Thankful for the end of the day, Professor David Ramel rubs his eyes as he pops an antacid and heads back to his office. Having spent the day trying to teach anatomy without his dummy, the tenured instructor wants nothing more than to relax with his collection of cruise pamphlets. He is still deciding on where to spend his sabbatical, which his wife has repeatedly told him will be five years overdue. Feeling a gurgle in his stomach, David stops at the nearest water fountain and drinks until the sensation goes away. Still caught up in his thoughts, the professor nearly turns into his anatomy dummy that is standing behind him. With a high-pitched yell, he jumps back and slams into the wall, a dull pain running up his back.
“I’m sorry about that, Dave,” Professor Soleman says, the man standing only a few feet away. He takes a drink before patting his coworker on the shoulder in a half-hearted attempt to calm him down. “Good thing you have that vacation coming in a few months. I found Gem here in the library. She was left her standing in one of the rear stacks, but I have no idea who left her there. Probably one of the rowdier fraternities. You know how those pledging challenges go around this time of year. Can’t do anything unless we have evidence. By the way, Charlene, wanted me to talk to you about Harvey Pugh.”
“Surprised to see you acting as her messenger,” David ruefully admits. Focusing on his dummy, he frowns at the gap where a plastic kidney once sat. “Thankfully, I have spares left over from previous pledge week casualties. Although, Gem has lasted a lot longer than the others. Glad I got her from that medical school in New York City. This girl is eighteen and looks as good as she did on her first day. Well, she will when I put the new kidney in. I’m rather surprised because it’s usually the liver or heart that the students take out.”
“Avoiding the subject won’t make it go away,” Jason claims, taking his glasses off. Holding them up to the light, he casually cleans them in the hopes of the other man speaking. “We’re all aware that Mr. Pugh has yet to attend a class outside of tests. He even got his syllabus off our websites, but that doesn’t mean he should be expelled. All of his work comes in on time and he communicates with his professors. Think of Mr. Pugh as a special case.”
Professor Ramel sighs and rubs his stomach, which feels uncomfortably tight. “He has no medical reason to avoid classes. I know he isn’t staying in his room since I’ve seen him leave to attend that mythology club. All of his professors have been talking about teaching him a lesson, but I’m going to do something about it. Maybe expelling is extreme, so I’ll write a letter to the dean about suspension. That’s the best I can do.”
“What if we can get him a note?”
“That sounds unethical.”
“Not by much.”
“Have a good night, Jason.”
“Try to do the same, David, but know that Charlene won’t like your response.”
Taking his anatomy dummy under his arm, Professor Ramel walks away without a second glance. Hearing a door close at the other end of the hallway, he relaxes and searches his pockets for his keys. Not wanting to put anything down, it takes him a minute to get the door open and push his way inside. Stacks of papers cover his desk and books are on every flat surface, a third of them written by the professor. David puts the dummy near the window, which he opens to get some fresh air. Checking his coffee maker, he grimaces at the cold remnants and settles for a soda from his mini-fridge. Sitting in his chair, the professor takes a few sips and chooses a paper to grade.
A thud makes him jump and he looks around to find that the anatomy dummy has fallen over. Going to pick it up, he hears a fluttering above his head and flails to wave away the raven that came in through the window. The bird snatches an old bagel before leaving, two of its feathers landing on the ungraded papers. With a muttered curse, David moves the dummy away from the cold draft and searches for a tissue. Feeling another gurgle in his gut, he rushes back to his desk and takes another sip of soda. Patting his stomach, a loud belch makes him blush even though nobody else is around. He is about to return to his seat when a playful giggle causes him to turn around, the noise continuing until he coughs.
“Must be my imagination,” he whispers, his eyes searching the shadows. The ceiling lights flicker, so he reaches up to tap at the bulb that falls to the floor. “And here I am without a spare and not enough moonlight to move around. This better not be a prank! Doesn’t make any sense that the bulb fell out. The socket would have to be stripped or sabotaged. I can simply leave the room and come back in the morning.”
Letting the silence last for a few minutes, the nervous professor eventually heads for the door and does his best to avoid the books. Banging into a shelf, he winces at the pain shooting up his leg from a broken toe. Surprised at how easily he was injured, David tries to move with more care and fights the urge to rush for the door. He grabs the doorknob and twists to find that it has been locked, the jarring stop snapping his wrist. Wailing in pain, the terrified man stumbles back and scrapes against a cabinet. The sensation of blood flowing down his arm causes him to reach up to a gash, the edges frayed and raw. Whirling around, David steps on the broken bulb and his foot is reduced to blood-seeping shreds. Unsure of when he took his shoes off, he stops moving and tries to make sense of what is going on.
Footsteps echo in the hallway before the doorknob starts to turn, the movement abruptly stopping. David tries to call out for help, but the attempt causes his jaw to break and hang loose on his face. Teeth fall out when he tries to push his mandible back up, the pain reaching a point where his body starts to feel numb. Attempting to reach his desk, he steps on a pile of books that slide beneath his feet. With a sickening snap, his lower leg twists and becomes completely turned around. Unable to walk, David hops and flails in the darkness, his moans echoing off the quivering walls. Having almost made it to his chair, his other leg suddenly shatters and he falls backwards. Professor Ramel hits the anatomy dummy with enough force to sever his neck and send his head rolling across the floor. A chorus of caws fill the room as three ravens fly through the window and begin to feast on the remains.