by Elizabeth Kattner

I’m an unwilling lobotomist.

Every day I am commanded by God to drill holes into the heads of cadavers. The bodies of the poor and strung-out who died before their time. Give to the poor, God said. Except I’m an atheist and God is actually Jerry the mortician.

A brute of a man, Jerry is shaped like a bully. A big body with thick, clumsy hands. My own hands are small, sure, and steady. The hands of a neurosurgeon, Jerry says. It’s why he has me use the drill. I don’t want to, but be it my talents or the brains of the dead, Jerry wastes nothing. Give to the poor. Let their death mean something. That’s how Jerry justifies this.

It’s education, he says. The sacred preservation of knowledge. Every burr hole I drill is his legacy secured, and when I scrape at the exposed dura mater, I glimpse the godhood Jerry so hungrily pursues in shades of grey and bone white.

I prod the brain of a woman dead at thirty-five. Her face is drained of color, her frown etched in stone. I whisper for her forgiveness at this intrusion. Jerry shakes his head, disappointed by my compassion.

“Look at the brain, not the face. That’s where the knowledge is.”

God is just the loudest voice in the room, telling you what to do. I look at God/Jerry and wonder if he chose this woman. If he killed her so that I might pick her brain for hidden secrets. Will I too become a God if I dissect enough of humanity? Will their lives sustain me, nourish my soul with their own?

I remove the frontal lobe. Billions of dopamine receptors trapped in jelly-like fat and tissue. The building blocks of memory, lingering on even after death. It lands in my palm with a wet plop. Immortality limited by biology.

I hold up my offering for God/Jerry to see. It resembles a bloated slug. Fucking ugly but it makes God/Jerry smile. A sharp smile filled with teeth because while God doesn’t exist, his teeth most certainly do.

“Good. And what did you learn?”

I do not learn. I only react, doing what the loudest voice in the room demands of me. Cut. Drill. Mutilate. And yet, I crave more. It’s a survival instinct, coming to love what you are forced to do. As the abhorrence morphs into acceptance, the line separating me from godhood blurs.

I fantasize about picking the next cadaver, choosing which body will further feed my curiosity. It will be a male. Someone substantial to explore, big and strong. To become a God I must first kill one, taking his life for my own.

I look at God/Jerry. At his sharp teeth, which are meant to tear flesh and cut into bone.

“I want to become more,” I say, and lift my drill up to his face. Give to the poor. Let their death mean something. Take the godhood that I’ve earned.

God/Jerry blanches. He steps back, trembling. A scream rips from his throat as I drill the burr hole just as he taught me to do. Bloody and awful, it is a symphony of the divine made mortal. When the drill hits brain matter, churning up grey slush, he slumps in my arms, a dead weight.

I understand now. All gods die afraid, but I am more. So much more.

Elizabeth Kattner plays Animal Crossing while listening to heavy rock, much to her family’s disappointment. She hopes to one day be buried in a cornfield. Until then, her work can be found at X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine.
%d bloggers like this: