The Lord undergoes a medical scan, using ancient Metallic equipment

…The Lord now sat up on the bed, then rolled off it, stepping down gingerly onto the black metal floor. It seemed strange to Zy that the Shion should not be almost hypnotised by the fabulous show of lights and colours, and the beautiful Metallic devices at work. The boy wondered whether there was an element of defiance, a snub, given by the Lord to the whole world of Doctor Gosa? It was also true, though, that the specialised information being displayed could mean little to Akzasosan – perhaps he had merely become saturated by the images.

The Lord regathered his towel around him. Even here, even now, Zy sensed something of the Shion’s inexorable restlessness – the desire to move on, to discharge his responsibility, deliver the letter, and go home.

Zy, though, continued to gaze, fascinated and delighted by what he was seeing. He intuited that there was some sort of systematic flow of information across and between the three separate scans: although it was too quick for him to follow in detail, he could see how, at times at least, an area of the Shion’s anatomy was being selected on the left-hand image, and Gonfi would appear in their circles, seemingly written upon the breast or solar plexus of the pale flesh; then the same site would become the focus of the central scan, where the flesh had been made translucent, and the bones glowed; finally, the scanner would pursue the problem down, further, through enlarged displays on the third screen, at magnifications that seemed to dissolve corporeality entirely, and produce pictures of geometric abstraction, of life beneath life, within life, of structures underlying vision – the very building-blocks of bodies themselves.

Zy watched.

Was this really what lay under his own skin?

He saw a new world. As represented across the fluid scans, the interior of the human body was a thing of pulses and routes, of pumps and junctions, of gases and cavities, valves and lubricants. It was more than a machine: it was a continent, a galaxy. He saw liquids being forced at high pressure along highways. When he had first intuited that the scans were showing him the internal organs of the body, he had looked for a bright red, soft, arrowhead of the human heart, as it was always drawn by children. But there was no such thing: instead, there was a pulsating, muscular creature, something he imagined lived on the seabed.

Teeth grinned at him, lipless, fleshless. The bones of the head had a dummy-like simplicity. Encircled, magnified images showed the boy installations of phenomenal fineness and intricacy. The Lord’s flat belly was revealed to contain a bewildering worm of coiling intestines. At unknown levels of magnification, Zy saw things coursing along through constricted thoroughfares, dashing by, irradiated by deep-hued, electrical light. The Lord’s bones seemed impossibly slender. The basket of the rib cage appeared fatally delicate, dangerously open, as if things should slip out of it easily.

The more he looked, the more Zy found it hard to relate what was appearing there on the wall-screens with his own physiology. There was something slightly monstrous about this splayed and avid thing. Some of the Shion’s disdain for it seeped into the edges of Zy’s feelings. The body was too complicated. There was too much of it. It was not – human. Laid out there, it seemed other. It seemed – unreasonable. Zy could sense why the Lord had sometimes appeared, as he struggled with his infirmity, to regard his own body as an opponent, and an enemy.

But what an implacable enemy…

Extract from River Direction | Volume 13 of Dustless