Blackwater Institute finally replaced its last two-way mirrors with closed circuit cameras, removing the distraction of massive dark windows in the rooms which occasionally triggered violent reactions from the inmates. Macy bent over a large light table piecing together a series of still shots from the latest photos to create a life-sized Goode homolosine projection of Patient E’s body. She was adding small, round, stickers to each mole, each freckle, each skin tag. Each skin blemish was identified with a different colored marker.
Macy was looking for patterns within each type of lesion, when that turned up nothing helpful, she switched to measuring dimensions thinking there may be a typographical element. After hours of studying Patient E’s particularly unique epidermis, Macy pushed away from the table in frustration.
Slumped forward in her chair, rubbing throbbing temples, Macy jumped when she noticed Dom standing in front of her. Silently swearing at his creepy stealth, she peered up at him waiting for an explanation for his intrusion.
Dom held out a steaming mug of coffee, a sheepish grin unsuccessfully covering his discomfort.
The photographic images of Patient E’s body, pieced together as it was, naked as it was, resembled a bloodless autopsy. Dom diverted his eyes, pink rising on his cheeks.
Macy accepted the offering without giving any sign of appreciation. She liked keeping Dom on edge knowing the Institute’s work disturbed him. Other humanoid cartographers would turn off their light tables when Dom was around, Macy never did. She refused to hand-hold the intern. He had to get over his squeamishness, an anathema to their chosen profession. Dismembering and reassembling bodies, even through one-dimensional mapping, was not for the weak.
“I heard the docs in-processed a batch of fresh crazies,” Macy said, taking a long gulp of coffee. ‘I hope these nut jobs give up better intel.”
“You shouldn’t use that word,” Dom said in a voice just above a whisper.
“What word, ‘crazies,’ or ‘nut job’’?” Macy said.
She put her coffee on the table, the lamp bright enough to illuminate the inside of her mug.
“Both,” he said.
Macy grinned, surprised he chastised her, but pleased he stood up for himself.
“Look at this, Dom,” Macy said, moving aside. “Tell me what you see.”
Dom stood back from the table, hands in his pockets.
“This is only a photograph of Patient E,” Macy said. “She is very much in one piece, and very much alive.”
Macy thought she would have to physically draw him forward. Once at the table, Dom finally looked the body map.
“What are all these stickers?” he asked.
“I’m attempting to find patterns,” Macy said, “anything that will decipher Patient E’s cryptogram. I still can’t work out the key.”
Forgetting his apprehension, Dom studied the map.
“Can I remove these?” he asked.
With a nod from Macy, Dom began peeling off the markers.
He moved around the table, examining the map from every angle. He stepped back, narrowing his eyes.
“Is there a way to turn down the brightness?” He bent down to look across the map from ground level. “Can I draw on this?”
Macy brought out a large sheet of acetate and laid it over the map.
Dom grabbed a handful of Sharpie pens from a tray and began connecting moles and freckles, outlining hexagons and pentagons. These shapes he then joined to form an elaborate chemical compound.
“That is brilliant, Dom,” Macy said. “Do you know what that represents?”
“I do,” he said, all pink, all color draining from his face. “Patient E is Armageddon Plague Patient Zero.”
4 thoughts on “Body of work”
Ooo, fascinating idea of a chemical compound pattern hidden in the marks of a person’s body. Also like the cynical doc vs the sensitive intern. But she was willing to indulge his theories, so maybe she’s a softy on the inside. : )
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This is brilliant! I liked it very much.
Thank you, A.J.