“What makes you think they’ll take my case here, Mama?”
Aki’s fingers are clutched tightly over the blanket that wraps his shriveled legs. I take his hands in mine and squeeze. The air-conditioning is a few degrees too warm and I don’t want Aki to interpret my clammy palms as nerves.
“Don’t worry. This particular Homo Reptilian doctor excels at Regeneration Therapy.”
It’s the sixth alien specialist, and with each rejection I’ve watched the flames of hope slowly flicker and vanish from his eyes. Each rejection comes after hearing the same set of words from my mouth. Aki returns a non-committal nod in my direction that shears my heart into pieces.
The glass door slides open and the pediatrician enters. His red reptilian scales are striking against his pristine white lab-coat. His yellow eyes track across the screen of his medi-pad for the longest minute of my life before he clears his throat.
“We were unable to contact some of the patients before Aki on the queue.” He meets our gaze; first Aki’s, then mine. The doctor holds it longer than normal, and I fear he knows about the hack I made into their record systems. Did he find out about the mail I fabricated to the rest of the treatment participants… about the fake meeting to discuss options moving forward with their various RTs?
Were their bodies found?
Would Aki understand that it was all to give him a chance to walk again? If he’s lucky, maybe return to track in a few years. Would anybody ever understand the pain that threatens to swallow me whole whenever I hear his frustrated screams from behind his locked door? The hollow smiles that never reach his eyes anymore?
When the pediatrician finally opens his mouth to speak, a thousand scenarios run through my head, none of which end in congratulation. I see the alien doctor shake his head in that manner they always do… like they understand. I see myself rise, eyes watchful of the cam on the wall as I push the doctor towards the door he’d emerged from. I know my hands will reach into my bag, and the grip on the pocket knife will not dither.
The doctor’s medi-pad will fall, and I will snap at Aki to pick it. He will hesitate—he’s always been a kind boy—and I will yell. The doctor will try to scream, but my blade will meet his skin, and his fine red scales will nick in warning. Aki will snap out of it, wheeling himself towards me as he picks up the pad and we enter his office.
Aki passes the medi-pad to me. I gesture to the doctor. He knows what he has to do… if he values his life.
Then I imagine, backed into a corner, the doctor voices out the singular judgment only my conscience has spoken over the last few days.
“Your actions have ruined your son’s life…”
My thoughts snap back into focus. Aki’s fingers are wrapped around mine and his eyes are misted over. There’s a different kind of emotion in them, one I’d yearned to see for so long I’d nearly forgotten. Was it… hope?
“I was talking about fixing a date for him to begin his RT. First we’ll need his body to get used to the Homo Reptilian genes before attempting complete regeneration of his legs…”
The information is too much; I only need one piece of news now. Just one.
“So you’re taking my son’s case?”
The pediatrician smiles.
This story first appeared in 365 Tomorrows, 2021.
Edited by Marie Ginga.
Uchechukwu Nwaka studies Medicine and Surgery at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. His work is set to appear in Occult Detective Magazine, Cossmass Infinities and Mythaxis Magazine. When he’s not trying to unravel the mysteries of human (or inhuman) interaction, he can be found working on his first novel, or generally trying to catch up on schoolwork. Find him on Twitter.