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The Mysterious Mind of Amelia Terrace
Jenni looked back one last time at the life she loved, and then at the one she was faced with now. She couldn’t take it. Tears burned her cheeks as she stepped out of the cramped car. How could it have come to this? Her father grabbed her hand and squeezed it lightly. She smiled up into his cautious eyes and said, “Oh, Daddy.”
“Listen up, sweetie, you’ll live,” he said in his strong voice. Jenni sniffled and trudged up to the sliding hospital doors. It was all going so fast. Yesterday she’d been a normal fourteen year old and now she was threatening her life to save her mother’s. Fear was the only thing that kept her alive. She stepped through portal and felt her life close in around her.
“Hello Jennifer,” her mother said in a weak, dying voice from her wheelchair. “How are you?”
“Hi Mommy. I love you,” Jenni said in a childish voice, tears gluing her hair to her face.
“Ms. Terrace, Mr. Terrace. I’m Caroline McHarth, Amelia’s doctor and surgeon. I’ll be performing today’s surgery,” a tall woman with long, jet-black hair said from behind the chair. Jenni gagged at the sight of the enormous lady and asked in a meager voice, “How many times have you done this before?”
The doctor smiled. “My, dear, never. No one has. It is very serious, nearly impossible. But you’re in good hands. Trust me, you’ll live,” she laughed. “Come now, we must prepare you for the surgery. Come, come, come.” Jenni grabbed her mother’s hand and followed the woman into a tiny office.
“Now, because it is a neurotransplant, we’ll need to go through the head,” Dr. McHarth said as she picked through a messy white cabinet full of band-aids and penicillin. She pulled out a smooth, shiny plastic box the size of a flute case and with a click opened it to reveal a small, gray shaver. The doctor took the tool up in her hands and displayed the contraption to Jenni and her mother. Then she whipped back around and pushed the metal prods into the outlet, flicked the switch to the “ON” position and it buzzed like a mechanical bumble bee, and instantly switched it back off. The doctor laid the shearers on the counter next to the sink and turned to face the patients.
“All right, now I am going to tell the nurses to set up the operating room and phone Dr. Ming to see when he’ll be here, so while I’m gone you two can get changed into the hospital gowns I set out for you,” Dr. McHarth smiled with her hands clasped together. She brushed past the Terraces and slipped out of the room.
“Oh Jenni, isn’t she nice?” her mother said weakly.
“Yeah, she’s great, Mommy… Oh, Mom,” Jenni said, starting to cry again. “I’m scared.” Her mother had a tranquil expression pasted to her face so Jenni knew her mother was very concerned.
“I know it is frightening, but you have nothing to worry about. Dr. McHarth is one of the most renown surgeons in the world and she’s been performing complicated surgeries like this before, so hold on, and we’ll make it together,” Mrs. Terrace said with sincerity. Jenni looked away from her mother’s welcoming face and replied, “But, but I could die. One false move and I could be dead. I’m your only daughter; neither of us want me dead. Do you?” Jenni turned back to see her mother appalled.
“Jennifer! How could you ask such a terrible, terrible thing? You know I…I” her mother’s voice faltered and she fell limply back in her chair. She gulped huge mouthfuls of air and her left arm trembled. “Jeh, Jenni. Oh, Jenni, call Dr. McHarth, quickly!” Jenni looked terrified but whipped open the office’s door to find the doctor when a short, pale, flustered nurse exclaimed hurriedly, “You’re not supposed to be out here! Get back in the office! Now! Go!”
“But…” Jenni started.
“But nothing! I won’t have my hospital become a mad house with patients running all over the place! Now get!” the plump woman said as she tried to gather the forms she had just dropped on the floor. Jenni rolled her eyes at the exasperated woman and turned around to face the office door. She turned the handle and pushed the squeaky oak door in. She saw her mother lying limply in her chair.
“Is… Is the doctor coming? I… I feel, horrible,” Mrs. Terrace said from behind her forest of muddy blonde hair.
“I’m sorry, Mom…” Jenni started to say when her mother interrupted.
“I understand,” she said which led to Jenni tilting her head to the side to ask what she meant by this. “For the past seven years whenever someone said they were sorry I ended up without something I needed or with something I didn’t.” Like baby Jeffrey, Jenni thought.
“I’m so sorry you have to go through this,” Jenni said finally feeling in a better position about this surgery. “But you don’t have to go through this alone. We are all here for you, but not only that, I am here for you. When you suffer, we do, and we really need you, and the only thing that keeps us asleep some nights is that we know you feel the same way. So hold on, and we’ll make it, together.” She wrapped her arms around her mother’s tiny shoulders and smiled. Her mother turned her head up to kiss Jenni on the cheek when Dr. McHarth stepped in.
“Oh, sorry if I’m interrupting, just wanted to make sure you were all changed into the dresses. Apparently not. Well, Dr. Ming will be here in fifteen minutes, why don’t you two get changed and I’ll have the nurses bring you to the operating room. Okay?” the doctor said sidestepping out of the office before the answer came. The two Terraces nodded and the smiling doctor shut the door. Jenni lifted the two blue-spotted hospital gowns and helped her mother into one. Then she tried to pull her own on only to find it seven sizes too small. She looked to her mother and Mrs. Terrace pointed to the closet in the corner. Jenni nodded and walked over to oak door and pulled it open. She fumbled through the starchy gowns and fingered the tags sewn to the collars. Size 7, Size 9, Size 13, no size twelve. Jenni lowered her shoulders and pulled the Size 13 off its crooked wire hanger. As she did so three other gowns fell off their hangers and with a light kick she forced them back into the minute closet. She then pulled on the itchy cotton and looked at her smiling mother.
“D’ you know when the nurse will be here?” Jenni asked the kind faced woman who suddenly looked nothing like her mother. Mrs. Terrace shook her head and beckoned Jenni toward her.
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when days are gray. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away,” Mrs. Terrace whispered in an airy voice to Jenni’s left ear. “That was your favorite song when you were a baby. Every time you tripped or got hurt you would beg me to sing it and you would start to sway and then fall asleep.”
Mrs. Terrace looked at her little girl. Jenni sat on her mother’s lap silently crying, drenching the front of her hospital gown. The two Terraces heard a light tap on the door and the frazzled nurse Jenni had met in the hall pushed open the door with her hip.
“Hello ladies. Awww, the poor little chick is crying. Ya scared? Don’t worry, Carrie’s gonna take good care of ya, I promise,” the stout woman said patting Jenni on the head. “Now Dr. Ming will be here any minute so I’m gonna have to give you a quick shave. Is that all right?” The nurse picked up the shaver when no more than a second had passed when she put it back down.
“You can call me Martha,” the woman said looking intently into Jenni’s hazel eyes. Again the nurse picked up the shaver and fought with the unwilling cord. She cursed three times under her breath before she got to pushing Mrs. Terrace’s wheel chair over to the sink.
“All right then. Is it okay if your mom goes first sweetie?” Martha said with the shaver in one hand and with the other struggling to run her fingers through Mrs. Terrace’s hair. Jenni blinked and nodded slightly while lowering her shoulders and sighing. She knew now that this is the right thing to do but trying to get over the fact that her head would be cut open was going to take time to adjust to. She wiggled her nose and asked Martha if she could step out for a breath of fresh air. The nurse furrowed her eyebrows and murmured something like “Might as well, ya little jerk.” Jenni smirked and stepped out of the office. She took three huge gulps of air before bursting into tears. Over the sounds of her own bawling she heard the buzz of the shearers against her mother’s scalp. She sat there, crying and thinking, trying to find an answer. Nothing she did would help. After seven minutes she picked herself up and stepped into the stuffy room behind her.
“Back so soon?” Martha said sarcastically pulling a chair up next to the now bald Mrs. Terrace. Jenni blinked the last tear from her eye and cautiously sat down in the spinning office chair.
“This’ll only take a second,” the nurse said in a snappy tone, obviously annoyed by Jenni’s sense of emotion. She started to turn on the shearers when she yawned and rubbed her eyes while muttering, “I’m too dang old for this.” She flicked the switch again, all the way this time, and ran it along the top of Jenni’s scalp. Jenni yelped as she saw her blonde hair fall onto her lap. She took a deep breath and Martha went on shaving. Soon enough, Jenni was as bald as a vulture and she and her mother looked like a couple of billiard balls. Mrs. Terrace giggled at Jenni as she furrowed her eyebrows and her whole head wrinkled up like a prune.
“Oh, funny. Come on then, gotta get you to the operating room, Dr. Ming will be here any second,” Martha said grabbing the handles on Mrs. Terrace’s wheelchair. Jenni pulled open the heavy door and followed the short nurse into the hallway. The walked up and down long hallways until they came upon a tall double-doorway that had a sign nailed to the front stating, “No patients allowed beyond these doors without hospital personnel accompaniment.” Jenni looked at Martha who motioned with her head for Jenni to open the doors. She did so and found herself in a huge empty room with the exception of two operating tables, a short coffee table-like thing covered with scalpels, knives, and other operating tools, and three stools that towered half a foot above the operating tables. Six fluorescent lights glowed eerily from the twenty- foot ceiling, casting long black shadows from the operating tables.
“Whoa,” Jenni said staring at the magnificent room.
“Hey, you, help me get your mom on the table,” Martha yelled at Jenni from the tables.
“Okay,” Jenni said, finally stepping all the way into the room. She bent down and heaved her mother’s legs as Martha took her by the arms.
“Lift,” the stout nurse grunted as she struggled with the tiny Mrs. Terrace. After several tries she managed to lift the woman up, and afterwards grunted like a pig several times and leaned on the table sweating.
“I’ll go see if Ming is here yet. You, get on your table in a minute, make sure your mom is fine, get me if not,” Martha snorted and tumbled out of the room.
“Isn’t this exciting!” Jenni squealed happily.
“You’re excited now?” Mrs. Terrace said surprisingly. Jenni nodded ferociously and laughed, “I guess it was butterflies!”
“I see that!” Mrs. Terrace giggled with her daughter. Jenni hoped on top of the operating table next to her mother’s and looked at the gray walls beyond.
“Not much of a classy place huh?” Jenni said to her mother. Her mother shook her head sadly and said, “I know so many people who’ve died in here.”
Instantly Mrs. Terrace bit her lip and gulped, wishing she hadn’t said anything. The color drained from Jenni’s face as the double doors swung open and two doctors and a herd of nurses stormed through.
“Hello Dr. Ming,” Mrs. Terrace said to the Oriental man with the giant grin across his face.
“Oh, Amelia! You look lovely,” Dr. Ming said with his nearly perfect English accent. “Are you two ready for the operation?” The Terraces nodded and the nurses gathered around and layed Jenni down on the table. A thousand voices began to buzz in the air telling the two to sit still and hold their breath and count back from a hundred. In minutes Jenni lay stiff as a corpse on her stomach, and the only thing to be heard now was the soft whir of the air tanks pumping oxygen into Jenni’s veins to keep her blood cells oxygen rich through the surgery. Dr. Ming took his scalpel into his hand and carefully ran it along the top of Mrs. Terrace’s neck as Dr. McHarth did the same to Jenni. The two doctors carefully sliced the back of the head to the very top and with a pair of tweezers pinched the top of the spinal cord where the skull met the backbone. They carefully put a slender clip in the place of the tweezers and with a long, sharp knife cut the cord above the clip. Dr. Ming sighed, happy to successfully cut off feeling without killing Mrs. Terrace of shock. Dr. McHarth, on the other hand, scowled and grumbled, angry that the child was not yet dead.
The two doctors carefully did the same procedure to all cord and veins connecting to the brain and finally came to the big finale. Dr. Ming drew in his breath and Dr. McHarth scowled. The nurses bumbled about mopping sweat off the doctors’ foreheads and preparing the brain for transplant. The brain that Jenni would be from her recently deceased thirteen-year-old cousin Tammy and Jenni’s would be given to her mother. Dr. Ming let out his breath slowly and shivered. This is what he’d been preparing for for seven years and now that it was here he couldn’t even think straight. He carefully pulled his sky blue surgery gloves back on and stepped toward Mrs. Terrace. He turned around and motioned for Dr. McHarth to do the same and the two doctors set at it. First, Martha and the nurses carefully peeled the skin from the head where they made their second incision and allowed the doctors to cautiously pried the skull apart at the joining of the two main skull plates where they joined when the two Terraces were infants. The bone moved slowly and was the most difficult thing to get apart but surely they did it and before their eyes lay two mounds of gray tubing, the home of two human beings thought and personalities, one minor mistake could completely kill the receiver of the organ. Dr. Ming carefully slid the organ into his hands and brought it up to his face. In his hands he held a mind, the actual living mind of another person, the home to everything this woman has ever been, and he has the power to give this woman life. He handed the brain to Martha who set it in a small plastic tub marked “Bio Waste, Handle with Care,” and then set it on the small table between the operating tables.
While Dr. Ming fumbled with Mrs. Terrace’s brain Dr. McHarth swiftly pulled the gray blob from Jenni’s head and took the new one in her hands. Just because you’re a paying customer doesn’t mean I have to try my best, thought the doctor and casually dropped the organ to the floor.
“Oops!” the woman squeaked and bent down to pick it up. A thin layer of dirt covered the brain and she smiled sinisterly. Then, she happily tucked the organ into the opened skull and smiled. “Well, we better finish up, Dr. Ming?”
The other doctor was glaring intently at the brain Martha had given him from Jenni. He blinked after a moment and nodded.
“Yes, we should finish up. The hardest part is coming,” he said and sidestepped over to Mrs. Terrace’s side. “Okay, here goes.”
With extreme caution and carefulness he slid the dull gray organ into the open slit in her head and sighed tremendously. He looked over to Dr. McHarth, who was smiling and blushing uncontrollably.
“Sorry, doctor, I… I’m just so glad we are successful,” the woman lied with ease.
“Not yet. We still must reconnect the veins and arteries and then spinal cord, which will be the most difficult job,” Dr. Ming replied hastily. He snapped his gloved fingers and turned back to face Amelia Terrace. He nodded to Martha who clapped her hands together and the “sewing up” commenced. The two doctors began to stitch and unclamp nerve cords and blood vessels and after three hours they were faced with the last cord, the spinal cord. Dr. Ming took in a deep breath and let it out slowly while Dr. McHarth hurriedly said, “Okay, let’s get this over with,” and started to sew the nervous cord together with an odd red thread made of artificial nerve tissue. Dr. Ming nodded and stepped back toward the patient. This is it, my big chance to get it right. To finally win the respect I deserve, the doctor thought and started into the head that lay open before him.
Yet another hour passed before the doctors were completely finished. They had sewn up the spinal cord, pushed the skull back together, and stitched the skin together on the back of the head. Martha, who was now sweating like a pig in an oven, went across the dark room to get the, as it was known in the hospital, “shocker.” She walked back to the operating tables and carefully flipped the Terraces on their backs.
“Ready?” she asked the unconscious patients. “Okay, here goes. 1…2…3…Clear!” The tiny machine pushed an electric shock through Jenni while behind her a young nurse named Amy did the same to Mrs. Terrace. The nurses kept on trying to wake the Terraces as Dr. Ming left the operating room to get ready to call Mr. Terrace and tell him the news.
“I think we did a very good job today, Carol. I really hope they both wake up,” Dr. Ming said.
“Yeah, me too,” the other doctor lied.
“Well, I better call Adam, see you.”
“Yeah, umm, good-bye,” Dr. McHarth said hurriedly and scurried away as Dr. Ming went to the nurses office. In the door way Martha stood with a sad look on her face.
“Oh no,” Dr. Ming said as Martha handed him a clipboard with a paper bound to covered with red ink.
Dr. Ming steadily dialed Adam Terrace’s phone number and held the plastic instrument up to his ear. Two rings went by when a sleepy voiced answered.
“Hello?” Mr. Terrace said warily.
“Hello, Mr. Terrace. We have just completed Amelia and Jenni’s brain transplant. Jenni is perfect condition, but Amelia…” Dr. Ming broke away. “Amelia, isn’t responding.”
“What?” Adam said angrily.
“Amelia, she…She won’t wake up.” Dr. Ming said finally. “Amelia is dead.” The other end of the phone went silent.
“Mr. Terrace? Mr. Terrace?” the doctor said, but he knew it was too late. Seventy miles away in a small town a furious man was running down the road, tear faced, so afraid, so fearful, just as his daughter had been no more than twelve hours ago.