Getting Marianne into the operation room didn't change the situation at all. All the doctors could find was that, indeed, the hole formed because the muscle in the leg was disappearing. The only new thing they could find was that the muscle seemed to be torn around the hole, and that it was indeed growing to the point that it almost reached the bone.
"Torn?" Alice asked. The image of an invisible monster sneaking beneath her mother's sheets, chewing at her skin, tearing her mother's muscle away with razor sharp teeth invaded her mind with such unpleasant strength it made her dizzy.
"Yes, torn. We're not sure if it is a degenerative disease-"
"It's not a degenerative disease," the other doctor interrupted. Dr. Taylor frowned.
"We haven't ruled that out yet."
"But it is very unlikely-"
"Okay!" Alice interrupted, waving her hands at the doctors. "I get it. You've no idea what it is." For a second, she almost blurted out the ridiculous idea that had just crossed her mind. At least it could be worth a laugh. She shook her head. "Please, I don't want to lose my mother. I don't care what you do, you need to find out what's wrong with her." The image of a strange, invisible creature chewing at her mother's leg from under the covers flashed into her head. It made too much noise in her mind, which wanted to cling to any possibility, no matter how ludicrous.
"We could..." The two doctors exchanged glances.
"You could... what?"Dr. Taylor cleared his throat and played with a pen inside his pocket.
"This is, of course, as a last resort," Dr. Taylor said. "We don't want to jump into something drastic without sufficient cause. But, as a last resort, if it seems to pose a threat to your mother's life... and I mean, there is a small possibility due to the expansive nature of the ailment... We could amputate her leg to prevent it from spreading elsewhere. Just beneath the knee, she wouldn't have to lose all the leg... With a prosthesis, she could go on with her life as she always has." Alice nodded.
"Can you leave me alone, just for a second? You can tell my mother everything you told me, but please, please don't tell her that last thing." The doctors nodded and entered Marianne's room, leaving Alice alone on the corridor.
She paced back and forth, hoping that moving her legs would be enough to keep her brain distracted from the horrible idea that had been suggested to her. She stopped in front of an Aztec statue that adorned the corridor and stared at it to keep herself busy. Its jarring asymmetrical features, dominated by an open mouth with huge fangs, unsettled her. It seemed to be poking fun at her, the very embodiment of death, laughing as it prepared to pounce, once again, on her loved ones. It took all of her self-control not to pull the statue and let it smash on the ground.
As she considered the statue, something caught her attention. A glimpse of a shadow, quivering behind the statue when no source of light could've made it quiver. She approached the statue and, with the image of invisible monsters still in mind, felt behind it with a careful hand There was nothing there, not even a trace of the physical presence that had lurked beneath the sheets on her mother's bed. Alice laughed.
"The stress must be getting to me," she said, as she headed back to her mother's room. A newly developed itch made her scratch the back of her right hand while heading for the door. Her head was so full of worries she didn't notice the tiny hole that seemed to have appeared beneath her own skin, causing the itch.