Keith imagined himself into a castle, a sword in his hand, fighting. His masked opponent wielded a surgically sharp blade that came ever nearer to Keith. Keith’s brother, Stephen, was trying to get away but was hampered by his injury.
The swordsman pressed his attack, laughing behind his mask. “You cannot hold me off, and you cannot possibly escape my steel.” He made good his words; the sword pierced Keith’s abdomen and opened the flesh from front to back. “And your brother is next.”
Keith shook off the daydream. He waited in the office, Stephen in the chair at his left. Ten quiet minutes had gone by so far.
Keith’s eyes unfocused again and he envisioned himself a prisoner of the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.
“Take this,” an officer said, handing him a long, thin knife, a tanto. “Use it if you have any honor.”
Keith imagined taking the knife, holding it close to his face. He looked over at his brother, kneeling on the ground. Stephen silently pleaded with Keith to use the blade. Keith turned it in his hand and placed the tip against his bare abdomen. He looked up at the Japanese officer, who seemed impatient, then again at Stephen, who nodded fervently.
The officer huffed loudly. “Naturally you have no honor. Not even for your brother’s sake.” And he kicked the hand that held the tanto, impaling Keith on it.
Keith left that daydream, too, just as the office’s door opened.
“Good morning, gentlemen,” Dr. Meldon said.
The brothers greeted the doctor as he sat down behind his desk and looked at Keith.
Is this a dagger I see before me? Keith wondered.
“I have excellent news,” the doctor said. “You’re a perfect match for your brother. You can easily donate one of your kidneys to Stephen.”
No! I don’t want to be cut open! Not even to save Stephen’s life.
“So,” Meldon continued, “if you’re willing, the sooner we schedule the surgery the better.”
Keith’s stomach cramped. In his mind, the masked swordsman laughed and lunged once more. The Japanese officer again kicked the tanto into his flesh.
Keith smiled happily at Stephen and then at the doctor. “Absolutely. What’s a brother for, if not spare parts?” And he laughed with them at his own joke.
But the masked swordsman and the Japanese officer in Keith’s imagination knew better, and they continued to mock him, making him taste death a thousand times.