by Lindsi McIntyre
“If I try to remove it you will die.”
The shard buried deep in Catherine’s chest writhed at the unwelcome news, sending waves of pain slicing through her flesh. “But, you’re the best specialist in Iris. Isn’t there anything you can do?”
Doctor Graham frowned. “It’s too large, too close to your heart for me to operate.”
He walked to the far wall where several glass cylinders rested. Inside each one, a small crystal perched on tiny metal arms. He lifted the dome from one and picked up the rock.
Catherine recognized the pale blue stone from her previous visit. The doctor had positioned her in front of a large machine and told her to hold very still. The stone had appeared in the machine shortly after. She had no idea how the thing worked, but it would somehow allow him to see the shard without having to operate on her first. For which she was grateful.
The doctor placed the same stone into a smaller device that rested on the countertop. This one had metal arms similar to the cylinder and a base that was three times bigger than the stone. The wall behind it had been painted black.
He lit a tiny candle and slid it into the base. Firelight poured into the stone and bounced out the side. An image appeared upon the darkened wall. White lines like a witch’s fingers enclosed a dark space. Catherine could faintly make out three shapes held within. The shape nearest the center was slightly clearer than the others. Near it, a stark white sliver, like a broken piece of glass, sliced through the image.
“This is your heart.” Doctor Graham swept his hand over the picture. “And this, of course, is the shard growing inside your chest cavity. Do you see how it crosses over your heart?”
“Surgery is simply too risky,” he said, removing the candle.
The picture disappeared. Catherine fought to breathe past the lump growing in her throat. The shard’s razor sharp edge dug deeper into her flesh sending waves of stabbing pain through her body.
Doctor Graham returned to his chair in front of the examination table where Catherine sat. He sighed and distractedly smoothed down the grey hairs at his temple. “I wish I could help you. I’ve never seen a shard this big. Most of my patients have shards the size of splinters that cause only moderate discomfort. Frankly, I’m surprised you can even move considering the pain you must be in.”
Catherine swiped at the tears that escaped onto her cheeks.
His wrinkled eyes filled with compassion. “There are alternatives to surgery. Medication, being the most effective. I can give you a prescription. However, the dose would need to be high for it to relieve your level of pain. You would likely become addicted over time.”
Catherine shuddered. She had seen many addicts during her early years when living in the lower city. “No. That’s a terrible way to live.”
“True,” he replied, getting to his feet.
Their time was up.
Panic sent her heart into a frenzy, inching it closer to her shard, nearly doubling her over from the pain. Catherine stood and followed the doctor to the door, hiding the sudden attack as best she could. This couldn’t be the end. Removing the shard was the only way she could live a happy life. If it couldn’t be removed…
Why live at all?
He reached the door, stopped and turned to her. “If you change your mind, let me know. We might be able to figure out a dose that will work for you. Reduce your risks.”
“Thank you,” she replied flatly.
He held the door open for her. She stepped past him into his waiting room, chin held high to prevent the tears that were gathering in her eyes from spilling out down her cheeks. There’s nothing he can do. And if there was nothing he could do to help, there was nothing anyone could do.
The large room was filled with patients who all hoped to have a shard removed. An uptown man in a sharp, blue suit read a newspaper next to a working woman in a ragged brown dress. A child bounced in his chair, talking loudly to his mother and drawing a scowl from the old man sitting beside them.
From the greatest to the least, no one was immune to the shards.
All eyes turned her way.
Catherine kept her gaze straight ahead as she made her way to the exit. Her shard, fueled by her hopelessness, twisted and squirmed. Her breath hitched. Sobs fought to break through her resolve. Catherine hurried outside before anyone could notice her tears.
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