(This is the latest bit of fiction for the Thursday Prompt published by the Furry Writers’ Guild. One of these days, I’ll remember to actually link to the prompt over on FurAffinity, but for now you’ll just have to take my word that it exists and that more people do it than just me.
The prompt this week was monstrous, which I thought immediately would be a good fit for some Chimeral World fiction. I gave it to a couple of beta readers for their initial responses, and they had pretty salient things to say. I’ll go over their input and try to edit this piece into something better in future entries, just to practice editing things and stumble through the process in the most public, embarrassing manner.
There won’t be blog entires on Friday or next Monday, I’m afraid — Further Confusion 2013 is this weekend, and I’ll be busy enjoying myself and drinking with friends. 🙂 I’ll be back bright and early on Wednesday with another blog entry or two.)
“I’m sorry, Matthew, but you are no longer in the bosom of God.” Aunt Cookie looked down at her white gloves, the smooth suede handbag that matched her shoes. “I don’t know what you’ve done to be punished like this. But you’re a monstrosity, son. You’ve lost your soul.”
For a moment, Matthew forgot how loopy the painkillers were making him, and that deep pain in his jaw the medicine couldn’t quite reach. He simply stared at the woman who couldn’t bear to look at him. Could this really be the woman who gave him the first Christmas present he truly loved? The woman who sang him to sleep during those weeks his mother was in the hospital? Was she really telling him that he was a soulless creature, that he wasn’t going to get to heaven?
He looked down at his laptop and considered typing his reply. Most of his head was covered in gauze at the moment; his jaw had broken again, and they were trying to give it some support while it reformed itself. Between the gauze and the pain, talking was simply out of the question. He couldn’t get into a detailed response with her, but he had no idea what else to say. How do you argue with someone who believes you have no soul?
Then where did my soul go? What’s been left to talk to you? Matthew thought it would be best to start there, supposing that she was correct. He had resigned himself to being unable to change her mind, so perhaps he could lead her to change it on her own.
Aunt Cookie startled at the sound of the computerized voice Matthew was using these days. She briefly looked at him, and he recognized a mixture of revulsion and pity in her eyes. He must have been quite the sight, mostly bandages marked by islands of thick brown fur. “I don’t know,” she said. “But Pastor Jenkins says that only human beings have souls. If you’re not human no more, then you must’ve lost your soul somewhere. And as for what’s left –” Here she looked down, fiddling with the fingers of her gloves. “–honey, I don’t know. Maybe you’re like a ghost, what used to be my nephew, saying the things that he would say.”
So my soul is already in Hell? Matthew could feel his heartbeat quickening in his chest, feel his ears slinking back over the thick wrapping that supported his skull as it fused back together. He could feel himself losing it, typing more quickly, making more mistakes that he needed to backtrack for. I’m being tormented for living the way my mother raised me, going to Church every Sunday, praying before meals and bedtime, for donating to charity? That got me Hell. And now I’m just some echo that doesn’t know what it is, getting mad for telling me so?
Aunt Cookie shook her head. He could hear his own breathing and heartbeat. He wanted to shout at her. Look at me. Look into my eyes and tell me that I’m in Hell. But all that would come out was a deep and awful sound, and he would hurt himself bad enough that the morphine wouldn’t be enough for a while. He had to watch her fiddle with her gloves, try to puzzle through her own shit, try to make it OK that she would never see him again.
“I know it’s hard to hear, baby. And I wish it weren’t so. But I didn’t make the rules, the Lord did. We all just have to try and abide ’em as best we can.” She took a deep breath and drew up her courage to look at him. “Somewhere along the way, you strayed from the path Matthew. Might’ve been when you went to college, or when you started dating that Godless girl. I know you’ve had sex with her. That’s when you turned your face from God. Now, He’s…He’s turned His back on you.”
She started to sniffle, and Matthew couldn’t help but roll his eyes. It was his life that was changing here. He had been the one forced to endure the endless parade of friends and family members unable to look at him, telling him goodbye by lying to his face, insulting him, telling him he must have done something wrong. If she expected some kind of sympathy or grace from him because it was difficult for her to disown him, she was about to be disappointed.
I never turned my back on God. I don’t think he’s turned His back on me, either. I think you have. You don’t want to deal with me because I make you uncomfortable. That’s what this is about. Justify it however you want to, but that’s what it is. I know it and you know it. Don’t bring God into your own moral failure. If you can’t stand by your family because it’s inconvenient, then that’s your problem, not God’s. Get out. I’m tired.
His bluntness shocked him. It scandalized his Aunt. She simply stared at him, hurt flickering over her face before she masked it with a fanatic’s righteousness. Matthew knew he wouldn’t reach her, but damned if he was going to let her make this something it wasn’t. He didn’t have the time or energy for that any more.
“The boy I knew would never have spoken to me like that. I…I don’t know what God has planned for you, but I’m going to pray for you. I’m going to pray that you realize the wrongness of your path and you do something for the salvation of your soul.” She stood up, clutching her purse in her gloved hands. The tan of the leather made her dark chocolate skin look almost black in comparison.
What God has planned for me he’s already done. Don’t bother praying for me.
Matthew watched her go before he shoved the platform the laptop was on away from him. Then he collapsed, ignoring the jostling of his pillows or the way his head moved disturbingly underneath his bandages.
People like his aunt would only find grace if they needed it themselves and had it shown to them, he decided. He had tried to have long conversations with his mother and father, his own pastor, his friends, a Theology professor from his school. None of them had any idea what to do about him. They seemed to seek their own comfort more than offer him anything. His entire support network had failed him, just like his body, just like his aching head. He could only hope that a new one solidified around him, like his body, like his aching head.
Matthew picked up the morphine controller and pressed the button a few more times. He was so tired. He didn’t want to feel anything for a while. He knew that in the morning, a doctor would bring someone else who wanted to tell him they were cutting themselves from his life, face-to-face. And then someone would change his bandages, touch him in his most sensitive spots to see if it was healing.
“Does that hurt?” they would ask. And as always, he would look at them in dumb disbelief.