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  Viper Wire by Richard Kadrey



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Black Neurology
A Love Story


Using my pull with an acquaintance at the city morgue, I convince the attending Medical Examiner to let me watch your autopsy.

He begins with a traditional Y incision, cutting two diagonals across your upper chest until they meet at your sternum, then a single long, straight slice down to your crotch. He opens you with a crack, snapping ribs and connective tissues, laying you open and bare, more exposed than you've ever been in a lifetime of extreme and perverse exposures. I stand quietly, a little behind the Medical Examiner, clicking away with the disposable camera I picked up at a 7-11 on the way over.

This Examiner is a real professional, experienced and respected for both his precision and the speed of his work. But now that he's opened you, he's just standing there, looking down, his head craning slowly up and down the length of you. He reaches forward and pushes a finger into your abdomen, scooping out what he finds and pressing it quizzically between his fingertips. Your body appears to be packed with a pinkish-yellow clay. The Examiner makes a face and scoops out more with his hands, trying to find his way through the muck to your organs. He lets out a little yelp and pulls back his hands. The right one is bleeding. He reaches tentatively into you and pulls something free—one, two, then three feet of coiled razor wire.

After replacing the torn glove, he examines your insides further, this time using scissors and a metal probe. He hits a pocket of what looks like black tar. It oozes up through the clay, darkening it. The Examiner's probe drags new things from your gut. Rosaries. Straight razors. Antique medical bottles labeled LAUDANUM and STRYCHNINE. He finds your baby teeth; the soft cords the hospital used to bind your hands when you had that fever as a child; the hand-stitched belt your daddy used on you when you needed a whipping.

With a pair of forceps, the Examiner digs into the thick clay and pulls out your heart. Instead of a fist of muscle, what he holds in the forceps is a glowing red coal, sprouting a steady flame from the top and wrapped with barbwire, like a miniature crown of thorns.

He turns and looks at me, holding up the glowing coal as if I might have an explanation. I shrug and snap a picture. "What's that?" I ask, nodding at your body. The Examiner turns to look and I reach around from behind, slicing his throat from the jugular to the carotid artery in one smooth motion, using the scalpel I nicked from his instrument tray. He burbles once and I let him drop, bleeding into the cavity from which he'd just extracted your burning heart. Snapping another quick photo, I go to the other end of the table and kiss your cold lips.

New scanning techniques developed in the late 1990s led to brain studies which revealed that our minds and bodies are all utterly unique. The neural pathways that mean pain and discomfort for some equal pleasure and contentment for others. The chemical compositions of our cerebral and spinal fluids can vary widely from person to person, perversion to perversion. Our desires are defined by our brains and our bodies are shaped by our desires. As William Blake once said, "Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained." The unrestrained, I wonder, watching the last of the Medical Examiner drain into you, who knows all the unrestrained could do?

There's a bubbling in the bloody clay. I kiss you more insistently now. Something rises from the muck. A hand. Then an arm. Another hand beside them. I slide down and bite your throat. Your body begins to convulse, as if in orgasm. You pull yourself free from the clay, up and out of your corpse. Covered in blood and muck like a helpless infant, you're reborn from your own body, this stranger's blood and our overwhelming desire. You rise up to your knees, breathe in with your new lungs and open your mouth, searching for your voice. Finding it, you touch my cheek and say, "I told you I'd never leave you."

I wrap you in the Examiner's lab coat and take you home.


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Richard Kadrey is a member of a small group of innovative writers, including William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, Pat Cadigan, Tom Maddox, and others, who changed the face of science fiction in the 1980s. He also creates art. He lives in San Francisco.

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