The patient was lying on his back unconscious on the operating table. The doctor made an incision cutting him in half, horizontally, like a child traces the outline of a supine sidekick. He started with the scalpel at the patient’s left-hand thumb, traced up his arm, over the shoulder, the top of the head, down his other arm and leg and back up to the left-hand pinky.
The doctor had invited us as students to observe the operation. Not a normal doctor, but an important doctor. Far more important and esteemed than any general practitioner or anesthesiologist.
Once the scalpel reached back to the pinky, the doctor peeled open the layer of skin leaving it connected only at the finger tips of the left hand. The inside of this person was a thick, thick bundle of paper like a human-shaped book. Immediately, the doctor went to work, tossing hundreds and thousands of these internal pages back and forth. Sometimes he took a few seconds to look and other times he barely glanced at what the pages held before roughly shuffling them to the side.
“Ah,” he said under his breath slammed the sheaves open to a page of shallow water. Peaks of waves like grabbing hands lapped and tossed over the edges of the body-a rowdy child’s bath. Without gloves, the doctor plunged his fist in and removed what looked like a marble rolling in the tub.
He turned away from the page five hundred pages deeper until he opened upon one containing huge labyrinth. An assistant handed the doctor a pair of magnifying glasses that he used to examine the convoluted corridors and helical stairs. Hummed to himself and then he placed the marble inside one of the passages and turned far to another chapter.
One page opened and a burst of intestines and mucus spurt out of the body and into the air. The assistant picked the guts off the floor and handed them back to the doctor who thrust them back in, shoved them down, and weighted pages atop like a lid- like a jack-in-the-box containing the organs.
Thumbing and slamming through reams, the doctor found another marble. Half of the sphere was frozen in a perfectly flat plane of ice. The doctor leaned close to it, breathed a hot breath and gripped the marble out of the frost. “Where was it?” He licked his fingers, flipped some pages at the corner, and found his mark.
That page was an open well. Rocks ringed the outer rim of the patient’s shell and the inside was a deep, deep well. “Once frozen and still... but now...” The doctor dropped the marble down the well. We never heard a sound of contact.
“And... how many more?” The doctor asked his assistant.
“Ah, right. And... here.” Landed right on a page filled with thousands of the marbles. He spent a significant amount of time choosing a specific marble, digging and burrowing down until he found one he deemed proper. And again he was off, like a mad researcher in a library.
This final page took him the longest to locate. The doctor would go deep, incessantly into the patient’s inner-volume, thousands and thousands of pages at a time, and then go back almost to where he started until he finally happened upon a page of dry, small snaking and weaving roots. He picked up a trough from his supplies and brushed away the dirt until a crack of light appeared. Dug some more and then a small hole of light shone through the veins in the soil. “Bring the camera for this,” said the doctor.
The assistant held a thin probing camera and slid it into the soil’s glowing gap. Displayed on screens hanging from the ceiling, for all of us students, was the inside of the page: an infinite expanse of forest with a lambent sun glimmering gold through the foliage. All of it reversed. The trees were growing downward to us, but up to the sky in their world.
I got incredibly dizzy. The doctor dropped the marble from above and it halted in the hole, floating in the middle of the two worlds. It was caught between our gravity and the forest’s inverted gravity. He eyed the audience to see the effect. Then, the doctor took his hand, gripped the sphere and pushed through the hole in the soil into the forest-world. The camera showed us how his forearm swayed with a sea-sickness from existing in both opposing gravities. He regained control and nestled the marble in the grassy side of the soil. The marble remained on the ground, obeying the laws of the inverted gravity.
As quickly as he began, the doctor slammed the skin closed on the patient’s book of a body and sewed him shut. Once the patient was wheeled away on a gurney the doctor washed his hands. With a firm voice, an impatient temper, he told us all to leave. And we did.