“Once a year like clockwork, eh, Frankie?” Doctor Herbert smiled.
Frank nodded. “Better safe than sorry, Doc.”
The office was the same as ever: white walls, cold metal chairs, thin-mattress bed, sturdy wooden desk. The only difference was the strange apparatus beside Doctor H. Like an octopus, Frank thought. Upon reflection, it was more like a heart monitor with wires spilling from its top. The display, a small screen, was blank.
“I need one of these myself,” Doctor H muttered.
“A checkup, Doc?”
Doctor H nodded, and his green eyes glimmered. “You have lovely blue eyes, Frank.” He grinned.
“Uh — cheers, Doc?”
“Yes! My arms, my legs, my chest, everything hurts.” He waved a hand down his body. “And look how skinny I am! A scarecrow beside you. Do you work out, Frank?”
“Sometimes.” Frank shifted in his seat. “Shall we get to it, Doctor H?”
Doctor H clapped his hands together. “Excellent idea!”
He leaned over, grabbed the octopus-heart-monitor, and pulled it on its wheels to where they sat.
“What’s that?” Frank asked, as Doctor H’s skinny fingers fiddled with the wires.
“For that big head of yours,” Doctor H said. “It’s brand-new, state-of-the-art, and a thousand other adjectives which all boil down to one thing, really: it’s incredibly impressive.”
“I don’t know about that, Doc,” Frank said. “A usual checkup is alright with me. I don’t need anything fancy—”
“Frankie, for how many years have I been your doctor?”
“Eleven, I think,” Frank said.
“Twelve this August. And have I ever led you astray? Don’t you trust me?”
Twelve years is a very long time to know someone, Frank thought.
“Okay, sure, I trust you,” Frank said. “I mean, you are the doctor, aren’t you?”
Doctor H attached the ends of the wires — little sticky suckers — to Frank’s temples. Then he switched a button on the machine and it hummed to life. The suckers immediately became too tight, pain spiked into Frank’s head, and he thought: This is what death feels like.
When Frank woke, he was a beep-beep-beep line on the monitor. A tiny camera set into the top gave him vision; a tiny microphone at the bottom gave him hearing.
Doctor H shambled into the office. His face was hidden by the angle of the camera, but even so Frank could see he was changed. His arms and legs were bulkier, his hands were larger, he walked with a swagger, his wide shoulders shifting from side to side. His white coat tore down his bicep as he waved.
“Blasted thing,” he said, and his voice was different. His voice is mine, Frank thought, and if horror could’ve lanced through him, it would have. Doctor H grinned with Frank’s lips at the monitor. “I should thank you, dear friend—twelve years of bodily research has paid off.”
Doctor H danced to the monitor. His blue eyes glimmered. “I suppose you’re wondering about…” Frank’s finger tapped the monitor. “You are still my friend. I couldn’t bear to kill you, not definitively, anyhow. Not to worry. Your neurons are completely secure.” Frank’s shoulders shrugged. “Sorry, Frankie, but you came here and offered me your lovely healthy body on a plate. What did you expect me to do?”
Nathan J. Bezzina is a graduate of English literature and a professional ghostwriter, paid to produce stories in genres ranging from romance to horror, thriller to regency drama, and everything in between. His first love has always been science fiction, however, and when he’s not writing for rent, he’s writing for sanity. He lives in Weston-Super-Mare, England, with his wife and a very resilient bookshelf, working on a novel which seems to grow closer and yet further every day.