Once the students were in position, I asked Mr. O’Neil to open John Doe’s mouth. He hesitantly placed his hands on the wrinkly old man’s face, pulling his lower jaw down to reveal a nasty set of rotten black teeth. Mr. Carter gagged at the sight, but the other two kept their cool. I must say, I was impressed by how well they kept their composure throughout the examination. Stifling a laugh, I reached a hand inside the corpse’s chest in preparation. The smell emanating from John Doe’s mouth was far from pleasant, but it was nothing I wasn’t used to. Now, we were all in place: the residents were crouched down with their faces inches from the man’s, and mine was about a foot farther away.
“Okay, listen carefully,” I said calmly, squeezing the exposed lung.
A heavy puff of air unexpectedly escaped the man’s blueish lips. It was foggy, like a winter’s breath. The four of us gasped in shock, inadvertently inhaling the fumes. I could feel the sickeningly moist and cold air fingering its way down my throat and into my lungs, leaving the taste of rotten eggs on my tongue. Wiping my mouth, I retracted and gagged in disgust. The attending doctors laughed and clapped behind the glass separator. They had no idea our little prank had gone awry. The freaked-out students looked nauseous, coughing repeatedly as they turned towards the hallway full of doctors. When they realized they’d been hazed, they calmed down. Not wanting to lose face in front of my colleagues, I regained my composure, forced a chuckle, and claimed I’d used dry ice to manage the effect.