'Xavier's X-ray' by Kristan Ginther

Illustration (c) 2008 by Romeo Esparrago.

Illustration (c) Romeo Esparrago

Before putting the X-ray on the market for copious amounts of money, Xavier could not wait to try it out on himself. What secrets or inspirations lurked below the surface? He imagined that his soul was a stately jazz musician. Or, he thought, his soul could be that of a Labrador Retriever – smart, steady, and loyal. Or, was it the soul of a child full of endless possibilities?

The X-ray was actually an entire room rather than some flashy gadget. A person could walk into the quiet space, hit the activation button tucked inside the armrest of the centerpiece couch, and wait for his or her soul to be bared on the large movie screen in the south end of the room. Once broadcast onscreen, the person could then converse with his or her soul on any topic imaginable in comfort.

Knowing one’s soul more intimately provided incredible benefits, Xavier believed. If your soul was troubled, you could put it into therapy or give it drugs to set it on a better path. Also, if your soul noticed something lacking in you, it could help you look deep within your soul to become a better person. Either way, the discourse between people and their souls was bound to make the world a better place.

Xavier knew his soul was going to be pretty impressed with him. What wasn’t to like? Xavier had built his entire life on scientific creation. He had scores of patented inventions to his credit. He was one of the smartest people in his field. Accolades and grants had been showered upon Xavier ever since his time travel invention. And he had a family who adored him, a wife who enjoyed tending to the house, and two children who were showing impressive scientific aptitude (just like Xavier).

Xavier entered his X-ray, hit the activation button, and waited for a seemingly endless amount of time until his soul appeared onscreen. He was greeted by a man who seemed to be quite similar to Xavier – middle-aged, smartly attired, and confident. Xavier said “Hello”, and waited for his soul to answer.

“Why have you not accepted the Lord as your Savior?” Xavier’s soul demanded.

Xavier looked at his soul quizzically. He was a man of science and didn’t believe in such claptrap. Surely, his soul was joking.

“It’s humbling to finally meet you,” Xavier said, choosing his words carefully. “I feel we can learn a great deal about each other and grow into a better, complete person. Ask anything you want to know about me, and I’ll answer as forthrightly as I can.”

“Why have you not accepted the Lord as your Savior?” Xavier’s soul once again demanded, losing patience with Xavier’s faux modesty.

“I have dedicated my life to science. The existence of the Lord, Our Savior, as you call him or her or it, is highly questionable. I should think that my soul would have better things to do with his time than play silly games,” Xavier declared.

“You thought wrong,” said Xavier’s soul. “How can you explain my existence without God?”

“Not to begin some existential debate, but you are here because I created you, not because there is some otherworldly being,” Xavier said.

“But why would a man of science create me?” the soul asked.

“Therein is the true question,” Xavier responded.

* * *

And thus began the decades-long debate between Xavier and his soul – essentially, between science and theology. Within the first year of the debate, Xavier became disgusted and tired with his soul’s overbearing preachiness. Xavier believed that he provided irrefutable evidence to his soul that science was the supreme master of the universe. But since his soul had faith, it remained an open-ended, free-flowing argument without a clear resolution in sight.

Xavier also realized that because of his invention, it was possible to know way too much about one’s self. In between debates, his soul brought up Xavier’s deep-seated fears that had led to long-forgotten actions. This forced self-reflection caused Xavier to doubt that he was as good of a person as he originally thought. But, because his soul was pissing him off, he would not back down from the debate.

As time passed, Xavier’s wife did so too. Xavier moved into his X-ray full time, so that all of his waking and fitful sleeping hours could be devoted to winning the debate with his soul. During this time, his children disowned Xavier because he was no longer interested in their personal achievements, scientific discoveries, or fine business acumen. Even though the X-ray was theoretically a tremendous invention, they believed it was time for Xavier to move on from what was a clearly flawed machine, an embarrassment to their father’s previously unsullied reputation. They were angry with Xavier, but they couldn’t help but feel sorry for an old man locked in a room, arguing with an apparition on the wall. Xavier had let this grotesquerie out. Why couldn’t he send it back?

But Xavier convinced himself that he could not lose the smackdown with his soul. Failure would deal a blow to science, which Xavier could not accept. As Xavier entered his eighth decade, he was holding his own in the debate with his soul, but losing the battle of his life. His soul was unconcerned because it was convinced that it was going to Heaven, and would thusly win the debate.

As Xavier’s heart weakened, his anger at his soul grew stronger. This rage drove his frenzied work in the final days of his life’s bodily existence. When Xavier took his last breath, his soul said, “Amen”, and opened his arms upwards toward Heaven.

“Not so fast,” Xavier said, tapping his soul on the shoulder.

Now both trapped on the X-ray’s movie screen, the debate continues to rage between Xavier and his soul. For the right price, Xavier’s children will let anyone watch the spectacle and throw in a bag of popcorn for free.

*

About the Author: Kristan Ginther is a professional copywriter, former film and theatre critic, and published author. Recently, one of her short stories from her collection “Clark’s Cult” appeared in apt, a literary publication. Her nonfiction title, “Just Say Yes!”, a collection of real-life engagement stories, was published by Renaissance Books in 1999. She’s also written film reviews for Boxoffice magazine, theatre reviews for L.A. Weekly, and encyclopedia entries.

Story (c) 2008 by Kristan Ginther kegcub@earthlink.net

About the Illustrator: Romeo Esparrago is a princely pusher of pixels.

Illustration (c) 2008 by Romeo Esparrago

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