “we cured you, Justin! We removed all your anger and hate, all emotions that fuelled your murderous rage!”
“You might be an exceptional doctor,” I say coldly, “but your hypothesis was wrong.”
I can feel his fear seeping through his pores as he’s starting to understand.
“I do not kill because I’m angry. I kill because it is my purpose in life. And that is not an emotion.”
He tries to wriggle out of my grasp, but I have had years of experience. I maintain a firm grip on him. He might be taller, but I’m much more determined.
“Actually,” I add, “you have made me more efficient. Before all this, I would have probably killed you out of rage as soon as you entered this room, but now I think I will take my time, test a few ideas, be more creative. Thanks for removing the only thing that stood between me and the perfection of my skills.”
Holding the shard firmly in my palm, I start the first of what will be many liberating cuts in the doctor’s skin. If I could feel joy, this would be the happiest moment of my life.