Second Comings

It feels more like you’re drowning than anything else, thought Grace, watching Buchanan’s eyes grow wider and bright. The fracture pierces your trachea and the surrounding tissue, filling the cavities in your throat with ungodly amounts of blood. That’s what hyoid fractures do: they fill the dark spots in your throat with blood. But the blood isn’t what kills you. So long as you live within fifty miles of an emergency room, the blood is really nothing to worry about. The bruising rarely lasts to the end of the weekend. But that doesn’t lessen the sensation of drowning in your own blood. If you knew all the statistics—hell, even if you knew that you’d be fine—you still couldn’t think the way that you can think when you’re breathing air. It gets hard to see straight.

It gets hard to see straight because of the fear, to some extent, but mostly it’s due to the disorienting sense of being underwater while you’re standing (or lying, as it more frequently occurs) on hard ground. Buchanan was lying at first, until Grace pinned him up against the wall to check his eyes. With so much fear the eyes were featureless: just wider and bright. Grace the doctor pinning the poor stranger Buchanan to the wall with featureless eyes.

The leading cause of hyoid bone fractures varies with the time and the place. In the northern Mexican state of Sonora during the two decades pivoting the recent turn of the millennium, the leading cause of hyoid fractures was widespread strangulation of prostitutes and female factory workers. Often you could only tell the sex workers from the factory workers by the clothes they wore (as one detective reported in 2004). In present-day New Jersey, the rise of UFC has ensured that the leading causes of hyoid fractures are kicks and blows to the throat sustained during MMA training matches in backyards and stockyard gyms. Certain mining outposts in 1950s North Dakota and Idaho recorded hyoid fractures caused by drilling accidents in questionable two-man operations, usually leading one man to throw the drill through the other man’s throat. In recent decades, since the rising prominence of the IED in the Middle East, blunt force trauma from bits of flat shrapnel have been leading causes in war-stripped regions. But so has strangulation. The two causes together form a meaningful portrait of the region and its brand of violence.

But all causes of hyoid disfiguration are connected through the broader thematic of interpersonal violence. So when medical practitioner Jay Grace announced that the likely source of Buchanan’s dyspnea was tracheal obstruction ignited by a misplaced hyoid bone, he knew the man’s drowning sensations were ultimately sourced in violence. But since Buchanan reported no signs of foul play or burglary in his statement to the police—simply claiming he woke with an anterior neck shrouded with ecchymosis and the searing fear which attends that ambiguous sensation of being drowned—Jay Grace decided to investigate Buchanan’s state of mind. A leading cause of hyoid fractures during the economic crisis in the American Midwest was, after all, a surge in suicide attempts: ropes dangling from rafters (and shower curtain rods for cases recorded during the weekend, when everyone is home and mid-sized families report spikes in claustrophobia, self-suspecting uselessness, and unwilling containment) with varying degrees of stability. The stability of the rope or wire is inversely proportional to the damage sustained by the hyoid, since hyperextension of its supporting muscles reduces the mobility of the hyoid bone, thereby increasing the risk of fracture.

But the other thing is, there were three pairs of belts found coiled in the corner of Buchanan’s bathroom. And the longest, thickest belt was frayed at the final puncture.

So Grace sedated Buchanan, cleared up the red mess (pumped the blood, reattached a rebellious ligament), and mended the hyoid with a loose metal plate. Buchanan was passed out and Grace dispelled the hovering EMT trainee after making a call. He turned on the television, and studied a man who called himself New Christ making announcements on talk shows about new covenants coming in the days ahead. Stay tuned.

When Buchanan came to, Jay Grace was armed with a psychologist. They spent four hours interrogating him and they ultimately discovered that, yes, he had attempted suicide and then crawled back into bed, where the rest of the story he told was true. Yes: he awoke in the middle of the night to a dry world in which, somehow, he was being drowned.

A similar event occurred the next day with a man who was kicked in the throat on the beach. Jay thought it was odd to find two Garrotter’s Throats in the same country—never mind the same city—in less than a month. Never mind two days. But the operation went swimmingly. Then that same night, when he got the third call, he interrupted the lonely dispatch with a joke. “Fractured hyoid, right?” But he was right. He laughed, but the dispatch said he needed to hurry.

“You got no idea though. This one’s that New Christ they been talking about all month.”

•••

Jay Grace, M.D., used to dream of being a vivisectionist. In high school he skipped class to begin his maiden reading of William Harvey’s 1628 masterpiece, Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus. The punishment for his absence from class was detention, which Grace spent finishing the book beneath the covering that the desk provided. Later, inspired by his English teacher Mr. Galloway, whom Jay Grace had overheard advising a perky brunette to read backward from her favorite authors if she really wanted to get behind the scenes and discover their great secrets, Grace read Galen. In the library, his freshman year at the university, he discovered that Aristotle had performed vivisections in his day, and that Aristotle’s intellectual descendants, Erasistratus and Herophilus, vivisected living criminals—poor bastards with the misfortune of being convicted at the earliest dawn of natural philosophy.

What were their crimes? Erasistratus and Herophilus? Violent experiments no longer sanctioned by the academic patterns of the day. But Grace still hadn’t vivisected anyone (or anything, for that matter, unless you counted Mary, the graduate student who took his virginity in her private study room in the northwest corner of the library’s fourth floor, where the afternoon sun slipped through the blinds and slapped bars of light like radiographs against Mary’s wide body and the corrugated face of the southeast wall.)

Grace spent the first year of his residency trying to hedge a position beneath Graham Jennings, the leading neurosurgeon at Mount Sinai, because neuroscience guarded the door to an opportunity that was unavailable to the vivisectionists of history: the chance to dissect a living human brain while the subject is awake and aware. The subject can tell you what it feels like to get cut open in the brain. However, Grace spent his time playing the political corners of the neurosurgery wing without devoting any serious time to the study of neuroanatomy itself, a field which his coursework at Icahn School of Medicine had severely neglected. Jay Grace wasn’t surprised, in other words, when he found himself utterly useless, idling the sidelines after the great Dr. Graham Jennings invited him to shadow a televised surgery of jazz musician Barr Garfield—a genius suffering from essential tremors mysteriously afflicting his pronator quadratus and flexor carpi ulnaris, two muscles in his wrist which turned the hero’s trombone into a fish with rigor mortis. When the musician started laughing halfway through the procedure, presumably because Jennings had accidentally stimulated the material locus of human laughter with the mechanical electrode he used to penetrate the artist’s thalamus, Jay Grace asked the Jazz King Garfield: “What’s so funny?”

Jennings looked at him, while the BBC camera kept rolling live. Jennings asked whether Grace was supposed to be in the room. Had he gotten lost? Grace apologized. Garfield continued attempting to play his trombone as Jennings poked around in the man’s brain, and, long after the reporters had considered leaving early, the spotty hisses and misfires from Garfield’s instrument were replaced at once with the central refrain of Charlie Parker’s “All the Things You Are.” The BBC correspondent clapped her hand to her mouth and said, “Christ, my God!” as the camera crew broke out in full applause. But Grace, in the corner, looked mistrustfully at Garfield as he listened to the riff. There was something wrong with the riff. The riff was stale, like the sound you’d hear if you found yourself in a hospital when you were really expecting to hear the spit and the buzz made by the lips of the great Jazz King Barr Garfield.

After the day was gone, Jennings kicked Grace out of neurosurgery. Grace left amicably and that Friday he bought his old mentor, Rudolph Blandford, a drink. After the third round Jay was asking for his old position in Pulmonology (or, if that was impossible, then why not Cardiology, where he also had some friends). Blandford said it was possible, of course, but only possible, not yet secure, because landing a coveted position in Pulmonology would come at a price.

“I want you to say,” Blandford said, “that intraoperative brain mapping is superstition.”

Intraoperative brain mapping is brain surgery performed while the patient is awake, as in the operation of the famous Barr Garfield. It had a questionable reputation in certain schools of surgical thinking. The argument was simple: you cannot pretend to investigate the mind if the mind knows that it is being investigated. No double-blind screening and no safeguards means that you’re fooling yourself if you think you’re doing something real when you go around cutting through breathing brains to make men laugh at no jokes. Some saw this criticism of IBM as needlessly mystical, so Blandford didn’t need to tell his protégé why this verbal concession was being demanded as a kind of payment.

“I just need you to say it,” Blandford said.

“Yeah. Intraoperative brain mapping is bullshit.”

“Superstitious.”

“Superstitious, Rudolph.” Grace took a drink. “Am I back in yet?”

•••

The hyoid bone is the thin U-shaped ring you see floating beneath the jaw in classroom skeletal models. Just floating. You can tell a lot about skeleton manufacturers by noting their solution to the problem of the floating hyoid: clear plastic supports, or string, or wire, or unashamed black rods. Jay Grace used to stare at the hyoid on the model in his high school biology class, wondering what exactly supported it, why something so fragile and isolated would develop just beneath the impenetrable stronghold of the human skull. Of course the cricoid cartilage supports and sustains the hyoid bone, but you can’t see cartilage in a human skeleton. If you see cartilage, then by the time you see the hyoid, it’s likely too late—you’ve got to resort to needles and EMT staples to keep the thing in place.

Grace had been a practitioner for eleven years in Brooklyn when he got the first emergency call at four-thirty in the morning. Normally he only went to work from Monday to Friday, nine to five, overseeing typical respiratory complaints and what he liked to call vague hallucinations.

The sleep scientists over at NYU sent him half their patients and his secretary fit them all in. But a statistically anomalous medical coup (inspired by the coupling of a hospital staff strike and the New York condition that leads pragmatic residents to self-exile themselves in the face of rising rent) had eliminated half the first responders in the area, as well as all of the surgeons who specialized in pulmonology and afflictions of the throat.

The voice on the phone, describing the injury of a man named Buchanan, said it was “Garrotter’s Throat, or a hyoid bone fracture,” as though they were two separate possibilities. “So which is it?” Grace said, teasing the dispatch. “Are we dealing with a terrorist or not?”

Garrotes were collars that Spanish executioners asked spiritual dissidents to wear until 1959, but by 1959 their significance had already fled public consciousness. In 1495, less than fifty years before Vesalius reintroduced vivisection to Renaissance Europe, Pedro Berruguete finished painting Auto de Fe presidido por Santo Domingo de Guzmán, a terribly contoured depiction of two skinny pale guys getting strangled to death with leather garrotes. In regular Berruguete fashion, the sky hovering above the execution is an ambiguous wash of gray swirls, as though the crowd had agreed to assemble for the spectacle precisely because it would be located beneath those clouds. It was the kind of place that made you think there were gods around here. The interior of a massive dome made out of storm clouds. “Not to be missed,” Grace could hear them telling their friends as they wandered from neighborhood to neighborhood in order to attend the event. In moments the collars would be pulled taut and the hyoid bone in each man would fracture, seizing upon the trachea and preventing air from passing to the lungs, which in turn prevented the heart from doing its work. One man in a red cap, standing above the naked, collared men, appeared to be raising his hands as if to protest the event, but the gesture could just as well have been applause, Grace thought: the kind of applause you get when a man can’t believe the cold sublimity of the human race.

“It’s Garrotter’s Throat, I think,” said the dispatch. “Let me get you the address.”

“Are you sure? Garrotter’s Throat is very rare.”

“Oh, then I’m not sure. I don’t know.”

“But then, hyoid bone fractures are just as rare. Less than two-fifths of a percent of all fractures are hyoid fractures. And the same number of all fractures are Garrotter’s Throat. What are the odds?”

“It’s remarkable, doctor.”

“Yes, it is,” he said, scratching his chin, readying his thumos for an awful night.

•••

He had a car but he called a cab so he could read about hyoid fractures on his way to work. Whenever he could afford the time, he gave his books an extra look. It wasn’t that he forgot things, but that some things you can really only learn properly when it’s the last minute and you know you need to know it.

As always, Grace started by looking at the pictures and reading their captions. Usually he started with the captions, so he wouldn’t waste time in the company of these pixelated likenesses of alien bodies unless he knew the reason why he was staring. Unless he knew what bit of knowledge he was meant to glean from the pictures. It was the only way to stave off fears that he was not simply the good kind of voyeur. Like cops who turn off the lights to watch snuff films together in the office, for research. Grace didn’t want to be like that. So he read.

Figure 1a: Cadaveric dissection of the hyoid bone. Figure 1b: Suspension of the hyoid bone by stylohyoid ligaments. Figure 1c: Position of the hyoid bone between the thyroid cartilage and the mandible. (The word crucible crossed Grace’s mind, as well as the image of a praying mantis on a leaf the size of a Chevy.)

Figure 2a: Position of the hyoid bone with respect to its function as a movable base for the tongue. Figure 2b: Diagrammatic representation of the dependence of respiration and swallowing on the position of the hyoid bone. Apodictic connections in blue. Figure 2c: Male hyoid bone before unilateral fusion to the greater cornua. This usually occurs in males at 38.247 years of age, and bilaterally in females at 53.152 years. Figure 2d: Unilateral fusion in male at 43.911 years. Figure 2e: Bilateral fusion in female at 74.836 years. (The phrase Adam’s apple crossed his mind. He touched his neck and swallowed.)

Figure 3: Fractured hyoid bone.

Figure 4: The anterior region of the neck in a 1949 photograph. Note that the hyoid bone is completely missing.

•••

The New Christ stared at the mirror, thinking what the fuck. He flicked a cigarette in the toilet to hear the quick wet sparkle of an ember dying. What the fuck is going on. He listened to the street outside where men argued over taxi fares. He knew both voices.

One of these men was the New Christ’s press secretary, a short guy from Dallas with a big perfect bowl cut. At first, way back when, New Christ was worried about Steve’s hair. But he never appeared on camera for the job, so what did his haircut matter? The image of Stave’s shiny hair, seen between nimbus clouds floating over a Dallas ballgame, ran through the fragile mind of the New Christ.

Figure this out, asshole. The face in the mirror scowled at itself. It’s time.

He removed the Do Not Disturb sign and locked the door behind him. His back propped against the elevator, he dialed Steve.

“You owe the cabbie thirty-four dollars, not twenty. Don’t fuck with him.”

He listened as Steve sighed and rested the phone against his shoulder, fishing his pocket for a few more bills.

In the suite, Steve went over figures on a thin tablet, graphs he made himself. He didn’t realize that this meant New Christ had a hand in their creation. But New Christ didn’t brag. He lit a cigarette and rubbed His eyes with His palms. “What’s with the AC in this fucking place?”

New Christ offered Steve a cigarette, but he declined. New Christ knew that Steve only smoked Marlboros, but he thought that maybe, under this kind of pressure, the image of a little Camel wouldn’t make any difference.

“Will you relax?” Steve said.

“Should I be nervous?” said New Christ.

“You’ve done this a thousand times.”

“A dozen times, at most. You can’t do this shit a thousand times without going insane.”

“Whatever. Such a big one tonight, we’ll let them go through with the makeup.”

•••

The makeup artist had a name, as he had curtly informed New Christ the Lord.

“I’m Randall.”

“I’m sorry, Randall. But still, I mean, you’d think that you, of all people, would have fixed a nose like that.”

“Okay, what’s it gonna be?”

The New Christ gave it some thought.

He didn’t want to make any rash moves before determining his covenant. But he had made rash moves. So he reflected on his regret.

At one time, the New Christ didn’t know regret. This was something he inherited from his father and his memories. At that time he got it in his head: don’t look back. He stood casting Lot and his family from Gomorrah with the revelation fresh on his lips. Don’t look back, you can never look back. There were rainbows still shimmering in the sky when he said it, back when he gave it real effort, back when your everyday rainbow paled the Northern Lights. Pillars of salt. You don’t want that. Trust me, you don’t want that. But wait, maybe this forward-minded disregard for the past was a new veil for him to tear. He thought about what Steve used to say about the new generation. It’s all nostalgia and remorse. That’s what’s in these days. Memory. Don Draper. Pidgeotto. Cracker Jacks.

“Blue.”

“Huh?” said Randall.

“Make me look blue. Picasso blue. Regretful. Fallible. But confident in my regret. Nostalgic for the old Jews, but hopeful for the future?”

“I can do eyeliner?”

“That’s perfect, let’s do that.”

The audience roared when he entered the frame. He saw one flashing sign telling the crowd to laugh, but nobody seemed to notice. Then he realized nobody else could see the sign because it was directed at him. He was supposed to be laughing. So he laughed. The New Christ slowed his pace and laughed and raised his hand for the crowd, which lit a spark in their collective heart. They went wild. A kid in a T-shirt chanted his name, “Christ, Christ,” begging with the strength of his voice for the rest of the crowd to chant along with him.

Which they did.

•••

Jay pushed through the onlookers in the stairwell. A throng of reporters and doctors supposedly on strike were clogging the hall. When he got through he found the New Christ, holding his throat and choking up to the sky.

“Calm down,” said Grace, who supported New Christ’s head with his right hand. “It’s better if you don’t speak. Just nod or shake your head.”

“I speak, Jay Grace. Speaking is my only job in this world.”

He knows my name.

“Don’t hurt yourself. It’s a fracture?”

“My hyoid, yes. What a mess—I can’t operate on myself. Not in this world.”

Precedent,” Steve called loudly over heads for all the reporters to hear. “When Jesus got the ointment rub. That’s some real damned precedent for this kind of thing.”

The small fingers of reporters went scrawling the quote down. All their notebooks read Precedent at the top of new pages. That pacified them, but still they were complaining that they couldn’t hear New Christ’s soft voice.

“How did it happen?” Grace said.

“He slipped on the stairs and hit his throat on the handrail,” said Steve back to Jay Grace, pointing at the bloody spot. A group of penitents were crowded around the rail, slamming their own throats against the metal and collapsing in a heap. Jay rose to stop them but the New Christ grabbed his arm.

“It doesn’t matter.”

What soft voice.

“I’m going to place you on a stretcher so we can bring you to the ambulance and deliver anesthesia,” said Grace.

“I don’t need to sleep. But it’s fine, Jay,” said the New Christ, “it’ll still be your every dream.”

Jay thought the New Christ winked.

“Now get started, because this hurts like hell.”

•••

Later, when Grace left the stairwell, reporters would swarm him, asking whether in his professional capacity he could certify that the new incarnation of God was, indeed, again a man. “A human being?” said the correspondents from Fox, echoing the smirking CNN responder.

“No, not a human being,” Jay Grace would say. “He’s not really a man. But couldn’t you tell?”

“How can you tell, what with your professional opinion?” “What did He tell you?” “What color is New Christ’s blood?” “Does hyoid bone fracture really sound like an appropriate diagnosis for something afflicting New Christ the Lord?”

“It’s not biological,” Grace said. “But his wound is, without a doubt, medical.”

The reporters scratched on their pads, and one, in the back, began singing Hodie.

“I just don’t want to be too quick here about making big distinctions,” Grace said.

Hodie in terra canunt angeli!” sang the choirboy penitent.

“Or little distinctions. Just no big decisions too fast, all right?”

Hodie exsultant justi!

And Jay Grace was brimming, aware that he had stumbled upon the final work of his life.

•••

Grace corroborated Steve’s version of events for the press.

The New Christ did not fall unintentionally. Rather, he permitted his chosen doctor, Jay Grace, to study the relation between God and the human body.

Why in a public stairwell?

“Spontaneous,” Steve said. “Precedent: think the first Christ’s sudden decision to turn water into wine. He didn’t need to do it then. It was just…the right time.”

Why Jay Grace?

“Spontaneous,” Steve said. “But it didn’t hurt that all the other pulmonologists and emergency surgeons in New York were on strike. Considering the New Christ’s recent words on action, Grace was the only sensible choice. I mean have you seen the guy’s CV? And by the way. Precedent: choosing John the Baptist to dunk his head in water.”

What will happen to the other doctors? The ones who didn’t answer the call? Damnation maybe?

“No, nothing will happen to them. Not until the covenant. Nothing the rest of you can’t expect for yourselves.”

Was New Christ planning any miracles?

“No! Precedent: First Christ never planned any miracles. You must remember, that Christ was mainly friends with imaginative peasants.”

Where will Grace’s article be published?

“That depends on who will take it. But you should ask Dr. Grace about that.”

Wouldn’t any editor in their right mind publish something of such spiritual magnitude?

“In their right mind, yes. But again, you should really consult Dr. Grace.”

•••

One night outside Wichita, Steve confided to Jay Grace that the New Christ had been acting rather differently ever since Grace showed up.

“What could I have done?”

“You fixed his throat, didn’t you?”

“That’s not how it works, Steve.”

“How do you know?” Steve reminded him that he was coming along on tour to continue his research. If he already understood everything, then what was the point of his coming along?

“You said it yourself. New Christ is not a man.”

“But that doesn’t mean tracheal trauma can change Christ’s choice of words.”

“I’m not talking about the guy’s trachea, man. Listen to me for once?”

“I’m trying my best, Steve.”

I’m trying my best, Steve.

•••

Hungover, Steve stayed in bed while Jay Grace and Christ went out for breakfast. Christ ordered milk and honey. The waiter left to fetch it and Jay dug his head in his hands laughing.

“Hey, listen. I may need you for my archangel. You know that already though?”

Christ took another bite and sipped his coffee. His face quivered—the drink was too hot.

“Your archangel?” said Grace.

“Like I said. And Steve will stay on staff. There’s also a writer in Portugal who’s very good. Her name is Paulina.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m building my choir, Dr. Grace.”

“Your choir.”

“For the flood.”

“The flood.”

“Or whatever. That’s figurative, of course.”

“Will you be killing anyone? As your archangel, I should be aware.”

“No, of course not. I tried out slaughter already. It’s not very democratic, you know.”

“Then what are you talking about?”

“Look, have you found a venue for your article yet?”

“I’m starting my own journal.”

“That does seem appropriate.”

“I’ll need your endorsement, of course,” said Grace.

“Of course.”

•••

Jay Grace lit a match. He threw it out the window, where the rain promptly swallowed the flame. He heard a hiss fall through the night and thought he remembered something far away. The kind of blurry memory that doesn’t bring much to mind beside a smell and half a sound.

The New Christ was pacing around in the other room, informing the Israeli Prime Minister of some tough news.

And Grace was almost bored. But that’s not the right word, he thought. Not bored. More like divine. But not like divine inspiration, since it’s certainly no passion. Maybe, holy?

He called the writer from Portugal and she wasn’t surprised to hear his proposition. “I had a feeling this was coming,” she said. “Though I have to admit, I thought the New Christ would be the one to call.”

“He will,” said Jay Grace. “He doesn’t know I’m calling.”

Grace explained the situation to her and she remained silent until he was finished.

“For this to work,” Paulina said, almost out of breath just from hearing Grace speak, “you’ll need to tell me what happened.”

“In the stairwell? I told them almost everything.”

“Then just say it again.”

“That has nothing to do with what we’re trying to accomplish.”

“Look, Jay. I need you to tell me everything.”

•••

Jay wondered to himself how any Christ’s anatomy was so like man’s. The procedure was simpler than it had been with Buchanan or the man on the beach. It was like New Christ was a man, but a perfect man. A man whose innards were scarred with evidence of abuse, evidence of smoking and drinking, but evidence that miraculously posed no threat to him. All merely evidence on the surface, aesthetic evidence without the force of reality.

At first it went the way surgery goes, nothing to write home about. But gradually the New Christ got anxious and started talking. “What do you see?” saith the Lord, “Anything there that you never seen?” saith the Lord, and Jay realized for the first time that this could serve another purpose. It was part of New Christ’s new covenant, Jay thought, that the New Christ be seen—truly seen, seen up close by a spelunker, an interior decorator, someone who knows how to see. That he be seen by a man.

A man with a scalpel?

Yes, a man with a knife.

“Does this hurt?” asked Jay with every incision. Because no Christ ever flinched. “Yes, Jay, it hurts.” The New Christ didn’t flinch, and he didn’t cry, but Jay saw bags growing under his eyes. Jay imagined living a life without rest and he shivered. He had to close his eyes and catch his breath. When he opened his eyes he saw a blade in his hand, covered in the Lord’s blood.

•••

He threw the blade back into New Christ’s neck, restless, at the New Christ’s insistence.

“Hurry!”

Then Steve joined in, “Hurry Jay, for the love of God,” and Jay stabbed again and again until the bleeding stopped and the hyoid, or something like it, fell back into place. The citizen onlookers, the penitents bashing their throats into the handrails, the reporters jotting down Steve’s precedents—all these people were feet away from what was happening, although they couldn’t see around the corner of the stairwell.

Is this what it takes? thought the New Christ. A man in Manhattan? A butcher in Manhattan?

Jay watched Christ’s eyes rolling back and forth like a prophet in the night. Then he pictured the captions in the article he’d inevitably write.

“Hey, hey,” Jay said, trying to get the press secretary’s attention.

“His name is Steve,” said the New Christ.

“Steve, can you find me a camera?”

“I’ll get one from the reporters.”

•••

Figure 1a: Vivisection of the New Christ’s hyoid bone. Figure 1b: Suspension of the hyoid bone by stylohyoid ligaments. Figure 1c: Position of the hyoid bone between the thyroid cartilage and the mandible.

“Christ?” said Jay Grace.

Figure 2a: Position of the hyoid bone with respect to its function as a movable base for Christ’s tongue.

“Yes, Jay?”

•••

“Look, this is embarrassing,” Grace said to Paulina.

“I don’t care how it sounds, Jay. Just finish the story. What did you do to him? What did you see during the procedure?”

“Not a word goes out until I get to see the piece you’re writing.”

“Dude, get on with it,” Paulina said. “Naturally, not a word until you sign it.”

“I’m starting something here, but I need a few months to get my project off the ground before anyone else can know about it.”

“Jay, you’re being paranoid.”

•••

Figure 2b: Diagrammatic representation of the dependence of respiration and swallowing on the position of the hyoid bone. Apodictic connections in red.

Christ coughed. Jay saw that it was difficult for Him to swallow.

“Can I ask you a question?” Grace said.

Figure 2c: Male hyoid bone before unilateral fusion to the greater cornua. This usually occurs in males at 38.247 years, and bilaterally in females at 53.152 years of age. Figure 2d: Unilateral fusion in male at 43.911 years. Figure 2e: Bilateral fusion in female at 74.836 years.

Figure 2f: Trilateral fusion in Christ.

“Yes, of course.”

Figure 3: Fractured hyoid bone.

“What does it feel like?”

Figure 4: The anterior region of the neck in a 2017 photograph. Note that the hyoid bone is completely missing.

“I must say, Grace. It really does feel like drowning.”

Zachary Calhoun was born and raised in the high deserts of New Mexico. He is currently living in New Orleans, where he is a philosophy PhD student at Tulane University. He will spend the 2017-2018 academic year on fellowship abroad in Berlin. Maybe one day he will move back to the desert.

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