“Is this going to hurt?” I asked you.
“Very much,” you replied. “More than anything you’ve ever been through.”
“Oh God… are we really here? Does this really have to happen?”
“Yes," you said, and you smiled, scalpel in hand, face obscured slightly by the operating light behind your head. “There is no stopping it now. Everything has led to this.”
“And no anaesthesia?”
“Of course not. If you were still under anaesthesia we wouldn't be here. We’ve waited a long time for this. Our entire lives, actually.”
I settled back onto the cold table and shut my eyes. I could feel the tears beginning to well again. “I don’t want this…” I sobbed.
“You arranged this. This, right here, is the whole point. Avoiding it would’ve been impossible.”
“But there must be other ways… Something less painful…”
“There may have been, but their time has passed. And besides, the process would’ve been much slower… You would’ve carried parts of these deformities into old age, and most likely death, even though you may’ve managed to shed many of them along the way. You’re foolishness in allowing life to lead you here was also your greatest wisdom. Your weakness, your wrong-headedness, your conniving, fearful child’s mind has in turn passed you into the hands of your handler with total surrender. That is why you cannot get up from the table. That is why you cannot have any painkillers. And that is why you will find the strength to survive what is about to happen to you.”
“I’m so afraid…” I said, the words burbling as they came out, turning into a wet sob, a blubbering, pathetic weeping.
“I know. This is Fear’s Table. You think you’re the first to find yourself here? I tell you this: The number of bodies that have passed blood into the bone of this slab are so numerous you could never count them. It is the choice most often made. And it is the fastest path to purity, if anything. It is sacrifice itself— the greatest gift, the grandest thing you have to offer yourself, and the world.”
“And me, of course. Most especially me.”
“But I thought what was coming out was…”
“...the other. It is. It must be removed. You cannot live with it inside of you anymore. Look at what it has done to you.”
I didn’t need to look. I could feel it. All the bruising, the cooked nerves, the constant drain, the tainted breath and the bad bowel gas, all of it. It had to come out.
“You know what this is…” you said, leaning in a little closer, beginning to daub my chest. The alcohol was cold, but also hot, and your face came clearer somehow, catching the light from the side, your glasses glinting for a moment as you concentrated, your eyes serene with a calm that couldn't be feigned. And I thought, looking at you now, that I could see age creeping in for the first time, lines that the mirror had not deigned to show me over the years.
“Yes,” I said, my voice trembling. “It is Love.”
You didn’t reply, but your eyes nodded the affirmation, and for a moment I felt relief wash over me. Everything was as it was meant to be. All of the bad things, all of the wrongness, all of the suffering— it all had a point, and it was found in the tip of the scalpel that descended now.
“Say goodbye to the world,” you said.
And I did.