T.F. Torrey's Things Worth Reading



Ninety-Two Percent Water

From First Lies by T.F. Torrey

“Doctor, the water in my body is keeping me awake at night.”

Doctor Cane looked over his desk, staring calmly at Gloria Horner with his steel gray eyes. “The water in your body?”

“That’s right.”

“Mrs. Horner, how much water is in your body?” asked the doctor, his voice smooth and level.

She brought her hands out from behind her back nervously. Her left hand clutched a volume entitled Body Trivia. “It says here,” she said, faintly offering the book, “that ninety-two percent of my body is water.”

“How does that ninety-two percent keep you awake?” asked Doctor Cane.

“Well, it kind of, sloshes around, inside me.”

“And the sloshing keeps you awake?”

Gloria nodded fervently. “Yes, and sometimes there’s singing.”

The doctor raised one eyebrow, slightly grinning. “Singing?”

“Yes.” Her lower lip trembled a bit.

“Who does the singing?”

“I don’t know.”

“Is this person singing on the street outside your window?”

“It’s not a person. It’s more like a … a quartet. You know, like a barbershop quartet.”

“Is this barbershop quartet outside your window, serenading you, perhaps?”

“No. They’re inside me. Like right now, they’re inside my head. But when I lay down it sounds like they’re in my shoulder, or in my hip.”

The doctor folded his hands on the desk. “What do they sing?”

She shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. “I can’t tell.”

“What does it sound like?”

“German, I guess. But it’s inside my head and the acoustics get all messed up.”

Doctor Cane’s smile twisted slightly bigger. “So the voices sound like they’re singing something in German inside your head?”

She lowered her eyes and nodded. “What do you think it is, Doctor?”

“I’m certain that it’s just a simple case of nerves,” he said, “I’m sure that it will go away.”

Gloria raised her head quickly. “No! It’s not! The sloshing! Can’t you hear it?”

The doctor shook his head. “I can’t hear a thing,” he said. “I recommend that you just take it easy at your house for a few days. Relax. I’m sure it will go away.”

“No! It won’t go away! I’ve tried that already.”

“You tried relaxing?”

“Yes.”

“For how long?”

“I don’t know. Several days. It didn’t work. The water inside me just kept sloshing and those voices just kept singing.”

“Mrs. Horner, the water inside you is mixed with many other things. It can’t slosh.”

“It does.”

The doctor sighed. “Mrs. Horner, does the water even slosh in your arms?”

“Yes,” she said, uncertainly, her eyes burning bright but curiously.

Doctor Cane’s smile twisted even more. He slid open his center desk drawer and lifted out an axe. Its edge gleamed in the office lights. “Mrs. Horner, would you like me to show you that the water in your arm can not slosh?”

She stood still for a long while. Then, slightly, she nodded.

Doctor Cane rose from his desk and moved around it to her. He took the book from her hand and put it on the table. Slowly he grasped her forearm with his left hand and brought it down on top of the book. His left hand held her arm in place and he hefted the axe in his right. “Are you sure?” he asked her.

Again she nodded.

After a brief pause he smiled. Then he chopped the axe downward through the tissue of her arm and into the book.

A torrent of water gushed from the wound, flooding across the desk onto his chair. Gloria snapped her head back, face toward the ceiling, mouth open in a silent scream. Her head began to collapse into itself.

Doctor Cane let go of Gloria’s arm and stepped back a step. He watched, and his face twisted into a smile of satisfaction.

Gloria’s head and neck and shoulders slowly collapsed into her torso as the water continued to flood out of her arm. Suddenly the air was filled with hollow voices, thick with German accents, singing. Then a tiny boat gushed out of Gloria’s arm. The three occupants stopped singing and furiously paddled to keep their craft straight in the current. The flow took them over the edge of the desk into the chair.

By this time Gloria’s body had collapsed enough that it could no longer stand. It toppled over onto what was left of its side. When it hit the floor it split in the area of her hip, and water gushed out onto the floor. Within seconds all that remained of Gloria was her clothes around an empty shell of skin in a pool of water on Doctor Cane’s floor.

Doctor Cane stopped smiling after a minute and sighed. Kneeling, he gathered what was left of Gloria into a ball and threw her into his trash basket. Reaching onto his desk he lifted the book Gloria had brought and looked at its cover. Laughing, he threw this book into his trash on top of the ball of Gloria.

Author’s Note

First, I know that people aren’t actually 92% water, but when you read the story, until you look up the actual number, 92% is more fun.

Perhaps because of the people who don’t look up the actual number (it’s 50-65%), this story is a favorite with readers. I think it would be a fun animated short, but I don’t do those things. If you do, note that the Attribution-Only Creative Commons license for this book means it can be adapted to film or anything without permission or payment or anything more than a simple attribution like based on “Ninety-Two Percent Water” by T.F. Torrey. Sweet!

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