The Retired Doctor

The Retired Doctor

A few years ago, I stayed for a time in the town of D. The town was well known for the wooded landscape that encompassed it. The area was a paradise for old people, who after a lifetime of work, came to retire in its serene surroundings in the cradle of nature. During my residence there, I became acquainted with Dr. Adolphus, one of the retired town folk, and we became good friends. He was always elegantly dressed, wearing a checkered coat and an elaborate necktie, and his hands were invariably covered with jet-black gloves. Dr. Adolphus regularly dropped by for a visit at my home, and we used to converse on various topics. He was a highly cultivated man, and it was a great pleasure to host him.

One evening, at our usual meeting at my house, the conversation turned to the subject of retirement. As we exchanged views, it occurred to me that I had never asked Dr. Adolphus why he had retired. Being a doctor he could have continued his practice peacefully in the town of D, until his dying day. When I mentioned it to him, instead of giving an answer, he proceeded to reveal certain details of his past life. The narrative of the doctor was singularly disturbing and filled me with alarm and petrified me with fear.

“In the days before I had given up medical practice, I worked at a small hospital in a far-flung part of the country. I was the only doctor at that godforsaken place. But I always had an affiliation for secluded places, and I derived much satisfaction from living in the hinterlands. I was contented in the middle of nowhere, and the patients at the hospital always found me in exuberant spirits, night or day.

“One night, I was roused by a knock at the door. It must have been past midnight for I was already in the depths of slumber. I woke up, quickly got dressed, and went to the hospital for my residence was adjacent to it. Two people were waiting for me, a tall young man in his thirties and another, whose head was covered by a hood, in his early teens. It was a case of choking, a life-threatening emergency, and the patient was the teenager. I gathered from the history supplied by the young man that it was the teenager’s birthday, and the youngster and his friends were celebrating with an eating contest. Stuffing himself with the various delicacies at the banquet, he choked while trying to ‘out-eat’ his friends.

“The youngster was evidently in great distress, but he had not lost consciousness yet. I figured it was a case of partial choking and proceeded to examine the airway with the laryngoscope and subsequent removal of the troublesome object. After a short preparation, including appropriate anaesthesia, I inserted the instrument and promptly located the foreign body, which looked like a bone and successfully extracted it.

“When I placed the extracted bone on the tray, I was bewildered by its shape and form. It had an uncanny resemblance to a human phalanx, one of the many little finger bones. As I stared at it closely, I became certain that I was not mistaken and that the object stuck in the youngster’s throat indeed belonged to the human species.

“By this time the youngster had already fully recovered and was standing with the young man, ready to leave. The young man thanked me for my expeditious and timely intervention that had saved the juvenile’s life and left towards the exit. Meanwhile, I was getting highly consternated at the unnatural finding. As they were about to leave the hospital, I confronted them with the question that was raging in my mind.

“I informed them it was a piece of human bone that was lodged in the boy’s throat and questioned them about the circumstances of its anomalous presence in the youngster’s neck. All of a sudden, the young man rushed towards me with a menacing stare. Standing uncomfortably close, and towering above me because of his exceptional height, he spoke to me in a gruff and threatening voice. He warned me not to disclose the details of the night’s episode to anyone and commanded me to stay close-mouthed about my discovery. Further, he intimidated me by declaring that in the event of my disclosure, he and his cronies would find me where ever I am and slaughter me, cut me to pieces and devour my body to the very bones. He finished by saying, “We are cannibals, do not mess with us.”

“At that moment, without warning, the youngster suddenly sprang forward, seized my hand and bit off my left index finger and swallowed it. His teeth were razor sharp, and before I could react he had severed my finger. And forthwith they were gone.”

Dr. Adolphus paused and proceeded to remove his gloves. He extended his left hand forward, and I was clearly able to notice that his index finger was indeed missing. I was aghast at his terrifying tale and the scary encounter he had endured that macabre night.

Dr. Adolphus then told me that the very next day he quit his practice at the hospital, and left the grim hinterlands. He journeyed as far as possible from that wretched place, finally to settle in the tranquil town of D., where he has refrained from practice to this day. The ordeal of that night had left him drained and indisposed to the field of medicine and had engendered in him an acute aversion to patients.

That night, I lay in bed pondering on the disturbing and gruesome story of Dr. Adolphus. I thought of the strange and cruel irony of the world, that imperilled the life of the doctor by the very patient whose life he had saved, and the wickedness that dwells in the gloaming, and the unknown horrors that hide there.


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Beryl Zephyr
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