An essay by Stephen L. Thayer, as provided by Gordon B. White
Art by Errow Collins
My younger brother Cameron never understood what working from home meant, so when he called me at 2:30 pm, I was wrist-deep in a twitching half-cadaver. Normally I wouldn’t have answered, since I was practicing stitching a double set of lungs for an upcoming necromodding commission, but I’d been stymied by what to do next, and I also had to pick Dylan up from school by 3:30, so it was as good a stopping point as any. Besides, what is family for if not to answer your call?
I pulled my hands out of the writhing thoracic cavity and peeled off my surgical gloves. The talc inside always makes me squirm when I rub my fingers clean, so I grimaced beneath my paper filtration mask–which I never remove while in my garage laboratory–and swiped my cell phone to speaker.
“Cam,” I said. “What’s up?”
“I need your help, bro.”
“Are you drunk?” I asked.
He paused. “A little.”
A little was fine. We’re brothers, so how else were we supposed to talk?
“What’s up?” I asked.
“Do you remember my last serious relationship?”
I had to think back. I was pretty sure that was Brandon and that had been a year before? Two? Cam had never been good at relationships, but I’d forgotten how bad he was.
“Sure,” I said. “Tall, dark, possibly rheumatic.”
“You make him sound so sexy.”
“Not my type.”
“Anyway, I was out with Tyler.”
“Who?” I asked as I walked across the room, away from the twitching body and the faint burning smell rising from the wires in its cranium.
“Never mind with who,” Cam said, too quickly. “The point is that I ran into Brandon.”
“With your car, I hope?”
“Nice dad joke, bro.”
“Speaking of, I have to get Dylan soon.” An hour wasn’t really soon, but anything to give Cam a ticking clock. He’s the kind of guy who if you ask him what he did last night, he’ll end up telling you what he did this morning.
“Bro, this is serious,” he said. “Seeing Brandon reminded me of how terrible I am at everything.”
“What about this new guy?” I said, desperate to deflect the conversation. “Clearly you’re not completely unlovable.” Since launching my necromodding business, I’d had enough people calling me up for freebies that I was hoping to stem this off before it escalated. That double-lungs commission was the first paid job I’d had all month, although given how poorly it was going, I worried it might be the last, too.
“It isn’t going to work out,” Cam said. “I’m not good enough.”
“I’m not disagreeing,” I said, but I immediately regretted that brotherly sarcasm as I heard a glass hit the bar on Cam’s end. I could just about smell the booze through the phone. If I were there with him, maybe he could have seen on my face that I didn’t mean it, but what could I say?
“I need your help to get a boyfriend,” he said. “A serious one. A real one.”
“One who calls you back?”
“One who thinks I’m hot.”
“I don’t know any blind and deaf guys,” I said, unable to help ribbing him further. “Besides, I haven’t dated anyone in, well, forever. I really can’t help.”
My wife Cynthia and I had been together basically forever. We’d dated for almost a decade, been married for something like seven years, and Dylan was five, so contemporary hook-up culture or any online presence more than my freelance necromodding website were absolute mysteries. Despite the skills at my disposal and the bodies in my garage, I didn’t know what I could do to help Cam.
“Bro,” Cam said, “I don’t need your dating advice.”
Oh thank god, I thought, although I was also a little offended.
“Then what?” I asked.
“I need to be a different person.”
“Can’t help you,” I said. “Try therapy?”
“I mean, I need a new body.”
The half-cadaver twitched on the table, the crown of electrodes in its skull stimulating it into smearing its coagulating intestines across the metal gurney as its torn throat wheezed through the half-sewn double-set of lungs. Seeing how helpless it was, twitching there in the approximation of life, made me feel bad that I hadn’t had Cam over in a while.
“Fine,” I said. “Come by tonight after dinner. No earlier than seven.”
To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2019 collection.
Stephen L. Thayer is a freelance necromodder operating out of his home laboratory in a discrete, secure suburban neighborhood. After receiving his MBA and spending several years in corporate finance, Stephen left the rat race to follow his passion into the burgeoning field of functional and aesthetic bio-enhancement utilizing cadaverous tissues. Although he performs standard cosmetic, muscle, organ, and/or bone alterations, Stephen considers his necromodding a blend of art and science striving towards transcendence. He is always eager to discuss exotic and/or custom commissions. A representative portfolio and anonymous client testimonials are available upon request.
Gordon B. White has lived in North Carolina, New York, and the Pacific Northwest. He is a 2017 graduate of the Clarion West Writing Workshop, and his fiction has appeared in venues such as Daily Science Fiction, A Breath from the Sky: Unusual Stories of Possession, Nightscript Vol. 2, and the Bram Stoker Award® winning anthology Borderlands 6. Gordon also contributes reviews and interviews to various outlets. You can find him online at www.gordonbwhite.com or on Twitter at @GordonBWhite.
Errow is a comic artist and illustrator with a predilection towards mashing the surreal with the familiar. They pay their time to developing worlds not quite like our own with their fiancee and pushing the queer agenda. They probably left a candle burning somewhere. More of their work can be found at errowcollins.wix.com/
“The Parts of Him That I Can Help With” is © 2018 Gordon White
Art accompanying story is © 2018 Errow Collins