The Desk of Professor West

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Digital drawing. View looking down at a weathered antique desk, composed of a tabletop and a hutch with a central cabinet, various slots, a dome top, and drawers, one of which, at left, is open and empty. The whole desk and hutch appear empty except for an envelope lying on the tabletop. The envelope bears a wax seal. Just above the open drawer is a butterfly in midflight seen in three-quarters view, trailing two afterimages and a soft glow of light that suggests its flight path. At right, a hand emerges from out of frame, holding by the blade what appears to be a dagger with a cross guard whose ends curl down and a handle resembling a spiral horn.

I’d seen pictures of his desk, several of them.  They were slightly different, but there was one thing in common with every single one.  It was cluttered.  Piles of files, pencils lying in constant danger of rolling off the edge, a half-empty cup of coffee or tea or maybe flat soda, a wadded up piece of paper, a stack of books, no two of them aligned at the edges.  It seemed like the desk of someone who would start working on every idea that popped into his head, so he wouldn’t forgot.  A person who didn’t use sticky notes or devices to help him remember.  But in the most recent picture I saw of Professor West’s desk, all of that was gone.  There was just one thing left on the desk, a letter addressed to someone he’d never met before in his life, and who’d never met him. 

A letter addressed to me.

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The Surgeon’s Secretary

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Digital Drawing. A woman seen from waist up, facing forward, tilted to the right, holding an open book before herself. Her right hand is visible poised over the book loosely holding a fountain pen. She’s wearing a shirt, tie, aviator’s coat, and glasses with round lenses that each completely obscure her eyes and reflect the silhouette of a woman in profile with her face and arms thrown back, her hair and clothing streaming backwards. A rainbow overlay of that same silhouette lies over the image.

“Here, you see?” the surgeon said, as he pointed with his scalpel.  “At the nexus of the heart and the brain?  Between the eyes and the throat, right at the back of the mouth, where the voice is on the verge of emerging?”

The secretary peered past the gleaming scalpel and tilted her head.  There was nothing to see at the moment, other than the expected anatomy inside the mouth.  The corpse that lay on the dissection table had been long vacated.  But the surgeon claimed that he had cut through at just the right time, the fleeting moment right after certain death. 

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