Thomas and the Body Exhibit

Natural History Museum, Security Cameras 10 & 11: Five Years After Our Birth

You’ve probably seen the anatomical exhibits. The ones with real human bodies on display, the form of man in exquisite physical detail beneath gothic atriums that somehow don’t distract from the humanity on the ground. This is where you can window shop like the gods.

In one room a score of skeletons, bleached white, skulls staring back at you with empty eye sockets, curved ribs cradling air. Clusters of tiny bones in the metacarpals make you consider your own hand, wonder at the delicate complexity, give you a sort of surrogate x-ray vision.

In the muscle room, a woman frozen mid-sprint. A man with core and torso torqued, winding up for a javelin throw. In every case a body stripped of skin to reveal the corded flesh beneath, wires in pink and red and beige bundled into cables that flow over and into one another.

The exhibit is repulsive and compelling. What you see are systems that are meant to operate in dark silence beneath the skin, and their exposure is associated with violence. A freak accident, and suddenly a shard of bone protrudes from the arm. You turn away. But you probably turn back. The replay gets a million views on LifeStream, ten million. What you see in each room feels instinctively like something to be covered, to be avoided or fixed. Also something too fascinating to ignore.

This is the tension in that exhibit, and so I trust you will recognize something similar when I introduce you to Dr. Jackal’s subterranean lab. The one beneath his official lab, tucked within a fold of architecture a couple of stories below ground.

Next Chapter: Thomas Introduced