Operating Theater Patient XR_6

Spyder Collins



Ethan woke up craning his neck.  He arched his back to stretch before exhaling loudly and attempting to rise. He realized he wasn’t in his room and whatever he was lying on had him confined. 

He could raise his head enough to see a dimly-lit room. Holding his head up, he looked over his surroundings. It was empty and dilapidated, carrying an eerie chill. Cockeyed lights swayed from the ceiling, pushed by an unfelt breeze. Shattered tiles littered the concrete floor. The battered walls were dingy and abused. Broken cabinet doors hung desperately by twisted hinges.

Ethan lay his head back down.  The pain in his neck began to worsen. 

A slight buzzing echoed, the kind old vending machines make. Squirming, he tried to free himself from whatever bound him. His movement caused the table to move and grate a heavy screech against the floor. Something stirred in a dark corner of the room. Ethan raised his head towards the sound. He stared wide-eyed into the gloom . 

A figure rose, somehow starker than the blackness. Ethan narrowed his eyes, concentrating on the figure. The outline suggested a tall, slender person. The movement was quivering. Oddly slow, and not like anything he recognized. Anticipation crept in as the figure drew closer to the light. Ethan leaned in as much as he could. He felt more restricted than ever. He pushed his head forward and discovered he couldn’t open his mouth.

Ethan fell back, producing another screech against the floor. The shriek canvassed the room. Ethan grimaced and instinctively reached for his ears, but couldn’t. He had controlled his panic thus far, but things were spiraling out of control. Violently, he fought against his unseen constraints. This time there was no shrill cry or motion in the dark. Instead, he was face to face with an unexplainable creature. 

The entire room seemed to shudder as the creature leaned in. Ethan made every attempt to bury deeper into the hard surface of his confinement. The thing inched closer, cocking its head to one side like it wanted to speak. But how could it? The creature’s face was hairless, scaly, and elongated, with no visible mouth and two large nostrils that overpowered its barely-visible black pools of eyes. The smell that poured from it was pungent and left a taste, one Ethan could not place. 

Everything went black.


Ethan jerked with fright. His eyes darted from side to side. He remained tethered, unable to move even his head this time. No mobility with the exception of his eyes. The room was still dim, with the same crooked lights rocking from an absent catalyst. The creature’s deep breaths filled the space. It hadn’t left. Ethan could sense stirring across the room. He did not know what was more concerning: his inability to move, or not being able to see what was going on. 

A mirror shifted over him, enormous, oval. It seemed out of place. The mirror was clean, shimmering in fact. Ethan could see his reflection lying on what appeared to be a surgical table. No visible restraints, nothing that would cause him to be immobile. 

Staring at his reflection and trying to understand what held him down, he failed to notice the creature standing next to him. 

Ethan, called a voice in his head.

The creature leaned over him. Ethan couldn’t see the creature, but only himself, in the mirror. How could that be? Ethan was helpless. All he could do was widen his eyes in fear. 

Your fear suits me, the voice in his head said.

What is this?

The creature’s lanky appendage floated from its side, appearing not a part of the creature’s body. It was scaly and emitted a suffocating odor. Only the appendage had a darker-colored tint. In its hand, between two serpent-like fingers, was a common laboratory tool: a pipette. 

Mocking, the voice in his head said, Keep still, Ethan.

The creature moved the pipette over Ethan’s face. He noticed neon green fluid sloshing inside. The creature tipped the pipette towards him, hovering over his left eye. Ethan attempted to close his eyes in fear. The right side could close, but his left remained wide open, seemingly eager for what was next. 


(1st drop) The neon substance slipped from the pipette, clinging to the glass, anticipating. Ethan waited, his eye wide and beckoning. A drop tumbled from the pipette, splashing into Ethan’s eye. His head jerked ever so, startled by the impact. Neon green coated the eye, pooling slightly at the bottom like a tear in waiting.

 Ethan waited . . . nothing. He opened his right eye to equal out the green tint that clouded his vision. The creature hadn’t moved and neither had the pipette.



(2nd drop) The liquid fell with ease from the pipette, drawn to the eye. Ethan waited helplessly. When the droplet made contact, there was almost a ripple. Like the first, the second drop coated the eye, and the excess retreated to the bottom where it collected with the first. Instead of rolling down Ethan’s cheek, the fluid retreated behind the eye.


Ethan remained quiet. His thoughts rambled from how he got here to why he was here. As he mentally retraced his steps, nothing out of the ordinary came to mind. He worked, but that was not unusual for him. It was the beginning of the flu season; a rush of hypochondriacs and actual people with the ailment flooded the clinic. No one at the clinic seemed abnormal.

I need your attention, Ethan, the voice inside his head snapped.




(3rd drop) The strange solution dangled from the pipette, stretching from the opening to just above Ethan’s eye until it resembled a green icicle. A feeling of terror overcame Ethan, will sinking and hope draining. The luminescent substance broke off from the pipette and shattered into a hundred shards—each penetrating the eye before softening and squirming about like worms. Ethan could feel them. See them as they scurried over his cornea in a frenzy. He tried to close his left eye, but it was useless. What could he do but watch in horror as these things wallowed like pigs in slop? The worms sunk into Ethan’s eye, and his sclera glowed neon green.


No pain, he thought. What is it doing?

            Ethan had a strange feeling. Not one he had before. He lay on a surgical table in a dilapidated room that looked to be an old hospital or asylum. Dread overcame him. Had he been here before? 

Am I insane? he wondered.

This is the last test, Ethan

Jesus, please, what is happening?

Again, you ask for this, Jesus?


(4th drop) The fourth drop clung like a frightened child to its mother. It hit the eye with intent. Incapable of movement and only able to endure for so long, Ethan felt the full heat of the stuff as it unforgivingly embraced his eye. The searing was real, and it was deep, and it was relentless. He could smell the burn from his eye; it reminded him of overcooked eggs. Ethan stared up at himself in horror. 


(Tissue layer – 1) The outer coating of his eye shone a crimson red that overcame the green hue.  The sclera melted and pooled before dripping down his cheek, leaving a circuit of red veins. Terror gripped Ethan as the pain mounted. He screamed in his mind. This seemed to interest the creature. It removed the pipette and leaned closer. 


(Tissue layer – 2) The middle layer of his eye quivered beneath the green mixture. It slithered over the veins like invading vines. The dark pigment radiated neon as the corrosive substance overtook the middle coat until it looked like roots. Ethan’s eye all but dissolved as the concoction made its way to the inner coat. 


(Tissue layer – 3) The innermost part of the eye bathed in the substance. At this point, the room’s shallow light burned, as the substance seemed to cradle his eye with great care; it seemed to have a will and life of its own. A tear formed in the cavity filled with liquefied eye tissue and blood. The creature moved closer. Sucking in through its nose, it pulled the liquid from Ethan’s eye socket into its nostrils. The sound of gurgling made its way deeper into the creature. As darkness overcame Ethan, the inner coat finished dissolving into a bloody, empty socket.





Ethan woke. Opening his right eye, he peered up at himself in the oval mirror. He could see the gaping hole left by his dissolved eye. The bright red had faded to black tar. He could see the optical nerve. It lay in his skull like a sun-dried worm. His right eye was sore from the constant push to keep it closed. Puffy redness lingered from weeping. Both cheeks were stained, the right with dried tears and the left with trails of blood and tissue. The creature remained as he remembered before he succumbed to unconsciousness. 

The ache in his neck returned as the stinging from the substance stopped. Ethan’s eye held no pain, just the hideous scars of his torture. 

Welcome back, Ethan. The voice in his head returned. 

Enough, Ethan thought. Anger replaced his panic and fear. What are you?

The throb in his neck intensified and traveled the length of his spine. A shock went through him. It felt like nails exploding from within and pushing out every pore. His body convulsed but never budged. The pain was unbearable. He was about to pass out when—be still, the voice said. 

The pain vanished —the biting, stinging agony in his spine gone—but the dull ache in his neck remained. What are you?

Ethan followed the creature as it moved out of sight. It seemed to disappear and reappear with each movement. The quiet returned except for the muffled buzz. Ethan tried again to move, to free up a limb, anything. Still nothing. He went back to his memory, shuffling through the last events before he woke here.

He left the clinic around 8pm. Accompanied Jennifer to her car and waited for her to get on the road. Then he took to his usual route, Route 6. 

The sound of rickety wheels interrupted him. The creature had returned; he could sense its smell. Closer the wheels drew, into the room, then approaching. Ethan glanced towards the illuminated spot by the door and waited for the creature’s appearance. First, the cart came into view.  A small metal cart on wheels, like those in an operating room. The cart had two working wheels, while the other two spun, occasionally stopping as the cart tipped in one direction or another. The cart moved dutifully in front of the creature with unseen arms. 

Cart and creature stopped next to Ethan. He looked up at the mirror and saw several hand tools spread out on a tray. The tools glistened with blood and what appeared to be flecks and strings of flesh and muscle. They looked fresh. Ethan’s dread returned. 

Ethan turned from the mirror and peered at the creature. The creature removed, with that same detached appendage, a shoemaker’s awl. Its fingers wrapped around the handle with great care. It pulled the awl close to its face. Its scales moved like gentle waves, all ending at its black-pool eyes. Ethan could sense its pleasure with the selected tool. He movedg his eye back to the mirror where he could see the awl as it balanced in the air. 

Are you ready, Ethan?

Ethan attempted to close his eyes but couldn’t. Again, he sat paralyzed and waiting for his torment. He could feel tears well in his eyes. His thoughts floated back to his drive on Route 6. Window down, music playing, he was alone on his route back to his cabin. The ache in his neck grew, and the pain became noticeable.


The awl hovered over his right eye. Ethan stared at the tip as it moved closer to his pupil. He braced himself as it slowly penetrated his eye. He could see clear fluid spurt and ooze over the iris. His blue iris clouded then disappeared under the coating. The pain was tolerable, much like poking it, but the warm liquid gave it an odd feel.

The creature pushed a little. The pain escalated to a dull ache. He could feel the twist of the awl. He could see the blue in his eye succumb to the blood and clear fluid that oozed from his pupil. To Ethan’s horror he could see through it all.

The awl pushed deeper, and the pain deepened. He could see the creature in his peripheral vision. It stood stoic and seemingly bored with its undertaking. Fluid and blood seeped from the division the awl made. Deeper yet the creature went, until it stopped, hitting something hard. Ethan could hear the scratching of the awl as it hit his skull.  

Ethan’s sight blurred; black spots hampered his vision. His reflection was dotted with black holes and the creature was no longer visible. Soon, he felt his eye slipping from the socket. Back and forth his eye moved like water sloshing in a glass. He felt it, the warmth of his blood as it ran down his cheek.

Everything went black.




Ethan stretched for the alarm, wanting to lie on his bed a moment longer. A distinct and pungent smell lingered in his nose. He rubbed and snorted a few times to extinguish the odor before sitting up and massaging the sleep from his eyes. They were sore and watery; he wondered if he was getting sick from all the flu patients at the clinic. He craned his neck and kneaded it as he got out of bed . It was time to shower, grab a breakfast burrito and a cup of coffee, and head back to the clinic. 

He made his way into the bathroom. Swung the door shut and started his shower. He placed a towel over the shower rod and turned to the mirror to examine his sore eyes. They were red and puffy like during allergy season. Winking at himself a few times, he then gave them a rub. It was then he noticed something. He moved closer to the mirror to get a better look. Under each eye, he noticed small scars in the shape of a checkmark. A chill rode his spine as he looked at his elbows and saw scars that matched those beneath his eyes. Pulling up his shirt, he saw the same small check mark scars, one for each rib.

A waft of odor filled his nose, familiar . . . yet he couldn’t place it.



Known simply as “A Wraith Upon the Sea,” Spyder Collins not only wanders the vast Pacific Ocean, you can also find him haunting the caves of Colorado. Here and there, he weaves disturbing tales of horror and suffering. When he’s not agitating the minds of unsuspecting readers, he’s also been known to pen soul-shattering poetry.