Estimated reading time — 19 minutes
“No, absolutely not,” I told the doctor. Dr. Murdock maintained eye contact with me. Whether or not he had any personal feelings about the situation, I couldn’t tell. I always thought it was eerie how detached some doctors could appear, almost as though they were machines that could turn emotion and off at will. Hell, with some of the cases they faced, that’s probably a necessary survival technique.
“You’re certain?” Dr. Murdock asked. “You know his situation. Free health care is a wonderful thing in theory, but you need to understand that it will be years before his chart is even processed, and even longer until they approve or decline his kidney transplant. He came to America because he knew you were here. The tests are positive, you are a perfect candidate as a donor, and it would expedite the process greatly if you agreed to this donation. That’s not to say this is his only hope, but you would be doing him a kindness by alleviating all the anxiety of having to find another potential donor.”
“I don’t even know this man. We’re supposed to be related? I didn’t know he existed until I received that damned letter telling me to receive a so-called ‘relative’ at the embassy. He’s no one to me, why should I owe him a kidney?”
Murdock’s lips tightened into a thin line. Ah, finally some emotion. So this doctor did have an opinion.
“You understand, Mr. Erikson, that there are hundreds of willing donors who are complete strangers to Mr. Fyrafemsju, who, if they were appropriate donors, would simply donate the needed organ for the sole purpose of helping another human being. They don’t owe him anything either, and yet they’re willing.”
“Fyrafemsju. Why the hell doesn’t he go by first name when his last name is so jacked up? I almost choked on my own tongue tongue trying to say it. Aside from which, if he’s family, then why didn’t they come to America when my mother immigrated? Why would his family have stayed?”
“Fyrafemsju is his only name, he simply identifies as a member of his clan, a tribe derivative of the Sami people in northern Scandinavia; a tribe whose name, I assure you, is much more difficult to pronounce than his given name. And the short answer to your second question, Mr. Erikson, is simply that I don’t know. I don’t know your family history, I simply know that Fyrafemsju is in need and he came to you for help.”
“Yeah, I know he’s a part of some weird-ass tribe; the guys at the embassy gave me the background of his weird little voodoo mysticism cult, and I don’t give a damn. Why is he even using western medicine anyway? He should just get his shaman to do a little rain dance, pump him full of peyote or whatever the hell they smoke up there, and leave me the hell alone.”
Murdock closed his eyes for a moment. He was obviously trying to keep his frustration from showing. Without a word, he handed me a clipboard with a paper attached.
“Sign here. This is a disclosure indicating that you decline to undergo the transplant procedure and that we’ll be free to continue looking for a suitable donor as soon as possible.”
“Fan-tastic,” I said and scribbled my name at the bottom of the page. Murdock wasted no time in leaving the room, and I followed suit. As I walked through the waiting room of the doctor’s office, I saw my ass-backwards cousin sitting in a hard-backed chair. He glanced up at me, a hopeful look on his face. I winked at him.
“Sorry Pal, what’s mine is mine.”
“What do you mean you said no!” Becca shrieked on the other end of the line. I actually had to pull the phone away from my ear due to how loud she was screaming.
“Why should I have agreed?!” I yelled back. “What is it feminist women always say? ‘My body, my choice’? Well I’m invoking the same privilege!”
“You just gave this man a death sentence. You’re practically killing family, you—”
I hung up. I didn’t need this. I’d called my fiancee for support and hopefully to make plans for dinner or something. This was the last thing I’d needed after another 14-hour day at the office.
I was exhausted and had to get up in four hours to meet with a possible supplier for the moulds we needed to produce a single piece hardware required for the new product we otherwise were completely finished with.
One. Single. Piece.
Why the hell we needed to enlist a new supplier for something smaller than the size of a battery watch was beyond me. I know specialization is huge and everything in the modern economy, but let one of the other companies we’re already paying put forth a little damn effort and take this extra project! I handled dozens of projects at once, it’s completely unbelievable that a single product that can fit in one hand requires a different company for each piece of hardware. What a bunch of lazy-assed, pathetic wastes. I could make this piece myself, but they refuse on the principle of ‘industry’.
Like it mattered. We may as well have scrapped the project with how far behind schedule we were. We were supposed to have started production two weeks ago, and instead we’re meeting with weasels and sharks we who want to screw us over at every turn. I knew exactly what was going to happen tomorrow—we would exchange niceties, waste about two hours talking utter nonsense and pretending we didn’t want to stab the other person in the gums with the nearest relatively sharp object, listen as they explained their offensively high rates, pretend to haggle, and then walk away pissed off with another day wasted. If it were up to me, I’d just cancel altogether. Hell, if it were up to me, I’d just release the product without that final mould and find some famine-stricken village in Kiribati do it all by hand for pennies a day. It’d save us a hell of a lot of time and money.
I drove home in a fury, cursing the rain, cursing the traffic, cursing the ass-hat pedestrians who couldn’t figure out how a crosswalk works. A 15-minute car ride took over 45 minutes because apparently the world just loves to piss me off. Finally, I arrived at my complex, parked the car in my parking garage and made my way up to my room on the 44th floor. Psh, the 44th floor. That jackass who had the penthouse suite above me thought he was all that. He was never forward about it, but he rubbed in my face every day with his smug expression and condescending attitude. I’d board the elevator and there he’d be, on the way down from the floor above, greeting me with a smile on his face and an obnoxiously cheerful: ‘Hey Ben, how you doing today? Are we finally gonna grab lunch this week? My wife and kids want to finally meet you!’
When I unlocked the door to my apartment I nearly soiled myself. Standing, not even sitting, but standing like some kind of lunatic, in the middle of my darkened living room was a black silhouette. I reached into my Gucci jacket pocket and retrieved my taser, shooting without hesitation and, unfortunately, without taking careful aim. I’d hoped to see the son of a bitch fry.
The figure ducked out of the way quickly, with almost animal-like reflexes. With similar reflexes, I pressed a button on my smart watch and illuminated the room.
Ah. That’s why it was animal-like. It was my maniac forest monkey cousin. How long had he been in the country? Why was he still wearing his ridiculous hand-woven trash? It looked better than the day I met him, dressed all in furs, but still, he didn’t exactly look like a fully functioning human being with with his scruffy face and dirty blonde hair pulled back into a bundle of braids, forming some kind of ridiculous mega-ponytail. Nor did his handmade clothes help much. Long sleeved, forest green goat-hair shirts with leather boots lined with wolf fur don’t exactly scream “I’m American!”
“How the hell did you get in here?” I demanded, retrieving my phone from my pocket, already dialing 911.
“You…no want do,” he said in a thick, garbled accent reminiscent of a German gargling glass shards.
“Oh, so you speak English now?” I replied, still preparing to connect to the police. “Please, by all means, explain why I ‘no want do’.” He approached me slowly, his hands up so as to show he was unarmed, and spoke very slowly, a soft smile on his face.
“Because I have you gift.”
“You have my gift? What are you—”
I noticed he was whistling a soft tune as he approached. I don’t leave the city much, and I certainly never go into the countryside, but the whistling sounded like wind cutting through the trees. In some strange way, it made me feel nostalgic and at home. He had a very soothing manner about him and I no longer felt on edge or even nervous as he advanced. Gently, very gently, he removed the phone from my hand and set in the table. The whistle had evolved into a deep-throated hum, the kind of earthy noise you hear emanating from geothermal power reactors or when you’re deep inside a cave in the heart of a mountain.
He reached into a leather pouch affixed to his belt and pulled out what looked like a small drinking horn plugged tightly with some kind of tree bark or cork wrapped with animal skin. He removed the top, brought the horn to his lips and drank a sip. He then brought it to my lips. I was intrigued and confused, but most of all just at peace. I normally can’t stand people getting anywhere near my person, but this time, it didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I rather enjoyed it when he raised the horn to my mouth and let me drink. It tasted sweet, like nothing else I had ever tasted before. Strangely, the only word that came to mind to describe the flavor was:
He took another item from the pouch, something that looked like a large bone, perhaps a femur, but far too stout to be a wolf or deer and far too thick to be from a rabbit or wild cat. He twisted, pulled, and it came apart in his hands in two halves. With one end he was very careful about keeping the opened end upright, and I quickly discovered it was because that piece contained blood, thick and visceral. He dipped his fingers in it and drew a pattern on my face, all the while quietly chanting something that brought me back to a home that I never knew.
Upon completion, he proceeded to draw what I presume to be the same image on his own face with remarkable detail.
When this ritual ended, he grabbed my face in his hands and stooped slightly so that we were at eye level.
“Broren min,” he whispered and pressed his forehead to mine. Then, in English, he said, “I take what I need. And more.”
I woke up in my bed. I don’t even remember having gotten ready for sleep, the last thing I remember was that psychotic nutjob breaking and entering into my home. I scrambled out of bed and looked for any remaining footprints, droplets of blood, hair, fibers that may have fallen off his clothes, anything to prove that he’d broken in. If he left anything evidence, I was going to get his ass deported as fast as possible. Hopefully I could land him in prison instead. I darted into the living room, but saw everything was impeccable, perfectly spotless how I always left it. I sighed in defeat, wishing that I could get this mongoloid out of my life.
That’s when I noticed the clock.
“Damn it to hell…” I muttered. It was already 9:17. I’d missed the meeting by over two hours. I was going to catch hell for this from Dennis. Luckily, I always had a few excuses prepared. Confident that I could talk my way out of this, I returned to my room to grab my phone from off the end table near my bed. I went reach for it with my right hand, and saw something that stopped me dead in my tracks.
My fingertips were missing.
The ends of my fingers, the pads, the fingernails, they were gone, ending with the knuckle. Had that freak drugged me with that drink and cut off my fingers? Even if he had, a single sip of a drink couldn’t be enough to knock someone out cold and leave them so numb that they wouldn’t feel someone cutting off a part of their body.
This wasn’t possible. I pulled up my sleeves, checking the insides of my arms for apertures that would testify he had drugged me with some kind of intravenous sedative. What I saw were the same arms I’d seen my whole life, no new scars or marks. I lifted up my shirt and did the same, checking my torso for markings.
There was nothing.
Then how he did do it? How in the hell could he come into my room and sever part of my body without me waking up, without me noticing? I looked again at the nubs that that lay just beyond the furthest knuckles of my fingers.
Maybe a better question was how did it heal so fast?
The skin around the severed part of my fingers looked so natural, not even like it was a wound, but rather like I was born without fingertips. The blood drained from my face and I suddenly felt light-headed and nauseous. Dialing work with my left hand, I moved into the kitchen and retrieved a glass from the cupboard. Or I should say I attempted to. I was only missing the last inch of my fingertips and yet I seemed barely able to function. Without the pads of my fingers, I underestimated my reach and accidentally knocked the glass over with my new nubs, causing it to fall and shatter on the floor. It took two more attempts before I successfully grabbed a glass, awkwardly seizing with the base of my fingers, squeezing it tightly like a lifeline. I was shaking now, full on tremors. I lifted the faucet and filled the glass when I heard:
“Hello! Are you there, Ben?” Apparently my call had gotten through while I was fumbling around with the cupboard. Who knows I don’t know how long Alice, my secretary, had been waiting on the line. I raised the receiver to my ear.
“Uh…Alice, hi,” I stammered shakily.
“Ben, what’s going on?” Her voice softened. She could tell I was obviously upset about something.
“I—” my voice cracked with that single syllable. “I’m not coming in today. Tell everyone.” My voice betrayed me and I hung up before I heard her response. Involuntarily, tears began streaming down my cheeks. What was happening? How was this possible? If this man was capable of removing parts of my body without me noticing, what else could he do?
I take I what need. And more.
I suddenly became aware of just how real his threats were, and I began fearing for my safety. But what could I do? I couldn’t call the police, they’d take my claim as a stupid joke, or even worse, try to commit me to a mental hospital.
Becca. I had to talk to Becca.
I pounded on the door as hard as I could with my left hand. My right hand didn’t hurt, but I felt like I couldn’t use it, that by somehow using it would cause more pieces of my hand to fall off. Luckily, she answered on the second knock. The door swung upon and there she should stood, an overly large tank-top and sweat pants with her her soft brown hair tied into a ponytail. Was today a day off for her?
“Hey babe, I’m sorry I got so mad at you over the phone,” she started. “After thinking about it, I realized I think you’re right, you don’t need to…what’s wrong?” She asked, seeing the look on my face.
“This is what’s wrong!” I yelled, throwing my mutilated hand in her face. She stared blankly at it.
“I don’t understand,” she said flatly.
“What do you mean you don’t understand? My fingers are missing!”
“Yeah, like they always have been. You’ve never seemed bothered by it before, in fact I remember it took me until our fourth date before I realized that your fingertips were missing.”
They always have been? What was she talking about? My body was perfectly intact until last night, what did she mean that I’d been deformed since we first met?
She must’ve seen the anxiety and confusion pass my face, because she wrapped her arms around me.
“Hey, hey, calm down. You’ve been under a lot of stress lately, I think what you need is the day off,” Leaving one arm wrapped around me, she led me into her house where we sat down at her kitchen table and she went to fix some tea.
“So…ugh, I’m going to sound crazy, but I need to ask you something.”
She kept her back to me as she prepared a kettle on the stove, but answered with kindness and patience in her voice.
“You can ask me anything, sweetie,”
I sighed, “You don’t ever remember my hand having my fingers complete?” She paused for a moment, her eyes cast slightly upward like when she’s pondering something intently. I couldn’t tell if she was genuinely considering it or if she was just making a show of pondering to humor me. After several seconds she responded.
“No, but we’ve only been together for what, three years? Did you lose them before we met? I always just assumed you were born without them, but you never volunteered the information and I never found it important enough to ask.”
As she was talking, I furiously typed up a text and sent it to everyone in my contact list who had known me my whole life—my mother, my father, close family friends, and I asked a similar question. I got a lot of confused replies, many of them questioning whether I was joking or not. But it was unanimous.
They all said I’d been missing my fingers my whole life.
I began searching through photo albums stored on my phone and in my Cloud account, hoping to find evidence of me with my fingers fully intact, but as I traveled further back in time, year after year, all of the images attested that I never, at any point in my life had a complete hand. I ran my left hand through my hair, my breath shallow and close to hyperventilating.
“Hey, I don’t know what’s going on, but this is not normal,” Becca said, her voice full of genuine concern at this point. “You’ve been pulling 14 to 16 hour days for the last two weeks, I think it’s finally catching up with you. It’s only 4:00 pm, but you need the rest. Come on, let’s get you up to bed and I better not see you awake until at least 10:00 tomorrow morning. You may not feel like your body needs the rest, but your mind does, now let’s go.”
I didn’t resist.
I woke up while it was still dark outside. It was 3:00 am. I’d slept a solid 11 hours uninterrupted. I rolled over and found Becca lying by my side, snoring softly. Normally snoring drove me insane, but hers was soft and cute, like a kitten. I could listen to it all day and it would never bother me. She looked so gorgeous in the moonlight, her delicate features softened and bathed in milky light. I didn’t know what was going on in my life, but I was grateful to have her. I was grateful that I had such an incredible person to be there for me, to support me when I needed it. I just wanted to embrace her, hold her close and feel safe, never letting go. I reached out to stroke her cheek.
“No,” I whispered. “No, no, no, no, no, no!”
“What’s up, honey?” She asked, groggily.
I stared at my hand. What was left of it anyway. Half of my hand was missing; only half of my palm and my thumb remained.
“My hand is gone!” I screamed. Becca flinched and backed away slightly, her eyes wide with uncertainty.
“Ben, you’re scaring me. We had this exact same conversation yesterday in the kitchen. Why are you suddenly so fixated on your hand? It never affected you until yesterday when you came over.”
“Yesterday, my fingertips were gone! Now it’s half my damned hand!”
“No,” she said, her voice reverberating with small tremors. I was making her nervous. “Yesterday you came over and you were freaking out because your hand was missing. That hand never had fingers, it doesn’t make sense that you’d say your fingertips were missing you’ve only ever had half a hand.”
“He’s doing it! Fyrafemsju is chopping pieces of me off, bit by bit!”
She pulled away much further now, all the way to the edge of the bed. Legitimate fear now shrouded her face, and she looked at me like she didn’t recognize the man in her bed.
“Who? Your cousin? You’re not making any sense,” she stammered.
“It’s him, I swear it! He’s trying to get revenge for refusing to give him my kidney!”
“Ben! Stop it!” Becca shrieked, tears spilling over her eyelids down onto her cheeks. “What’s going on with you? You’re scaring me!”
“He placed some sort of curse on me and now he’s stealing my body! Can’t you see?” I yelled, unsure if I was more furious at my insane cousin or horrified at the situation I faced.
“Ben, please, let’s go. You’re not well, you’re…you’re having a stroke or something! We need to get you to the hospital, they’ll find out what’s wrong. We need to get you help!”
It broke my heart to see her like this. She was terrified, unsure of what had become of her fiancee, and yet even while her body shuddered from fear, she still struggled to slide her arms into a jacket. Twice the jacket fell from her shoulder because her body was wracked so heavily with sobs. Even though she could barely hold it together, she was still trying to comfort me, to help me.
My cheeks burned from the trail my own tears had made. As much as it broke my heart, I knew I couldn’t continue doing this to her, I couldn’t emotionally torment this woman who loved me so much that she was trying to get me help when she, herself, so obviously needed comfort.
When she went to go get her keys, I left her house.
Damn it. Damn it, damn it, damn it all to hell! How did I fall asleep? I’d taken uppers, I’d been feeding myself a steady supply of energy drinks and caffeine the whole night. I’d been watching marathons of TV shows on Netflix, and I’ve never been able to fall asleep with the unnatural glow of a television set burning into my eyes. There is no possible way I could’ve fallen asleep!
Sitting on the arm of the chair I was in was my cell phone, the green notification light pulsating. Most likely more texts or voice mails from Becca.
It had been two weeks since I’d officially called things off. I know she wanted to help me and she loved me, that she didn’t understand what was going on. But I couldn’t drag her through this. I couldn’t pretend that nothing was happening as I saw my body slowly disappearing piece by piece at random intervals. I may be losing my mind and my body, but that didn’t mean I would subject her to the same thing.
I reached out to pocket my phone
Alerted, I my attention was drawn to the most noticeable area that didn’t register. My right arm was even shorter now, ending in a round stump just beyond my elbow. Aside from that, the pinky and ring fingers of my left hand were missing. Something else was missing, I could feel it, I just didn’t know what.
I knew it was a bad idea, that I shouldn’t check to see what else was taken from me this time, but I had to know. And besides, it wasn’t like I wouldn’t find out eventually, so would the shock of finding it out now change anything in the long run? Hell, maybe I’d catch a break and my mind would finally just snap and I’d live like a vegetable, not having to think or feel or even know anything of what’s going on around me.
I rose out of my recliner to find a mirror, and after the first step almost fell to the floor. My slipper had fallen off when I stumbled, and I discovered that the front end of my right foot was missing now.
My leg ended in a misshapen chunk of flesh attached to a heel. There was so much missing compared to the first night. He was taking more. That first night was just a warning, showing me what he could do, and now he was coming in full force, trying to drive me into a panic.
And it was working.
Everything felt so wrong as I rolled into work in my electric power chair. The people I worked with every day either ignored or didn’t register the look of depressed resignation on my face as I rode past them in the lobby. I got the occasional nod or casual greeting from people I knew, but for the most part almost nobody looked pleased to see me. Apparently whatever Fyrafemsju was doing to me only changed my body, it didn’t change how much of an asshole I’d been to everyone over the last couple of years.
I arrived at the elevator and reached for the button.
“Hey, don’t worry, I got that,” a cheerful voice said as he pressed the button for me. I looked up and saw the clean-shaven, youthful face of out intern. Probably the last person who treated me kindly.
Tears sprung to my eyes, unbidden. I’d treated this guy like dirt, I was purposefully disrespectful to him because of his status and mocked him at every turn, and what tore me apart was the fact that this is how he treated me even before my nightmare started, not that he knew of the hell that I was experiencing.
“Thank you,” I said, making eye contact with him. He smiled back at me, and I got caught in the reflections of his lenses. The image that stared back at me was hideous. All the hair on my head, including my eyebrows and eyelashes, was completely gone. My lips on the right side of my face concaved so far inward that the side of my head looked like a decaying pumpkin, an image not helped by the fact that the fleshy cartilage of my nose was now missing, exposing two large holes at the bottom of the bridge of my nose.
Even though I had an amazing tailor, even he couldn’t help my situation, as evidenced by the limp right sleeve of my jacket that dangled uselessly at my side. My left pant leg, too, was deflated and rolled so as to avoid getting snagged under one of the wheels of my chair. My only remaining fingers on my left hand were my index finger and thumb, which rarely got much use these days except for pushing elevator buttons and pressing the “answer” button on the BlueTooth touch pad embedded in the arm of my chair. Even with all these enormous changes in my life, my busy work life was remained as busy as ever.
We rode up together to the 52nd floor where I was to have my meeting. The meeting didn’t go well. Everything was a foggy haze and although I heard angry, yelling voices directed at me, I heard them as though underwater. They were unclear and muddled, and I couldn’t care less what they were saying. That is, until Dennis, my immediate supervisor slammed his hand on the table in front of me. I slowly looked up to see his fuming, hateful expression gazing back down.
“Did you just hear a damned word I said, or are you as deaf as you are mangled!” He screamed at me so forcefully that I could feel his breath blowing on my like a hot fan. People in every room three floors above or below us must’ve heard his angry bellow.
“No. I wasn’t listening,” I responded, my voice hollow devoid of response.
“Then let me say it again in language you can understand. Your work is SHIT! Get the hell out of my building, you don’t work for me anymore!”
I nodded, and using the remaining digit on my left hand maneuvered the joystick of my power chair to guide me outside the building.
It must’ve been a month and half or two months since this curse started. Some days I’d wake up with everything intact, and sometimes I’d wake up with large chunks of my body missing. The process was so unpredictable that as soon as I though I was finally adjusting to a the lifestyle of invalid, I’d become even more limited. When I finally thought I was safe and nothing more would happen, I’d wake up to find a large section of my leg missing or a few more toes.
Nothing prepared me for this day, however.
I woke up with a full-length mirror hanging directly above my bed. It took me a moment to realize it because the image staring back at me barely resembled anything human. My lips and gums were completely gone, leaving two rows of exposed bone and teeth. My nose, similarly, was completely gone and was replaced with two skeletal holes that comprised the outermost pieces of my nasal cavity. My eyelids were intact, but my eyelashes, eyebrows, and all the hair on my head was still gone, leaving me with the appearance of a freakish skeleton wrapped with skin.
The skin of my torso around where my right shoulder should have been was smoothed over. My left arm ended just above where the elbow would have connected. The skin stretched across my chest was completely free of any natural markings, no nipples, no navel, nothing. I don’t know how, but Fyrafemsju somehow stripped the muscle and tissue away from my collarbone and the the most prominent sections of my ribs, leaving the bone in the areas exposed and glaring white.
Below my torso, my genitals were gone, removed. He made me into a eunuch. My right leg ended somewhere around the knee. There may have been an appendage, there may not have been. I didn’t care anymore. My left leg, as a cruel mockery, he left completely unaltered. It was the only part of my body he had left untouched ever since his perverse torture started. It was a reminder of what I once was, the person who I used to be. It was also the least useful appendage to remain. What was I going to do with a single leg? I can’t grip anything with a leg, I can’t walk on a single leg, he may as well have taken all of my limbs.
My body was destroyed, useless now, and the ironic part of it was that it looked like there had been no damage done, it looked as though this was how my body was supposed to have been designed from the beginning. Like someone had pulled a car from a devastating crash and polished it to a finish, my own body was malformed and incomplete in utility, yet so perfect, smooth, and flawless in finish.
It’s been like this for weeks. I’ve never left this bed since I woke up that morning and from what I can tell my neck muscles are locked in place, causing me to forever make unbroken contact with my own personal hell, the mirror above my bed. Although I’m perpetually thirsty and hungry, my body never thins nor does it show signs of dehydration. I never urinate and I never have bowel movements. I never sleep. All I ever do is lie and stare at my reflection. And every day, every minute of every day those words ring through my head, the words that could never reflect the true sadism of their intended meaning, the words that, had I understood what they actually entailed, would’ve caused me to take my own life the night that I had heard them.
I take what I need.
Credit To – nibris