I remember snow, the absolute purity of its whiteness, the strange way it whispered as it fell and the funny crunch it made beneath your feet. Moonlight reflected off new fallen snow, casting the world in a silent blue.
I remember her eyes, a deep blue, like shadows of the moon. The silent darkness of her eyes attracted me, I sensed a darkness around her, like a shadow.
She lived alone, each day she walked by herself, to the corner grocers. She bought a single bag of groceries and walked, slowly, home. I greeted her, "Good morning, can I help you with your bag?"
She quickly passed, slipping a bit on the ice, "Nein, danka." She, then slowly, limped up the steps to her building, the snow powdering her gray hair in a misty lace.
"No thank you," I whispered to myself, wondering why she remained alone. Surely she had family somewhere. I could not imagine what tragedy had fallen upon her.
Each day as she passed, I wanted to ask her why, but all I said was, "Good morning, can I help you with that?" Then I watched her hurry by, back to the safety of her solitude.
The ambulance's flashing lights reflected a bright red off of the ice. The paramedics wheeled her out covered in a dark blanket, her hand hung down and I read the dark blue number: 186235.
"Did you know her?" one of the paramedics asked me.
"Not very well, she always kept to herself," I answered.
"She was an incredible woman."
"You knew her?"
"She took a fall about a year ago, I transported her to the hospital. She was pretty dazed and confused, so I hung around with her a bit as the emergency room doctor checked her out," she replied, combing her fingers through her short auburn hair. "She had lived quite a life."
"I saw the number on her arm, I guess she is lucky to have lived this long."
"Perhaps, perhaps not. I think sometimes the lucky ones died."
"What do you mean?"
The paramedic took a deep breath and leaned her shoulder against the ambulance, "She was one of the victims of the 'scientists' as they worked on mass sterilization techniques. I was in the room as the doctor examined her, I saw the scars."
"She explained it to the doctor, she was strapped down on a steel gurney, one with a metal surface surrounded with metal walls. The surface slanted to the front end of the gurney, where there was a drain for the blood to pour through. It all was timed precisely, from the time they started rolling her feet first down the long hallway, until they wheeled her out of the operating room and back into the pre-op area."
"I had heard they would do hysterectomies with no anesthesia."
"It would have been better, I think, for her if they did," the paramedic replied with a wince. "No they were experimenting with the partial removal of the ovaries. They wheeled her into the operating room, made an incision and removed only part of each ovary. The way she described it was pretty gruesome, the floors and walls were stained in blood and she could hear the screams from other rooms like hers. She could see spiders in webs suspended from the ceiling down to the bright light hanging just above her waist.
"Even before the gurney stopped rolling, the doctor had marked her for incision and had a scalpel ready, with two orderlies holding her waist down. The doctor, without anesthesia made a quick incision and sliced through the ovary, removing it with an instrument caked in dried blood. As she was wheeled out of the operating room, one of the orderlies sewed a stitch over the incision, with stained and bloody thread.
"Her operation took three minutes and two seconds... that is from the time they started wheeling her down the corridor until they had her back in their crude pre-op area attempting to get her to walk back to her barracks. She heard them complaining about the time."
I could only shake my head in disbelief.
"Oh, it wasn't over, it got worse. Since they found out that the partial removal of the ovary took longer than full removal, her experiment was over."
"Well thank goodness," I replied.
"No, you don't understand, once the operation was over, the doctors continued observing their subjects. These doctors were not the scientists and actually showed a tiny bit of compassion. You see they had to keep them alive for at least a short period, so they were generally cared for. For her," she said, nodding her head toward the body, "when they determined the experiment was a waste of time, they stopped all post operative care. An infection set in that attacked her tubes and uterus, an infection that she endured for the years she was at the camp.
"By the time she was finally treated, there was so much scar tissue that a full hysterectomy was necessary, she was only twenty-two at the time. When I say full hysterectomy I mean they removed everything."
"So no sex, ever?"
"Well, she was not a virgin."
"You mean they..."
"In order to survive, she let herself become 'the object of an officer's affections,' I think was how she put it. It had to have been horrible, any sex had to have been excruciating for her, but in order for her to get painkillers, she had to give herself to him. "
"Worse than anything Poe could have thought up. Even after the last operation, the pain remained, she took pain pills until today I guess. She simply endured."
"Incredible, I would never have known."
"Like I said, an incredible woman."
As they loaded her into the ambulance, the snowflakes melted one by one into the darkness of the blanket. They all disappeared from view.