The Body Shop


A Short Story

It was one winter evening; Vikas was seated on one of the benches in the park watching the kids play, while he was lost in some thought. Meantime, a stranger approached him and asked;

‘Do you mind if I sit here?’

‘I don’t mind!’ Vikas said, turning and looking at the stranger, who had an expressionless face, tall and was dressed in black suit.

‘Quite a nice evening, isn’t it?’ He said, sitting beside him on the bench, and making himself comfortable.

‘Yes…’ Vikas said, looking away.

‘Mr. Mist, I have been reading your works and I should say that I am a big fan of your writings! It is really sad to note that you don’t have much time left to live…’ The stranger said.

‘Who are you? How do you know all this?’ Vikas asked him, quite stunned.

‘You can call Me Mr. D,’ The stranger said, ‘and I have a proposition for you. If you agree, you could go on to live some more time…some more time means you could do all the things you like to do which includes your wonderful writing as well. But you need to sacrifice something for that…’

‘…..and what would be that?’ Vikas asked him.

‘You will have to let go of this body of yours and chose the one which you like. Then your soul would be transferred to the chosen body and you can lead a normal life once again.’ The stranger said, handing him a business card.

It read ‘THE BODY SHOP’, Contact#1800 123 4568

‘The Body Shop?’ Vikas asked with a frown on his face.

‘Yes…all you need to do is contact that number on the card and provide your details. The rest will be taken care. So, do we have a deal?’ The stranger asked him.

‘Yes…’ Vikas said, staring at the card.

‘Good. Catch up with you later!’ The stranger said, getting up and taking leave.

Vikas was suffering from cancer and the doctors had given him three months to live. He had a steady relationship with his girl friend, Ananya. Sadly, she had left him after he was diagnosed with cancer. Ananya had quipped that she couldn’t see him suffer and then finally die one day. It burnt his heart in which he had adored her. He had dreamt of spending his lifetime with her. That dream just remained a dream!

He had resigned from his job and started living his life the way he always wanted to. He loved writing since his childhood days…it was short stories, poems, his own personal experiences from life. Readers loved his writings and he was well known by the pen name ‘Mist’.

But the fear of approaching death killed him every single day, apart from the unbearable pain which his physical body went through. Every time, he read about someone commit suicide and end their precious lives, it pained him in his heart, as he wanted to live his life completely with passion.

He called the number provided in the business card after reaching his apartment that evening, and provided them the details as required by them. They gave him an appointment for next evening at 7 PM. Next evening he reached the spot where he was asked to come and wait. A black car came and stopped near by him, and a man dressed in black suit got down and greeted him.

He asked him to turn around and tied his eyes with a blind fold. Then he helped him onto the back seat of the car. Soon the car started cruising to some unknown destination. The car halted in some back alley and the chauffeur ushered him into the back door, a door was unlatched and he was taken a spiral staircase. Finally, his feet touched the floor. Then his blind fold was removed.

‘Welcome to the Body Shop, Mr. Vikas!’ A stranger said, smiling at him with a warm smile, ‘Please follow me!’

Vikas followed him inside and he was led to a computer. He was made to sit in front of the computer screen. He was told that the bodies available in the body shop would be screened on that computer screen along with the brief history of the body. He can choose one of them and then the process of transferring his soul would begin.

‘Well, would I be remembering the things or people associated with the body I would be choosing to be in?’ Vikas asked.

‘No, everything would remain the same. The only change would be your appearance.’ The stranger dressed like a doctor replied.

‘What would happen to my body that I let go?’

‘Usually, we retain only the healthy bodies and our customers could choose it when they drop in like the way you just did sometime back. However, we cremate the unhealthy bodies as it is of no use to anyone.’ He said starting some application on the system, ‘Well, each body on your computer screen has a serial number and you have to make a note of the serial number of the body in which you would like your soul to be transferred into. Here you go! ‘He said, hitting the ENTER button.

Vikas was given thirty minutes to choose a body. While the stranger left the place shutting the door behind him. He went through the pictures of various bodies that flashed on screen. The stranger returned back after thirty minutes past. Vikas gave him the number which he had noted down on a slip of paper.

‘Body No. 50556. That is a good choice!’ The stranger said, handing him a bunch of papers and a pen, ‘Now, you will have to sign these papers before we start the procedures. It is just a formal agreement between you and us.’

Vikas signed those papers. Then he was given an injection and soon he drifted into unconsciousness. When he regained his consciousness, he found his face was covered with bandages. The only thing he could see was his eyes, which surely didn’t belong to him. The stranger came back and took him in front of the mirror on the wall.

‘Now, I shall remove the bandage covered on your new face.’ He said, untying it from behind and soon his new face materialized on the mirror in front of him. He touched and felt it with his fingers.

‘Yes, it is real for sure!’ The stranger said with a smile, ‘Now, you would be left at the place where you had been picked up this evening. I hope you do remember your place to go back to!’ He added.

‘Yes.’ Vikas said, smiling back at him.

‘And may I have that business card?’ The stranger asked.

Vikas gave it to him. He dropped it into the shredding machine and pressed a button.

‘One more thing, would you like to attend your body’s funeral service tomorrow morning at 11’o clock?’ The stranger asked.

Vikas thought for a moment and then nodded his head in agreement.

‘Well, then be at this place by 11am tomorrow.’ He said, handing him a small slip of paper with the address of the crematorium written on it.

The chauffeur tied the blind fold upon his eyes once again. He was left at the same place from where he was picked up that evening. He picked up his mobile phone and dialled his ex-girl friend Ananya’s number and informed her that Vikas Sarma is no more, and also about the funeral next morning. He gave her the address of the crematorium.

Vikas couldn’t sleep that night. He kept staring at his new face in the mirror every now and then.

Next morning, at the funeral service of his old body, he had tears in his eyes seeing his body for one last time.He gently patted on the chest of his old body and said,

‘Farewell, my friend!’

He turned back and found Ananya standing with tears over flowing from her eyes. She walked towards the body. She went ahead of him, bent and kissed one last time on the forehead of the body.

‘I’m really sorry for leaving you alone when you needed me the most!” She said, still continuing to cry.

Vikas moved his hand towards her and was about to touch her upon her shoulders, desperately wanted to take her into his arms, hug her tight and console her. To tell her that he was still alive in the new body, but he just couldn’t do that!

Then the body was taken into the burning furnace and the door was closed shut.

She turned back, wiping her tears with her hanky, and looked at him.

‘Thank you for coming!’ He said.

‘Who are you? I have never seen you before..’ Ananya asked him.

‘I’m his best friend. We both communicated through email. That is the reason you never saw me..’ Vikas replied.

Some months passed by, Vikas Sarma completed writing his first novel ‘The Body Shop’ by Mist. The book became a best seller. There was a success party in a big book shop for which all his fans and readers were invited. Vikas was seated before the audience and he saw his ex girl friend, Ananya seated in the last row.

She kept staring at him while he began to speak and answer the questions from his readers one by one.

‘Mr. Mist, I would like to know whether The Body Shop really exists?’ A reader asked him.

‘Well, to answer your question let me quote a famous saying by John Gardner, “Character is the very life of fiction. Setting exists so that the character has someplace to stand. Plot exists so that the character can discover what he is really like, forcing the character to choice and action. And the theme exists only to make the character stand up and be somebody.” The Body Shop exists in my mind and it became a story which you people read and appreciated so well. Hope it answers your this question.’ Vikas said, smiling at his audience.

Then the book signing by the author was arranged for the readers. When Ananya’s turn came, she bent down and whispered into his ear;

‘You can fool anyone with that answer of yours, but not me! In this book, you have written about Vikas and me with so much details…many things only we both knew. I’m sure that he would have never shared those details with you, his best friend! And I know that the body shop really exists!’

‘Really? Thank you for being my big fan!’ Vikas said aloud, smiling at her, while he signed the book and gave it back to her.

She turned the pages while she walked away. He had written;

‘What you believe in is the ultimate truth! Have a great life!’
-Lots of Love, Vikas Sarma.

She turned back and stood gazing at him. He was busy signing books for others.

Meanwhile, at another place….a shop had the name board ‘The Ex-change Shop’ and in the lower basement of that shop was the Body Shop which had hundreds of bodies waiting to be taken by some willing souls just like new dresses waiting in some garment shop to be chosen and worn by someone.

‘Welcome to the body shop, Mr. Amar!’ The stranger said with a warm smile on his face, looking at a 90 year old man, whose hand was trembling on his walking stick, ‘I can guess that you need a young body, am I right?’ He asked.

‘Yes, you’re right!’ The old man said, smiling at him with a wink.

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