The doctor


“Anthony, pay attention. Now, where did you get this bruise from?”

He rubbed his aching jaw, feeling it rise. His mother pried his fingers away from the bruise and surveyed it without comment. He felt her eyes bore into him. 

“I…wanted to climb up the tree in our backyard,” Anthony murmured shamefully, tilting his head down, trying his best to ignore the sting of tears in his eyes. “Thought I could see the school from there.”

She let go of his jaw and rummaged around in the refrigerator for an ice pack, then handed it to him. 

“Hold it there for ten to twenty minutes. Don’t climb up the tree again; it sets a bad example for our neighbourhood.” 

Was she worried for him? Angry, even? Anthony glanced up at her, hope rising in his chest, but she simply walked out of the kitchen, leaving him in the chair.

Ice gnawed at his jaw as he pressed the pack to it, and tears fell down the fourteen-year-old’s cheeks. 


Truth be told, there was nothing much to see from up the tree. Scrambling up the bark, laces untied, he peered through the leaves and saw nothing but rows of perfectly dull houses. Like ants in a row, perfectly sectioned out – Anthony knew this from the moment he was born. 

Anthony was told that he was born special, in fact. That was the reason why he’d done something no child in their neighbourhood would ever dream of; he’d climbed a tree impulsively. 

Since grown-ups never told him anything, particularly his mother, who always made sure he was nice and quiet and obedient, he rifled through his birth certificate files and found that he was described as an ‘anomaly’.

‘We have never had to deal with such an anomaly before. Mother has a chip safely equipped. It appears that his body has rejected the Doctor’s artificial DNA.’

The man himself – the Doctor – was just another figure in his life. He was there on television, in the news, under the whispers of obedient classmates or perfect neighbours. From the sounds of them, the way to not get his attention would be to conform.  

His mother had always been a tad stricter with him. His birth had been all hushed up to not cause inconveniences or problems, but it did make him stick out like a sore thumb mostly everywhere. 


The bruise didn’t heal. Well, not as quickly as Anthony had hoped. 

It lasted till the next day, and that was how he ended up standing in front of the principal himself, backpack slung across his shoulders. The bruise’s pain had dulled to a faint throb in his jaw. 

“Why do you have a bruise on your jaw? Answer me.” 

Anthony just snorted derisively in response. 

“I will not tolerate this attitude, young man. Did you get into a fight?”

His words were cold and condescending; Anthony hated how everyone in this stupid town talked in the same bland voice. He hated this town, in fact. He stared at his dirty sneakers, down at the floor, trying his best to ignore the principal.

“Tripped an’ fell. It’s none of your business.” Anthony sullenly mumbled, hands clenched into fists, and shifted his weight as if to walk away.

The principal didn’t speak, or try to stop him. Silence hung in the air. 

“You know, Anthony, we’re trying to help you.” The man’s voice was far gentler, now, but unmistakably artificial. “The government and the Doctor are looking out for imperfections…”

Imperfections? Like Anthony was a manufactured product? He gritted his teeth in response, a seething pit of frustration in his stomach, and Anthony shifted his backpack higher on his shoulders. 

“Yes, sir, whatever, sir.” I don’t care, sir. I don’t want to stay in this school anymore, sir. I don’t want to stay in this stupid world the Doctor made, sir. 

It was the world in which he’d grown up, directed by one man who ruled with cold, hard, science and powerful soldiers; he’d breached the very limits of humanity to control the entire world and make huge scientific advancements. Some time ago, everyone had a little brain chip implanted into their skulls, which twisted and split and blossomed out in later generations to become DNA, courtesy of the man they called The Doctor. 

The principal steepled his fingers, observing Anthony like he was a strange little thing. An anomaly. 

“Anthony…you’re a bright young man. Very unique, very interesting. I’ve seen your birth certificates.” A pause. “How about you go to the school clinic for a brief inspection. I’ll make sure your teachers don’t write you up.”

Anthony knew better than to react. 


The school clinic was cold, antiseptic, and soulless. It smelled faintly bitter and stung the insides of Anthony’s nose. He glimpsed his reflection in a mirror nearby – he looked like a purplish, dirty, stain upon what otherwise would have been a perfectly clean environment.

A creak from the door jolted his head up, and a few officers shuffled in with some nasty-looking equipment tucked in their arms. 

“Hello, boy. This won’t hurt a bit if you were wondering.” One of the men, who was probably the leader, made no effort to sound comforting; he was handed a shiny gun – something Anthony had never seen before – and approached the boy, who eyed it suspiciously.

“Just a checkup.” He said, blandly, and gestured for Anthony to sit in a nearby plastic chair. Anthony sat himself down nervously, as he watched the men charge up the gun. It buzzed with energy as the man held it up to his skull.

“Now, don’t move.”

With a brief snap, something ominous and cold ran through Anthony’s brain, causing him to instinctively smack his skull and yell, “Hey!” 

Immediately he straightened in his chair; it was a mistake to react, Anthony knew. It wasn’t normal. But the men seemed satisfied with this response. 

One man with a notepad in the back muttered something discreet to his partner, who in turn shifted his gun to the crook of his elbow. He looked at Anthony up and down, and said: “Come with us.”


Anthony scrunched up his nose, wincing at the bright light shining into his eyes. The light didn’t dim, and he was forced to try and sit up, rolling over onto his side on a cold metal surface. The last thing he remembered was being in the school clinic – now he was in some foreign lab.

He came face to face with his own reflection again — just a boy, barely fourteen, that blasted bruise still throbbing on his jaw. Once his eyes got adjusted to the intense light, Anthony saw that he was in a gigantic operating theatre or arena. 

“Don’t sit up, stay down.” A voice hummed with exasperation, echoing through the halls. The lights dimmed as Anthony stayed up, wondering what would happen if he disobeyed this strange new arrival. 

A figure stood hunched over a few control panels, wearing a lab coat. He straightened up, facing Anthony, his face thrown into shadow. 

Anthony could make out eyes even in the darkness as the figure drew closer. The artificial LED lighting brought light suddenly to the Doctor’s face, and Anthony couldn’t help but momentarily draw back.

The Doctor, the nameless figure he’d always seen with square shoulders and neat hair on television, ruthlessly giving out orders and dishing out laws, was reduced to this…well, Anthony’s bright expectations suddenly dimmed, and he found – inexplicably – that this face of the government looked…human. 

“Huh. Forgot this subject was a mutation.” The Doctor hummed under his breath, almost as if to himself, folding his arms across his chest. Anthony, his dislike of the man quickly overshadowing his awe, scowled, folding his legs so he sat on the table cross-legged, in a worn but colourful shirt. 

Of course he was a mutation. He was different, after all. The Doctor did have reason to hate him, Anthony thought to himself. Anthony was a little annoying blip in the system, someone who caused trouble, someone who let his emotions control him, someone who climbed trees and got bruises and talked back. 

The Doctor turned to him, a slightly amused smile dancing around his lips. “Considering your missing brain chip, I highly recommend not mouthing off to the man who’s going to dissect your brain.”

Anthony froze, suddenly hyper-aware of everything. He remembered the tingle sent through his brain just now by the soldiers, and scrambled off the table, clutching his head: “No, no, WHAT?” He skidded off the table, old sneakers squeaking against the floor. “N-no— NO! Wait! You’re just going to–to cut me up? Like that?”

“Anthony, I’d like you to stay on the table. You’re making this quite inconvenient for me.” 

He backed up against the wall like a lab rat, breathing rapidly, as if his lungs were constricting on him. The Doctor made no attempt to move towards him and merely looked at him as if were merely a petulant child, another thorn he could easily pluck out. 

“Let me go! Was it about the bruise? Was it about my chip? I swear– I didn’t know, and I’ll– I’ll never do it again, let me go…” Anthony spluttered, gripping his head, panic choking him. “It’s your– it’s your laws, they don’t- I don’t – let me go!” 

The Doctor put down the scalpel, sighing in exasperation, as if he had had to deal with this many times. “I knew I should have put him on an anaesthetic. Look, you’re fourteen. The world was a place inhumane without brain chips. It’s now certainly better than before, wouldn’t you agree?” 

Anthony was, at heart, a curious child. It was only human. He couldn’t help but ask: “…that doesn’t make sense…then why was I different? Why’s it my fault for being born a freak?”

The Doctor snorted derisively. “Well, now, it just sounds like you’re venting your frustrations onto me, boy. Rules and laws and policies and everything I do happen for a reason, after all.”

Anthony took a moment to process this before his head whipped up in disbelief. Forgetting about the fact that this world leader wanted to cut him up, he spluttered: “Hey, how’s it my fault just for having emotions? How did I choose to be stuck here? I didn’t have a choice to live in a world like this!”

The Doctor just smiled with too many teeth as the words hung in the air. Anthony’s breath caught in his throat, the reality of what he had just said sinking into his skin. 

What was the use of his humanity in a world devoid of it? Black and white? Anthony’s fists clenched around nothing, throat clogging up. 

He was human, too. The eyes watering up, the nose stinging, the chest constricting his airflow, it was all purely, disgustingly, human. He closed his eyes, trying to slow his breathing, realising just how big and small the room was at the same time. 

“You realise,” The Doctor’s voice was inhumanely quiet, condescending; “neither of us wishes to have a blip living in a system where it cannot thrive.” Anthony wished he would stop talking, driving the truth deeper in. 

“It was never the same.” Anthony croaked, turning to face his equal. “It was never the same the moment I was born, wasn’t it?”

The Doctor shoved his hands into his lab coat pockets, a lopsided smile stretching the scars on his face. “Well, Anthony, what do you think?”

Anthony swallowed back his tears. No, no. He had to think of this one hundred percent practically. Fourteen years spent as a blip in the system with nothing, really, to live for. A crumpled boy, with imperfect bruises and a faded sweater, facing the man who had dominated the world, hands covered in both figurative and literal blood.

His mother would not care if he was trapped in The Doctor’s lab. She would never care, would she? 

Anthony let himself cry for the last time.

Renee Kong Yan Yee, Class of 2026, enjoys exploring different genres and styles of writing, excluding essays for Literature, jokes within writer biographies, and irony.