Captain Flaunders was feeling as tense as he'd ever felt since he'd been on the service. This moment was going to mark one of the greatest achievements of his career. It wasn't every day that you got to bag a serial killer. Dr. Erwin Kaufmann, or the "Surgeon of Hamburg" as the media had come to call him, had been on the run since the late seventies. Educated in West Germany, the man had never exactly gone on a rampage of violence, but rather had left a thin line of strung out bodies throughout his career, which had carried him from Western Europe to the coasts of Oregon. He would pass himself off as medical personnel, often as a dentist or a nurse, in order to identify and approach his victims. Thirty years of patience and caution had served him remarkably well until last week when a survivor of one of his "sculpting" sessions had emerged from her coma and been able to deliver the incriminating information the Feds so desperately needed.
What a catch… oh please oh please. Flaunders chewed his lip as he flicked off the safety of his revolver. The three officers under his orders took position around the door and waited for his mark.
"Let's go!" he mouthed, and the middle man tore down the door with a well-practiced kick.
What happened next remained in Flaunders' memory not so much as a vivid memory, but rather a blur of rapid action. Crashing wood, screams, a brutal scuffle and someone crashing violently to the floor.
As Kaufmann was brought away kicking and screaming by two armed men, Flaunders and officer Pelli cast their flashlights across the room. Flaunders walked up to massive oak desk in the far corner of the room and rummaged through some of the paperwork neatly piled upon it. His eyes snagged on a soft leather-bound notebook. He picked it up, dusted it off and began to read :
First day of the experiment. I have at last acquired a subject to put my long years of theory and yearning to practice on. This work shall crown my ever-burning desire for scientific exploration and sculpting of the human anatomy. She came to me willingly, and in such an advanced state of anorexia that we were immediately able to skip the first three stages of restricted nutrition I had planned for the process – my ultimate experience in human weight loss. On this first day we made acquaintance and agreed on future proceedings. Rachel kindly signed the legal discharge I had prepared and which should, I hope, provide me with at least a meager shield should the blind and inept wrath of the state descend upon me. [Angry illegible scribbles]
We immediately began with the program and leapt straight to the fourth stage of restricted nutritional intake. At present, Rachel – whom I will from now on refer to as subject zero for the sake of scientific neutrality and detachment – weighs in at thirty-four kilograms. I have good hope that the program of restricted nutrition will chop another four to six off. We must take care not to offset her metabolism too much for the next steps, as her immune system will have to be impeccably strong if we are to see the process successfully through. Her diet has thus been calculated with the utmost precision.
Eighth day of the experiment. We have reached the limits of what stage four can do without killing subject zero. The goal of course is for her to remain alive until the final closure of the experiment. Vital signs are stable, and the feeding process has now moved to the next level: nutritious paste pumped directly into the subject's stomach. We have now begun with the second major phase of the process, also named stage five: the removal of tissue. Today the first step was taken, with the amputation of the legs up to the knees. After immediate verification on the scales we concluded that things had worked out brilliantly and that great progress had been made. Further tissue removal will take place as soon as subject zero has stabilized and her metabolism has recovered. We will not wait for tissue and skin healing as that is superfluous. What imports is elsewhere.
Twelfth day. Stage five continues, with the removal of the legs up to the pelvic region. Vital signs are stable but subject to occasional extremes. Nervousness has been detected, and the subject's sleep cycles have become erratic. This may or may not be due to the absence of exposure to sunlight, never the less it shall be monitored closely.
Fifteenth day. Removal of the arms. Subject zero is stable. I asked her whether she wished to write a final letter before we proceeded but she did not answer. Odd, since cognitive abilities appear to be normal. Great progress on the scales. Marked increase in subject nervosity, with moments of borderline panic. Any form of stimulant is proscribed during the experiment, as the subject's physical mass would no longer allow it. It may damage her, and she's becoming so beautiful.
Twenty-second day. With the amputation of the limbs complete, we are presently beginning with stage six: extraction of internal tissues. Subject zero's vital signs are stable, but mental activity has become markedly erratic. Never the less, the discharge has been signed and this journal shall be burned. I must be tireless in my endeavor; as long as she lives the experiment may – and must – continue. Stage six began with the removal of the breasts, as well as most remaining muscle tissue. [hasty figures and calculations that seem to have been discontinued]
Twenty- fifth day. Reproductive organs have been removed and subject zero has been placed in the amniotic tank. Life signs are stable; appearance of signs of extreme mental distress. Unfortunately she [angry scribbles] the subject – is far beyond receiving any medication. Pain is causing increased irregularity in sleep cycles, but subject is still holding out. The beauty of human flesh in its absence moves me to tears. This work is unprecedented. I believe in this moment that I may speak of love, with all its connotations. Love of science, love of progress, even a certain degree of love for - [angry scribbles].
Twenty-ninth day. We have accomplished one of the steps I was most looking forward to: removal of the skin up to the neck. In addition, the digestive tract was shortened by half and we made some advances into step seven: removal of the skeletal structure. The ribcage is no more. Beautiful.
Thirty-third day. Removal of the pelvis. Subject zero began showing signs of advanced panic so I went along with step eight: work on the head. Removal of the tongue, jaw and eyes. It is but when we are finally deprived of something that we learn its true worth. The true majesty of my work lies in teaching the subject this most valuable secret of life. It is what makes this experiment such a humanist venture as well as an aesthetic one.
Thirty-sixth day. Internal and vital organs are being worked on. Extreme care is required at this stage, and I admit to exhaustion. One lung has already been replaced. Skin on the head has been removed, along with the ears and nose. The skull has been polished and prepared for the final phase.
Forty-fifth day. The process is nearing its end. The glory of it leaves me speechless. I have successfully removed the skull (in successive stages of course) and exposed the brain. Final removal of the remaining spinal elements. It appears, at last, that the experiment is a success. Subject zero is now the lightest adult human being alive, weighing in at just under four kilograms. As Schweitzer said after all: "humanism, in all its simplicity, is the only genuine spirituality". Does simplicity not lie in minimalism? I can only sigh before the beauty of such purity, of the singularity of units. This work – this piece of art – will have brought us both closer to whatever form of divine there may be. If R- [angry scribbles] the subject holds to faith, she shall surely be commended to her Lord. As for me, the sheer purity and eternity of my work leaves me speechless and filled. I am whole.
Flaunders half-dropped the journal on the desk as he steadied himself on the back of the rickety chair. He hobbled in a half-daze into the next room, where he did his best to fight down his heaving stomach as he stared at the brain and spinal stem floating in the amniotic tank.
"Uh, chief… I don't think we're going to be able to pin murder on him for this case."
"Why not?" Flaunders' legs felt week but he steadied himself on a small ornate piece of furniture. He struggled to keep his bile down.
"Because of the brain sir. According to this machine's readouts… she's still alive."