Once, two slits ran around the circumference of my abdomen.
I stood alone in the bathroom behind locked door as I carefully examined the slits. The higher of the two slices circled my body just above my belly button, low enough to avoid passing over the bottom of my rib-cage. Beneath that one, the bottom slit sat about one or two inches lower, just above the highest crest on either side of my pelvis.
In the mirror before me, I could turn to see that the slits ran uninhibited over my backside as well, two perfectly straight red lines wrapping all the way around me.
With mild curiosity, I pressed my fingers to the center of the bottom slit, forcing them into the narrow opening in my navel. As they pressed into the aperture, I could feel the internal warmth of my body and the unhindered, rhythmic movements of my inner processes. Over the pads of my fingers, my blood calmly ran and the muscles moved without problem.
I removed the hand from the slit, finding a light red fluid adorning my digits but not flowing from the opening itself. The blood remained suspended within me, not allowed passage outside through either of the slices around my belly.
Rather firmly, I pressed on my belly button, on the region between the two slits. As I applied steady pressure, I could feel the whole mass moving, sliding slowly out of my body. In the mirror, I could see that the stout cylinder of flesh that had dwelled between the slits gradually move off center as I pushed upon it. Soon, it hung halfway out of my body, drooping down under the weight of gravity and looking like one of Dali’s melted clocks. Despite its detachment from the rest of me, practically no blood escaped, and everything in my body calmly kept to its business.
Looking down, I grasped the flat disk of flesh with my fingers, digging my hands into the soft red matter and pulling the disk all the way out of my body. It escaped its place with a wet popping sound, and I beheld it before me.
Holding the narrow cylinder of flesh taken from my abdomen with both hands, I carefully examined the cross-section of my gut. On the back of the disk, I could see a rigid white structure, which I took to be the vertebrae of my lower back. In front of the bone, a large squirming nest of my intestines nestled together for warmth. I could move the organic tubes with a soft flick of my fingers, and within them, I could feel the contents of my breakfast, mostly digested by now. Two dark structures sat in parallel on either side of the disk and after a thoughtful pause I recognized them to be the bottoms of my kidneys. A few inches from the kidneys, another oddly colored organ dwelled in the center of the whole thing; unfortunately I couldn’t recognize it. Perhaps I were a doctor, I could inform you in more detail of the living disk I held, but at the time, I mostly just marveled at the odd semi-rubbery texture of the utterly natural object and the way it seem to pulsate with life even though an island from my body.
I quietly set the disk down on the bathroom sink to observe the perfect cavity it had left in my abdomen. In its place, I found nothing but air. My body remained upright and functional, despite my upper half being entirely disconnected from my lower half by the space of one to two inches.
Not yet feeling any side-effects from the removal, I casually moved the disk from the sink to the floor, dusting off a spot to set it where it might not collect dirt.
For a moment, I just watched the immobile thing.
With a soft shock, I realized it must have been thirsty and went to fetch it some water from the sink. I turned the faucet on and held a gulp of water in the bowl of my hands, which I then fed to the disk by pouring it into the dull red tubing at the center of the round object. The thing seemed to quietly inhale with pleasure at the offering, and the whole disk shivered happily. Chilled goose-bumps ran over the ring of skin on its side.
I sat down next to it and watched it grow.
The spinal column made the first movements, sprouting up from its roots maddeningly slowly as it reached up towards the fluorescent lights above. Thin strings of nerves and fat ran from the bone tendril to the rest of the flesh waiting below, and with the prodding, the rest of the flesh swelled and reached up to follow the spinal column on its journey upwards. The detached bases of the kidneys grew quickly, stretching up into full organs of their distinct shapes. Soon the rest of the flesh and intestines caught up, wrapping around the organs.
I gave the maturing thing more water, and its growth swelled again, soon blossoming a rib-cage, complete with a barely function heart and a set of lungs which hung between the gleaming fresh bones. In all this time, the skin hardly made any progress at all, leaving the growing being’s flesh exposed to the drafty air of the restroom.
Two thin arms extended from the warm column, stretching down to the floor, where its barren fingers gently touched the bathroom tiles.
Above the rib-cage, a knobbly neck timidly extended, and upon that a jagged skull grew. Flesh danced up the growing skeleton until it decorated the majority of the left side of its face. A pale tongue slithered out from the jaw just as a wet eye swam up into the socket. No iris adorned the eye, just a solid black pupil.
“Greetings,” the life-form greeted me in a weak voice. As it spoke, its entire esophagus shook in place, giving its timbre a harsh barking grind to it, a constant cough it forcefully formed into a misshapen voice.
“Hello,” I nodded respectfully. I tried to gauge the being’s expression, but the lack of material on its skull failed to show any understandable human emotions.
“You ought to shut off the tap,” the thing growled quietly, although seemingly without aggression, “it’s rather wasteful of you.”
I realized the tap was still running, pouring water down the sink.
“How do you feel?” I asked it, ignoring its request.
“How’s it going?” I re-phrased my question.
“How’s life?” I tried once more.
I frowned at the conversation, a bit disappointed. The thing struggled to breathe for a moment, looking as if it might fall apart, but it managed to pull itself back together.
“Why am I alive?” it asked in its creaking tone.
“I dunno,” I replied with a shrug.
“Why does it hurt?” it asked, undeterred.
“When does it end?” it tried again, unsatisfied with my answer.
We didn’t talk for a while then, both sitting quietly on the bathroom floor. The only sound came from the sink, with the tap still running idly.
“You need your gut back, don’t you?” the almost-life said at last, sounding defeated.
“I guess you can keep it a while longer if you like,” I answered politely.
“No, it was never mine to begin with,” it shook its head, “and you ought to shut off the tap, it’s rather wasteful of you.”
With that, it dug its fingers into the base of the spinal cord and with a tug, uprooted itself from the disk of my flesh. It fell down over the tiled flooring, its skull clicking sharply against the hard ground as its newly formed tendons relaxed into inanimation.
After turning off the tap, I collected the disk from the ground, wiped if off, and quietly pressed it back into place. It slid perfectly into the space on my midriff, resting just where it was before. The severed flesh tied back into a solid sheet and the intestines sewed themselves together into one functioning machine. At last, the skin on the outside embraced again, removing all signs of the two original slits. In the end, I was as whole as I began.
On the center of the bathroom floor, the upper half of the deceased lay still in a pool of its borrowed blood, lost from my own stream. Its pupil stared off from its almost dead eye, perpetually fixed on the locked door of the small room.
In the end, I was not as whole as I began.
Written by Levi Salvos