Closer to God

by Christina Scott

The Quadra’s Yokies hum as they glide down the hallways of Gordon and Jones, egg-shaped shadows flickering in the dimmed lights of closing time. Executives stop and chat with each other, bumping outer shells and laughing. I watch them, my arms folded, waiting in the corner of my boss’s office. Mr. Mason has been in a meeting since 3:00 p.m., and I will need to get him out of his chair for his evening nap. He could have the built-in deluxe cleaning system do it for him, but the helplessness of quadriplegia is part of its appeal. If Mr. Mason didn’t have a secretary to help him in and out of his chair there would be whispers amongst the other associates. They would wonder if he was getting too independent. His place in the company would be in jeopardy. Already for the day he had an attack of crying, in which the other associates averted their gazes as the tears ran unbidden down his cracked face and onto his thousand dollar designer tie.

The doctors, the ones that correlated violence with mobility, starvation with movement, told us we needed to get rid of our outer selves. Only vital organs and the head. I think I’m supposed to hate my form. I try to be disgusted by my limbs, the dimpled kneecaps, the ugly feet, the elbows jutting out near my sides, never quite sitting right. Yet I can only be delighted by the ease of movement and self-sufficiency. I will get the operation so I can be more than a secretary. So I will qualify for life insurance and find a mate. But I can’t help but be glad that I am still whole.

There are five Limbies in the office—I am one of them. We get things done because we are of the lower classes and we have no choice. More children are being genetically changed in the womb so they are born without limbs. Fewer Limbies exist because of this. Soon there will be no one with limbs at all. And if that ends violence and hate, then I suppose it’s worth it. I suppose I don’t need much of myself at all.

Later I visit my brother’s grave. It is a few blocks from the office, in a small plot in our family’s corner of the cemetery. I often bring him tulips. Today they are purple. It wasn’t clear to me until I found him swaying slightly in his closet from an expensive necktie that he’d been unhappy. The operation hadn’t solved that, or cured the deep melancholia that had settled on him at a young age and persisted until five months ago. He was my big brother, twenty-eight when he died. I am currently twenty-six. I used to watch him in the weeks before his death. The scars had healed where his limbs used to reside, and he was getting used to his Yokey. On occasion he would smile. But more often when I would visit him in his office at Gordon and Jones, he would be sleeping, head cocked to the side and resting on the built-in pillow. He reminded me of my own depressions. There was a point in my childhood where I viewed my bed as the best alternative to suicide. It could vacuum up hours like a Hoover, hours that I would otherwise spend conscious. Eddie understood me in that way.

I put the tulips on the grave and take a step back. A family of Quadras eyes me from their family plot. They are all in the latest hover chairs, the grass underneath their ovals displaced as air circulates through the chairs and out the apertures at the bottom. Their dead relatives were also Quadras. I can see it by the way they study my limbs. Eddie was the first Quadra in our family. Now it’s up to me to bring honor to our house.

The Future

Walking down the hall, I am the only person with real limbs. Heads atop floating mechanical boxes travel between meeting rooms and offices. These boxes can sprout mechanical arms and legs if needed. The people are busy in their own lives—planning business deals, lunches with family, the next vacation. As a fifteen-year-old new to the city, I remember looking down from the fifty-sixth floor of a hotel. I thought, “The people of my past couldn’t have fathomed that the space above them would be occupied by humans.” Now it seems that space is a commodity that must be little given.

I am a recessive. Arms and legs were genetically manipulated out of the gene pool many years ago. I am the first human with limbs in two-hundred years. The shamans say to remove my limbs would “disrupt my spirit”. They see me as a figure of awe. I just want to live a normal life. Having flesh limbs sets me apart from everyone I know. To pick up an apple and feel it in my hand—this is a sensation I can’t imagine giving up. The shamans taught us in the scriptures that: “Limblessness brings us closer to God. The spirit is forever inside us, and concentrates inside our hearts.” To be poked and prodded, examined and at times ridiculed is a hard fate. But I must keep going. I must live the way I have been made. My mother told me, from when I was a young child, that I was special among our people. She told me that I was the only person like me in the whole world. She told me that I would change the way the world works. I know rationally that my mother has never experienced a hug. Or had anything but her lips and eyes and nose touched by another person’s face. And I know the shamans say that the spirit is stronger the less flesh it has to seep into. But what if that is a lie? What if I’m the only person in the world who knows how to feel?

A Thousand Years Later

There was a time when spirits had bodies. When you had to physically lift objects with appendages. This is before a person could simply think of what they wanted and it would come to their spirit, unbidden. I am fascinated by slavery. It was a human condition over five hundred years ago. I think this is what humans used to be like in their bodies. They needed movement, muscles and proteins and solid foods. They needed an environment to live in that supported their lungs. They were dependent, helpless infants. They were unevolved. The shamans have saved us from this fate. The shamans will soon free us all.

My mother told me that I shouldn’t worry about death since I will never experience it. But the story goes like this: Before, when we had flesh over our spirits, we died with our bodies. We had to feed our bodies, we had something called “metabolisms.” When the flesh was ripped, or abraded, or jiggled too firmly, the spirit would lose its grip and cease to exist. If we didn’t feed these bodies with nutrients and plants and the flesh of other creatures, we would die. A spirit could actually cause another spirit to cease to exist by picking up other objects and thrusting or shooting or hurtling it at the body, causing it to rupture beyond repair. There were “doctors” that tried to manage the flesh, tried to make it last longer. It all seems complicated and unnecessary to me. Why have a covering that limits experience?

There is nothing like that now. I float and merge with others when it pleases me. We share experiences, scents and intense emotions. We hold physical objects inside ourselves and suck out the vibrations of their forms. Fractals and molecules and swirling deliciousness.

Five Thousand Years Later

I found a body. At least, I am told this is what I have found. It was made illegally, I can tell by how afraid the shamans were when they saw me inside it.

I was floating where I usually do, near the emotion spot that Mallory started. It vibrates and twirls and I have often found other spirits dwelling there for unspecified periods of time. When I came upon it today, Mallory was gone. There was a sense of dread in her emotion spot. Dread seems the right word, though I have never felt what that is before. It was a dirty emotion—it rubbed me and jarred me and disrupted the pleasurable swirling of the normal pool. I let my spirit float downward and through the emotion spot, and below it there were light waves. I do not know how to describe it. My spirit touched something it could not pass through. I think it was a solid. I have heard of solids, but only from grandmother sixteen. She has floated for thousands of years, and she spoke about having a body once. She even has a name foreign to the rest of our kind. Her name is Lena.

I touched the body. I believe touch implies that my spirit was stopped by something, and I was able to feel a concrete alignment of molecules. They prevented me from floating through it. But I did notice that if I persisted, bits and pieces of my spirit could come inside it, and as I did this I was sucked into the body.

A thin layer of skin opened and I experienced a surge of information coming through me. This is what I describe as light. The body understood what “light” was. It had a wrinkly presence in its extreme top cavity that could tell me things about what the light was doing. I experienced a sensation of floating, of disorientation, of displacement. I knew instinctively that this body was supposed to be around other objects, other finite, solid creatures.

Soon the shamans found me. I tried with all my power to stay inside the body, but it slipped away. I believe the shamans may have ended its existence.

Since then I have heard rumors of an underground cave filled with flesh in artificial suspension. The original bodies of the shamans, which they enter and exit at their leisure.

I cannot describe in words what it was like.

Christina Scott is a graduate of the Master’s writing program at Sarah Lawrence College. Originally from Nebraska, she currently resides in Westchester County, New York. She teaches literature at a local university and is working on her first novel, a work of science fiction.