Dr. William Callaway was just finishing his lunch, a hastily assembled turkey, bacon and lettuce sub, when his receptionist knocked, announcing his two o’clock appointment. Calloway quickly wiped the mayo from his mouth with some gauze from his lab coat pocket, and said to let them in. He remembered the desperate phone call he had received from a Gertrude Sorensen the prior Wednesday, tearfully begging him to see her daughter. Usually, an appointment with a doctor of his prestige would be booked by his receptionist for some distant date, if at all, but Mrs. Sorensen was the housekeeper of one of his regular golfing buddies, so he had promised to squeeze them in.
When the door opened, he first saw Mrs. Sorensen, a somewhat haggard woman, practically bowing in gratitude, followed by Analise, who shyly hid behind her mother. As Mrs. Sorensen reached back and gently put her arm around her daughter, Dr. Callaway had to exercise every bit of his professionalism not to gasp, as the turkey rose in his throat. The disfigurement on poor Analise’s face explained well her mother’s frantic plea. Analise’s eyes were now fixed on him, seemingly searching for the revulsion she commonly faced, but he remained stoic. “Please have a seat,” he invited them, and, taking Analise by the hand, Gertrude reassuringly led her to one of the chairs in front of Dr. Callaway’s mahogany desk. The girl looked down at the floor as the doctor asked her mother why she had come, trying his hardest to sound as if he didn’t already know. Her first words were, “It’s all my fault.”
Callaway started to question the trembling woman about what seemed some sort of confession, when he saw Analise reach over and take her mother’s hand in hers. This simple act caused the surgeon, always so quick to shuttle his patients in and out (time being money and all), to swallow his words and wait for her to gather herself.
“I brought him into my home,” she continued. “He was okay at first, except when he’d been drinking.” Analise was softly sobbing as she struggled to go on. “One night I woke up and caught him in my baby’s room trying to….” She looked over to Analise, who tightened her grip on her mother’s hand and nodded.
“I threw him out. But….” She looked up at Callaway, searching his face for judgment, but finding, instead, compassion, the professional distance he had hidden behind for so many years quickly shrinking. “But he came back the next morning. He had a bottle of acid, and he said he would make me ugly, so no other man would want me. He opened it and started to throw it and….” There was no finishing that sentence. She just gestured toward Analise and broke down.
Doctor Callaway was now looking at Analise, differently. His thoughts attempted to finish the terrible story. Did she accidentally get in the way? Or….? “Analise,” he asked gently, “did you get in front of your mother on purpose, to try to protect her?” He felt a shudder as she slowly nodded. He paged his receptionist to get them both some water. A seemingly interminable time passed before Mrs. Sorensen was able to speak again.
“They say,” she began, “that you are the best transpant doctor in the country.” Dr. Callaway had heard that too often to have any response other than an anticipatory nod. “We’ve tried everything… peels, grafts, reconstructions. As you can see, nothing has worked. You don’t know what it’s like, seeing her crying because no one wants to play with her, they only want to bully her. John told me about you, and I read everything on the internet I could find. Please, can you help my baby?”
Ordinarily, the next question would be if she had the half million dollars, at minimum, that this would cost, even if it were possible. And he wasn’t sure that it was. But somehow these people had managed to touch the young, idealistic intern that had itself been disfigured over time. He reached for her free hand. “I’ll try.”
As Analise was being wheeled into Operating Room One, Dr. Callaway was scrubbing in to Operating Room Two. There, the body of a girl, already prepped for surgery, was lying on the table. It had been four months since he had made his promise, and, finally, a suitable match for a facial transplant donation had emerged. Susan Lapidis was just fourteen, less than a year younger than Analise, when she broke into her father’s liquor cabinet and downed a lethal dose of her psych meds with a pint of vodka. Whether this was an attempt at suicide or one to merely stop the pain Mr. Lapidis would never know. But two days later, in this very hospital, she was pronounced brain dead. And Mr. Lapidis, in his grief and guilt, decided that a way to give her abbreviated and tortured life purpose would be through organ donation. Giving her face was not quite what Lapidis had in mind, but Dr. Calloway was persuasive, and Lapidis relented. As Callaway began the incisions on Susan’s face in Operating Room Two, a team of surgeons was standing by over in One, waiting to prepare Analise’s, once they received the okay from Callaway.
Nearly ten hours later, the facial mask that would become Analise’s new countenance, expertly severed even by Dr. Callaway’s high standards, was ready to be wheeled next door. As Callaway removed his bloodied gloves and began rescrubbing, he heard a rustling sound. He had thought there was no one remaining in the room. As he turned off the water, it came again, more urgent this time, followed by a haunting moan. When he began to pivot, a blood curdling scream jarred him off balance. That was when he saw Susan sit up! Callaway fell to the floor at the sight of her skeletal face, her eyeballs dangling and her jawbones agape. He began to gag as he watched her hands desperately travel across what had once been her face, and, letting out another scream, primal and soul wrenching, the eyes turned toward him! As she climbed from the table, he staggered to his feet and ran, out the door and into the adjoining room.
Luckily, the surgical team had just put Analise under, otherwise the jarring intrusion during the delicate operation might well have cost her her life. As a nurse started to berate Callaway, the door flew open again and Susan appeared! Menacingly stalking Callaway, she caught a glimpse of the still sedated girl on the table. Slowly she approached Analise, with those of the staff who hadn’t fainted too shocked and afraid to rush to the aid of the defenseless girl. But Susan just stopped, reached out a hand, and gently touched Analise’s face. Then she turned and emitted a savage scream. As Callaway backed out of the room and into the hall, she followed in furious pursuit, through the hallway and into the waiting room.
The room quickly emptied in terror, leaving only Callaway, Susan and Susan’s father, who had stayed all day to find out if the surgery had been successful, and to say a final goodbye to his daughter. Seeing her now standing there, alive, would have been shocking enough, but like this…?! He dropped to his knees, as if in prayer, and maybe he was. As his daughter approached him, he remained there, and anguishedly spoke.
“I’m so sorry, Susan. I know the things I did were wrong. But after your mother died I was so lonely, and you were beauti….” Any further words were cut off by Susan’s hands around his throat. He barely struggled as, jaw bones clenched and eyeballs wild, she tightened her grip and choked him to death. When she was satisfied, she returned her attention to Callaway, who, backpeddling, had tripped over a chair and lay mere feet in front of her. As she moved in for the next kill, she felt a sting in her shoulder, the jab of a needle that soon rendered her unconscious. Dr. Robbins reached down a hand to his tearful colleague, and helped him to his feet. Moments later, two orderlies appeared with a gurney, and, lifting Susan carefully, brought her back to the operating room, where she was induced into a coma pending legal procedures. Assuring his colleagues he was okay, Callaway slowly walked to the parking lot and drove himself home.
The news came to Callaway that, given the circumstances, no felony charges had been filed against Susan. Having no family other than her father, she was declared a ward of the State, and ordered to a rehabilitation facility. There, she was receiving intensive psychiatric treatment, and, hopefully, surgical intervention once someone with the expertise of Callaway, who wasn’t Callaway, could be encouraged to volunteer. This offered him little comfort, and he had to take a leave of absence to get his head on straight. A few anxiety-ridden and nearly sleepless days passed, before he, with the help of some Xanax he had prescribed himself, was able to sink into REM sleep. Unfortunately, in his dream he was back at the hospital, floating down the hall amidst flesh and blood, when the sound of a tapping startled him and he fell abruptly. He turned and, through a window pane, saw a hooded figure with dangling eyes. He screamed himself awake, or had he already been? He rushed to the window, but there was no one there. He tried to go back to sleep, and, after some rationalizing that it had indeed been a dream, finally did.
In the morning, he poured himself some coffee, and then went to get the newspaper on his doorstep. When he opened the door, there stood the shrouded figure, holding the newspaper open to the sixth page headline about the hunt for an escapee from rehab. Pulling back the hood, Callaway laid eyes on the grotesque and wrathful face of Susan Lapidis! She lunged for him, but he managed to close and bolt the door. As he retreated, the sounds of her pounding on it caused his heart to itself pound dangerously. Just then, he heard a commotion outside, and, creeping to the window, witnessed sheriff’s deputies taking Susan into custody and, as she emitted that same blood-curdling scream, dragging her back to their police car. After he had gained some control over his shaking, Callaway stumbled to his chair and collapsed into it. Eventually, he managed a deep breath, grateful that at least the worst part of this nightmare was ending. He clicked on the television and began watching something – he still couldn’t really focus – when there was a knock on the door. Undoubtedly it was the police, returning to take his statement, he thought. But when he opened it, he was greeted, instead, by Mrs. Sorensen.
He invited her in, but she just stood there. “You promised you would take care of my baby. You got her hopes up. But they just sent her home, even more traumatized than before. She didn’t leave her room for days. I finally found her hanging from the ceiling fixture. And now there’s that other poor young girl, because of you. You’re a… a monster.”
Callaway tried to respond, to tell her that he had tried, that he had made a mistake, a tragic one, of course, but, Gertrude interrupted him. “I kept my boyfriend hidden at our winter cabin so the police couldn’t find him. Even after what he tried to do, I… I still loved him….” At that moment, George Calvin stepped out from behind Gertrude. He opened the bottle he was holding and threw its contents onto Dr. Callaway’s face. As it seared the flesh down to the bones, Callaway screamed in torment, that same blood-curdling scream of Susan’s that had still been ringing in his now mutilated ears.