This wasn’t right. Something had gone horribly wrong and he didn’t know how to rectify the situation. Was this truly all there was? When he’d signed on the dotted line, he hadn’t known he was promising mind, body, and soul. In it for the long haul was one thing… but this… this was nothing short of hell on earth.
His girlfriend stood in front of him, more well put together than she’d been the last time he’d seen her. Her lips were lined with blood red, contrasting nicely with her stark white teeth. A single tear fell down her cheek. He longed to reach out and wipe it away, but could not. He recalled the skin being torn from his fingertips. They’d touch nothing.
“I miss you so much already, Toby,” she said, stepping aside to make room for his brother.
Wait. Charlotte… I made a terrible mistake!
“You care if I play your video games?” he asked, not looking Toby in the eyes.
Are you bloody kidding me? You have the audacity to stand there, in front of me, like this, and ask me about freakin’ video games?!
His mother’s face slid between Charlotte and Henry. He felt instant relief. His mother was always available for some sort of comfort, be it a warm smile, or a loving hug. He braced himself for the love of a mother to her child. “I can’t believe you did this!” was what he heard instead. “It’s an affront to all that is holy. I reared you better than this, Tobias. I taught you better!”
Mama! Come on! Please don’t do this to me! I didn’t know! I swear to God if I’d known, I never would have…
“Millie,” his father’s silky smooth voice sounded out loud and clear. It was the voice of a storyteller – deep, Southern, soothing. His mother looked behind her as his father patted her shoulder. Henry and Charlotte both stepped back, away from Toby’s sight.
Dad! Tell her, man. Tell her to pray for me! Tell her not to give up on me!
“It’s what he wanted, Millie. You saw the paper he signed. It was his decision to donate his body to science. How were we supposed to know this was what he meant?” His dad threw his hand up toward him, as if his mom couldn’t see. She didn’t want to, it was obvious. She covered her face. Toby tried to look down but couldn’t stand to see himself – insides out. “You can’t stay angry with him forever. Forgive and forget, that’s what I say… even if he does look like he took one too many dips in the hot tub.”
“Dad!” Henry said, hiding his smile with his hand. It was still there in his eyes though, and Toby wished he could punch Henry one last time.
His father chuckled, tilting his head to look closer at Toby. He shrugged and turned away, placing a comforting arm around Toby’s mom. “Come on, Millie. It’s time to say goodbye. Every time he comes into town, you drag all of us out here, and I’m not sure it’s good for you to see him this way. It’s not exactly how he’d like to be remembered by us, I’m sure.
Don’t leave me here! Please! I made a mistake, Dad, and I need your help… or Mama’s prayers. Something! Anything, just please God don’t leave me here like this! I can’t stand eternity stuck in here.
Millie sighed, dabbing the corner of her eye with the monogrammed handkerchief she pulled from inside her shirtsleeve. “I know you’re right, George.” She leaned in; close enough that Toby could smell her floral perfume. “It’s just that he shouldn’t have done it. I told him not to. I told him this was a monstrosity, and look at him, sitting on a block like Rodin’s Thinker, paraded about like that for the world to see. It’s not natural, George, it’s just not.”
Mom… please. Help me!
He watched as his family – the people he loved more than anything in the world – walked away from him. He’d see them again, and again he’d try to get them to hear him, but of course they wouldn’t. They never did.
Souls were supposed to go to heaven or hell… not be stuck as an attraction in a mobile museum where people came to gawk and point at the subjects insides… or maybe they were. Maybe this was hell. Either way, he was pretty sure someone made a mistake, be it God, for forgetting all about him, or himself, for signing the piece of paper donating his body to the most disturbing exhibit he’d ever seen in his life.
“How can I not, Mom? This cancer is gonna kill me anyway, what difference does it make what happens to my body after I die?” he remembered telling his mother the day the sign-up paper came in. He proudly showed her the paper. “It’s not like I’m gonna be here anyway… right?”