Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Body

This article appeared on the CBC web site in late 2011. What makes this interesting is the obvious preparation that went into the disappearance. And the newspapers add an element of intrigue. If the deceased lady was just trying to sneak into the States, why the newspapers? The identification papers are obvious, the letters reasonable, but why the newspapers? One can only deduce that she was from a parallel universe and wanted to compare events in our universe with those of her previous universe, or that she was from the future and she planned on investing in some promising stocks, or maybe having a flutter on the gee-gees.

But her plans came to naught with her unfortunate demise. Doing a body swerve round the most obvious and mundane explanation for her death, that she was abducted by aliens, subjected to anal probing and having her short term memory erased, then returned, by an incompetent trainee transporter operator, to the wrong side of the river where she was set upon by a posse of redneck vigilantes who, on seeing her materialize out of nowhere, made the obvious deduction that she was an Islamic terrorist, and flung her back into the river in the hope that she would return to Canada, land, as all redneck vigilantes know, of atheists and Islamic terrorists, but where she was dragged to the river bed by a couple of angry teenage catfish and drowned, then drifted down river a couple of miles before returning to American soil, we should probably consider some less plausible possibilities.

I can't help feeling there is an s.f. story here, but I can't think what it is. What if the newspapers were from the future and the government hushed them up (as governments are reputed to do on a regular basis), or if the identification papers identified someone who was still living, perhaps a young girl or an old woman, or someone still living in Montreal, so that the story was to explain where her duplicate came from. Or perhaps it was impossible to trace the person who was identified. Or what if the autopsy revealed that though she looked human externally, inside her organs were different, or she was different at a cellular or DNA level.

Finding an unexplained body is not new to literature. The idea has already been used by John O’Hara in his novel Butterfield 8 following the discovery of Starr Faithfull’s body in 1931, but John O’Hara was not a science fiction writer so left a vast and fertile field for the rest of us.

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