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Saturday July 2, 2022

The Pulse: Short Fiction

story on COVID
Illustration: Shekhar Roy

He blanched at the sight of the lifeless body that lay before him. Gaze fixed, he reminisced about his days as a first year medical student…it was not the first time he had laid eyes on a corpse.

The cold, stiff body in the anatomy laboratory awaited to be examined and dissected by the eager scalpels of the fresh batch of medical students. It was discoloured, and the strong and repulsive odour of formalin was nauseous and suffocating. But he was young, eager, inquisitive and remarkably adaptable.

And adapt he did—over the years he had come across numerous cadavers…some lying peacefully as though in a slumber, some mutilated beyond recognition and some thoroughly skeletonized. A vast majority of the deceased would often be surrounded by grieving family and friends, but it was not uncommon to see neglected bodies that went unclaimed. Impassively, he went about his routine everyday, checking pulses and signing death certificates.

Corpses…that’s all they were to him!

Somehow today it seemed different…his usual unalterable calm became thready. For the first time ever in his life he flinched. An unsettling feeling enveloped him as his trembling hands reached for the pulse. Before him lay the lifeless body of his colleague, a martyr in the harrowing fight against COVID. Grief-stricken and fearful, he shuddered and wondered if it’d be his turn next.

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