A Tale of Dismemberment
Tim Donlan
November 7, 2003

I got home at a half past six and placed my bag on the
kitchen table. I lifted out the flesh cutter by its top
handle, and quickly looked it over before setting it

It was moderately heavy, about the size of a vacuum
cleaner. A long think power cord snaked out from the
smooth plastic side panel. I plugged it in and
immediately my apartment was filled with a low drone,
almost a groaning. The long blade at the front pulsed as
it vibrated. I shut the thing off for a second and sat
down with a sigh.

It really hadn’t been that hard to take. Working
nights at the hospital lab had its perks – free
samples of extra narcotics, self-exam software, cool toys
to check out. And this flesh cutter topped them all. I
wasn’t sure if it was a prototype or something
classified. Regardless, I’d be the first one to test

I figured it was intended for large-scale surgery work,
amputations and the like. The blade was nearly two feet
long at full extension. The flesh cutter worked by
coating the blade with some sort of organic polymer,
which stretched across the wound like saran wrap. No
blood, no mess, just a perfectly clean laceration,
already beginning to heal.

Out of habit, I put my pinkie in my mouth, gnawing the
mole on my knuckle. That was the impetus for my scheme:
cut the damn mole off and save myself the doctor’s
appointment fees.

I rose and walked over to the table, eyeing warily the
machine like a sleeping beast. It’s internals;
wires, circuit boards and pipes, were barely covered by
the black plastic shell. I bit my lip with a smirk, moved
the blade down to three inches and flicked it on.

It was marvelously light in my hands, gyroscopes in the
handle balancing the quivering blade. I could see the
tubing that pumped the gooey polymer onto the blade, but
the edge itself was as fine as a razor.

Without any hesitation I swiped the knife across the mole
on my pinkie. I felt nothing; there was no resistance to
the knife. There was only a small plop as my extricated
mole dropped to the table.

Setting down the cutter, I examined my handiwork. The
side of my finger was smooth. No remnants of the growth
remained. Only a flat red dot gleamed dully where it had
been. I peered into it, intrigued, a window into my
flesh. The blood did not appear to coagulate; it
continued to flow past the tissue and through it.

Curious, I picked up the fallen piece of flesh on the
table. It quivered as I pinched it in my fingers, still
containing its own blood supply. This strange curiosity
filled me, a fascination with my own bodily self. On
impulse, I raised the quivering blade to the tip of my
left pinkie and cleanly cut it off.

Again, the pain I had anticipated did not come. There was
no resistance to the knife edge. All that occurred was a
coating on my flesh, and again a perfect cross-section of
my flesh. I could clearly see the tip of my bone, not
wholly white but a bit grayish. Vessels of blood ended
abruptly into the polymer coating. The layer of fat below
the skin was a yellow ring around my finger, quite a
contrast to the red tissue beneath.

I bent my finger and watches as the tendon arced through
tiny canals of flesh, muscles maneuvering to manipulate
it. I tapped on the clear polymer surface, registering
only a faint tingling on the inside, and regular touch
nearer the surface.

The perfectly spliced nerve endings were less dense in
the muscle tissue, which would explain the painless
process. But my fascination with my anatomy grew. This
machine was dizzyingly exciting, a marvel of medical
technology. Were there limits on what could be cut away?
What new windows could I create into my own flesh,
doorways to my innermost physical core?

With a wild smirk, I quickly swept the flesh cutter
across my left arm halfway between my elbow and wrist. My
entire arm tingled as my hand suddenly fell away. It
crashed against the corner of the table, the fingers
appearing to grab on, then falling to the floor.

My excitement was profound, yet I was torn on which end I
would examine first, my clean stump or my fallen
appendage. I twisted my left elbow towards my gaze as I
bent to grab the hand. It was quite heavy, yet still very

The stump was an incredible sight. The fatty tissue
blended into the muscle of my forearm in a pinkish
gradient. The thick cable-like arteries themselves had
fatty linings, and I could see them expand and contract
with my pulse. The darker hued veins began to go dry near
the tips, but a multitude of capillaries still fed them,
tributaries to my cardial riverways. Radius and ulna
bones jutted at odd angles to each other. Lacking the
fixation point of my wrist, their tension pushed them
farther apart.

Of course the polymer coating was extremely strong and
durable, preventing the tissue from stretching,
preserving the integrity of my internals.

I had practically forgotten the dangling hand in my
grasp, but it suddenly felt heavy. I set it down on the
table, next to the body of the machine. On a whim I used
the flesh cutter to peel away the skin around the wrist.
I now had a smooth plastic bracelet, revealing the
intricate joints of the wrist and hand. Bending the base
of the hand, I was amazed to see the fingers jerk and
jump. Their respective tendons were firmly attached to
the polymer wall, ten in all, two for each finger.

I faintly smiled as I stood up again. The sun was
beginning to rise, shards of illumination slicing through
my window blinds.

The flesh cutter was still droning through the house, so
I shut it off for a second. Amazingly, the thing produced
no heat at all. I checked the polymer indicator. It still
had a good 95% left in its holding tanks. Good to go.

I grabbed the blade handle and flicked a release, making
the knife shoot out to full length. Now it was a sword in
my hands. With the power back on, the gleaming edge
became only a blur, a distortion of the air.

I stripped off my pants and with a quick strong swipe my
right leg tottered and fell. It twitched for a second,
nerves and muscles suddenly losing contact with the
spinal column and my brain. It was strangely freeing now,
balancing on one leg. Tingling sensations resounded
through my body where my appendages once were. It felt as
though they were still there, phantoms.

I was rapidly aware that my perceptions were growing
sharper; that each new breathed filled me with a power I’d
never known. The loss of my arm and leg had tremendously
reduced the miles of blood my heart had to pump,
lightened the load on my entire cardial system. My brain
was being filled with strongly oxygenated blood faster
than ever.

Then the impulse struck me again. What must my brave
heart look like, sitting in its ribcage, beating away
with no concept of time and no sign of tiring? Why must
it labor in the dark, when it could satiate my anatomical

I sliced my shirt in two with an easy flick of my wrist,
and watched as it fell from my shoulders. I stood in
front of the large dining room mirror, watched as the
skin on my chest rose and fell with each breath, marveled
at the rhythmic beating of my heart.

I had to be careful here, this was a delicate business.
Severing a major artery or punching a hole in a vesicle
would mean death. And I wasn’t here for that.

As though merely shaving the hair on my chest, I cut
through the pectoral muscles, removed the skin from my
sternum across my nipple to my armpit and navel. The
ribcage poked through the gleaming and wet remaining
muscle tissue, and I could see the surface of my heaving
lungs beneath.

This was where things got tricky. One by one, I sawed
through each rib, digging it out and removing it, encased
in its own plastic wrap coating. I identified the major
arteries snaking through the flesh. My mind was hot wired
into my task though, over oxygenated, over stimulated and

And then as the last rib was peeled away, there it was,
the workhorse of my check, my heart. With each deep
breath I could feel the blood moving through my arteries,
feel the surging of energy, impetus for creative impulse
and exploration.

With so much excess cut away, I was reducing myself to an
untainted form. Organs freed of their dark confines, the
bloody cavities and fatty tissue. The purity of having my
wonderful organic machines truly freed overwhelmed me.

I had come so far, but I had so much to go. I could just
imagine lying down, my backbone bisected down the center,
and my beautiful blue spinal cord arrayed in front of me.
Of course I’d have to move my liver and intestines
out of the way. Like a majestic painting, life in motion,
I would be displayed as an exhibit to myself, all encased
in a clear plastic bag of organic polymers.

Unexpectedly, something shifted within me. I saw it
briefly as my heart practically jumped out of my chest. I
lurched forward and darkness clouded my eyes. When I
rose, I was wracked with coughs, and I could not catch my
breath. The flesh in my chest had dramatically shifted;
my heart had sunk downward from its noble perch. My lungs
bulged out, pushing the beating organ downward.

Without the stability of my chest muscles and ribcage, it
was if these vital machines were being tossed about in a
plastic sack. They lacked placement, succumbing to
gravity, turning into a single mushy mass.

I blacked out again, and my hand must have slipped,
because suddenly I was without my remaining foot. I fell,
the room still spinning. The last view I had of my face
as I fell backwards, and away from the mirror, was a
twisted smirk, both of desperation and of triumph.

So now I lay here. I’m a legless invalid,
self-inflicted. I still hold the katana blade in my right
hand. My fingers are still whole, wrist still able and
strong and useful. My appendages are arrayed about me
like artwork, and I can only imagine with glee the horror
that will confront any would be rescuers. My heart still
beats, though faintly, underneath an overlapping liver
and twisted lungs. The machine drones on, filling the
apartment with an almost peaceful cacophony.

And now the sun rises, overwhelming the flimsy window
blinds with its luminescence. My flayed body glistens in
the sunlight, and the splendor is vast

Perhaps in time, when my introspection subsides, I’ll
gather the strength to contact the emergency services,
and they can attempt to make me whole again.

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