“The Sacrifices We Make” by Lauren Carter 

To find truth requires sacrifice.

That’s what I was told when I got into anthropology. One of those inspirational lines told at the start of my studies to motivate all of the grunts to strive for efficiency.

I did not know just how important it was until now.

The idea starts with an accident, a fellow falling down the stairs. I swear I did not push him, but I wished I had, it would have been more rewarding.

I can’t help but gaze at the bone protruding out of him, the blood seeping around it, cuddling it. I can hear words coming from him, but they’re not translating as I am too transfixed. I’m used to seeing bones, clean and dried, taken from their owners.

This is different, this is what I needed.

My whole life is devoted to finding out everything about the human body, and I know now, looking down at this dying donor, that I need the dead and the living to do that.

Shamefully, this one died before making it back to my lab.

I still have his flesh though, the muscle and the organs to use. I slice him open without gloves, not taking care as I would have in my student days. This is my body, and I can do what I want with it. I get all giddy thinking about how to store away his organs, and how I should organise him for further analysis later.

I feel his blood on my hands, how it feels so right to be covered with him. I push the blood further under my nails to save him more for later, that reminder, that feeling.

I cut away at him, storing the parts in containers and freezing what is necessary. The best part of this is, that there’s no need for any kind of disposal. I need all of him, he is all mine.

I’ve been calling myself Doctor for many years and yet I have only just earned the title.

They look for him, of course.

The thing about being an anthropologist is, that you know how to clean up good. Not that they’re looking for his body, he’s been classed as missing. He was last seen at work, so they obviously start here. Since I was clocked in, they question me. I tell them the truth; I was working in my lab and didn’t hear a thing. We don’t work in the same department, and I’ve never even met him before.

It’s a big building.

They search my lab, as they search everywhere, but it’s not usual to see body parts here. They were donated, I say, by the deceased for science. They look right at the fellow and don’t even realize it.

When the cops eventually leave, I make a note to find donors elsewhere. I check in on the fellow, his mouth in particular as I put it in acidic, while pondering where I could go. And whether I should wait again for a victim of opportunity or create my own.

I decide on the latter as I don’t have time to just wait around.

This doesn’t make me a killer; it makes me an entrepreneur. What I discover could change everything we know about the human body. I start to jot down what kind of donors I want as, the more variety I have, the more research I can gather.

The list is quite long when I finish but there are lots I can cross reference so I can have one donor that ticks off several points. The thing I’m most curious about is healthy bodies versus non-healthy. I know nothing about the fellow in terms of lifestyle.

I now know everything in terms of his body.

I think about the type of people that won’t get classed as missing and it clicks.

They always beg.

It’s almost amusing the things they say. Like they could offer me something more than what they are already giving me. People from the streets are easy to take, they fold at the offer of food or money. Just get in the back of the van and your belly will be full.

And soon it will be empty.

Fifteen have donated to the cause, including the fellow. There are still news reports about him but none about the others. It speaks volumes and part of me wants to point it out.

That is, if I wasn’t the one taking them.

“What have I ever done to you?” The latest one says to me. I’ve gotten better at keeping them alive for longer, I just have to be aware of their loss of blood. I’ve opened this one up in several places, curious at what the bone looks like in different sections. I’ve cut out pieces of her skin into neat little squares, it’s interesting to see how the skin differs depending on where I slice. Their feet in particular always promise something good. I can learn so much about the body’s smell from it.

I never usually reply to them, but they don’t usually ask me questions. I lean in close to her face.

“You should be happy knowing you are going to do so much more for the world dead than alive,” I say, and she sobs at this.

“Just kill me then.”

“Not yet,” I smirk as I collect the tears, something I hadn’t thought about yet. I thought about sedating them while I work or even numbing the pain, but part of the research is to see how they react to the pain.

You call it torture; I call it science.

To think I’ve learned so much more in these six months compared to the ten years before of researching is astounding.

I decide to do something left field and I open up her belly wide but carefully. I have ‘borrowed’ some insects from another department. They’re called dermestids but there’s not what I focused on when I looked at the label.

It says: ‘Flesh-eating bugs.’

When she sees the jar, she squirms in her restraints and cries out for help. She can scream all she wants; I only work on them at night when no one is here. I unscrew the jar and sprinkle the bugs on her. They quickly get to work, worming their way into each gap in her organs. She screams, it looks like agony. I capture the moment on my phone to save with the other videos.

The bigger ones can’t get through so bite through the lungs, the liver, and the kidneys. I watch her life get taken from her. Her body becomes rigid with the final blow. I stroke her hair behind her ears and smile.

I decide to leave the bugs in her as I wrap her up, to see whether they’ll consume all of her.

Conferences are so boring.

But I made myself go. This is the big one and it only comes once every five years. Although I would like to collect more data, I can’t help but want to share. I cannot deny the world of this. It’s the next step in evolution, my work could provide so much more to history.

I clap at the speaker who just finished before getting on stage for my part. I push aside the organizer and thank them for inviting me.

He goes to speak but I cut him off. “Welcome my esteemed colleagues,” I announce to the crowd. “If you do not know me, though you certainly will after my speech, I am Doctor Samkoff.”

“I’m going to have to ask you politely to leave,” the organizer mumbles, covering the mic.

“No,” I say clearly into the microphone after I take his hand off. “I’m going to have to ask you to be quiet. Very rude to interrupt someone when they are presenting important research.” I grip his wrist hard, and he snatches it off me.

He swiftly walks off stage, phone to his ear. I look at the audience and they seem enthralled by my words already. I smile.

“I come before you today to show you what I have learned from my research over the last few months. I have made leaps and bounds in what I have studied.” I produce a memory stick and insert it to show them all of the big screen behind me. “I have changed what being an anthropologist means – thanks to my donors.” I open the file and all the photos I have taken. There’s a collected gasp from the audience – they must be excited at what they see.

“We work with the dead but that can only go so far. I have taken the next natural step in our field. This is the start of something new, something…fresh.” I see some people on their phones and others leaving, likely to the bathroom but why wouldn’t you hold it? “Let me elaborate further.” I pull up one of the videos, my most successful one to grab their attention.

There are some screams, some people cover their eyes. More people fumble out but end up trampling each other. The organizer has returned with security. They start to pile on stage, but I take out a knife.

The organizer immediately holds up his hands. “Okay, ma’am-”

“Doctor,” I say.

He gulps. “Sorry, Doctor. Doctor Samkoff, yes?” I nod. “Please come with us.”

“I am not going anywhere until I’ve finished presenting my work.”

“Work? This is murder!”

I search the room to see who is left, who is worthy. Some have taken to filming my research. Go ahead, this is only the surface, I think.

More security is piling on stage, each side so I can’t move. None of them are daring to get too close to me though.

“You are ruining everything!” I scream. “This holds the next step in anthropology research. Don’t you see?” I gesture to the screen. “What I have learned, what this will do?”

“This,” the organizer also gestures to the screen, “is you killing these poor people and harvesting their organs. What research is here?”

It’s clear my work isn’t easy enough for these bumbling idiots to understand. I decide a little demonstration would help. I look at the guards in turn, thinking about who would be an excellent donor to get my point across. When I turn back around, the other side is advancing on me.

“Stay back,” I say raising the knife again. They all shuffle backward a little. “And observe.” I walk towards the organizer, who tries to escape but is blocked by security. They go to advance on me again, likely jump me to take me down.

I cut down my arm, slowly and deeply, showing the organizer clearly. I open up my arm and raise it for him to see. “My bone, my blood, everything can tell me more about the human body alive than dead.” He looks too stunned to speak; I know now what I’ve been trying to say is finally coming across. I open up my shirt a little and cut down from my chest to my stomach and open myself up. “You can observe my organs while they are still operational – this develops any of our research.”

I watch him gulp before speaking. “We can learn these things from the dead-”

“No, no, no. You are wrong.” I can feel too much blood escaping me. I fall to my knees, clutching at my stomach and chest to stop anything from fleeing me.

“We need an ambulance,” someone says, as the knife is taken from me. I fall onto my back.

I didn’t account for this; I am too far gone. “You must continue my research, you see it now, you must!” I see my lungs stopping, I feel the blood not flowing anymore. I feel so naked in front of them all, but they had to see, they had to understand.

“Don’t waste it, don’t waste what I have done. Don’t waste me.”


Lauren is a library assistant by day and writer by night. She is the author of YOUR DARLING DEATH (2023), THE DAMNED WITH THE DEAD and the flash fiction: TEETH WITH ROTTEN SKIN. (She/They)


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