by Graham B.
A dark twist on a medical procedure.
Tara picks her way past the dumpster and upended trash cans, checking each recessed door for the right number. Gusts of wind blow down the alley, whipping her red hair across her face. She pulls her parka closer and keeps walking until suddenly, there it is. Number six.
It has an "XO" on the door, just like Valerie said it would.
Tara cautiously makes her way to the door, which opens just as she is about to knock. A tall, gaunt woman wearing steel-rimmed glasses stares at her through the gap.
"Valerie told me to come here," says Tara.
The woman opens the door wider, grabs Tara by the arm with surprising strength, and draws her inside.
"We've been expecting you," she says. "I'm Nurse Jo."
Tara looks around. The room is filthy and cramped, filled with trash on the floor, and cabinets containing jars with milky fluids inside. Shadows drift within the fluids. In the center of the room is a table, like an examination table. It has stirrups. Another battered door graces the far wall. A flickering fluorescent light casts a greenish light over all.
At least they have a real nurse, thinks Tara.
"Can you help me with..." she begins, and trails off.
"The doctor will be here in a moment," says Nurse Jo. "How far along are you?"
"About three weeks," says Tara.
"Three weeks," says Nurse Jo, and Tara detects a faint smile. "Perfect."
The second door opens and a short, bald man wearing a white coat enters. He grins at Tara.
"You're here," he says. "No sense in wasting time. Let's get to it."
His eyes dropped to Tara' s belly, and Tara sees his tongue dart out and wet his lips.
Something is not right about that tongue, she thinks.
"I'm not sure about this," said Tara. "I need time to think about it."
There is a sharp prick on her shoulder, and she gasps. Whirling, she sees Nurse Jo holding a syringe.
"Just something to help you relax," says Nurse Jo.
The room begins to tumble around Tara, like she is in a washing machine. She stumbles. Nurse Jo and the doctor guide her to the table. They lay her down and put her legs in the stirrups.
"I-I'm just not sure," she says, slurring her words.
"It'll be over in moments," says the doctor.
"Where are your... you know... tools?"
"Don't need any."
His eyes are swimming, the pupils getting very big, turning to slits. His grin stretches even wider as he steps between Tara's legs, hiking her skirt up. Tara can see, even through the fog of drugs, that his head has somehow changed shape, becoming squat and snake-like, the tongue forked and darting: in-and-out... in-and-out...