Something thumped downstairs.
My foot was asleep, buzzed and stung like TV static, so I fell into my bookshelf, got the corner of it in my eye. I assumed my right arm was asleep too, which explained why I hadn’t caught myself, so I turned on the light and saw the problem: my right arm was missing. The shoulder was round and smooth except the patch of pit hair sticking out.
By the time I got to the living room, my arm was folding and scratching in the corner like a long, hinged mouse trying to escape.
I watched it, waiting to wake up. The sharp throb in the bony edge of my eye socket was too real to be dreamt.
Mother called my arm a blessing. It had stopped growing when I was a baby. She and her friends, who blew hazy smoke and pored over large, beautiful cards in the basement of our house, touched it with icy hands, drew patterns down its flesh with their fingernails, and whispered into its palm cupped over their large creased mouths.
I was suspicious of them, because all their effort made my arm feel weaker.
Then suddenly, overnight, it grew.
My mother kissed it and promised to keep me strong.
I was afraid but relieved. I questioned nothing.
She disappeared after that, and my father refused to speak of her.
The bell startled me, and my arm stopped scratching. It turned and used the grip of its fingers to pull across the wood floor.
In the entryway it tapped on the door.
I picked it up by the bicep and pressed it to my shoulder. The arm jerked and punched, hit the fresh bruise on my eye. I dropped it, and it writhed to flip itself palm-down.
Tapping came from the other side of the door. A light, clustered sound like gentle rain.
I ran cold water in the bathroom sink, splashed my face, smeared it on my neck, splashed my shoulder and concentrated on flexing the arm that was no longer there.
I slapped myself very hard, four times.
Finally, convinced I was awake, I went back to the door where my arm waited. I unlocked and opened, and it dragged past the doorjamb, across the porch, and fell into the bushes.
On the doormat lay a small, puffy thing, like a doll’s arm. Its hand lay on its back, flexing its wrist reaching up to me.
I picked it up, feeling its cool flesh wrapped in my large hand. I held its end to my shoulder, and it joined. It stung and tingled all over, its muscles responsive to my will. I held it against me to warm it, and its fingers touched my ribs. The patch of pit hair itched and tickled it.
The water chilled on my face and neck.
The bushes at the side of the house rustled, and I watched a dark shape run across the yard and down the street.
Wherever she was, my mother was dead.