(Horror stories about space.)
“The Secret Doctors of NASA” is a series of memoirs, diaries, and reports from actual doctors employed by an undisclosed arm of NASA between 1970 and 2001. These writings contain true accounts of the unusual and often highly-classified medical conditions experienced by astronauts during and after their space missions. Following the defunding of the clandestine medical program after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, the majority of these accounts were left, forgotten, on tape drives in a NASA storage facility. In 2016, a former intern, whose job was to clean out one of these facilities, discovered them. Two years later, he is ready to release what he found.
Releaser’s note: This account is from a post-surgery oral memoir dictated by an unnamed surgeon to an anonymous NASA official. The background circumstances are unknown.
A Surgeon’s Nightmare
Look, I’d been awake for two straight days. You guys have been putting us through hell with all the injuries from the Hephaestus Project, so forgive me if my results weren’t as great as they could have been. But come the hell on – what do you expect when someone comes to me in that condition?
So you want to know what happened in my own words? Fine. But don’t get pissed when I call your practices into question.
The patient was admitted with significant injuries to his legs, torso, arms, and head. On the surface, they appeared to be lacerations, which was strange because their severity would have caused near-instantaneous exsanguination and they would’ve gone straight to the morgue, not to me. Closer inspection revealed the wounds had been sealed by intense cold, as if the patient had been frozen either while being injured or immediately after. He was still clinging to life.
If I had to speculate, which I know you want me to do, I’d guess the patient was injured and subsequently exposed to hard vacuum. How that could have happened is beyond my guess, as I know the patient was not, and never had been, an astronaut. But I guess that’s what Hephaestus is all about, right boss? We can put pieces together over here, you know.
No, the god damn pun was not intended.
Anyway, as soon as I realized the cold was the only thing keeping the patient from bleeding out, it was a race against the clock to get him closed up.
Do I really have to tell this next part? You have the fucking videotape.
Drs. ____ and _________, as well as the assistants, packed the wounds. We used the portable scanners to check for internal injuries, and, of course, there were more than we could count. You guys knew that too, obviously. There was no saving this guy. Thanks for making us try, though. Seriously. It’s not like any of us will be seeing this in our nightmares for the rest of our lives.
No, I won’t calm down. This is bullshit.
Yeah, I know about my wife. Just…just let me vent. Christ.
So the patient flatlined and I called it. But then your boss, _________, said to keep working. Keep packing. Keep suturing. It felt like we were taxidermying the poor guy.
You people are really sick, do you know that?
Dr. ____ was the first one to detect movement, presumably once the tissue had warmed up enough for the __ _____ __ to — what word should I use, boss? Gestate? Hatch?
Ok, “become.” Whatever you want.
I’ll admit, as a surgeon, it was fascinating to see the filaments stretching across the wounds to close them up. Whatever you folks are planning to do with them might save a lot of lives in the future. Probably after I’m long gone, though.
What I don’t understand, though, is why you brought the patient to us when you knew this was going to happen. Did you need a sterile environment? Did you need witnesses with medical training? There’s no shortages of medical degrees around here. Hell, the patient was a doctor of biophysics.
Here’s what I’d love to know from you: what did the medical assistants do to deserve what happened to them? They were kids, for Christ’s sake. Were they even twenty-five?
Yeah, I know what they signed when they started. Jesus.
Okay, once the filaments had closed all but one of the wounds, they also sealed the orifices of the patient. The patient’s skin appeared to take on the characteristics of the filaments as well; reinforcing it, perhaps? Because what happened next would need more tensile strength than baseline flesh, I guess.
After the skin was reinforced, the filaments began to tighten. This had the effect of opening the remaining wound on the torso.
Can I at least clean the blood off me before I finish this? No? Great. Thanks. You guys are really something else.
So everything tightened and the remaining wound gaped open until the patient, what — inverted? Is there even a medical term for someone turning inside out? That sound, man. That wet, cracking sound…
We would’ve been out of there like a shot if your boss hadn’t locked the door to the operating theater. We just had to watch the patient – or whatever he was now – slapping and writing against the table.
Hephaestus is about point-to-point wormholes, right? Yeah no shit, I know you can’t confirm or deny it. I’m not retarded. Give me a little credit.
When your boss told me and doctors ____ and _________ to step back and have the assistants conduct a physical examination, I knew they were done for. I knew. I’ve worked here long enough, __________.
“Never get attached,” is your motto, right? Must be easy for you, since no one wants to get to know you. Fuck you. Seriously. Those girls deserved better.
Yes, I know I have to fucking report what happened. I just want you to know that I’m saying “fuck you” and the “you” is referring to you. You. What are you gonna do, fire me? Ha. No, I know, that’s not your style. I’m sure I’ll wake up on the other side of that wormhole you “can’t confirm or deny” tomorrow morning. Whatever, man.
The inverted patient stopped moving when the assistants began the physical examination. They took its temperature, they drew blood, and they sampled whatever that yellow mucus was. It seemed to be going fine until they were asked to do a biopsy of one of the mucus ducts.
________, and yes, I’m going to use her damn name because she’s a person, no matter how much you viewed her and __________ as commodities, made the first incision and was instantly enveloped by a membrane extruded by the duct she’d tried to cut. It was semitransparent; we could all see inside.
Another membrane wrapped around __________, and before our eyes, they were compressed. If any sound can overtake the patient’s inversion in the race for the most disturbing noise I’ve ever heard, that sound will do it.
Once ________ and __________ were compressed into shapes roughly the size of a beachball, a small hole opened in each membrane to let out the blood and other bodily fluids. It shot across the room, all over me and the other doctors. Which you can plainly see from the state of my clothing you said I couldn’t change until we were done with this billshit.
After the liquid was released, the compression resumed until they were small enough to get sucked into the patient’s body. And they were. Then you let me and the other doctors out.
Yes, that was it. You know that was it. You were watching the whole fucking time next to your boss. Jesus.
Good. Fine. Yeah, fuck you, too.