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Lost in Transit

K.B. Sluss and a few other friends talk about books and all things geek on their blog Songs in Squee Minor. Sometimes she also writes book reviews for Tales of the Talisman. Her fiction appears in or is forthcoming in Return of the Dead Men (and Women) Walking anthology, Stupefying Stories, Tales of the Talisman, and Big Pulp.

It started with a thumb. Tiny and pale, it came in a slim, padded envelope that fit through the mail slot in my front door. A week later, I received a toe--the big one, possibly for a right foot. A week after that, the pinkie finger of a left hand, no bigger than a kidney bean. Each item was made to my precise specifications and guaranteed one-of-a-kind. I laid out my growing collection on the table in my workroom and spent countless hours trying to surmise the eventual results from those small clues.
During the fourth week I received an ear; pink with curving cartilage like a strange seashell, a souvenir gathered from an exotic beach. Next came an eye with a blue topaz iris, the color reminding me of the waters at the ocean where I spent the summers of my own childhood.
Three months passed before the packages ceased to fit through my mail slot. Then they arrived via a parcel service that required proof of my signature upon delivery. A heart first, then a liver, a spleen, the enigmatic appendix. A foot, a spine, an elbow. I cherished them all, and in my workroom the previously myriad possibilities began to coalesce into something certain and finite.
I received nearly nine months of regular, weekly deliveries before the last and most anticipated package was scheduled to arrive. I knew the couriers by name at this point, and they wore inquisitive smiles as they handed over the plain, brown parcels. They made suggestive, open-ended comments, hoping I might slip them a hint about the contents of these various boxes. When I refused to respond, I believe they dismissed me as an addict for some sort of illicit merchandise: pornography, or intimate adult products, or pharmaceuticals from Canada and Mexico.
The week of the final delivery, I tracked the progress of my package on the Internet. Order being processed, and then Order picked up from warehouse. Package processed for overnight air transit. Package received at ground facility. Processed for ground transport. And, finally, Estimated delivery: today before 5:00 p.m.
I watched the clock tick every minute until 5:00, but my package never came.
I called the parcel delivery service first and they promised to investigate. Days later they admitted the item was lost-in-transit and offered to reimburse me for the cost of a replacement. I thanked them but refused. How could I put a value on inimitability?
I contacted the manufacturer and suffered the automated phone system for nearly half an hour before discovering their one-of-a-kind guarantee came from the fact that all specifications were destroyed after production and no replacements could be made. Because the pieces fit together so particularly, so exactly, I would have to start over from scratch with only a meager customer loyalty discount as consolation. They did, however, propose to deduct an additional five percent from the total in acknowledgment of my hardship and suffering.
I declined. Even if I started over, it would never turn out the same. Not quite. In my heart I would always know the difference.
So now she lies in her crib; one handmade by Amish craftsmen and painted by a local folk artist. Over her head twirls a mobile of silly circus animals; I imported it from France at a cost that it shames me to admit. I had thought to name her Evelyn on behalf of my grandmother, but she is little more than a doll without batteries, a tiny Pinocchio girl unattended by morality-spouting cricket or life-granting fairy.
Somewhere out there is a plain brown package addressed to me, containing the soul of my child.
Someday, I hope it finds its way home.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Author Comments

A few years ago I read a very short story (about 75 words) about feuding neighbors stealing each otherís body parts. The narrator used his neighbor's foot as a paper weight. I think the idea intrigued my subconscious more than I was aware. When the first line of "Lost in Transit" popped into my mind, it seemed to come out of nowhere. As I started to write it, I remembered the feuding neighbors story and began to suspect it was the seed of inspiration. However it came about, this story is the first one I've ever written from beginning to end in one sitting with a only a first line, a vague notion, and no idea about how it would end until I put down the last word.

- K.B. Sluss
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