He slips his fingers into the belly of the girl. Bloody juices squelch and splatter as he rummages, plunging deeper and forcibly, yawning layers of epidermis—stratum basale, stratum spinosum, stratum granulosum, stratum lucidum, and stratum corneum wide open—looking for the source of his pain.


They are lined up one after the other, brunette, redhead, blonde, silver-haired, and are shuttled each in turn into the examining room; white, seedy, and carnivorous. Over the console table, next to the gurney, a single emboldened lightbulb illuminates a silver pan lined with S-shaped, L-shaped, H-shaped, C-shaped, HSS-shaped surgical instruments, and a thin spiral notebook. His notebook, filled with sketches of the Occipital lobe, Temporal lobe, Parietal lobe, Frontal lobe. Cerebral cortex, Cerebellum, Hypothalamus, Thalamus, Pituitary gland, Pineal gland, Amygdala, Hippocampus and the Mid-brain.


He ratchets up, removing bits of grey matter here and there, from all but the blond girls, cataloguing some and others, not. It is the twins he is interested in. One is bent the other more bent. One is tall the other more tall. One can no longer bear children. The other is left for dead.


You sit in the waiting room, nervous for this appointment; your babies kicking and turning. The obstetrician called away on an emergency, a replacement is available you are told.


You stand when your name is called, but instead of following the nurse into the examining room, Doctor Mengele will see you now, you turn in the other direction cradling your swollen belly. The corridor is long and as you begin to run, it stretches, l-e-n-g-t-h-e-n-i-n-g so that you can no longer see or reach the exit. Yet you keep running -clamouring-as your water breaks, your twins almost out.



285 words


  1. Dominique Christina

    Oh my. Good work here Karen. You took structural reality and gave us the nuance, the back story, the soft tissue, the personal narrative behind it. The reader is forced into the dark with you. All we know is, there is a mad man and he is carving women up. Is he a serial killer? Is he a monster? Is he a demon? And then you give it to us: Mengele. Yes. He is a serial killer. A monster. A demon. One we know. One we read about and hope is an aberration. Some blip on the screen. A fluke. Such men make a home of horror. We are left to ponder why. You set the scene. Dr. Mengele is experimenting on women. Women who died terribly. Women who were given no way out. And then you give us a woman who makes a way. One pregnant with twins, sensing somehow that she is in danger. She flees as her water breaks. As a reader, I am concerned for her safety. I am impressed by her courage. And I am desperate for her to get out and have those babies safely and as far away from monsters as possible. Thank you for the journey. Great work.

  2. Kristin

    I appreciate the focus and precision of your words. The rhythm and cadence feels intentionally clinical, and for me, has a balanced contrast with the uncomfortably provocative, and all too relatable, bodily awareness.

  3. Rhyannon Brightwater

    OMG! I totally was in a clinical setting and then you freaked me out. the inescapable hall is one of the most terrifying nightmares…and I got the sense that she had no idea of who Dr Mengele is or what he has done or will done, but his name sends shivers down my spine. this is so poetic.

  4. Chelsea Stickle

    Holy fuck, Karen. The level of detail in this is impressive, horrifying and perfect. “Looking for the source of his pain.” Yes. For men like that it’s always in the body of an unknown woman. You had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. I didn’t quite remember the name Mengele, but it didn’t matter. You put us in the scene so strongly it didn’t matter to me if he’s real or not. He’s real to me. A boogeyman for the ages.

    I’m excited to see where this lands!

  5. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Karen, Holy sh$%– it was a tough go reading the first paragraphs, but when you got to Dr. Mengele–– nightmare! I almost couldn’t take it. Somehow the sense of an office setting, a regular appointment was almost giving the real Mengele a pass, because evil in one context, like destroying innocents as a single evil doctor, somehow misses the horrific context, the abject horror of the killing factories. I am probably the only one who has this reaction, and for that, I actually apologize. I do think this was a very brave attempt of imagining a real monster set free into an ordinary world.

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