The Horrors of Healthcare: William Woolfolk’s The Sendai

Congratulations! You survived seven more days on this planet! You deserve a freaky Friday, where I dig into the vault and pull out some weird and forgotten horror book that smells like cat hair.

It’s open enrollment period on the health insurance marketplace so what better time to read The Sendai? If you’re looking for new health insurance, and especially if you’re thinking of having yourself a litter of babies, it can be scary trying to pick the right doctor. Fortunately, The Sendai is here with some tips! First, stay away from any clinic or doctor with a name out of a Cronenberg movie. Second, do not give birth in a delivery room that includes a conveyor belt leading to The Off-Limits Building. Also, maybe don’t have a baby in a clinic that has something referred to as The Off-Limits Building.

Basically, do not have your baby at The Karyll Clinic in The Sendai, unless you want to have your newborn child replaced with a lifeless rubber dummy you’ll weep over while your actual suckling babe is conveyed off to its horrible new life as a genetic mutant.

Featuring all the hallmarks of the childbirth medical thriller—plenty of technical descriptions of medical procedures, people sneaking into off-limits areas, a doctor giving a lecture about playing God, a whistle blower whose murder is covered up as a suicide—those tropes are merely fuel in the engines of The Sendai as it blasts off into outer space. You read a book like Embryo, or Premature, or Crib and you learn about the miracles of modern medicine while getting slightly traumatized about all the things that can go wrong in the delivery room. Things going wrong in the delivery room are merely the truffle oil on The Sendai’s steak fries buried beneath the parmesan cheese of full throttle freakery.

Tom Pollard has some doubts about this strange new science known as in vitro fertilization. “It’s almost as though she’d be having a baby by another man,” he moans. “It’s unnatural.” No, no, the doctor explains, it’s like planting a garden full of peas, maybe. Written in 1980, The Sendai can be forgiven for its fears over unnatural test tube babies, and for its doctor’s limp metaphors, since up until that point only two kids had actually been conceived by IVF, whereas today it seems like pretty much everyone in the world gets IVF, often while waiting for the bus. Keeping that history in mind, it’s no surprise that Baby Pollard looks like a tiny monkey (“In nine months they had a little monster with coarse brown hair that covered its entire body and a hump between its shoulder blades.”) but surely it’s a nice monkey baby? After all, as Jane Pollard says, “You and your science have done all you can.”

No. Within three weeks it’s wearing denim overalls and breaking out of its crib. Finally, after one particularly harrowing night, they find it locked in a death embrace with the neighbor’s dog. Sure, the monkey baby is dead, but so is the dog. This kid is barely three weeks old and it’s already killing on a second grade level.

Enter Dr. Rudy Gerson, a man whose father is from a “crowded Brooklyn ghetto” and whose uncle died from “drugs jammed down his throat by a street gang.” It’s almost like he’s from Brooklyn in 2016. He even has a mustache! Dr. Gerson disappointed his dad when he became an OB/GYN instead of a more macho kind of doctor but now he spends his days so committed to his patients that he ditches a date to offer himself up as a hostage to an IVF daddy who’s flipped out and taken some nurses hostage. It seems that there are more and more monkey babies being born every day, so Dr. Gerson drives upstate to the Karyll Clinic where he meets another boy doctor living in daddy’s shadow: Dr. Peter Bradford who is definitely not from a crowded Brooklyn ghetto. He even comes with a slinky Euro-Doctor sidekick named Dr. Latolier who purrs that this last mother’s vaginal area was rather small and the monkey baby was a “typical deformity” called gargoylism.

That would be enough for most doctors to nod sagely and let it drop. Even if he’s in love with the sister of the IVF monkey baby’s mother. Even if he finds the conveyor belt in the delivery room and hears about The Off-Limits Building. The Code of the Doctors is so strong that it takes an attack on the very foundations of democracy itself to rouse the wrath of Dr. Gerson. The husky-voiced Dr. Latolier is one thing, but when he discovers that The Off-Limits Building is guarded by Konrad, a disgraced Bavarian zookeeper with a limp, he realizes what’s really going on here: socialized medicine, European style.

Sure, it sounds great to have free health care for everyone, but have we really taken a close look at the European model and seen what’s lurking between the lines and behind the lies? We learn the truth about socialized medicine in The Sendai when Dr. Gerson sneaks into The Off-Limits Building with Mary, his all-American lady love, and they discover that it’s hiding the fruits of failed nanny state medicine: wolves with pony hooves, a talking gorilla that wants to die, a hyper-intelligent bird boy, and an Olympic-sized swimming pool full of seahorse-fetus jellyfish with whom Konrad has a romantic relationship. See what is waiting for your children, America?

The EU attempt to protect their lies with a watchdogcat, which is a dog’s head on a cat’s body that has, like most Europeans, an insatiable appetite for attacking Americans but Dr. Gerson eludes it and finally confronts Dr. Bradford, who admits to breeding the Sendai as a slave species that are supernormally strong but subnormally intelligent. “They can perform menial repetitive tasks without becoming restless or bored.” Get those Sendai to the nearest Amazon warehouse, stat! Having Sendai monkey baby slaves will allow mankind to stop doing menial work and instead invent better math and write symphonies, Dr. Bradford crows, although the South had slaves and all they gave us was “Dixie”. Fortunately, Dr. Gerson has seen Gone with the Wind so he throws some brain-eating bacteria in Dr. Latolier’s eyes and without his European birth buddy, Dr. Bradford winds up standing trial for being arrogant and un-American, Mary rescues Dr. Gerson, and the hyper-intelligent bird boy sells his memoirs for millions of dollars.

Is this something we should be concerned about? Will Obamacare deliver unto us killer catdogs, Sendai monkey babies, and wolf ponies? Yes! We should be concerned! Because that’s where it’s probably all leading.

As author William Woolfolk writes in his afterword:

“What you have just read is not fiction.

It is fiction immersed in fact…In England, human infants have regrown severed fingertips…A mouse with the head of a chicken has been produced in a laboratory…TIME magazine reports that scientists’ control of basic life processes have reached the point where we can have ‘baby hatcheries’ that will produce everything from superbrainy ‘Alphas’ to dronelike ‘Epsilons’…I hope the implications of the questions raised here will concern you long after the book is forgotten.”

Well, the book has definitely long been forgotten, and I am paralyzed with terror at the thought of encountering a mouse with the head of a chicken in my apartment, so well done, William Woolfolk. Mission accomplished.

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