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The Future History of Your Body

Davian Aw is a Singaporean writer whose short fiction and poetry have appeared in over 40 publications including Strange Horizons, Drabblecast, Diabolical Plots, The Future Fire, and the Transcendent 4 anthology. He plays the oboe, to the delight of his parents and the chagrin of his neighbors.

They take your hipbone and join it to another's. Excitement at the matching sizes shine on the paleontologists' faces, tired from weeks of digging through rock. They set it reverently aside from the pile of bones, adding to the slowly growing constructions of complete human skeletons on the ground. Holographic screens show scenes from history and tell them what we looked like.
They pore over anatomy, cross-referencing ancient images with ancient bones, debating in an alien tongue over which part goes where. Your surviving rib nestles between those of a dozen strangers in the intimacy of your shared humanity. The shattered pieces of your skull join other fragments into wholeness, and when you scroll forward in time in the future history of your body, you see glimpses of your features looking back at you from two of the reconstructed bodies in the museum.
They write stories for them in the fluidly moving labels that accompany every exhibit in the building. Their civilization's most creative minds bring to life these beings from the past, translated (for artistic effect) into three ancient human scripts. The grammar is clumsy, but you manage to parse the legacies they built for your reconstructed forms. An artist, one label reads. It waxes lyrical over humanity's creative endeavors beside the poised bones clad in synthetic flesh and muscle, covered with their archaeologist's best estimates of that era's typical clothing. Five of your vertebrae hold up her spine. Her face is that of the janitor's young son. (A complete skull, the description reads, remarkably well preserved. Given its size, it would likely have belonged to a female or a juvenile.)
You wonder what he had been doing, when the mountain trembled. You imagine his small face turning to the window, a toy in hand, eyes reflecting the tumbling wall of earth. You wonder what he would think, knowing his bones would last millions of years beyond the end of his species, and that parts of his body would form a new body on display in the halls of this alien museum.
But the grainy images are fading now; your time in the booth is up. The machines do not usually look this far. Your friends press you for details when you emerge, sharing their pathways to success or tragedies they are determined to avert. It is no more than idle chatter, you all know, for those fragile futures rarely come to pass. The machines are little more than gimmicks.
A couple of friends talk about looking far, all the way to the end when their bones were cremated or turned to minerals in the ground. They speak in wonder of those glimpses of the world all those decades after their deaths.
Their voices wash over your silence. Your gaze lingers on the mountain, thinking about tragedies, and legacies, and the price of immortality.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, January 31st, 2022

Author Comments

I've seen dinosaur skeletons at natural history museums that were put together with bones from multiple dinosaurs, which I found both fascinating and unsettling. I wondered what it would be like if civilizations millions of years in the future did the same with us.

- Davian Aw
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